The Scarecrow of "Violent Language"

by EDWARD CLINE January 12, 2011
On the heels of excising the “hurtful” language from Mark Twain’s novels, come the calls for mellowing the “caustic language” of anyone criticizing big government or its recent depredations against the country and its citizenry. The occasion is the attempted murder (the charge of “attempted assassination” is arguable; the victim was not a head of state) of Gabrielle Giffords, Democratic U.S. representative from Arizona, on January 8th during a political event outside a Safeway store in Tucson.

There is a drive on now to blame the Tea Party, “right-wingers,” and any frank discussion of Obama and/or liberal politics for the shooting. The liberal/left is scrambling to cast a pall of “responsibility” on the authors of any “toxic rhetoric” alleged to have “encouraged” the shooter Jared Loughner to act out his fantasies and to “take action” against a perceived enemy. The abrupt shift of focus from Jared Loughner the mad man to the necessity of “civil” discourse could only be orchestrated by the left.

Philosophy 101: All of the blather has its roots in determinism. If one is constantly exposed to violence (or to “violent” words), one will be somehow programmed to commit violence, if not now, then at some time in the future. This idea views all men as ticking time-bombs who must be disarmed, even if it means removing their tongues. Ideally, they say, society should be an environment of fields of daisies and solar panels and unconditional tolerance for all, even for the insane. If one is constantly exposed to pacific rhetoric, one will always be disposed to peaceful demonstrations of agreement or opposition.

Determinism, of course, denies men their capacity for thought and volition. Whatever his mental state, whatever mental parallel universe his mind lived in, Loughner chose to do what he did. In reality.

It is almost laughable, watching the MSM, E.J. Dionne on the Washington Post, Paul Krugman in The New York Times, and others try to "pin the rap" on the Tea Party, conservatives, and anyone else deemed guilty by them of "hate speech" and "ugly rhetoric." It is so predictable. And, of course, on Sarah Palin (no, I am not a fan of hers). They are all "responsible" for the shooting. Poor Jared Loughner was just an unfortunate, receptive "pawn" of talk radio and indiscriminate "blogging." It is an “evil” environment that Loughner grew up in, so he cannot really be blamed for his actions. Only society. Or, rather, the “right” side of it. Up come the scarecrows of “violent” or “hateful” language.

Of course, The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is shedding crocodile tears over the event, when it has approved of far greater massacres in the name of Allah and has nothing to say about Hamas’s goal of eliminating Israel, which would mean something greater than a shooting outside a grocery store. It is much like Al Capone or his lieutenant Frank Nitti sending flowers to the funeral of a rival gangster he has had rubbed out, complete with a nicely-worded card of consolation for the gangster’s surviving family.
In a statement, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said: "We offer sincere condolences to the friends, colleagues and family members of all those killed or injured in this brutal and senseless attack. We must come together as a nation to mourn the dead, pray for the speedy recovery of the injured and reject the extreme partisanship and inflammatory political rhetoricthat can contribute to such tragedies."

We are not implying here that Giffords was a gangster. But, “inflammatory political rhetoric”? What was Loughner’s “rhetoric,” other than the diffuse, wildly careening statements of a deranged person that had no politically identifiable foundation, other than some inchoate conspiracy theory about government control of grammar and brainwashing, with a bias to the left? Conspiracy theories are a dime a dozen, with equal proportions shared by left and right. One truly could not fix one’s “crosshairs” on what Loughner thought; the “target” keeps jumping around in and out of sight. Literally.

Michigan CAIR booster Dawud Walid wept copiously on his Weblog about the shooting, then played the Muslim victim card almost immediately.
Now imagine if Loughner’s last name was Muhammad, or if Loughner was a convert to Islam. Elected officials such as Rep. Peter King (R-NY) would be using yesterday’s attack as further proof that American Muslims need to be watched closer and that we aren’t doing enough to stop such attacks. And no doubt, media would be discussing now the looming danger of homegrown terrorism.

Just imagine it! Victimhood at last! Well, Mr. Walid, that was not what happened. But if there was ever a candidate for conversion to Islam, Loughner’s application was exemplary and complete. He was growing more and more disconnected from reality and in need of a realm that would save him the effort of rational thought: Islam. Either that, or writing his ticket to a maximum security mental institution.
I’d like for there to be more discussion in the media about the growing intolerance in America and the passive radicalization of America via the Tea Party Movement and their champion Sarah Palin regarding the caustic language environment that we live in which opens up the door to such attacks.

And if the “discussion” leads to the subject of Islamic violence around the globe, a violence sanctioned by vitriolic rhetoric by Islam’s spokesmen, what will he have to say? No rebuttal is possible. If the “dialogue,” “discourse,” or “debate” does not go his way, and he loses the engagement, then what?

His wishes are being fulfilled. Islamists focus on “caustic language,” namely any language that exposes Islam as a political/theocratic ideology bent on conquest and the establishment of universal Sharia law. The MSM and the liberal establishment are focusing on such language, as well.

The Washington Post published a rather insipid analysis of Loughner’s “ deteriorating mental state,” and several readers took the bait to basically blame the First Amendment and Sarah Palin for Loughner’s action. More interesting were those reader comments, which fell in line with the charge. Here, without correction of grammar or syntax, are some reader comments on The Washington Post article:
“The nutcase was an avid Sara Palin fan. I hold Sara Palin and her rhetoric responsible for this mess.”

“People get killed and the gun nuts seem to rejoice in their peculiar interpretation of the 2nd amendment (which always seems to omit that "well-regulated militia" part). Very sad, predictable and unfortunately all too common in US culture.”

“The Palinisation of America is a sad thing to watch.”

“Yesterday, this forum was filled with the very hatred that Congressman are saying caused the problem... as my congressman said it was rhetoric from the right that spurs such violence. The sheriff did his part by blaming political rhetoric as the cause. So all the name calling by people who are, I guess, still upset over the outcome of the elections. This was a crazed lunatic and the system let him go. A result of p. c. . Innocent until he does something. Now we know more, and the sheriff should look at his comments and learn.”

“Am I to believe that a mentally unstable young man watching newscasts of Tea Party attendees carrying guns to public meetings was not influenced by these images? Isn't that what he did? Listen to the anger of Tea Party defenders. Have these folks learned anything from this violent event?”

These comments echo Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik’s out-of-turn political remark about everyone being culpable for Loughner’s mental state and the shooting, a remark which set the tone for what was to follow, a kneejerk smearing of anyone speaking his mind about the political state and direction of the country. Dupnik excoriated “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business,” and claimed that Arizona was becoming a “mecca for prejudice and bigotry.” (That will not sit well with CAIR or any other Islamic spokesman; it is tantamount to associating the Lourdes shrine with orgies, drug-dealing, and witchcraft.)

Dupnik later explained his remarks, saying they were made in “anger.” So, who is guilty of making “vitriolic” statements? His explanation comes too late. His words framed the “debate,” and words have consequences.

E.J. Dionne, Jr., the Post’s pundit-in-chief, in a column, “Gabby Giffords, a tragic prophet,” also did his part to paint the Loughner shooting in the darkest conservative and Tea Party colors. After extensively quoting Gifford on the political “language” that has characterized positions over the last two years, he goes on to point out:
… It is not partisan to observe that there are cycles to violent rhetoric in our politics. In the late 1960s, violent talk (and sometimes violence itself) was more common on the far left. But since President Obama's election, it is incontestable that significant parts of the American far right have adopted a language of revolutionary violence in the name of overthrowing "tyranny."

It is Obama's opponents who carried guns to his speeches and cited Jefferson's line that the tree of liberty "must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." It was Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada, who spoke of “Second Amendment Remedies” And, yes, it was Palin who put those gun sights over the districts of the Democrats she was trying to defeat, including Giffords.

One imagines that Dionne’s notion of perfect political discourse is for a president to endorse and sign socialist legislation and for citizens to just calmly say, “Gee, that’s all wrong, it’s violating my rights and this will bankrupt me, but we’ll just go quietly and not make a fuss about it. Pardon us for interrupting.” When a country is being “transformed” into a penal colony of servitude, are not its citizens permitted to express outrage and angry “rhetoric”? If they did not, they would deserve the incarceration.

Dionne concludes:
Liberals were rightly pressed in the 1960s to condemn violence on the left. Now, conservative leaders must take on their fringe when it uses language that intimates threats of bloodshed. That means more than just highly general statements praising civility.

Translation: Anyone who cites the Constitution, quotes any one of the Founders about the proper role of government, or speaks passionately about the growing loss of freedom – even the freedom to speak one’s mind – must be told to hush, or say it nicely, so as not to frighten anyone.

In short, this is an endorsement of censorship. No, wait. That is too violent an accusation. It might get freedom-of-speechers and First Amendment cultists “fired up” and we cannot predict what they will do, especially if they are also Second Amendment pistol-packers. Let us settle for the softer, more civil appellation of public speech management.

The New York Times dwelt on Loughner’s “disjointed” statements (but, what is so enjoined about politicians when they profess a knowledge of economics and then saddle a country with trillion dollar debts?)
He had posted on his MySpace page at some point a photograph of a United States history textbook, on top of which he had placed a handgun. He prepared a series of Internet videos filled with rambling statements on topics including the gold standard, mind control and SWAT teams. And he had started to act oddly during his classes at Pima Community College, causing unease among other students.

The evidence and reports about Mr. Loughner’s unusual conduct suggest an increasing alienation from society, confusion, anger as well as foreboding that his life could soon come to an end.

Alienation? That one-size-fits-all excuse for becoming a homicidal maniac? Did the shooter alienate himself, or did “society” alienate him? One supposes that if Loughner were raised in an idyllic hugs-all-around-for-everyone society, he would have matured to discover the secret of gravity and patented the formula for a new kind of ambrosia.

Beating the Times is the paper’s own prize ignoramus and alleged economist (caustic language intended), Paul Krugman. In his opinion piece, “Climate of Hate,” he acts as a bellows to raise the heat against freedom of speech. Not satisfied with “caustic language” or “hate speech,” he invents his own term: “eliminationist rhetoric.”
The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

Since long before Barack Obama was elected president, no Republican, no member of the Tea Party, no conservative, no libertarian, no Objectivist, no prominent “anti-government” activist has ever advocated assassination or even an armed rebellion against the federal government. The best of these individuals has simply reminded the administration and Congress of the proper role of government in as forceful language as possible – note that the term is forceful language, not forceful action. The focus has been on eliminating statist laws, not their authors. The day may come when action is justified, but that can happen only if the government moves to fit Americans with a velvet gag. When one is denied by force the power of words, the only alternative left to men to regain their freedom will be the power of force.

Krugman has already reached a conclusion about what ought to be done.
So will the Arizona massacre make our discourse less toxic? It’s really up to G.O.P. leaders. Will they accept the reality of what’s happening to America, and take a stand against eliminationist rhetoric? Or will they try to dismiss the massacre as the mere act of a deranged individual, and go on as before?

Yes, the massacre was the “mere act of a deranged individual” – the facts of reality are on the side of objective observers – and there is no reason to not “go on as before,” possibly with the repeal of ObamaCare and other legislation favored by Krugman and his statist ilk across the country. While Krugman and his cohorts do not deny that Loughner was “deranged,” they not so subtly imply that anyone who values his freedom and speaks without fear about his value of it is also “deranged” and a menace to society.

The government, the liberal/left in politics, and the intellectual establishment, are collectively guilty of their own “toxic rhetoric” – with the approving rhetoric of censorship. Contributing Editor Edward Cline is the author of a number of novels, and his essays, books, reviews, and other nonfiction have appeared in a number of high-profile periodicals.

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