Wow! I didn’t even have to wait a whole week for the next “your world/my shooting gallery” tragedy! These are almost coming faster than the politicians can lose interest in the subject! Will the shooting in Washington, DC prove to be the proverbial last straw?
I am afraid not. Although Wednesday’s mayhem at the offices of the Family Research Center does have a sexy political angle, upping the ante on the Chik-fil-A/gay marriage controversy, not a single person died. And the one person who was injured remained hale enough to disarm gunman Floyd Lee Corkins II before he could draw another bead.
We thus have a clear, descending violence curve running from the Aurora massacre to this feeble attempt at carnage that may mark the end of this Summer’s slaughtertainment cycle. And if it doesn’t, well…. we’re gonna need something big
to push the candidates and their SuperPAC ads off the air. Osama? We miss you, buddy.
The political angle of this story, (not surprisingly, the Sikh temple shooting has not received nearly the introspection it deserves) has evoked a little soul-searching on the part of pundits left and right, and this may in fact be the “conversation” we were waiting for. The issue, of course, is not about why yet another screwball was able to conjure a deadly weapon seemingly out of thin air to scratch his social itch, but who, if anyone, is pushing these shooters’ buttons.
The National Review Online’s Charles C.W. Cooke and WaPo columnist Dana Milbank are both fencing with pointed fingers in this regard. Cooke’s response to the FRC shooting was this editorial,
excoriating those who would suggest that heated rhetoric could possibly have played a part in any of the acts of near terrorism of the past few years. He singles out Milbank specifically for once suggesting that Glenn Beck and his bretheren had tilled the soil for Jared Lee Loughner’s assassination attempt on Gabbie Giffords:
Dana Milbank â€” and his ilk â€” are fond of writingÂ sentences such as, â€œItâ€™s not fair to blame Beck for violence committed by people who watch his showâ€ and then of adding an insidious â€œandÂ yet .Â .Â .Â â€ immediately afterwards. There is no â€œyet.â€ The social compact does not allow room for violence against those with whom one disagrees, regardless of how worked up talk-radio hosts may get about a particular topic.
As Cooke puts it elsewhere in his article, scurrilous language has been a mainstay of the press since the Revolution, and if Jefferson survived slander from John Adams’ media stooges with nary a nick to his skin, then we should not even suggest that the 24/7 media onslaught environment we live in is having any effect on anyone. That would be like suggesting that the Founding Fathers, who lived in the age of muskets, had not divined that someday a weapon would exist that could mow down an entire British regiment in thirty seconds when they wrote the 2nd Amendment!
So words are powerless?Â Not so, says Milbank!
Having not forgotten his charges against Glenn Beck, Milbank is happy to level blame for Wednesday’s shooting at The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled the FRC a “hate group”. Â And was shooter Corkins not filled to bursting with hate (as well as coagulated fat) when he shouted “I don’t like your politics!” (or words to that effect) before opening fire?
Bearing in mind that there is, at present, no evidence whatsoever that Corkins has ever heard of the SPLC, we are still comparing apples and oranges. If we accept that the English language is capable of evoking anger at all, we must consider the context most beneficial for that outcome, and throwing around the word “hate” is, of itself, hardly incendiary. To read the word “asshole” does not boil the blood at all, but to have it screamed in your face does. And as a surrogate, watching or listening to one person call another person an asshole is far, far more likely to evoke an emotional response from you than to simply see it written, or even spoken, in a non-confrontational context. This is why watching porn is more gratifying than reading it, at least if you are a dude. It is simply easier to project yourself into the situation.
This is also why yesterday, after watching a clip of Fox News blonde Laura Ingraham giving a typically Orwellian interview to a liberal opponent, I found myself pacing my apartment wishing I had a radio program Â so that I could threaten the lives of Laura’s children. Yes, that is exactly
how I felt. Because watching a fight physical or verbal, aggravates one on a physical level. This is the key to the success of right wing media: their disposition towards violence, to raise temperatures and to always find the quickest route to pissing the viewer off. The reason Glenn Beck was scrutinized for the Giffords shooting was not because he had singled her out, but because we all felt that thanks to the likes of Fox News, that was where the conversation was heading.
So Dana Milbank, middling liberal that he is, is trying to balance scales that are properly weighted against the obnoxious right wing. And Milbank has allies amongst conservatives as well, in the form of FRC President Tony Perkins. On the topic of the SPLC’s culpability in the shooting, Perkins, on Fox News
“Based upon the evidence which seems… that is part of the contribution of what Â led Mr. Corkins to do what he did yesterday.”
|Floyd Lee Corkins II: Chick-fil-A’s anti-Jared
Perkins is referring to the SPLC’s labeling of the anti-gay FRC as a hate group, sentiments which arose in the recent Chick-Fil-A kerfuffle. Corkins had a sack of Chick-Fil-A’s greasy, damp and oversalted sandwiches with him when he was arrested, a sign that the shooter probably intended to go down in a hail of gunfire, leaving the grub as his suicide note. But take a look at the guy! Why isn’t the press exploring the possibility that Corkin’s real message was “Chick-fil-A turned me into a pear-shaped effigy of Captain Lou Albano”?
“The notion that insane people will be pushed over the edge if those in the mainstream are uncivil toward one another is risible at best and an invitation for a cancerous self-censorship at worst,” Charles Cooke concludes in his NRO piece. But Cooke might want to consider the experience of his fellow conservative Tony Perkins, who just got a taste of the medicine the right usually dishes out to the left. I do not necessarily mean violence, but rather the feeling that your political enemies really don’t care
about the consequences of the opinions they let fly, or the way they may be interpreted by our nation’s army of well-armed and unmedicated mental cases.
Cooke’s opinion, that words have no consequences, is as incorrect as Dana Millbank’s assumption about which words may have motivated Corkins. In the end, it is Tony Perkins who has found the nub of the issue: when rage is the national pastime, any one of us may find ourselves before the camera following Â a shooting, trying to connect the dots. Rather than worrying needlessly about self-censorship, Cooke ought to be asking where all this speaking from the adrenal gland is getting us.
(Of course, if reckless, unfettered speech is the great fertilizer of liberty that the NRO thinks it is, I will pay real money for evidence that any of my readers have cyber-bullied Laura Ingraham’s kids into a bed-wetting phase.)