As bloggers and commentators assess blame for the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, it's pretty clear almost everybody is filtering what little we really know about the alleged shooter through their own politics and ideology.
You don't need a Ph. D in psychology to know Jared Loughner is a deeply troubled, possibly crazy young man. Was he driven to that point by ideology – or did he latch on to scattered ideologies because of his mental collapse? I'm more inclined to believe the latter, although we still don't have a complete picture.
Liberals want to make much of the fact that he listed Mein Kampf as a favorite book, which must prove he's a neo-nazi; conservatives counter that the Communist Manifesto was on the same list, proving he was a leftist.
It seems to me none of that is the issue right now. The issue is a toxic climate of rage that clogs our airwaves and blogosphere, which posits that there are only possessors of the truth and enemies, not people with legitimate differences of opinion.
That climate doesn't make people go crazy and commit crazy acts, but I think it's hard to argue that such a culture doesn't tip some people over the edge and give them a feeling of justification for acts of horrific political violence.
And the issue is a gun culture that makes it incredibly easy for the most unstable among us to get weapons capable of such massacres.
Yes, I know, as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) said yesterday, “ weapons don't kill people, it's the individual that kills.”
That's like saying we shouldn't worry about Iran getting nuclear weapons because it's not WMDs that kill, it's the people who push the button. But we legitimately ask: do you want to put that button in the hands of haters and crazy people? Don't we have a vital national interest in preventing these people from obtaining the most lethal weapons on earth?
Blaming Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement seems like a real stretch. Yes, they are part of a political climate that has turned toxic, but they're not alone; I get plenty of emails and calls from angry liberals, angry libertarians, angry folks with murky ideological labels.
I do put a lot of the blame on a vicious mode of entertainment disguised – not very well – as political dialog, mostly in the form of talk show hosts who get rich fomenting the idea that those who disagree with them are out to destroy the country.
Yes, there are rhetorical bomb throwers on the left, and I refuse to listen to them because they, too, are part of this anti-democratic incitement.
But the nature of the media today is that most of those with the biggest platforms are on the right. I won't use the word “conservative” because I see not the slightest connection between traditional conservatives like columnist George Will and the talk show jocks who cynically stoke legitimate fear and anger to build big media empires.
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