In an op-ed in today’s JTA, Benyamin Korn discuses the tragic events in Arizona and the attempt by the media and others to assign blame to Governor Palin:
Extreme rhetoric can inspire extreme behavior, even violence. But there isn’t a shred of evidence that anything that anyone on the political right — or left — said or wrote inspired Jared Lee Loughner to launch his deadly rampage in Arizona.
Within hours of the shooting, before the blood had been washed off the Tucson sidewalk, New York Times Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman was claiming that “McCain-Palin rallies” in 2008 and unspecified comments made by “the likes of Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly” incited the massacre.
Former Florida congressman Alan Grayson claimed that a map on Sarah Palin’s website, with target symbols over various election districts, was what caused the bloodshed in Arizona. He and other blame-meisters on the left also have pointed accusing fingers at the Tea Parties, Fox News, and a laundry list of people and parties to the right.
There is much irony in Grayson’s prominence among the blamers, as not long ago he charged that “Fox News and its Republican collaborators” are “enemies of America.”
The point is not merely that Grayson or some of the others trying to make political hay of Tucson are hypocrites. The point is that normally responsible people on both the right and left are occasionally careless in their rhetoric. Overheated political commentary is dismaying. (My least favorite violation being bogus Hitler/Holocaust analogies.) But that doesn’t mean it causes mass murder.
For rhetoric to translate into violence, two ingredients are necessary.
The first is the content of the rhetoric. Instead of using catch-all phrases such as “climate of hate” or “atmosphere of incitement,” take a look at the actual words. Neither Palin nor O’Reilly — not Krugman nor Grayson — have ever called for violence; in fact they all repeatedly renounce it.