WORTH REPEATING: The Real AZ Shooting Victims


[Illustration by ALEX FINE]

ANDREW SULLIVAN:  “This message—even at a time of national crisis—was a base-rousing rallying cry, perpetuating her own victimhood and alleged bloodthirstiness of her opponents. One would have thought that Palin, like any responsible person in her shoes right now, could have mustered some sort of regret about the unfortunate coincidence of what she had done in the campaign and what happened afterwards. Wouldn’t you? If you had publicly defended a map with cross-hairs on a congresswoman’s district, and that congresswoman had subsequently been shot, would you not be able to express even some measure of regret at what has taken place, even while denying, rightly, any actual guilt? Could you not even acknowledge the possibility that your critics have and had a point, including the chief Palin-critic on this, who happens to be struggling for her life in hospital, Gabrielle Giffords.” MORE

RELATED: Two days before the shooting spree in Tucson, Brian Williams asked House Majority Leader John Boehner whether he would confront the claim that Barack Obama is not a natural-born citizen. In measured tones, Boehner gave a coy response: Hawaii’s word is good enough for him, but it is not for him to tell others what to think. Watching the clip when it first aired, I thought, that stance must be risky, using a wink and a nod to leave the door open to patent falsehoods. I meant risky politically, in every sense. After all, the birther claim is a true conspiracy theory, dependent on the premise that government institutions are abetting a complexly plotted fraud. When they argue their case that the plots they discern are real, paranoid patients arrive armed with examples of views more outlandish than their own. After all, my patients do not deny Darwinism or global warming. If they claim that the president of the United States is a conspirator secretly intent on socialism, it’s a sign that they are far down a sad road. The public embrace of implausible beliefs creates a context of credulity. For my purposes, journalists and politicians who countenance conspiracy theories are the opposite of co-therapists; they are enablers. They stand as exemplars of a mode of being that scorns doubt, celebrates grievances, and reframes ordinary disagreements as indicators of sinister intent. In the context of demonization and demagoguery, this embrace of paranoia helps to compose a politics of constant rage. It is convenient and convincing to say that no particular public figure is directly implicated in Loughner’s actions. But I wonder whether finally the imputation of some responsibility is so easy to shed. MORE

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