January 11, 2011

George Packer, on free speech and crazy people:

Loughner might, by chance, have been completely unaware of the climate in his hometown. Or he might have been steeped in it. The point is that the climate is dangerous, in Arizona and elsewhere, and the shootings ought to have prompted its purveyors to step back and do some hard thinking...[A]t a minimum, human decency should have led Sarah Palin to express regret for the dog whistle she directed against Gabrielle Giffords, among others. Instead, in Palinland and across the right, the attitude has been: Never apologize. But this has been the right’s attitude throughout the Obama era, with considerable political success, and I don’t expect this tragedy to bring a change.
Just as many liberals in the blogosphere jumped over the line in trying to make Sarah Palin and John Boehner co-conspirators with Jared Loughner in the tragic events of the past weekend, so too many conservatives are pretending that the violent rhetoric erupting from the Tea Party movement since the accession of Barack Obama to the Presidency was unconnected in any degree or manner to the impulse Loughner had in pursuing a "Second Amendment remedy" to his problems.

Insofar as the Right has steadfastly called for ending all restrictions on the ownership of guns, the ease in which a young man who wasn't allowed on a community college campus without a psychiatric thumbs-up, and who was denied enlistment in the Army because of a history of drug abuse, could somehow purchase and walk out of a store with a Glock 19 should cause anyone with a soul some sleepless nights. This is notwithstanding the political environment fostered by the Tea Party, which fetishises long-dormant right wing talking points straight out of the John Birch Society, and a very disturbing historical pattern emerges: elect a Democrat to the White House, and watch paranoia become mainstreamed, while otherwise sensible conservatives either rationalize the extremism or attempt to pretend it away.

January 10, 2011