Slate‘s Jack Shafer says it so that I don’t have to:
For as long as I’ve been alive, crosshairs and bull’s-eyes have been an accepted part of the graphical lexicon when it comes to political debates. Such “inflammatory” words as targeting, attacking, destroying, blasting, crushing, burying, knee-capping, and others have similarly guided political thought and action. Not once have the use of these images or words tempted me or anybody else I know to kill. I’ve listened to, read—and even written!—vicious attacks on government without reaching for my gun. I’ve even gotten angry, for goodness’ sake, without coming close to assassinating a politician or a judge.
The only thing I’ll add is that government officials command such vast power — power to bankrupt, imprison, maim and, yes, kill — that refraining from using “vitriol” (as Pima County’s Sheriff Clarence Dupnik puts it) in criticizing people who seek to wield that power borders on the irresponsible.
Update: Liberranter correctly points out that this is an appropriate place for John Green’s (the father of slain Christina Green) moving call to refrain from using this incident as an excuse for more restrictions on our freedom.
Let me express, for the record, my contempt for the predictable creatures who see in the Tucson shooting spree and assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords an opportunity to smear people who speak unkindly about the government. It would be bad enough to extrapolate from one actor some sort of false collective guilt for anybody who shares a few political or social views, but that’s an extra stretch in this case, given that the only consistent strain in Jared Lee Loughner’s ravings about mathematics and mind control was whatever was provided by the random misfirings of his neurons. His YouTube page listed favorite books including bothMein Kampf and Communist Manifesto — potentially indicating a catholic interest in totalitarianism, though I doubt that well-connected a thread runs through his thoughts.
Basically, Loughner’s crime can’t be blamed on anybody but himself, and his writings and actions lay quite a solid groundwork for a criminal insanity defense.
But never doubt the readiness of the usual suspects to piggyback favorite pre-packaged authoritarian bills on the emotional reaction to the shooting.
Rep. Robert Brady, (jackass, Pennsylvania), is pushing a pet law “making it a federal crime for a person to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a Member of Congress or federal official.”
“Perceived as threatening”? That’s great. I have yet to meet a government official who doesn’t “perceive” the slightest criticism as the equivalent of a thrown glove.
Brady said it is now time to put an end to the hyper-charged language.
“The rhetoric is just ramped up so negatively, so high, that we have got to shut this down,” Brady said, noting that “I’ve had my share of death threats” over his many years in politics.
Well, why not take advantage of a brutal crime to clamp down on antigovernment language and harsh words directed at agents of the state who command police forces and armies that rack up a body count the nation’s nuts will never equal? Yes, it’s an excellent moment to crack down on free speech that makes wildly powerful officials uncomfortable.
Hey, Brady, how’s this for rhetoric?: You’re an un-American thug.
And Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (one-trick pony, New York) is at it again with … oh guess, would you? Yes, it’s an anti-firearms measure. She, again, wants to ban high-capacity magazines and clips.