The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - When To Burn: A Tutorial
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When To Burn: A Tutorial|
There is one truth you have to understand about any media outlet, be it blog, newscast, or Twitter feed: with every post, you are gaining or burning credibility. The trick is to know when to burn it.
If you've gained enough credibility by being right on enough things (and quickly acknowledging when you're wrong), then you can often burn a little cred to have your readers go, "Well, I'm not sure that what s/he says is true.... but maybe it is." But if you burn too much credibility by harping on a point that rapidly ceases to become true, then you start to look like a buffoon.
Which is why I say this to you now: the "Sarah Palin's shooting targets caused the Rep. Giffords shooting" thing? You've redlined on your credibility. The shooter isn't easily slottable into the American-defined cubbyholes of "left" or "right" - instead, he drifts closer to the muddy center of "confused," which makes sense considering he was crazy enough to shoot a Congresswoman. Assassins are sometimes very clearly politically motivated, but often the crazed don't have a good idea - Ronald Reagan's shooter infamously did it to impress Jodie Foster, and "Squeaky" Fromme's motives for attempting to kill President Ford were also a little entangled. In this case, dude was just really crazy.
So trying to draw a straight line through a crooked psyche like this to score political points makes you look stupid. Yes, you can point to all the things that Sarah Palin and the conservatives have done that could, concievably, have caused a crazy man to start firing... But there's no definitive proof that her imagery caused this man to fire. Considering how bent out of shape y'all got when Bush invaded Iraq as revenge for 9/11, you'd think you'd be a little clearer on this whole "Using a tragedy as an excuse to go after the people you dislike" thing, but apparently not.
So stop it. Until we get a smoking gun, some unearthed YouTube video where he stands up and says, glaze-eyed, "Sarah Palin told me to shoot Giffords," then saying, "But... what Palin said could have caused this!" is just depleting supplies we'll desperately need to reach the middle ground. You may not like Palin - I certainly don't - but while I find her methodologies of campaigning distasteful, there are better things you can try to pin on her with more success. This just doesn't work.
Now, before all you conservatives cheer me for defending Palin, I'm going to quote something from John Scalzi, which is also absolutely true:
"I think [the questioning of Palin and company] should not be in the least surprising. If your political messaging traffics in rhetoric heavy on gun imagery and revolution of the overthrow-y sort, then when someone shoots a congressperson who you opposed, then guess what: You get to spend some uncomfortable moments in the spotlight being asked if it’s not reasonable to suspect a connection between your rhetoric and the actions of a shooter targeting someone you’ve opposed. You also get to spend time being asked if, in fact, your rhetoric isn’t overblown, simplistic and on balance detrimental to the nation’s body politic. Querulous complaints about the unfairness of this can be reasonably overruled by others; the time to complain about your bed is before you make it."I don't like Palin. It looks like Palin was probably not a proximate cause of this shooting. But before we gained greater knowledge about ShitBalls McBoobface, the shooter, it was perfectly reasonable to wonder whether her guns a-blazin' rhetoric had been a factor in the shooting of one of her opponents.
Now, apparently, it's not. So let it go.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/59056.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
|Date:||January 11th, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC)|| |
You're not wrong. No, i don't think Palin caused this. I also don't think she and her screaming associates helped it. And since she's pretty big on hating liberals and gun freedom, yes, she gets to respond to this act, which may not be her fault, but is a pretty clear through line from her political stances. This is exactly the sort of thing that her political positions enable and so yes, she gets to defend herself and her positions in light of pretty clear evidence that she's a loon. That's enough for me.
I don't think Kos caused this. I also don't think he and his screaming associates helped it. And since he's pretty big on hating moderate dems and using violent rhetoric, yes, he gets to respond to this act, which may not be his fault, but is a pretty clear through line from his political stances.
When the only provable connection between your preferred scapegoat and the crime is in your head, it's not a connection worthy of discussion. When you find some violent kook who actually was motivated by something the Tea Party said, we can talk.
After all, we couldn't blame the environmentalist left for the Discovery Channel shooter, right?
Thank you for this. My friends' lists are ablaze with people blaming Palin and her crazy colleagues and I'm getting sick of it. I'm no conservative, but there's no direct correlation here yet so folks need to just drop ot for now because it's making them sound stupid.
I greatly dislike Palin, as well, and I agree with your post. Right up to the end where you say it's reasonable to jump to such a conclusion. People had access to his YouTube channel and his MySpace page right from the start, so I don't think such a conclusion was reasonable at all.
No, they really didn't. I was watching the shooting with a fair amount of real-time nature, being at home, and I didn't see the YouTube and MySpace pages until at least five or six hours after the shooting itself. If that's me, a reasonably tuned-in person, then I don't think it's unreasonable to think the lag time is a day or so, plus more time to analyze.
Considering how bent out of shape y'all got when Bush invaded Iraq as revenge for 9/11, you'd think you'd be a little clearer on this whole "Using a tragedy as an excuse to go after the people you dislike" thing, but apparently not.
Holy shit, Ferrett. One of those things is not like the other. Making criticism on the internet equivalent to the baseless invasion and bombing of a country, which has resulted in THOUSANDS OF CIVILIAN DEATHS in addition to crippling its development for the foreseeable future, is monstrous at most and a shoddy use of metaphor at least.
I don't think Palin's crosshairs "caused" the shooter to do what he did, but the kind of rhetoric you used above is disturbing in how symptomatic it is. If you can see the invasion of Iraq as being equivalent to partisan criticism, then I can damn well see how crosshairs over the picture of a woman's face are the same thing as shooting her.
Agreed. Here's a better substitute, making the same point:
Considering how bent out of shape y'all got when right-wingers jumped at Hasan Nidal's shooting rampage to bloviate about Muslims...
I don't think that Palin herself went to this guy's house and told him to shoot Congresswoman Giffords, but the action didn't come from a void. It came from lax gun laws, from a violent right-wing rhetoric that encourages covert violence and from a party that refuses to own up to this rhetoric. Because Palin won't accept that she did put damn crosshairs and that "Don't retreat, reload" does incite violence.
Also, easy on the ableism. Do we know if the guy suffers from any mental illness? More importantly, does it make a difference? No and no.
Speaking as someone who suffers from some mild mental disorders himself, I'm certainly not stating it was the crazy that made him violent, but the violence makes him a little crazy. Regardless of what the "official" psychiatry may say.
So can we now start speculating that the CIA manufactured this whole thing to sabotage the Tea Party and/or fuck up the GOP controlled congress?
Dude has Oswald written all over him - except they updated it from photos of dude standing with rifle to dude putting up crazy YouTube videos.
His friends have all said he appeared to be "drugged" for the last few months and there were some initial reports of someone in the crowd perhaps shooting him (which is classic set up work.)
My feeling is this is just the second stage of their Wikileaks campaign and it all ties back to them getting burned by Bush and the GOP in general over the torture stuff.
The CIA conspiracy is the new black.
|Date:||January 11th, 2011 04:17 pm (UTC)|| |
One of his classmates was quoted in an email as saying:
"We want everything to be Left or Right but some people are just Wing."
That sums it up for me.
|Date:||January 11th, 2011 04:20 pm (UTC)|| |
My main thought on all of this is that I am really really happy that all the people defending Palin's 'targeting' rhetoric will never again complain about violent rap lyrics and video games.
I hadn't thought of that!
Bullseyes and crosshairs are a fairly standard form of communication to aim toward a target. While the gun or weapon reference is present, it's clearly not the intent. While unfortunate, the link between this tragedy and Palin's target list is almost certainly coincidental. I doubt the killer even knew it existed when he went to pull the trigger.
I don't care one bit for Palin but I don't see any call to link her to this tragedy. Doing so shows poor taste and a lack of rational thought.
Also, why do libs not want Palin to run? As far as I can see, it's the surest bet to an Obama reelection.
|Date:||January 11th, 2011 05:07 pm (UTC)|| |
"Clearly not the intent?" I must disagree vehemently. The only other cross-hair examples I can think of off the top of my head are abortion providers and Osama Bin Laden, and the former has already resulted in shootings and at least one death that I know of.
Tell you what, when it's your face in the cross-hairs, you tell me how comfortable you feel that everyone who sees it "clearly" understands that you're a "target" to be "aimed for" and . . . politely disagreed with.
|Date:||January 11th, 2011 04:44 pm (UTC)|| |
This is tricky for me. No, Sarah Palin was not directly responsible for the shooting. The person directly responsible was Jared Lee Loughner. We will probably never know to what extent he was influenced by others, and who those others were. The fact is, right wing political rhetoric has become incredibly extreme in the last few years - I can direct you to examples if you so wish it. Palin is not the only example. Right wing activists get on TV and radio shows, and talk about fighting political battles with violent imagery to such an extent that you don't see on the extreme left. Yes, the left has extremists too. Of course it does. But the extreme liberals tend not to talk about taking a rifle and shooting down their conservative rivals. No really, they don't.
When you have that kind of dynamic in politics, it is only a matter of time before something like this happens. Maybe this wasn't a direct, or even indirect result of speeches inciting hatred and violence against liberals. But those speeches exist, and so do people who can be influenced by them. And so this shooting should serve as a wake up call to make Americans take a good hard look at their society, and the currently political dynamic. And telling the bloggers who try to address them to just 'let it go' sounds a hell of a lot like indifference and apathy.
And by the way, I think you need to rethink your assessment of Loughner as 'crazy'. Yes, he was probably mentally unstable and had some mental health problems - the fact is we don't know. But just having a mental health condition does not make someone more likely to be violent. People with mental health conditions, who you so quickly class as 'crazy', can be and are influenced by the world around them, just like everyone else. To dismiss him as 'crazy' is not only kinda offensive, but also shows a reluctance to properly examine a society where someone could be motivated to do this.
So yeah. In short, I think you're kind of full of it, on this particular point.
Edited at 2011-01-11 04:47 pm (UTC)
"Yes, he was probably mentally unstable and had some mental health problems - the fact is we don't know. But just having a mental health condition does not make someone more likely to be violent. "
That's something other people said. I said that someone that violent is likely to be crazy. Which is a distinct difference. As has been noted elsewhere in this thread, I have mild mental problems of my own, so I don't make that crazy == violent distinction.
And so this shooting should serve as a wake up call to make Americans take a good hard look at their society, and the currently political dynamic.
Possibly. But if you can't tie that to something concrete, then you're burning credibility at a fantastic rate. I don't disagree that the air is toxic, but when you're all like, "THE POLITICAL AIR IS JUST GOING TO LEAD TO MORE SHOOTINGS JUST LIKE THIS ONE! ...which isn't, technically, related directly. Or possibly even indirectly, though I think it's just something, you know, in the air. But hey, it's the same bullets! And the speech I don't like!" Then you appear lame and foolish.
I personally am in agreement that the Republican talking points are toxic. But there are smart arguments and dumb ones. If you're trying to argue that it's leading to more crazy shootings, this is a dumb one.
|Date:||January 11th, 2011 05:20 pm (UTC)|| |
What middle ground?
I keep trying to find this middle ground, but it just keeps dodging me and running right.
I don't think Palin directly caused this, but I don't have a problem with telling her that her rhetoric is still gross. People were saying that long before the shooting.
|Date:||January 11th, 2011 05:33 pm (UTC)|| |
Well, as long as you are okay with the fact that it was, for a while.
I've set aside a few astral nad-kicks for any folks who were all "you can't prove her stuff caused this" but who are still convinced that video games cause violence or that rock 'n' roll causes promiscuity or that D&D is a conversion tool for the Church of Satan. IMO that's hypocrisy, and hypocrisy is my third-largest hulk-smash rage trigger.
|Date:||January 11th, 2011 05:50 pm (UTC)|| |
D&D isn't a conversion tool for the Church of Satan? Well, damn, I've wasted a lot of time, then.
No serious person is suggesting that Sarah Palin actually caused the assassin to do the deed, but the non-stop drumbeat of vitriol from the likes of the former Alaska governor, as well as Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh et al clearly drove him over the edge.
|Date:||January 11th, 2011 07:41 pm (UTC)|| |
Re: Yeah, no
Yeah, this is where I'm at, and I think you're wandering remarkably close to straw-man territory here, Ferrett: neither I, nor anybody I know, is laying the blame specifically on Sarah Palin, and neither I, nor anybody I know, is arguing that any one right wing candidate or spokesperson is criminally liable for the Giffords shooting.
But it's not in any serious dispute that ever since the Republicans doubled-down on violent rhetoric after the 2006 violence against liberal targets has gone up; it went up again after they doubled down harder on that rhetoric in 2008; and it's been nearly non-stop since 2009 "death panel" lies. And they know that. And they keep doing it anyway.
I don't think Palin directly caused this, but I don't have a problem with telling her that her rhetoric is still gross. People were saying that long before the shooting.
I have to agree with kehrli
on this one. I think most of the public figures commenting have been careful to mention that the violent rhetoric may not have been a direct or root cause to the shooting. That doesn't negate the fact that violent rhetoric is "gross" and should be repudiated.
Coming six months after the highway shooter who WAS influenced by Glenn Beck, it should give rational people pause.
Further, the response of both Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin TO negative criticism has been so ridiculous and WRONG that I'm happy to see it highlighted as well.
Even further, mental instability does not negate outside influences. Byron Williams was undoubtedly mentally unstable in addition to being right wing. Probably, his personal issues were a greater influence on his shooting than Glenn Beck's rhetoric. But "fuel on the fire" can be very accurate.
It will probably be a while, if ever, before we know all of the motivations and influences on Jared Lee Loughner. It's just as foolish to dismiss outside influence on him as it is to assume it.
Hey Ferrett, I think you should read yesterdays Daily Kos article on stochastic terrorism.
This article lays out the logic for believing that people like Beck or Palin are deliberately inciting murder. Then read about Glen Becks campaign against the murdered doctor George Tiller.
You might follow that up by reading about Byron Williams,
who planned to shoot up the ACLU and the Tides Foundation
after watching too much right wing TV.
You might also consider James Adkisson,
who killed two people in a Knoxville Unitarian Church in July of 2008. I'll give you a brief quote:
"I thought I'd do something good for this Country Kill Democrats til the cops kill me....Liberals are a pest like termites. Millions of them Each little bite contributes to the downfall of this great nation. The only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is to kill them in the streets. Kill them where they gather. I'd like to encourage other like minded people to do what I've done. If life aint worth living anymore don't just kill yourself. do something for your Country before you go. Go Kill Liberals."
Sounds like Beck, or someone much more extreme...
Here's PDF of his rantings.
In short, Ferrett, you are completely wrong. You're a great writer and I love your blog, but you're 100% incorrect on this one.
|Date:||January 13th, 2011 02:20 am (UTC)|| |
I was pretty excited to read about Stochastic Terrorism, which I thought was the perfect indictment of Beck, O'Reilly, et al., who I despise. Halfway through the article, though, I started thinking of all the music, movies, and video games I've defended over the years. That rap song, "Cop Killa"? Isn't that Stochastic Terrorism? Isn't Grand Theft Auto prompting "lone wolves" to kill prostitutes?
I guess my problem is with the logic that the trigger for a mentally disturbed person acting violent is responsible for the violence. Outlawing the triggers means outlawing free speech, which includes evil Bill O'Reilly as well as not-so-evil Catcher in the Rye. I'm not down with that.
Well, when it comes to it, I'd say that blaming it on being crazy is wrongheaded, too.
Not saying he's not got something wrong with his brainmeats, just that that alone, that isn't enough to stick him in a box and say "here's why he did this awful thing." And as a crazy person, yeah, it scares the crap out of me to hear people blaming "crazy people" for shit like this. Crazy people can have not-crazy motivations for their behavior, same as not-crazy people do.
It may be that there is something really, really wrong with this guy, and that "crazy" winds up being an accurate descriptor. I just wish it wasn't the first box people reached for when they need to explain terrible behavior. If we're supposed to wait for evidence to blame his politics, then we need to wait for evidence to blame his crazy.
|Date:||January 11th, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)|| |
This is definitely where I stand on things.
+ 1,000 or so. This is what I was thinking, not wanting to be seen as defending Palin and not having the time to articulate it nearly as clearly as you have.
I agree with most of it except this: I think the credibility suffers just as much for people who just lump Loughner in with Hinckley with no appreciation as to how different their crazinesses were.
In fact, I think the credibility suffers if you just dismiss shooters like this as crazy, as though outside influences had absolutely no factor on what they did. Neither Hinckley nor Loughner came to their decisions in a vaccuum, and both could have been stopped with reasonable countermeasures.
Hell, I think those who just dismiss crazies like this when they do do something like this are as bad as those who tell bullied kids "ignore it and it'll go away". Starving an attention whore of attention is like starving a bear of food: Eventually, he'll do absolutely anything for it. The trick is to give him the attention he deserves, rather than the attention he wants. Had Loughner gotten psychiatric help when he was kicked off that college campus, probably this would not have happened. If someone connected to Jodie Foster had been more proactive in her stalker, President Reagan probably would not have been shot. But in both instances, the underlying factors of their delusions were not addressed, with devastating consequences.
The old motto is "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". Being proactive about nuts like this will save far more lives than being reactive about them.
|Date:||January 11th, 2011 11:24 pm (UTC)|| |
Rhetoric on all sides has gone far beyond "overblown" and "redlining" to ludicrously apocalyptic.
And anybody who uses the tragic deaths and injuries of public servants, elderly shoppers, and a bright little girl to make a political point only hours after the event has altogether lost sight of basic decency and humanity.
Could you point to an example of someone that really does blame Palin specifically? It seems to me that liberals who jump on the Palin map are attacking the Right for a general tone, and they use Palin as an example of it. They also think it's particularly note-worthy or odious that Palin is involved in this, because she's a leader figure. But hey, I mostly listen to the more moderate voices of both sides of the fence. I could have easily missed something like this.
Is there someone I should be glad I'm not reading, or is this limited to commenters, or something?
: "Mission accomplished, Sarah Palin."Bill Maher
, on whether it was fair to place blame on anyone but the shooter: "Yes. I mean, not direct blame. No... But Sarah Palin put the cross hairs up on her website. That's a person in a position of authority."Andrew Sullivan
: "A political assassination cannot be dismissed as non-political. And even if one argues, as I would, that Palin bears no direct responsibility at all for this act of violence and that the idea of her as an "accomplice" of some sort is offensive, it remains true that a) Palin specifically targeted this political opponent for "re-loading" within literal gun-sights, b) this was noticed at the time by the future victim as a dangerously violent provocation, c) Palin upped the ante when confronted with this criticism and refused to back down, and is even now apoplectic that this should be in any way about her. If your response to these set of facts is to deny that there is anything awry here, you are part of the problem, it seems to me."Keith Olberman
: "If Sarah Palin, whose website put and today scrubbed bullseye targets on 20 Representatives including Gabby Giffords, does not repudiate her own part in amplifying violence and violent imagery in politics, she must be dismissed from politics"
The rhetoric about the rhetoric, even from specific individuals who used stronger language initially after the shooting, has tempered as details emerged, but the position seems to have largely shifted from an connection to this particular act of violence to other acts of violence, both realized and potential; e.g. Andrew Sullivan's statement that, "We are saying it's about time someone took responsibility for this kind of rhetorical extremism, because it can and has led to violence and murder."
(And though public figures are less apt to make extreme claims about another public figure, the discussions on sites like dailykos.com and on Twitter do include a significant number of people who did and do consider Palin culpable to some degree.)
I agree that we can't pin this on Sarah Palin. That being said, when it is suggested (as it has been to Palin and her associates), that perhaps we could be civil to one another maybe the proper thing to do is not to react as though you have been personally attacked.
Of course you have freedom of speech, but how about being less of a bitch?