“What the Vitriol is Actually About”

10 01 2011

“If this tragedy is going to be a teachable moment,
the lesson won’t be found by determining whose vitriol is warranted.
It will be found instead in what the vitriol is actually about.

And that, as Sheriff Dupnik nailed it, is “tearing down the government.”

From “The Vitriol in Our National Bloodstream”
Marty Kaplan
Director, Norman Lear Center and Professor, USC Annenberg School
Posted: January 9, 2011 07:38 PM


Something I was just sent, about tone not being enough to change:

On Meet The Press Sunday, the focus was on ways to make politics more civil. Yet, those interviewed did not directly blame shock jocks who are spreading hatred for a living. . . They were essentially saying, “Let’s be more polite to each other” rather than “Let’s bring to task those people whose bombastic, odious, contemptuous words lower us all and elicit hatred and revenge for fabricated offense.”

A simple agreement to be more civil will not work for long in the House or Senate. Members need to confront their contributions to the incivility and pathological politics that has become the norm — even if that contribution has only been one of tolerance. . .



Drew Westen
Psychologist and neuroscientist; Emory University Professor

Consider a message colleagues and I tested with two large national samples of registered voters, which beat a tough conservative anti-regulation message on guns by 20 points with both the general electorate and swing voters . . .
[see messages at link]

Americans get it, if you just speak to them like adults.

None of these messages is a “hard left” message . . these are messages that win all over the heartland — and even win in some unlikely places, like the Deep South and the West — because they aren’t about taking away the rights of law-abiding gun owners. They are about protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens, whether they own a gun or not.

We used to be the arsenal of democracy. With the events of this weekend, our arsenal has been turned against our democracy.

If our elected officials are in the pocket of those who would allow the shooting of their colleagues with semi-automatic weapons with no legitimate civilian uses — while mouthing platitudes about their concern for their colleagues — it’s time to call their bluff.

Guns don’t kill people. Cowards and lobbyists do.


“Our Moment of Silence Needs to Be Followed By More Than Just Lowered Voices”

And the atmosphere in which this horrible tragedy was born, nurtured, and carried to its wretched fruition is toxic. Of course, there are always going to be unbalanced people, just as there are always going to be viruses in our environment — but what most determines whether those viruses make us sick is the strength of our immune system. When it is stressed and compromised, infections can easily take hold.

And there is no doubt that our collective immune system is worn down, making us more susceptible to the kind of infection that turned that Arizona parking lot into a killing field.




16 responses

10 01 2011

Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough (two very conservative government-is-the-problem professional partisans) are saying right now on Morning Joe that aha, “homicidal” movies and video games are much worse for society than politicians and Tweeters — even though they just all went on and on about how it is NOT violent political vitriol that caused this shooting, because sometimes people are just demented, adding that it’s happened before and might be happening again, a “cycle” through a period of assassinating public figures.

Another odd thing the panel dwelled on: John Boehner and how this shooting was an assault on democracy itself because it was a US Congresswoman targeted, yet I never heard that particular emphasis when we “cycled” through public school and university shootings, or for that matter federal post offices, did you? Lots to figure out in how things are being framed for power of story.

Also they blame anyone political who blamed anyone for anything after the shooting, how unseemly and Buchanan called THAT demented, even — except of course no blame for political people who glorified guns and dehumanized their opponents, called for targeting and shooting and second amendment remedies (funny that no one I’ve heard has mentioned actual violence in the political class that is dangerous to democracy, such as private goons handcuffing, knocking down and head-stomping.)

Finally, I just remembered the big investigations GOP Congressman Issa plans to commence, including ACORN and the “New Black Panthers.” That photograph of two black guys standing outside, who were supposedly a threat to democracy just by standing there (unarmed as I recall?) Wonder if all that will go forward now?

10 01 2011

Guns, Democracy and Freedom

Insurrectionism Timeline

On June 26, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court embraced the National Rifle Association’s contention that the Second Amendment provides individuals with the right to take violent action against our government should it become “tyrannical.” The following timeline catalogues incidents of insurrectionist violence (or the promotion of such violence) that have occurred since that decision was issued:

10 01 2011

Two Congressmen (at least) will pack heat at public meetings now. In the same article is this note:

Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pa., said he plans to introduce a bill making it a criminal offense to threaten a member of Congress.

My thoughts:

1. We may be arresting a lot of politicians then!

2. Will that include blogs and tweets, signs, t-shirts, radio and tv, or only voicemail and letters?

3. Isn’t it already a crime to threaten anybody (equally, why should representatives of the people be the only ones free from threat?) and if it’s not, why not? Constitutional problems perhaps? Folks against hate speech criminalization for example, tend toward guns and against government.

4. It could take a lot more government to enforce it. Tea party conservatives won’t be willing, so we’d go further down the unregulated “private security” route a la Gov. Scott’s inauguration, meaning corporate-sponsored and against the public, not for us.

10 01 2011

It’s not like we’re slow or stupid and just suddenly noticed Saturday, how public figure vitriol connects to public figure threats and actual violence. Anyone jumping to the “don’t jump to conclusions” conclusion can kiss our archives, for example more than two years ago:

Palin herself of course, living in her own carefully constructed reality-free Palinworld, shows no fear that her character assassination politics may provoke ACTUAL assassination — the clearest sign yet of how dangerously ignorant and devoid of ACTUAL RESPONSIBILITY she really is?

“Now it turns out, one of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers,” Palin said.

“Boooo!” said the crowd.

“And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, ‘launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol,’” she continued.

“Boooo!” the crowd repeated.

“Kill him!” proposed one man in the audience.

And the month before that, to John McCain:

To pound away with your handy-dandy tool is neither good nor evil until we define what — and who — you’re hammering on and filling full of sharp metal. Are you connecting and building what we need, or just making a bunch of new holes in what little we have left?

See also War War War Revisited and War War War Fiddle-dee-dee. And of course, Fightin Mad White Women and Another Fightin Mad White Woman:

This was her at the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot in Kentucky. . .well before the town-hall tirades took over the airwaves
. . . four months ago, shouting over the gunfire in a thin, shrill voice:

“I am extremely concerned about Obama specifically because I was born in Soviet Union, so I can tell that he is extremely dangerous. I believe he is the most dangerous thing one can imagine . .

Maybe, but one needs no imagination to see the danger right before one’s eyes.

10 01 2011

Thinking Citizen power of story reflected in this NPR piece:

An April 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center found “a perfect storm of conditions” contributing to Americans’ distrust of government, including “a dismal economy, an unhappy public, bitter partisan-based backlash and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials.”


Saturday’s shooting spree, which killed U.S. District Judge John M. Roll and five others, followed years of hot political debate in Arizona. Both Roll and Giffords had been the subjects of threats in recent years.

Arizona has become one of the most reliably conservative states, particularly in the debates over immigration and health care — two issues that put Giffords, a moderate Democrat, and Roll at odds with many Arizonans.

10 01 2011

I was reminded of harm done to individuals and society by “pro-life” political vitriol about baby-killers and targeting abortion doctors (defining life as biologic potential while ignoring the fully realized human living already who carries that potential within her and the lives of her family, friends and care providers) when Giffords’ doctors responded to questions about all the victims and whether they would live:

“Survive yes. From a physical standpoint.
But we’ve got to bring them back as a whole human being, and that’s what we try to concentrate on as a trauma center, more than just whether you’re alive or dead.”

[and that also doesn’t mean just physical recovery, explained the doctors, but “important” social/psychological life like “meeting the needs of the families” and even the emotional health of the care providers; not burdening family or victim too soon with what’s ahead such as subsequent surgeries and difficult realities of rehab; dealing with PTSD; understanding and dealing with damage to victims’ social supports, if they have a spouse who also was injured or killed in the traumatic event, for example. ]

The whole human being.

[JJ believes]. . .without respecting free will, nothing can be moral, that coercion and power imbalance can poison even the most moral human ideals.

And that choosing love in your own life can redeem even the most immoral. That applies to friendship, education, marriage, motherhood, public service, work, war and peace, and I think I’m prepared to argue, to salvation itself.
Isn’t free will a basic tenet of Christianity?

11 01 2011
Nance Confer

New word, to me anyway:

Stochastic terrorism is the use of mass communications to stir up random lone wolves to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/1/10/934890/-Stochastic-Terrorism:-Triggering-the-shooters.

11 01 2011

New to me too but it’s a find, thanks, makes a thinking case imo.

Wonder btw, if that political “No Label” group could find this one useful in place of the partisan labels that aren’t — or will they even consider it? I’m betting not, because Joe Scarborough is part of them and he’s knocking himself out to deny and distract from what does the real damage: arming lone wolf young men with the means and mood to terrorize Americans and our children, to hit us here at home, to hate everything and strike out and hit us where we live with our own means.

Stephen Colbert like most public figures, said last night it’s not time to “lay blame” or “politicize” this “tragedy. Like Bin Laden’s 9/11? There’s a movement man who wants to bring down our government much as tea party movement men do, and he too did it with his words and hate-filled power of political story, not directly himself, and we sure had no trouble blaming and politicizing THAT, declaring wars abroad and here at home, government infringing on all citizens’ right of access to its means (airplanes) at great cost, better to be safe than sorry, supposedly.

Yet (their) gun lobby is so “extremely aggressive” (Morning Joe quote today) that such attacks no matter how heinous or how often, have yet to get us to be safe when it comes to guns and ammo, just very sorry.

11 01 2011

Rambling again, you know me! Where I’m going with thought is that this is another window into what the vitriol is all about. Think about who’s “extremely aggressive” about both the mood AND the means, about tearing down government and using guns to do it, and who works in the political system and in the media toward those goals, and what rotten fruits they have harvested already. And the words they use after the fact every damn time, to avoid any accountability and keep us from doing anything to understand and start talking about it , much less to address it.

I’m thinking those labels they’re all using so freely about a human being, the young lone shooter — demented, deranged, delirious, mentally unstable, not coherent, sociopathic, dangerous — and how he (and all people like him) should be preemptively identified, labeled and restricted (by government) before the act can happen, for our safety, could and should be applied to the not-human, to people-killing guns and ammo and the corporations that make and sell and lobby for them so freely, with no prudent, preemptive government restrictions for our mutual safety to stop them.

It cannot be that we have no power to protect ourselves against THEM.

It cannot be that the U.S. Constitution they say is so strict and clear about their freedoms to hurt the rest of us directly and indirectly at will, for profit, only protects them but not us. They already control our time, treasure, health, natural resources, our sense of community and peace of mind — have you seen that the dangerously demented anti-gay Westboro Church plans to ruin the funeral of the little girl murdered by the lone wolf?? — and our media, courts, a controlling interest in our national and state governments, our public schools and sports, our policies foreign and domestic. They increasingly control housing, travel, prisons, police and “private” defense and security, our foods and water and energy and drugs and doctors.

And they seem to have an interest in keeping the means to terrorize us plentiful so the mood will remain terrifying.

What will we choose to believe about who/what is being threatened in this story, and what we are prepared to do about it on behalf of our fellows and communities?

Where is the greater good, the greater evil, the authentic freedoms and rights and traditions to be honored and/or reinstated, the fabricated truths and evil powers and human wrongs to be righted, as best we humans can manage it?

11 01 2011

Interesting from Chuck Todd on MSNBC this morning. He introduced a segment with Paul Helmke from the Brady Campaign to reduce gun violence with smarter government and then said the National Rifle Association had been invited to participate but declined, saying “anything but prayers for the victims would be inappropriate at this time.”

In other words they are shrewder than Sarah Palin! Apparently even in their “extreme aggression” they recognize or have been advised by the professsional politicians they own, that anything they say now will sound terrible and lose them support, nothing to gain. It’s like front-runners refusing to debate challengers because just to be on the stage with them elevates their standing and lowers yours . . .

11 01 2011

The victims who are federal employees needn’t depend only on prayers; they all have excellent taxpayer-provided health insurance at least . . .

11 01 2011

Governor Jan Brewer should have taken the NRA tack instead of the Boehner tack imo. And just shut up.

I Googled news about her and these are the first two stories that popped up, maybe we are all demented or brain-damaged if we can’t see what’s wrong with this juxtaposition:

Second Arizona transplant hopeful dies as a result of Gov. Jan …
1 hour ago
Jan Brewer and the Republican legislature to cut off funding for life saving organ transplants late last year, two Arizonans have died. …

Gov. Jan Brewer: ‘Arizona is in pain, yes. Our grief is profound’
Los Angeles Times

Wow. Talk about power of story, hope we are listening and can understand! Dr. DeMole, a different doctor in the Giffords case than I quoted above, just said on cable news that “when we speak to someone, when we communicate, there are TWO centers of the brain that have to be working. One is the part that actually listens to what people say to us, and the other one is the part that then puts out the words that we want to string together.”

Apparently in Representative Giffords’ case, the first part at least is known to be working. She hears and understands what we say. More than can be said for so many folks just stringing words together!

Jan Brewer’s substitute for her scheduled State of the State address as sent out by her office, strings together only two proposals for humans turning to her leadership and they are both religious, not government in any American sense of understanding:

First, our response to this tragedy must be led by prayer and comfort for the victims and their families. So, please — join me in a moment of silence as we pray for all those we’ve lost — for the injured — and for the suffering.

Thank you.

With our faith and our courage tightly in place, we will step forward from this Chamber, dedicated to the Lord’s work — continuing our service to the public.

Notice her state governor’s concept of comfort for the suffering is only prayer. No governing proposals, no direction for public service or legislative or budget or regulatory leadership, not even a suggestion of how individuals can help other than by prayer and belief and blessing. I read the rest very carefully but that’s it, nothing but God as even vague content or direction for “our public service” — the closest she comes to any specific relating to anything for the State, is invoking Church words, “the words from Isaiah.”

From the pulpit it couldn’t have been more appropriate; from the seat of government power (contributing through its, shall we say, sins of omission and commission to untold human suffering, in which she participates both rhetorically and directly) it couldn’t have been less so.

11 01 2011
Nance Confer

Comment #1: Wasn’t it mighty white of Boner to postpone the pandering vote on health care that was scheduled for this week? Maybe the idea of cancelling health care for shooting victims didn’t sound good, even to Rs.

Comment #2: Had to laugh at NPR talking head this morning. He was taking the position that we shouldn’t blame any of this on political vitriol. He suggested we look at the Lincoln-Douglas debates for some real vitriol. Of course, all I could think of was how that worked out for Mr. Lincoln. The talking head didn’t seem to make any such connection. 🙂

11 01 2011

Oh Nance, that’s so awful and so exactly the point!

11 01 2011

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Robinson today: Blood is on the hands of irresponsible gun advocates

And I saw Rachel Maddow last night, say:

“It is hard for anybody to find the words to express the horror and the anger and the grief that are the only rational responses to massacres like this,” she said. “But the one thing that events like this are not, in America, now, is inconceivable or unimaginable.”

. . . that the United States is by far the most heavily armed country in the world, and that roughly 82 people are shot to death in America every day.

“Whether political rhetoric motivated this kid or not, whether this kid was sane enough to process political rhetoric as sane people understand it or not, whether we will understand sooner or later or never the motivation behind this kid…here’s the question: do we have any tools to stop the next gun massacre?

Versus this on MSNBC just now:
GOP Congressman Mike Rogers is a former FBI agent and now chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He won’t support the gun law being proposed to limit the sale of extended ammo magazines such as the shooter used Saturday. Much less consider any other means access or political climate mood issues as part of the problem. He says individual mental health is THE issue, and people need “help or legal intervention” (beyond prayer and blessings?) sooner as in before they violate laws it seems, and he claims if “we want to solve these kinds of things from happening” we would “remove the politics from it” to do that, but not do anything about guns or ammo (or presumably incitement and climate and mood.)

So how does that track?? It is individual rights and needs even with mental health problems PLUS the right to terrorist vitriol inflaming and enabling PLUS second amendment easy access to human-killing guns and ammo, that needs to be “solved” all as one repeating pathology, instead of being politicized . . .

11 01 2011

This recent piece about Swiss society facing gun violence and how their public debate and politics are playing out, lends weight to our thinking that this complex issue isn’t unique to us (or all about prophecy and prayer!)

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