Blame, Censorship and Personal Responsibility

My lack of comment with regards to the shootings over the weekend was partly the result of an inability to successfully connect to the tubes. But even if I hadn't been tubes-impaired, I didn't want to jump into the debate before I really had an opportunity to digest all of the hydra-like arms of this disaster -- who's to blame and how to properly peg this thing. But mainly, I haven't really been able to determine what to say here that's any different from my reaction to previous eliminationist tragedies.

Sarah Palin isn't to blame, but her violent, gun-fetish rhetoric is partly responsible insofar as she ought to have known that her people have a tendency, in general, to be militaristic and similarly obsessed with fire arms. And extremism on the far-right had been well-established prior to Palin's "reload" and "target" horseshit. Yet she opted to employ such language anyway. And for the wrong reason -- chiefly as a means of being cute and clever, but also to piss off liberals.

So while a man suffering from obvious mental illnesses and, despite that, too-easy access to firearms pulled the trigger, it was language like Palin's (and others) who clearly have sparked those defects into action.

While Palin has a right to speak freely without government interference, I expect that anyone who's granted authority, deference and (whether we agree or not) wisdom as a political or public figure, take responsibility for what she says. And that ought to be easy for Palin who's a member of a political movement that claims to cherish personal responsibility.

But of course she won't do that. Because, in her mind, it's okay to suggest the political strategy of "reloading" and "targeting" to a militaristic, trigger-happy crowd. If they choose to take her literally, it's their problem.

That's probably her out. It's likely she'd use similarly myopic reasoning if she thought it would piss off liberals to, say, shout fire in a crowded movie theater. If the movie-goers overreact to her clever zinger she shouldn't be held responsible when they trample each other, right? Uh-huh.

And, by the way, screw anyone who says there's similar language on the left. If there is, who's saying it? Blog commenters? So what. Liberals leaders aren't. It'd run entirely contrary to the nature of liberalism for a left-wing authority figure who enjoys similar status to Sarah Palin to suggest that we ought to use "Second Amendment remedies" as a means of pushing our agenda. I can't possibly imagine Cory Booker or Howard Dean using such metaphors. And even if one slipped out, I don't know any militaristic, gun-toting... anti-war pacifists. Maybe they're out there somewhere hanging with leprechauns and hobbits. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that liberals aren't violent (there are excpetions to everything, but not enough exceptions to make "left-wing extremism" as serious threat).

As with most tragedies, blame is never 1:1. Multiple causation can be assigned to just about everything, from health to illness to success or tragedy. The movie "Oldboy" isn't solely to blame for Virginia Tech. It was a mentally ill student with access to firearms who took seriously a work fiction -- all of that and more culminated in the shooting deaths of 32 people. But the multiple causation at Virginia Tech or at Tuscon shouldn't minimize the role of influence.

However, more weight ought to be assigned to a politician's influence, than is assigned to the influence of a cartoon, video game, rock song or movie. Sarah Palin isn't an artist. Art carries with it latitude and individual interpretation. Political rhetoric is entirely different beast -- it's serious business, responsible for events that impact so many of us: war, peace, taxation, prosperity and both life and death. "Oldboy" or a Judas Priest lyric doesn't carry the same global (small "g") weight. Sarah Palin deals in the realm of seriousness, regardless of her utter lack of seriousness.

So I hope, out of this tragedy, the eliminationists will take a look at their language and exercise some restraint before they contribute to more of this awfulness. But I doubt they will.

More later.