By Warner Todd Huston
I suppose we couldn’t get past the one-year anniversary of the crime against Democrat Representative Gabrielle Giffords without some Old Media outlet blaming the supposed “heated” political rhetoric of the day for her shooting. On Sunday we saw NPR doing just that. The fact is, no matter how many times they say it, politics and the “heated rhetoric” thereof had absolutely nothing at all to do with Giffords’ shooting. The linking of the crime to politics is just not legitimate.
On this one-year anniversary, NPR’s Linton Weeks was all about the improvement of our “civil discourse,” and full of lament that it just isn’t happening. Perhaps it is a noble sentiment, but he marred that nobility by beginning his piece with a false allusion once again tying the Giffords shooting to the “political atmosphere” of the day.
“When a gunman opened fire on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords,” Linton wrote, “some people were quick to blame the episode on the overheated political climate.”
With that false allusion we also know what NPR meant to do. It meant to blame conservatives for Giffords’ shooting.
He went on to say:
At the time of the attack, there was a high tide of political rhetoric across America and a low ebb of social civility. The New York Times reported that the shootings “raised questions about potential political motives” and that the Pima County, Ariz., sheriff was blaming the tragedies on “the toxic political environment.”
According to The Times, national reaction was immediate. “Democrats denounced the fierce partisan atmosphere in Gifford’s district and top Republicans quickly condemned the violence.”
To the extent that “some people” did indeed immediately jump to the conclusion that the rhetoric of the Tea Party, conservatives and the Republican Party was at fault for the Giffords shooting, Linton is correct.
The second news of the shooting went nation wide, liberals and the Old Media (but I repeat myself) began blaming the right’s political passion for causing shooter Jared Lee Loughner to lose his mind and perpetrate the murderous rampage that resulted in Giffords’ shooting.
Shockingly, one Democrat group even began to use Giffords’ shooting as a fund raiser, blaming conservatives for their “violent imagery” during the political debate.
This false linking of Giffords’ shooting to conservatives has not stopped, either. Only a few months ago ABCs Diane Sawyer began a report on Giffords with the false analogy of the “Tea Party hate” to the crime as if conservatives somehow caused the shooting.
But it is all an illegitimate linkage. When the facts later became known about shooter Loughner, we found out that he had absolutely no political ideology at all. He was not a Tea Partier, he was not a conservative, and he had no connection to the political right. The truth is he had no coherent political ideology at all and he was not involved in the political debate of the day. In fact, we found out he had been obsessed with Giffords for several years before the Tea Party even started. A mental disorder fueled his obsession with Giffords not politics.
The truth is, despite the constant refrain from the Old Media, the purported “violent rhetoric” of America’s center right had no affect on Loughner’s criminal actions at all.
So, the whole point here is that linking the “political atmosphere” in 2011 to Loughner’s crime is not a legitimate one to make. But there is a reason why this same meme is added to the recounting of Giffords’ shooting every time it is brought up. It redounds harshly on conservatives because it is their political rhetoric that always becomes the thing to blame for the crime. And the Old Media loves to pin the blame, falsely, on the conservative right.
**The Vox blog has a similar story about a local Arizona reporter that did the same thing on this story: Lessons From Tucson.