By Calvin Woodward and Charles Babington
“These sorts of things, I think, invite the kind of toxic rhetoric that can lead unstable people to believe this is an acceptable response,” Durbin said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The attack might be the work of “a single nut,” Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva, whose Arizona district shares Tucson with Giffords’ district, said Saturday, the day Giffords was shot. But he said the nation must assess the fallout of “an atmosphere where the political discourse is about hate, anger and bitterness.”
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who is teamed with federal authorities in a joint investigation, emerged as a particularly outspoken figure after warning Saturday that “freedom of speech does not come without consequences” and describing Arizona as “the capital, the mecca, for prejudice and bigotry.”
On Sunday Dupnik expanded on the warning, saying, “when the rhetoric about hatred, about mistrust of government, about paranoia of how government operates” reaches a fever pitch, it “has impact on people, especially (those) who are unbalanced personalities to begin with.”
By Matt Bai
The problem here doesn’t lie with the activists like most of those who populate the Tea Parties, ordinary citizens who are doing what citizens are supposed to do—engaging in a conversation about the direction of the country. Rather, the problem would seem to rest with the political leaders who pander to the margins of the margins, employing whatever words seem likely to win them contributions or TV time, with little regard for the consequences.
Consider the comments of Sharron Angle, the Tea Party favorite who unsuccessfully ran against Harry Reid for the Senate in Nevada last year. She talked about “domestic enemies” in the Congress and said, “I hope we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies.” Then there’s Rick Barber, a Republican who lost his primary in a Congressional race in Alabama, but not before airing an ad in which someone dressed as George Washington listened to an attack on the Obama agenda and gravely proclaimed, “Gather your armies.”
In fact, much of the message among Republicans last year, as they sought to exploit the Tea Party phenomenon, centered—like the Tea Party moniker itself—on this imagery of armed revolution. Popular spokespeople like Ms. Palin routinely drop words like “tyranny” and “socialism” when describing the president and his allies, as if blind to the idea that Americans legitimately faced with either enemy would almost certainly take up arms.
A columnist puts the blame where it belongs:
The Wrath of Fools: An Open Letter to the Far Right
By William Rivers Pitt
You false patriots who bring assault rifles to political rallies, you hack politicians and media personalities who lied through your stinking teeth about "death panels" and "Obama is coming for your guns" and "He isn't a citizen" and "He's a secret Muslim" and "Sharia Law is coming to America," you who spread this bastard gospel and you who swallowed it whole, I am talking to you, because this was your doing just as surely as it was the doing of the deranged damned soul who pulled the trigger. The poison you injected into our culture is deeply culpable for this carnage.
You who worship Jesus at the top of your lungs (in defiance of Christ's own teachings on the matter of worship, by the way) helped put several churchgoers into their graves and into the hospital. You who shriek about the sanctity of marriage helped cut down a man who was about to be married. You who crow with ceaseless abandon about military service and the nobility of our fighting forces helped to critically wound the wife of a Naval aviator who fought for you in a war. You who hold September 11 as your sword and shield helped put a little girl born on that day into the ground.
You helped. Yes, damn you, you helped.
The "mainstream" media is already working overtime playing up the "Disturbed loner" angle with all their might. There is no doubt, from the available evidence, of Mr. Loughner's transformation into a disturbed individual. But here's the funny part: all the crazy crap he spewed, about the gold standard (a favorite of Glenn Beck, the master of Fox "News" fearmongering...so he can sell his gold scam to suckers) and government mind control and everything else before going on his rampage, is straight out of the Right-Wing Insanity Handbook. His personal YouTube ramblings were a mishmash of right-wing anti-government nonsense...the kind that attracts sick minds like Loughner, the kind that only reinforces their paranoia, the kind that finally pushes them over the brink and into the frenzy of violence that took place on Saturday. The kind that the likes of you have been happily spreading by the day.
He did not act alone. You were right there with him. You helped.
It's hilarious to hear conservatives crybabies whine about liberals pointing out their hate speech. Boo-hoo, you big babies! And to hear moderates whine about the political vitriol on both sides. News flash: It's ridiculous to equate hate speech with pointing out hate speech. One is the problem and the other is the solution.
Here's a good critique of the false equivalence conservatives are drawing between the right and the left:
When It Comes to the Rhetoric of Rage, the Right Has the Edge
By David Corn
While we're at it, spare me talk about Loughner's "personal responsibility" for his actions. These pundits have taken that into consideration. They didn't say the conservative rhetoric compelled him to act.
Rather, they're talking about the "toxic rhetoric" and hate-filled "atmosphere" that can "lead unstable people to believe this is an acceptable response." "[T]he kind that attracts sick minds like Loughner, the kind that only reinforces their paranoia, the kind that finally pushes them over the brink." Unless you can prove Loughner never heard this political vitriol and wasn't influenced by it, don't bother arguing the point.
For more on the subject, see Loughner Echoes Right-Wing Extremists and Words Don't Trigger Actions?!