On the Self-Indulgence of the Tucson Media Orgy

It is perfectly normal that we were all shocked and saddened to learn of this terrible event. It is perfectly normal that we would discuss it here, and it is perfectly normal–and useful–for us to discuss our legal framework for coping humanely with the criminally insane. Particularly given the terrible personal loss suffered by our own George Savage, all of this is normal. 

What is not normal is the now-monomaniacal focus of the entire American media, on both the Left and the Right, on the question, “Whose rhetoric is most hateful and unpleasant?” The question is in the first place irrelevant and in the second obviously unserious. If you show me a well-constructed, longitudinal study of young schizophrenics, half of whom have been exposed to the Sarah Palin’s crosshair-chart and half of whom have not, and mutatis mutandis, a statistically significant number of the second group go on to commit an act of political violence, maybe it might be worth talking about. But absent that, this is pure hysteria. 

It’s just as self-indulgent for those on the Right to preoccupy themselves obsessively with the grave insult offered their amour-propre by the suggestion that their rhetoric has been intemperate, and to spend hour upon hour collating and cataloguing examples of equally intemperate Leftist rhetoric–as if it was some kind of competition with a prize at the end–as it is for those on the Left to do it. Surely no one doubts it possible to find examples of rudeness and vitriol all over the spectrum of American political opinion? Surely no one doubts that the metaphors of the military–and shooting and boxing, for that matter–are part of the normal fabric of the English language, used by everyone, and that sane people know the difference between the literal and the metaphorical?  

Meanwhile, while we are focused on a shooting that is obviously a shattering tragedy for the victims but has no particularly deep political meaning, this  assassination and its aftermath is pregnant with minatory significance and should be scaring agitated, hand-wringing American columnists to death, or at least into pro forma agitated hand-wringing if they can’t muster a bit of authentic sentiment: 

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Cheering crowds have gathered in recent days to support the assassin who riddled the governor of Punjab with 26 bullets and to praise his attack — carried out in the name of the Prophet Muhammad — as an act of heroism. To the surprise of many, chief among them have been Pakistan’s young lawyers, once seen as a force for democracy.

Their energetic campaign on behalf of the killer has caught the government flat-footed and dismayed friends and supporters of the slain politician, Salman Taseer, an outspoken proponent of liberalism who had challenged the nation’s strict blasphemy laws. It has also confused many in the broader public and observers abroad, who expected to see a firm state prosecution of the assassin.

Instead, before his court appearances, the lawyers showered rose petals over the confessed killer, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, a member of an elite police group who had been assigned to guard the governor, but who instead turned his gun on him. They have now enthusiastically taken up his defense.

That’s a nuclear power. Which one of these events is really worth talking about this much? 

MORE ON THIS TOPIC:

Senik >  Searching for Grace in Tucson

Robinson >  The Utter Irresponsibility of Sheriff Dupnik

Savage >  A Plea for Mental Health Reform