SAN DIEGO — January 11, 2011 — It began with the words of Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, when he suggested that the wicked, lunatic, Jared Lee Loughner, (who shot 19 people, murdering 6) committed his crime as a result of “irresponsible political rhetoric of conservatives.”
Did Dupnik later apologize for his thoughtless, knee jerk reaction, void of facts? Did he admit that until some profile information on the defendant came though, he, a sheriff of all people, probably should have just kept his big mouth shut? No, not at all. Instead, Duupnik, reveled in the moment one day later by going after Rush Limbaugh specifically.
“[Mr. Limbaugh] attacks people, angers them against government, angers them against elected officials,” he said. “And that kind of behavior in my opinion is not without consequences.”
It staggers the imagination to hear lectures on “irresponsible political rhetoric” from one like Dupik who was already on record accusing the Tea Party movement of bigotry and Arizona’s anti-immigration law as being “racist,” so racist, in fact, that he personally vowed not to enforce the law.
Not surprisingly, the baton was next passed to the prestigious New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who wrote in his January 10 piece:
“It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge.”
TRANSLATION: “Even though we should not blame the Tea Party or the Republicans, I am about to do so anyway.”
Krugman continues by pointing his finger at “eliminationist rhetoric.” He defines such rhetoric as “suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.”
Of course, Krugman can offer no such evidence that the recent Arizona tragedy had anything to do with Tea Parties or Republicans. Indeed, Jared Lee Loughner is a registered Independent who did not even vote in the 2010 election. He also owns a copy of the Communist Manifesto. The last time I checked, that was not exactly featured on the Top Ten list of conservative publications. Neither do I hear anybody calling President Obama responsible for inspiring the Arizona shootings by hiring the self-professed Communist czar, Van Jones.
Many others have seized the reigns, from MSNBC to NOW to your average talk show caller. Ironically, many of the people who caution us not to rush to judgment by immediately condemning the entire religion of Islam when a Muslim shoots 13 soldiers in Texas, have zero reservations about rushing to judgment on conservatives. That would be a hypocritical departure from their own advice even if Loughner were a Tea Party member, acting alone without the endorsment of other members.The fact that he wasn’t connected to the Tea Party at all only makes the hypocrisy greater.
In addition to movements such at the Tea Party, specific conserative names have been dropped like coins in a fountain, from Glenn Beck, to Sean Hannity, but the most notable was Sarah Palin, supposedly responsible for using the word “target” while discussing desired areas to win in the 2010 election.
Nobody seemed to express any concern when Democrats used the word “bull’s eye” in previous elections, or when Obama quoted from The Untouchables by saying, “If they bring a knife, we’ll bring a gun.”
Please understand: I accept that statement from our president as a mere figure of speech. So do most conservatives, and with this gesture, we extend far more grace toward the left than they, with all their admonitions about tolerance have ever blown our direction.
I do take issue with Obama’s call to tone down the “intense political speech” inasmuch as he failed to offer these challenges when they came from his own party. Florida Congressman, Alan Grayson disgraced himself on the floor of the House of Representatives by insisting that the Republican plan for health care was to either not get sick or to die. No, that wasn’t inflammatory language was it?
And yet, even the moronic rumblings of an exploitive politician are protected under our First Amendment. The truth is, speech often does become high toned and electrically charged. That is just exactly why our wise forefathers wrote an amendment protecting it. Think about this: If the assumption were that speech would always be benign and never offensive, then why protect it at all?
Of course, it remains to be seen if Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) has heard of the First Amendment. He told Politics Daily about plans to introduce legislation “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 a federal official” (Politics Daily Jan, 10).
For now, the public seems to be dismissing these ludicrous, hallucinatory connections between one evil gunslinger and the Tea Party movement or any specific conservative.
But the failed attempt should still cause a deep concerned breath.
If people are that desperate for a test case to silence free speech, sooner or later they will find a better one. It is not beyond the scope of imagination that other shootings may happen again some day.
Maybe this time the guy will be a Republican, or admit that he attended a Tea Party, or claim that he was inspired by some radio program. People will not need much of an excuse and before you can say “Hate Speech legislation” our First Amendment freedoms will be out the window, the same First Amendment that, ironically, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, read out loud on the House floor only last week.
Bob Siegel is a radio talk show host and columnist. Information about his radio show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net.
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