The e-mail seemed frantic, even for these people.
“Assassin is liberal.” So pronounced Bear Witness, a group that calls itself a proud member of the Tea Party Network, in an e-mail to the press. It pointed out that an ex-classmate said the man with the gun in Tucson was left-leaning.
And, look: The shooter listed "The Communist Manifesto" as favored reading.
Talk about an odd PR offensive. You heard shooting? Well, it wasn't us.
We are left to wonder about minds that flinch “not us” when a madman fires into a crowd these days. Behold the conscience that causes a Glenn Beck to e-mail a Sarah Palin when a “targeted” Democrat is gunned down.
Well. You know: The shooter might be to the left of Che Guevara. He might be a Greenpeace warrior with a PETA membership. He might carry an ACORN card. And?
And this: The rapid pulses of those on the fright right who led the “to arms” chorus this past year betray a telltale heart beat.
Whether or not the shooter was under their spell, they have motivated enough havoc that ought to cause any American to worry about where words are taking us.
What moved someone to shatter the window of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ office after her vote for health care reform? Who offered high-fives thereafter?
We approach the one-year mark since Joe Stack became a martyr for some in America’s tea-and-militancy fringe when he flew his plane into an Austin IRS office. Some right-wingers read his antigovernment rant online and pronounced his deed “heroic.” The founder of the antigovernment We the People Foundation (while, ahem, denouncing violence) told ABC News back then that “people that are out there so frustrated that they say 'Hey, it's time to lock and load.'"
One can think of many reasons why some might think similarly about a politically drenched deed like the Tucson shootings. But for one, think: Fox News.
After Scott Roeder gunned down high-profile abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in the latter's Omaha church, observers pointed out that Fox's Bill O’Reilly had a nurtured a virtual lynch mob against the physician by using the anti-abortion fringe's name for him: “Tiller the Killer.”
A loony zealot thereby could infer that what happened to Tiller was justified. So, too, apparently, with what happened to Emily Lyons, a hero I once interviewed. The nurse's whole face was blown off in 1998 when a bomb blew up at the women’s clinic where she worked in Alabama. She survived. Bob Sanderson, a Birmingham police officer, was not so fortunate.
The man convicted of killing Sanderson and maiming Lyons, Eric Rudolph, was at large for months with the help of politically/religiously inspired abettors.
You can bet these people raised their fists to hear O’Reilly mouth their propaganda line about Tiller, much like propagandists utilize “pro-life” itself.
When Pima County, Ariz., Sheriff Clarence Dupnik cited attempts to “inflame the public on a daily basis, 24 hours a day, seven days a week” to keep the righteous right-wing furious, who but Fox News morning queen Megyn Kelly was there to remind viewers that Dupnik is a Democrat. I guess that means we can disregard any such concerns.
No, we don’t need to know about the political views of the Tucson killer.
As George Packer wrote in a blog for The New Yorker: “It would be a kind of relief if (Jared) Loughner operated not out of any coherent political context but just his own fevered brain. . . . But even so, the tragedy wouldn't change this basic fact: for the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents. Not just arguing against their opponents, but doing everything possible to turn them into enemies of the country and cast them out beyond the pale.”
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.