By Michael Cosgrove
Yet another acrimonious slanging match began in America before the ink of press reports on the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and others was even dry. Political debate in that country is plumbing new depths and becoming dangerous.
First of all, two facts. No, Sarah Palin’s cross-hair campaign is not responsible for the tragic events in Tucson which left 6 people dead and 12 injured.But yes, she is directly responsible for why Giffords told the press back in March after her political office was vandalized during the health care debate that "We're on Sarah Palin's 'targeted' list, but the thing is that the way she has it depicted, we're in the cross-hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they've got to realize that there are consequences to that action." How tragically correct her analysis has proved to be.She had already received various threats of violence at various times as had John Rolls and his family, who eventually ended up being protected by the U.S. Marshall’s Service for a month in 2009. Radio-phone in programs were said to be among those who whipped up a hate campaign against him. The first three months of 2010 saw 42 threats to federal lawmakers being reported, that's almost three times the cases reported during the first three months of 2009.Maintaining the bi-partisan approach, Barack Obama gets 30 death threats a day, George Bush also knows what calls for his death are, and the same can be said for many other politicians all over the United States. And although politicians do not threaten each other with death, the vicious nature of political slurs, smear tactics and lies used by American politicians in election campaigns is legendary and it is specifically designed to whip up negative sentiment, that which incontestably runs the risk of engendering violence.Although American history contains many examples of deranged loners and other crazy and violent people attacking politicians, what has changed here is that American politicians are actually encouraging a climate of suspicion and division.So it is hardly surprising that the nature of press and public debate has slid down into the gutter along with the politicians who give the example to follow. Online discussion of American political issues has become a cesspit of venomous invective that is now on a par with the kind of hatred which is more usually associated with subjects such as Israel-Palestine and the Holocaust.
The last 24 hours has seen the beginning of what promises to be yet another bitter debate which is spreading out slowly like filth from a half-blocked sewer from the question of whether or not Palin’s cross-hairs campaign played a role in Tucson. The BBC’s Mark Mardell pointed out that a Twitterwar has started on that subject, and he himself is getting flak for daring to propose the idea that Palin’s campaign, whilst not directly responsible for the shootings, may have sparked off a debate on the subject of its indirect responsibility. The Internet is already awash with the usual collection of extremist conjecture and accusations, including that the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, could be another Harvey Lee Oswald.
Politicians have thus far restrained themselves to offering their sympathy to the victims and their families, but once the shock of the events has receded they too will begin the blame game and milk it to death, as they always do with any subject liable to create tension.The quote in the headline of this article is attributable to Pima County Arizona Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik, who is involved in the investigation into the shootings. He bitterly regrets what he calls the “vitriolic rhetoric” in American political debate, and he considers that “This has not become the nice United States of America that most of us grew up in and I think it’s time we do the soul-searching," he said. The anger, the hatred the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous and unfortunately, Arizona has become the capital. We have become the Mecca of prejudice and bigotry."Both Dupnik and Mardell are right, and the insistence by those who disagree with their albeit loose association of political debate with the shooting because the shooter does not appear to represent the Republicans or may be mentally unbalanced should be exposed for the error it is, and here’s why.American political debate, and thus American society, is now steeped in an atmosphere of slander and accusations, innuendo and lies, muck-raking and insult. You can even smell it in France, thousands of miles away.If it smells that bad here I hate to think what it must be like in the United States. And that is why it cannot be denied that that smell must have gotten into Loughner’s nostrils too. How can anyone over there not be affected in one way or another by the dreadful political climate? Some people decide to stop following politics altogether because of it, some are genuinely worried about it and its possible impact on their children, and some are disgusted by it but say so, only to be sneered at by opponents at political meetings or by those anonymous netlurkers who hide behind avatars.Others still revel in, and encourage it, with the Internet’s murky waters being their residence and mouth piece. And, of course, some people get so involved that they become haters themselves. And who knows where blind hatred may lead?The video put up by Loughner does not appear to give direct clues as to his motivations for his alleged actions, but it is clear from reading his words that he is a very disillusioned young man who harbors an intense dislike of all things political whilst implicating himself in them at the same time. He says he is involved in “political business information” and that current government officials are “in power for their currency” but that he has a “new currency.” He goes on to discuss government officials and “mind control and brainwashing methods.” In another video he talks in writing about revolution, calls for the return of the gold standard - a Tea Party favorite - and says "You don't have to accept the federalist laws".In other words Laughner talks like one of the many Internet political comment thread and other Internet denizens do in America. A mix of left-wing revolutionary fervor and right-wing reactionary sentiment, sometimes both in the same sentence. According to them, we’re all being manipulated by everyone from business to banks to politicians to just about anything and everything else. Politicians are designated as a kind of force for evil who are working together in secret organizations to crush us under the heel of their world domination.So is anyone really surprised that he should end up angry too given the deleterious atmosphere he has been brought up in which encourages cynicism and paranoia? Who can deny that the unceasing flood of wild accusations of everything from genocide to fascist control in America which is being tapped in only slightly less exaggerated terms by politicians must be having an effect on some of those who may be of a vulnerable disposition?Palin’s campaign is not directly responsible for anything, but it is indirectly responsible. That said, I hasten to add that she’s not the only guilty party. Far from it, she’s just the visible tip of the iceberg. Politicians on both sides of the divide from national figures to local party supporters, certain sections of the press, the Internet, and people in general all have their part of the responsibility to bear too.Everyone who has contributed to dragging down the standard of political debate in America to its lowest point ever is indirectly responsible for the carnage in Tucson. And that means a lot of people.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com