|A Klan Wedding, Washington State, 1923|
You don't need citations to know that right wing response to the Giffords Massacre is primarily a matter of deflection and/or refocusing the question. For example, some have tried to focus the issue on the character of the gunman, arguing that he was a "liberal" because his unhinged rantings included Marx. "I doubt he listened to Glenn Beck," someone said, "because he quoted Marx." (Of course Beck quotes Marx from time to time--just sayin'.) The other response is to express concern over "free speech." This tack has a history in the defense of the Tea Party--every racist sign was either "free speech" or "an outlier, maybe a liberal even... but what can we do?"
As you know from reading this blog, I've come to the conclusion that actually having a conversaton with committed Right Wingers on any topic is pointless, because I'm convinced that the Right is now completely committed to "winning" by any means, at any cost. Thus, in this tragic case, they aren't really defending free speech. They're just defending their weapons cache. Hate is a powerful weapon in the Right Wing arsenal--without it it's likely that much of the fervor it generates amongst the millions of voters who have very little in depth understanding of what's going on--on any subject--would dissipate. But there's also a kind of structural issue in this particular example. The only solution to a world with irresponsible, unfettered hate speech is probably a governmental one--some kind of "Fairness Doctrine," backed by legal sanctions, for example. Tikkun wonders this morning why a Democratic Congress didn't generate a Committee on Hate Speech while they had the chance.
The fact is, the complete cynicism concerning government which is a foundation block in the Right Wing philosophy (drown it in the bathtub, to use the short hand) makes solutions to situations like our current Hate Speech Fest impossible. This is of course convenient for the Right--they want the leverage Hate Talk brings. But if we were to assume for the moment the counterfactual idea that the Right is actually appalled at the Massacre and shares with us the hope that there might be some solution, let it be noted that the Right has already closed the door to a solution, and insured the continuing circularity of what passes for conversation. Indeed, Arizona may point the way to America's future. As the sheriff of Pima County, where the Massacre occurred, said last night on C-Span--"Arizona is the Tombstone of the United States." Forces are now in control of Arizona government such that all citizens of that state may, if they wish, carry concealed weapons anywhere, any time, and can obtain said weapons without background checks. The fantasy of the Old West has apparently returned to Arizona. The fetish of the Gun has been instituted in law. (And Tea Party right-wingers in Pima County are already calling for the Sheriff's resignation--apparently he's run afoul of the thought police which must accompany any rigorous institution of Doctrine such as has occurred decades back on the Right.)
Howard Hughes once made a very strange movie called "The Outlaw," which, for its obvious subtext, should be required viewing this week. He got into trouble with the movie because it's female lead, Jane Russell, showed a bit of cleavage. Miss Russell (a wonderfully real, down-to-earth individual who, if she wrote an autobiography, you should definitely read it) was not the real point of the movie. The real point was Mr. Hughes subconscious, and the symbolism of the gun. It's all there, even if rather humorously portrayed. In Arizona today, apparently "The Outlaw" has been realized. Except, of course, in this version children lie bleeding and dead on the dusty floor, and a sparkling, earnest Congresswoman who would be a star in any District's crown now lies in a hospital in critical condition, able to respond to simple commands. I hope she fully recovers. I am saddened by the likely life she now faces. I am shocked that an obviously crazy person could buy himself a machine pistol in Tucson, a city I've played music in and love. Indeed, I'm saddened that Tucson's citizens now bear the burden of being the place where the Giffords Massacre occurred.
There is no good reason for this tragedy. That fact should not be used as a justification for doing nothing, for continuing with hate as usual. I'm afraid that's exactly what will happen. It's just what we do. Next week there's the Martin Luther King Holiday. No doubt some right wing wag will argue that because there's a Martin Luther King Holiday, there can't be racism. Maybe it'll be Mr. McCain who makes that argument, on the floor of the Senate. Wouldn't be at all surprised, would you? McCain's career of hypocrisy and 180 about faces would make even thoughtful constituents crazy. He's Arizona's Senator.
Update: David Frum, who surely should know better, argues that the problem is pot. How's that for deflection. (See Tbogg for the details.) There is already much nuanced discussion of the crazed shooter's pyschology and thoughts, particularly as he was articulate enough to have written some of his ideas down on the internet and elsewhere. Here is one of the best pieces I happened to have run across so far:
Insofar as they're not just dissembling, the Right needs to try and understand that it's possible both for the shooter to be, in extreme shorthand terminology, "crazy," and for there to be a rhetorical atmosphere that encourages extreme acts, such as the act he perpetrated on Saturday. Moreover, the ceaseless "they do it too" statements by a mainstream media more afraid of, e.g., Sarah Palin's reaction to any criticism than to the remote possibility that some next crazy person might come their specific way, are most unhelpful, since they just encourage everyone to fall back into the circular and meaningless conversation. Can't we just get real for a change? It's real blood on the saddle right now. (An unlikely hope I realize: driving to work earlier today, an effort which was ended in ice and a long walk back home, the truck now parked in someone's driveway six miles towards town, the "Rush Radio" morning blather mused that the shooter might have been a "set up" for some sort of new gun regulations. Ain't that a pip. From a Massacre to "they're coming to get your guns" in 48 hours. And you wonder why I say talking the the Right is pointless?)
Other very good posts on this subject: