Republicans, Please Stop Using Gun Metaphors In Your Campaign Literature

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Congress, Democrats, Guns and Ammo, Palin, Republicans

The motives of the coward who shot a bunch of people (including Dem Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords) down in Arizona earlier today are not known, but I think we can all agree that campaign literature like this certainly doesn’t help…



Yes, I’m talking about Sarah Palin. This was the tweet announcing the ridiculous image above…



This type of stuff is completely irresponsible. Especially when followed up with this from Giffords’ opponent Jesse Kelly…



Both of these images have been taken off of their respective websites, but h/t to FDL for rounding them up.

The last report is that Giffords is in surgery, but 5 are dead.

One additional piece of info…

In March, hours after Giffords voted in favor of health care reform, the front door of Giffords’ Tucson office was shattered, also a side glass panel.

More as it develops…


This entry was posted on Saturday, January 8th, 2011 and is filed under Congress, Democrats, Guns and Ammo, Palin, Republicans. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

67 Responses to “Republicans, Please Stop Using Gun Metaphors In Your Campaign Literature”

  1. Simon Says:

    The left’s response to this shooting has been appalling: the assumption that the shooter was a righty and the almost immediate weaponization of that “fact” against Sarah Palin. You truly couldn’t make this stuff up. Even Andy Sullivan wouldn’t intuitively jump to “Giffords shot; Palin to blame.”

    Listen: Palin didn’t coin a new political lexicon. Here is the nub of the beef with Palin: She used rhetorical images that have been applied to political races countless times; they are stock metaphors. English is loaded with firearms-related language: we have “targeted races,” we have candidates “gunning for” so and so, we advise our candidates to “load for bear,” we have our opponents “in our sights”–the list goes on and on, and people on both sides of the aisle go to that well habitually, instinctively, and routinely. To single out Palin for criticism because months later, someone “targeted” in the metaphorical sense happened to be shot is cynical opportunism. In a word, it is is total balls.

    And here’s something that it’s critical to notice: the opportunity was fabricated. The meme that Palin did something wrong is premised on (and thus becomes a vehicle for) the meme that the shooter was a tea partier, or someone in Palin’s circle of influence. The online judgment leaped to that judgment almost instantly (I think Kos’ first tweet was within minutes), but there was NEVER any basis for it. The only thing we knew about the shooter was that he was young and that he shot a bunch of people including a Congresswoman. We didn’t know–we actually still don’t know–that the Congresswoman was the target, or even that there WAS a target. So the only piece of information we could possibly extrapolate from was his age, and statistically, the young skew left. Not only was it wrong to be assuming, but the assumption itself was also highly dubious. And now it has been falsified, because we now find out that the shooter was in fact a lefty. Karma’s a bitch.

  2. Simon Says:

    Here, let me illustrate for you just how pervasive metaphors of violent origin are in our language. Naturally, Andrew Sullivan parroted the left’s talking point for the day, bemoaning Palin’s use of violent rhetorical images. Scarcely an hour before hitting “submit” on that post, however, Sullivan lauded a politico post by Ben Smith. And what was the title of that post, a title that Sully didn’t think to chastise? “A conservative civil war.”

  3. Chris Says:

    simon where is there any evidence he’s a “lefty”?

  4. Simon Says:

    Chris, he identified himself as an atheist, listed the Communist Manifesto among his favorite books, videotaped himself burning the American flag, and even the New York Times was honest enough to quote a high school classmate describing him as “left wing, quite liberal.” All this has been documented ad nauseum this afternoon, and if it isn’t enough for you, I doubt that anything up to and including a voter registration card would satisfy you.

    To be clear, I don’t mean to suggest any kind of causal link between his being a lefty and his criminality. That isn’t my point. My point is that the left’s cynical weaponization of this incident rests on their lie that he’s a tea party palinista type. He isn’t.

  5. Chris Says:

    Yeah, I haven’t been looking into this at all because the media always disgusts me when things like this happen, they descend like vultures to revel in the blood and misfortune of the victims – all while relishing in the perp’s psychosis.

  6. kranky kritter Says:

    Wow, I hadn’t realized he was actually a lefty. This is really going to cause some heads to explode.

    I had only read a quick story and then watched his videos, which were a sort of a peculiar hodgepodge. There was a lot of stuff about gold and currency values, which had a conservative flavor. I did see the bit about reading the communist manifesto, but that just tied into my sense that he was mentally broken. It sounded to me like he had been fueling his alienation with angry rants from all over, and then tacking fragments from them into his deeply nonsensical pseudo-hypotheses.

    In case anyone is wondering, I stand by my earlier statement about how it doesn’t make nearly as much sense to view this in the context of political motivations as in the context of young adult borderline personalities deteriorating from the inability to cope socially.

  7. kranky kritter Says:

    Thanks for that link Simon. It confirms most of my guesses.

    And contra the assertion that he has a “lefty,” it seems like he had indeed crafted an idiosyncratic hodgepodge of ideas, such that it might even make it pretty inconvenient for partisans of either wing to convincingly dig into blaming the other side. For example, even though he was described as “quite liberal” by an old acquaintance, he thought abortion was terrorism.

    Let’s face it. this isn’t about politics. He was defective.

  8. Trescml Says:

    Tragic situations are almost always exploited for political gain. People’s nerves are raw and they are more open to suggestion than usual. So it is not surprising that there are those who want to suggest he was a right wing or left wing lunatic. More and more people want to define their lives along the political spectrum and fit every into that paradigm. This looks more like an attack against politics in general to the degree that there was any rational thought behind it.

  9. Tillyosu Says:

    Seriously, can we just agree that this tragedy had nothing to do with anyone’s political agenda? It’s clear this kid is very, very sick, and I doubt he is competent enough to even form a coherent political philosophy to act on in the first place.

    The immediate, knee-jerk reaction by Justin and others on the left to exploit this tragedy for political gain is the ugliest kind of politics. And he should be ashamed.

  10. Jim S Says:

    He’s a mentally unbalanced individual who apparently at this point in his life has siezed upon the viewpoints of the more extreme elements of the political right wing when he decided to act out. Yes, I think that over the top rhetoric of the far right helped him decide this. But basically he is insane and quite likely would have done something violent in some other situation eventually.

  11. Tillyosu Says:

    He’s a mentally unbalanced individual who apparently at this point in his life has siezed upon the viewpoints of the more extreme elements of the political right wing when he decided to act out.

    Here’s high school friend Caitie Parker:

    As I knew him he was left wing, quite liberal and oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy.

    I’d say she has a better insight into his “viewpoints” than you do Jim.

  12. gerryf Says:

    Well, actually, Miss Caitie Parker knew him four years prior, and without knowing the prism through which Caitie Parker views the world it is difficult to say what his real political perspectives were or are today.

    Furthermore, she never said she was his friend–only that she knew him.

    Kranky’s description would seem the more apt for the moment than anyone from the left or right using this sick young man as his poster boy.

    In that case, it really doesn’t matter if he was a lefty or rightly–it could be the violent rhetoric of the right had the effect of pointing this loaded bullet of a nut job right at someone or it could be this young man is just a head case looking to become famous.

    Finally, police are now looking for the second man who may be an accomplishment…who is this guy and what are his motivations? We’ve already seen one such a case with John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo.

    Personally, I don’t feel like discussing political motivation today–we’ll know more soon enough. No need for our own fringe elements on donklephant to concoct left wing or right wing tool theories…

  13. kranky kritter Says:

    His age and some of the stuff in his writings make a decent preliminary case for his psychosis being schizophrenia. Early adult onset of schizophrenia is pretty common.

    Schizophrenia is often characterized by an almost random mixing together of fragments of reason. In other words, there are these chunks where maybe 2 or 3 dots are connected in ways that make sense. But then those chunks are left unconnected or they are connected to other chunks almost randomly. It’s a really terrible condition.

    I hope folks agree not to focus on political motivation TOMORROW, too.

  14. Jacob Says:

    Seriously. The debate here is comical. The left blaming the right. The right is “vindicated” and faults the left for being political opportunists.

    Simon and Tilly: The right NEVER acts in such a shameful manner, right? Sure. Pot, meet kettle.

    Chris: If this guy was a sicko, tea-partier you’d be the first one “relishing in the perp’s pychosis”.

    Kranky’s right. This guy is defective.

  15. Chris Says:

    I’m sorry jacob, do you know me?

  16. Tillyosu Says:

    it could be the violent rhetoric of the right had the effect of pointing this loaded bullet of a nut job right at someone or it could be this young man is just a head case looking to become famous.

    But the possibility that he motivated by leftist rhetoric is somehow not an option? Look, I’m not saying that he was. But when some make the assertion that he was motivated by right wing rhetoric, without any evidence whatsoever, then I feel obliged to offer evidence that supports the contrary. You can question the relevance or strength of my evidence, but until you offer some of your own, you don’t have a whole lot of credibility on this issue.

    By the way Justin, Giffords appeared on a “target list” composed by Markos Moulitsas back in 2008 of “entrenched elite” and that should face “primary battles” (speaking of violent rhetoric). And just last week, a Daily Kos diarist (who last year shot himself in the mouth when his gay partner left him) declared that Gifford “…is now DEAD…” to him [emphasis in the original] for refusing to support Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader.

    So I wonder, how much blame do Daily Kos and Markos Moulitsas share for this shooting?

  17. Tillyosu Says:

    Simon and Tilly: The right NEVER acts in such a shameful manner, right? Sure. Pot, meet kettle.

    I don’t think I ever made that claim. And if it has, perhaps a few examples would be helpful.

  18. Justin Gardner Says:

    Tillyosu, seriously? Conflating the word target with what I’ve shared above? This is SARAH PALIN we’re talking about! Nationwide audience of hundreds of millions. And she put gun targets…on candidates. She’s saying RELOAD! Also, you know damn well that anybody can create a Daily Kos diary.

    Pathetic.

  19. Chris Says:

    “But the possibility that he motivated by leftist rhetoric is somehow not an option?”

    Maybe I don’t watch enough fox news, but what mainstream – if any – leftist rhetoric is calling for a violent uprising because of taxes, or health care?

  20. Simon Says:

    KK, it isn’t my burden to establish with any precision where the guy fits on the political scale–only to establish that he does not fit into a particular pocket, and that burden has been carried. It isn’t hard to see why. The lefty talking point that Justin has chosen to propagate here necessarily rests on the assertion that the shooter was influenced by the supposedly atypical violent metaphors generally, and those of Palin specifically. If the shooter was not a Palinista or tea partier, however, he is no more influenced by those gun metaphors than you are, or Justin is, or I am. Therefore, all that is required to knock the stuffing out of the left’s fraudulent talking point is to situate the guy outside of Sarah Palin’s circle of influence, and the evidence we had by yesterday evening conclusively does that. That the guy appears more left than right is just an added bonus–karma balancing itself at the expense of the liars on the left who sought to use this tragedy as a weapon against Palin.

    The guy seems to have been a total loon. I’m not here to pin the shooting on the left. I do find it appalling, however, that the left started lying about this and pinning it on the right within seconds of the shooting, and clung to the lie long after its premise was destroyed by the facts on the ground. I don’t understand how anyone with a shred of intellectual honesty can defend what the left did yesterday.

  21. Justin Gardner Says:

    Simon…where in my post do I pin this on the right? Show me. You accused me IMMEDIATELY. And yet I very clearly state that the motives of this guy are not known.

    Still, the right’s gun rhetoric is irresponsible…especially when Giffords’ office was “targeted” immediately after this map was shared by Palin with her “RELOAD” messaging. Giffords herself even expressed concern about it. That’s all I need to call upon the right to stop using this type of rhetoric.

  22. Simon Says:

    Justin, it’s easy to show you, although I don’t know whether you’ll see it. You are linking the shooting to Palin’s rhetoric not by the more direct route of saying “Palin is responsible” but by the indirect (though equally clear) route of mentioning the shooting, mentioning the rhetoric, and leaving readers to infer the connection from their proximity.

    Typically this is called “guilt by association.” You may not make the link specific, but the linking is the only way to make the post coherent. If you aren’t implying a link between the shooting and the rhetoric, you have a post that jams two completely unrelated statements together for no apparent reason. That would be an absurd claim. It is crystal clear that your point is to insinuate a causal link, and a hedge like “I’m not saying this is responsible but it doesn’t help” doesn’t disguise it in the slightest.

    You can’t seriously pretend that by sheer coincidence, this happens to be the weekend you decided to post about the right’s rhetoric–and that means you’re insinuating a connection between the rhetoric and the shooting.

    Still, here’s how you can convince me that you aren’t trying to pin this on the right. First, state explicitly that you see no connection between the Palin rhetoric and the shooting. Given your second paragraph above, I doubt that’s going to happen. Second, stop putting up posts advancing the lie (even if you’re reciting it in good faith) that there is a connection between Palin and the shooter. If you can’t do both those things, my point stands.

  23. Simon Says:

    And as for “you accused me immediately”: yeah, well, you accused the right of responsibility for the shooting pretty much “immediately,” too.

  24. Tully Says:

    So, the motives are not known, and you’re not trying to pin this on anyone … but the subject serves as the sole springboard for your screed against Republicans. Justin, retarded kindergartners won’t buy that bullshit. Yet you expect adults to?

    I do not recall you ever condemning the violent over-the-top rhetoric of Dems and/or the left, though examples are certainly available.

  25. gerryf Says:

    OK Tully, I’ll bite. I condemn–heck, I refudiate all the left’s uses of violent rhetoric. You find it, and I will say it’s bad.

    Will you say the same about the right? Or will you brush it off or defend it as you always do.

    This wacko may not be right-leaning, or may not be left-leaning–but no fair and unbiased observer would ever say the left’s rhetoric has risen to the level of the right.

    Just because you can find a some instances of the left acting irresponsibly does not make it the equivalent of the right.

    The right has actively/intentionally tied itself to violent rhetoric from Sara Palin’s “surveyor symbols” (yeah, we’re all that stupid) to Jesse Kelly’s “‘get on target for victory’ oh and while you are there shoot a fully automatic m16.’”

    They are not equivalent and if you cannot see that–and you cannot understand while the attempted assassination of the a US Rep by a gunman following such things–has people OPENLY asking the question than I am amazed you have the wherewithall to turn on a computer.

  26. Tillyosu Says:

    Tillyosu, seriously? Conflating the word target with what I’ve shared above?

    Yes, seriously. Both Kos and Palin used targeting imagery in the EXACT same context – defeating a political candidate. Are you seriously going to argue that Palin using a visual target in that context is irresponsible, but Kos is not for summoning the same imagery with words? That’s absurd.

    But you know what else is absurd? The argument that Kos is responsible for every nut that might read that post and take the “targeting” language literally. It’s just as absurd as the argument you’re making now.

    As yet, you have failed to offer a SINGLE SHRED OF PROOF that this man was motivated by Palin’s single campaign map. Not one. All you’ve been able to manage, as Simon has already pointed out, is a sleazy attempt to link the two by proximity.

    But what if you did? What if you were able to dig up a suicide note, drafted by Loughner before the attack, saying that he committed the attack because he felt he was urged by Palin. EVEN THEN, she would be no more culpable for this attack than Jodie Foster was for the Hinckley shooting.

    And the argument that her prominence and reach somehow creates a higher standard for her is unpersuasive as well. Daily Kos isn’t exactly some podunk blog that nobody reads. But if you want to stick with that argument, fine. Remember this quote?:

    “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

    Ya, I don’t remember you condemning that language as “irresponsible.”

    Talk about “bomb throwing and partisan hackery.”

  27. Tillyosu Says:

    Also, you know damn well that anybody can create a Daily Kos diary.

    Actually, that isn’t true. If I wanted to post a diary, say, arguing that that Sharon Angle was a better candidate than Harry Reid, it would never make it past the blog administrator. That particular diary was posted and maintained until it was “scrubbed” from the website yesterday. As a blog host, you should know “damn well” that you control the content of your website. Case in point: my response to you above is “awaiting moderation.” Ya we’ll see if it gets posted.

  28. Simon Says:

    Gerry, let’s assume you’re correct: for sake of argument, let’s assume that the right has used violent rhetoric and imagery. And let’s assume for sake of argument that such usage is unprecedented, that never before in politics have military-themed metaphors been used to describe politics. Stipulated. So what? If it doesn’t lead to actual violence, so what?

    I’m sure your instinctive response is, “yeah, but it HAS led to violence,” but that’s not actually correct. Violence happened, but “led to” is a claim of causal relationship. To relate the violence to the stipulated points above, you cannot but insinuate a causal link, a link which rests on the claim that Loughner is a righty. That claim was only ever an assumption, and it has been falsified. The problem is that the left already held the hanging, so they can’t back down.

    By the way, if JD Hayworh is shot, presumably Harry Mitchell will be to blame, right? About as much as Marty Scorsese shot Reagan, I would say.

  29. Justin Gardner Says:

    Tully and Simon,

    It’s wrong when Dems do it too, although I disagree that saying a party is holding legislation hostage is either violent or relatable to this. Just like Daily Kos using the word “target” isn’t relatable either. If Palin had said that her PAC was “targeting” campaigns and left it at that…fine. That’s par for course when it comes to standard political speech. But putting crosshairs over states and saying that her supporters should “RELOAD” crosses the line. And she didn’t back down even after Giffords’ campaign headquarters was attacked. And her aides are saying they weren’t gun crosshairs…even though she clearly said they were? If you guys want to defend that type of nonsense, by all means.

    Simon as far as this goes…

    You can’t seriously pretend that by sheer coincidence, this happens to be the weekend you decided to post about the right’s rhetoric–and that means you’re insinuating a connection between the rhetoric and the shooting.

    Of course not. There’s a clear link between the post and the situation. But you accused me of claiming causation. I don’t see any causal connection between Palin’s rhetoric and the shooting. That doesn’t mean the situation doesn’t call for a highlighting of Palin’s unfortunate (dumb) choice of imagery and words in the lead up to this tragedy.

    And here’s what I see…a politician who plays fast and loose with incendiary rhetoric and imagery. If a Dem politician had put out a map with gun crosshairs on Republican held districts and said “RELOAD!” and then a Republican in one of those districts got shot…guess what I would have blogged about.

    So, the post’s point remains the same…we all need to say “No more!” when it comes to this type of nonsense.

  30. Jacob Says:

    Chris: Perhaps “relish” is the wrong word, I was just being lazy and using your words. But, yes, if this guy was a rabid tea partier I believe you’d be among the first to blame this on Beck et al. I don’t know you per se, but I’ve read enough of your posts to comfortably assume.

    Tillyosu: You’re really good at what you do – uncannily good – but you can’t seriously ask me to provide an example of the right exploiting tragedy for political gain. Can you? Terry Schiavo and 9 years of 9/11 pop right up off the top of my head.

    Listen, I’m not saying it’s only the right that does it, just that it’s disingenuous for a partisan to cry foul against THE OTHER for playing the same game.

    Simon: So the partisans on the left jumped the gun (haha) – they never play the game as well as them on the right. Surely though, while we can’t but insinuate causality, someone with your obvious intelligence and education sees a correlation between the rhetoric and the violence coming from the right. Right?

  31. Simon Says:

    Justin Gardner Says:

    Daily Kos using the word “target” isn’t relatable…. If Palin had said that her PAC was “targeting” campaigns and left it at that…fine. That’s par for course when it comes to standard political speech. But putting crosshairs over states and saying that her supporters should “RELOAD” crosses the line.

    There is no distinction at all. Whether the metaphor is cast in words or images, it’s the same metaphor. That’s why your post refers to “campaign literature” not “graphics,” it’s why you just cited the textual “reload” comment as being of a piece with the crosshairs graphic, and it’s why neither your post nor any of the others who have pushed the meme restrict their criticism to Palin or any particular image.

    I don’t see any causal connection between Palin’s rhetoric and the shooting. That doesn’t mean the situation doesn’t call for a highlighting of Palin’s unfortunate (dumb) choice of imagery and words in the lead up to this tragedy.

    Of course it does. If the situation has no causal link to Palin’s words, there is no basis for highlighting (read “criticizing”) Palin’s words in this context. The post is incoherent without such a connection.

    Jacob Says:

    Simon: So the partisans on the left jumped the gun…. Surely though, …, someone with your obvious intelligence and education sees a correlation between the rhetoric and the violence coming from the right. Right?

    Notice that you are making a causal connection between Palin and the shooting by asserting that it represents “violence coming from the right,” even though we have known for over a day that the shooter is not a righty.

  32. Jacob Says:

    Simon: I’m sorry. I thought I was clear that I wasn’t speaking of this incident. I’m referring to the several acts of violence committed by far right folk from Oklahoma City to Dr. Tiller to Pittsburgh to the airplane into the IRS building.

    Surely there’s at least a correlation?

  33. gerryf Says:

    No Simon, I am not saying it HAS to lead to violence. I am saying it may lead to violence.

    Are you saying because there is no causal relationship that you support this kind of loutish behavior? Shame on you.

    As for Hayworth/Mitchell, congratulations, you’ve found another single example of the left doing something stupid compared to the hundreds of similar times by the right.

    The difference between me an you? When I see the left do something stupid, I shake my head in disgust. When you see the right do it 100 times, you think it’s justifiable because you subscribe to some weird notion that escalation is ok.

    If I were a member of the right, I’d be embarrassed for you

  34. bubbaquimby Says:

    B.S. gerryf,
    The only time you say something about the left is to say, “the republicans are 100 times worse” ad nauseum. Your a parrot.

    Also B.S on Justin,
    I arleady posted it but the Dems have used maps with targets before. Here is another link with not just one instance but two.

    http://www.verumserum.com/?p=13647

    But that doesn’t fit your meme of Palin bashing. And it pains me to defend her because I really don’t like her.

  35. Simon Says:

    Jacob, so your examples of violence ensuing from the recent “heated rhetoric” are Tim McVeigh and George Tiller, both examples from before the rhetoric that supposedly animated it, and both examples of lunatics who were far outside of the mainstream? These people weren’t tea partiers or Republicans, they were fringe lunatics. To connect them to the mainstream right is ludicrous. As to the airplaine guy, Joe Stack, he was also out of the mainstream, and the mainstream left certainly can’t be held to account for him.

    gerryf Says:

    No Simon, I am not saying it HAS to lead to violence. I am saying it may lead to violence.

    So, to be crystal clear, you unequivocally reject the attempts to connect Palin’s comments to the shooter, and join me in condemning Kos, Olberman, and all the others who have tried to fabricate such a link?

    Are you saying because there is no causal relationship that you support this kind of loutish behavior?

    I doubt that I’ve said any such thing. What sort of “loutish behavior” do you have in mind?

    As for Hayworth/Mitchell, congratulations, you’ve found another single example of the left doing something stupid compared to the hundreds of similar times by the right.

    There are plenty of other examples. Tillyosu linked to a couple; the Obama quote about bringing a gun to a knife fight is doing the rounds; there are innumerable examples, not because politicians are apt to horrible metaphors but because this language is the lexicon of politics, and has been since time immemorial.

    The difference between me an you? When I see the left do something stupid, I shake my head in disgust.

    I believe that you mean that, but since you get to decide what is “stupid,” it’s a loaded proposition. By contrast, a quick glance at the archives at SF will find plenty of examples where I have spanked the right for stupidity. That’s the thing about being a blogger: you develop a paper trail. You don’t have to take my word for it; read for yourself.

  36. Justin Gardner Says:

    There is no distinction at all. Whether the metaphor is cast in words or images, it’s the same metaphor.

    Simon, seriously…I understand you’re conservative and you have a stake in Palin not looking like an idiot in all of this, but you’re being purposefully obtuse. Why even continue talking about this if you can’t make a distinction between the two? Corporations “target” certain markets to find new ways to make money. The company Target is about zeroing in on the best price for the customer. The list of different permutations on how this word can be used non-violently are legion. So I’m done debating this with you. All you’re doing is running interference now. I don’t even believe that you believe what you’re saying.

    Of course it does. If the situation has no causal link to Palin’s words, there is no basis for highlighting (read “criticizing”) Palin’s words in this context. The post is incoherent without such a connection.

    You said you’d believe me if I said I thought there was no causal connection between Palin and the shooting. I said that. And then you reneged.

    Again, at this point I’m convinced that you don’t even believe what you’re writing here. There’s no way that an intelligent person can’t understand why, after a woman that Palin’s campaign literature “targeted” with gun crosshairs got shot in the head, that people in the middlesphere would say, “Hey Sarah…no more of this.”

    I’m done. Moving on.

  37. Simon Says:

    Justin, the first rule of propaganda is project, and you’re doing a good job of it. I have no stake in how Palin looks. You, however, have a great deal at stake since you have put forward a string of posts that rest on a lie, and you now have a difficult choice between retraction or doubling down. And as Tully has already pointed out, doubling down will only make you look more foolish.

    You also do yourself no favors in pretending to confuse the point that images and words are indistinct with a made up point that there is only one use of the metaphor. That’s a straw man and you’re better than that.

    As to whether I “reneged”: I did not. My offer was premised on your stating that you believed that there was no connection, and your acting on it. While you stated that you don’t believe there is a connection, you have continued to post stuff which is premised on belief in a connection.

    Also, there’s no way that an intelligent, responsible member of the “middlesphere” would continue to peddle a nonsensical talking point that’s based on a lie that has been exposed. That is the position in which you find yourself. You posted before the facts were in, and now you have a stake in doubling down. Like I said, projection.

    So where we end up is, you think I’m arguing in bad faith, I think you’re arguing in bad faith, and both of us believe that the other one is taking a position that makes no sense. I’m happy to stand by what I wrote above; are you?

  38. kranky kritter Says:

    The argument that we ought to try harder to curb bad actions by curbing “violent rhetoric” would be laughably preposterous if it were not so very orwellian.

    It’s almost as though good liberals don’t read 1984 anymore.

    I have been listening to this crappy argument for over 2 decades now. Not only don’t I buy it, I become more and more convinced that you have to be an imbecile if you don’t stop shopping it within a few years of graduating college.

    We see pissy partisans throw poop and vitriol at each other every day right on this web site. Conservatives and liberals are in a protracted, hateful battle with each other. They both use combat language to talk about it. As does the media. And they always whine about the tone the other side sets. Whatever.

    When someone from one side says “we need to kill x from the other side” or “we need to grab our guns and storm the capital,” then I’ll worry about incitement, and about rhetoric causing bad actions.

    But for now? It’s precious, sanctimonious progressive crap to blame garden variety politicking for the actions of violent kooks.

  39. JJ Says:

    I believe kranky kritter has hit the nail on the head. Loughner’s ramblings hint at a strong possibility of schizophrenia or a psychotic break of some sort. I have had the very painful and scary experience of seeing a family member struggle with a psychotic episode at the same age as Loughner (young college-age men are the most frequently affected), although without any violent tendency. Fortunately, with a lot of treatment and support, our situation has made an turn for the better that almost seems miraculous.

    Clearly this young man has needed help but no one has either tried to or been able to get him treatment. From what little I’ve observed, someone in a state of psychotic vulnerability is very suggestible, and paranoia is common: they will often take an item of current news or culture and twist their paranoia into it, weaving elaborate conspiracies. An obsession with mind control or alien influences is also common.

    Bottom line, I think Loughner is very sick, and I have no doubt that his ramblings take elements from the far right and the far left. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he opened fire on a gathering held by a Democratic leader, but I think his illness could have pushed him in either direction.

    All the same, I hated the crosshair graphic and the retreat/reload rhetoric when it first showed up, and I think any politician or pundit who continues to use such rhetoric now is irresponsible at best.

  40. Justin Gardner Says:

    While you stated that you don’t believe there is a connection, you have continued to post stuff which is premised on belief in a connection.

    Nope. Sorry. Try again.

    I posted this item because it’s related. There’s a big difference there. Just because you can’t make the distinction between something that’s related and something that makes an explicit cause/effect connection doesn’t mean I have to prove it to you.

    And you’re talking to me about propaganda? When you’re literally manufacturing a situation where you’re saying I’m blaming Palin for the shooting when I’m clearly not?

    As for this…

    So where we end up is, you think I’m arguing in bad faith, I think you’re arguing in bad faith, and both of us believe that the other one is taking a position that makes no sense. I’m happy to stand by what I wrote above; are you?

    You’re happy to stand by something that’s provably false. Good to know. Because this isn’t even a matter of opinion. There’s no mention of a causal connection anywhere in this post or any other post I’ve written.

    So yes, I’ll stand by it.

    As for everybody else…what I’m proposing in this post is that republicans stop using gun rhetoric in their political speech and iconography. Nobody’s saying that anybody has to stop using words like “fight” or “battle” or “revolt” or any number of things. But when it comes to this specific family of words, politicians should think twice. Hardly Orwellian.

  41. blackout Says:

    @KK “When someone from one side says “we need to kill x from the other side” or “we need to grab our guns and storm the capital,”

    I think the 2nd Amendment “remedy” remarks from a few of the TPM candidates (e.g. Sharron Angle) come extremely close to qualifying, and acting as if Palin’s iconography and loaded (pun) remarks aren’t code to the gun crowd is disingenuous and/or naive. When candidates are basically saying that violence against “tyranny” is an option when electioneering fails, rhetoric has escalated to dangerous levels.

    I draw absolutely no line from Palin/Angle to Loughner, but that doesn’t mean that rhetoric which would have been inflammatory in Andrew Jackson’s day, much less ours, is any less odious.

  42. gerryf Says:

    Folks on the right are always taking about personal responsibility, but when their words incite an idiot to do something, suddenly they are not responsible…just the guy who pulled the trigger.

    Right.

    Sorry, you don’t get to behind behind the crazy person anymore. You know their are crazy idiots out there, and you know there is a good chance you’re words are going to have consequences.

    You cannot say this is not about politics–it was a politician who got shot at a political event. Is this guy a conservative, progressive or libertarian? It really doesn’t matter. You can trot out a hundred leftist examples and it still pales before the avalanche of right wing sociopathic rhetoric.

  43. Simon Says:

    Right, Gerry, Personal responsibility. Like people being responsible for their own actions, rather than laying the blame on third parties or events. Like Loughner being responsible. Honestly, reading your comments one sometimes thinks that the lights are on but no one’s home—you mouth a premise and then state a conclusion that is utterly at odds with it.

    As to it not mattering what someone’s politics are in determining whether he was influenced by a given politico, that’s just flat-out asinine. Of course it matters. It matters entirely. Use the common sense you were born with.

  44. kranky kritter Says:

    acting as if Palin’s iconography and loaded (pun) remarks aren’t code to the gun crowd is disingenuous and/or naive.

    Hmm. Well…. sure. It’s to be expected that you’d say that. I’ve listened to several decades of folks saying “when a says x, we all know it’s really code for y.”

    Primarily, this was a liberal argument. But over time, conservatives have adopted it, too. What fun! And why not? It allows folks to attribute much uglier ideas to their opponents than what they have actually said. And the only limit is one’s imagination.

    By and large, I think this argument is complete nonsense. Whenever I hear some say that x is really code for y, I presume that they are an unscrupulous partisan propagandist.

    I’ll give credit for crafting a triple real double sucker punch though. To couple the unscrupulous claim that actual statement x means imagined statement y with a pious plea for civility? That takes balls. I bet most of the time folks don’t even notice. Brilliant.

    And then you suggest that it’s I who must be naive or disingenuous. Hat trick!

    So let me assure you. I’m not acting. Your arguments about iconography and speaking in code are largely nonsense. Now, I know from vast personal experience how well such stuff plays with the college crowd and with aging liberal hangers on in college towns. But the overwhelming majority of regular folks who’ve been through a few real-world rodeos believe such stuff is at best a feeble spit into the ocean of human motivation.

    Your mileage, clearly, is that you think all those folks are wrong. But that is YOUR problem, either way.

  45. kranky kritter Says:

    Shout out at JJ. Sorry you had to go through seeing a loved one in a psychotic state. It’s a shocking and painful thing. If the illness goes on long, it can be so draining and truly harrowing.

    It’s unfortunate that we are losing our opportunity for a genuine teachable moment here because of the rush towards a faux teaching moment.

    I don’t agree with the folks who describe this as a teachable moment against unpleasant rhetoric. It’s not that I am in favor of angry, over-the-top rhetoric, I just don’t expect it to change much in response to a top down plea for everyone to behave better, or that trying to legislate any such change could be effective.

    The Loughner incident could be a teachable moment for the vast majority of folks who lack an appreciation or understanding of the nature of serious mental illnesses or how they can intervene (or set an intervention in motion).

    The CNN report I saw this morning identified more than one person who recently interacted with Loughner who absolutely recognized that this guy was in serious mental distress. The red flags were all over. If there is a way to benefit from this horrific incident, it’s by focusing on how to notice and how to get help for someone who is on the verge of dangerous psychosis.

    BTW, I agree with anyone who says the crosshair graphic is in bad taste. I disagree with going much farther than that,

  46. Tillyosu Says:

    “BTW, I agree with anyone who says the crosshair graphic is in bad taste. I disagree with going much farther than that”

    Really? I know it seems in bad taste now, but I remember thinking at the time, what’s the big deal?

    But looking back, I suspect that it was a faux controversy, fueled by manufactured outrage, all composed and played out for precisely this moment. Any random act of violence even remotely related to politics would have sufficed. They had the ball teed up, and even though they knew it wasn’t going to be a perfect shot, they were going to take their swing.

    So you can see why they had to seize upon the moment so quickly. They weren’t about to let another narrative develop as the facts came out, and all their preparation go to waste. Never mind the fact that the shooter has been described as a “leftist” and “quite liberal” by his friend. Never mind the fact that the Communist Manifesto appears in his favorite books list (though, to be fair, so does We the Living). And never mind the fact that the only public official to die at his hands is a Bush-appointed conservative Judge. The show must go on.

    I have no evidence to support this claim, except the left’s persistent fixation on Palin, who has really done nothing to affect their lives except to criticize their Golden Boy (to great effect). To me, they’re about as coherent and obsessive as Loughner himself (see, e.g., Andrew Sullivan).

    [BTW, I'm not big Palin supporter either. I much prefer serious conservative thought and argument to sound bites and faux populism.]

  47. michael mcEachran Says:

    Bottom line on this is that the appologists are losing the debate. Implicitely or explicitely condoning violence is a losing position. Repubs / tea partiers were riding a tiger as they enflamed their base with gun imagery and rhetoric laced with violent undertones, and the tiger just got loose. Whether you like it or not, the public will hold those who have benefitted from the rhetoric responsible for reigning it in. This is true whether there is a causal relationship between the lunatic shooter and Palin/Angle/Tea Partier rhetoric or not. It’s true because the appologies don’t pass the smell test.

  48. kranky kritter Says:

    I don’t believe for a second that to use a crosshairs on a poster must implicitly condone violence. The real bottom line is that some folks imagine they know what’s “really” in the minds of other people, and some don’t. Some folks leap to conclusions based on their imaginings, and some don’t.

    The only lasting outcome of all this sound and fury will be that graphic designers will be very reluctant to use crosshairs.

    Whether you like it or not, the public will hold those who have benefitted from the rhetoric responsible for reigning it in.

    I am certain that you are wrong. In fact, I wish there was a way for me to win money by betting against it.

    The only possible lasting outcome on political rhetoric may be that some fraction of practitioners will adopt some idiotic 3 or 4 syllable replacement for the perfectly useful word target. Oh, and some imbeciles will pat themselves on the back for it.

    Actually, now that I’ve looked over the options from an online thesaurus, I can predict with confidence that those who choose to adopt a replacement word for “target” will inevitably adopt the word “focus.” It’s the only viable choice from what’s listed.

    Notice that when this word is used as a noun, people talking about political campaigns (that word should survive) will need to use a plural form of it. The correct plural form of focus is (or maybe was) “focii,” But it will certainly become “focuses” if it wasn’t already. No on will say “focii.” I would hazard a guess that less than 5% have ever heard the word, maybe less than 1%.

    And on we’ll happily tread, without any substantive reigning in whatsoever.

  49. kranky kritter Says:

    @til: I never said that bad taste was a big deal. :-)

  50. kranky kritter Says:

    @mm, my full respoonse to you got “moderated.”

    I don’t believe for a second that to use a crosshairs on a poster must implicitly condone violence. The real bottom line is that some folks imagine they know what’s “really” in the minds of other people, and some don’t. Some folks leap to conclusions based on their imaginings, and some don’t.

  51. Justin Gardner Says:

    But looking back, I suspect that it was a faux controversy, fueled by manufactured outrage, all composed and played out for precisely this moment. Any random act of violence even remotely related to politics would have sufficed. They had the ball teed up, and even though they knew it wasn’t going to be a perfect shot, they were going to take their swing.

    So you think there was this mass conspiracy on the left where people were collectively waiting for one of the people on Palin’s target list to be shot so they could use it to their political advantage?

    Well, that’s all the crazy I need for one day.

  52. michael mcEachran Says:

    @ KK – I agree. One image isn’t the issue. It’s the sum total of the imagery / rhetoric that counts here. I think that one of the reasons it perpetuated for so long was a result of a dispersment of responsibilty – part of the “code”: a cross-hair image here; a “blood of tyrants” quote there, a little sidearm visible at a rally here, and no one individual is doing anything wrong. Meanwhile the message is unmistakable. It was all designed with plausable deniability in mind from the beginning. No one was stupid here. We all knew what was going on. That’s why the denials now aren’t working.

  53. Simon Says:

    kranky kritter Says:

    I don’t believe for a second that to use a crosshairs on a poster must implicitly condone violence.

    Indeed. Was the DLC implicitly condoning violence when it put targets on several states (including Arizona) in 2004? The point isn’t that both sides are equally guilty. The point is that no one is guilty because there’s nothing to be guilty of. Using standard political rhetoric is, by definition, standard. The left’s feigned fit of the vapors over it—and the subsequent posturing by folks like Mike who hope to buy their way out of the bluff—is ludicrous.

  54. michael mcEachran Says:

    @KK: I am certain that you are wrong. In fact, I wish there was a way for me to win money by betting against it.

    I think you and I are talking about slightly different things. What I mean by “rhetoric” is not specific words like use of the word “target”. I mean the coding that is implicit within the rhetoric. So there is probably no way to track the “coding” in an unbiased way, and therefore probably no way that either of us can bet on it. The ‘coding’ is like porn: you know it when you see it. Hence all the debates here. But I would make that bet with you if I could. I don’t think you’re going to see cross hairs back on Palin’s website, nor anyone else’s for that matter. I think politicians are going to be much more careful. Whether causation is proven or not, the politicians are the targets here. Ask them if they want to take the gamble and keep playing with fire. My bet is they won’t want to keep it up, and the rhetoric becomes more disciplined. So, you’re on.

  55. Simon Says:

    michael mcEachran Says:

    No one was stupid here. We all knew what was going on. That’s why the denials now aren’t working.

    Well, either the denials are working, or your premise is wrong, because “Nearly six in 10 Americans say the country’s heated political rhetoric is not to blame for the Tucson shooting rampage….”

    A majority of Americans see through the left’s lies, spin, and opportunism. It ought to be 90%, but 57% is a good start. Of course, 57% is most likely composed of 100% of the GOP plus 100% of independents, so, unless a significant number of Dems don’t believe their own party’s spin, Justin’s claims to speak for the middle in buying into the left’s nonsense are pretty much shot to hell.

  56. michael mcEachran Says:

    Simon: I don’t think the rhetoric is to “blame”, either, and I’ve said so. What’s amazing is that 43% think there is a causal link. I think the rhetoric has contributed to a toxic climate, that some of the rhetoric has been inciteful, and some has simply been in bad taste, and that the sum total serves to intimidate the other side. This event is giving us an opportunity to debate what we will or wont tolerate in terms of threats both explicit and implicit. Call me whatever names you wish, Simon. KK, I’ll take the bet the politicians are more careful with what they say moving forward, and that they’ll be more vocal in their denuciations of inciteful rhetoric. Let’s see how many use cross hairs on the websites. Their necks are at stake after all. I’ll definitely put money on it that the political establishment is more discerning. You’re on.

  57. michael mcEachran Says:

    Exhibit A:

    “In an interview with the hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, which was posted on his Web site, Mr. Ailes said that his network would try to cool the heated rhetoric.

    “‘I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually,” Mr. Ailes said. “You don’t have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that.’”

  58. Tillyosu Says:

    Bottom line on this is that the appologists are losing the debate. Implicitely [sic] or explicitely condoning violence is a losing position.

    To my knowledge, no one on the right has apologized for or condoned this attack. But I love how you added “implicitely” in there. It sets up a nice little “heads I win, tails you lose” game for you that goes something like this:

    Michael: This shooting is the right’s fault!
    Right: We bear no responsibility for this shooting!
    Michael: So you implicitely [sic] condone this violence?
    Right: Of course not!
    Michael: Well, it’s either one or the other.

    See how that works? Nice try though.

    Repubs / tea partiers were riding a tiger as they enflamed their base with gun imagery and rhetoric laced with violent undertones, and the tiger just got loose

    Sure, only problem with that is…there’s no evidence that Loughner was part of this “tiger” that you envision. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

    This is true whether there is a causal relationship between the lunatic shooter and Palin/Angle/Tea Partier rhetoric or not. It’s true because the appologies don’t pass the smell test.

    Oh this is rich. So now, since it’s impossible for you to establish one, a causal relationship is not necessary to indict Palin and the right. In fact, no evidence at all is necessary. All you need to do is dream up some subjective “smell test,” create some fictional apologies, and then…voila! Palin et al are still responsible! Btw, could you explain to me how Palin or anyone else on the right somehow benefitted from this attack?

    Jesus, is this what passes for argument nowadays?

  59. Simon Says:

    michael mcEachran Says:

    Simon: I don’t think the rhetoric is to “blame”, either, and I’ve said so

    This scarcely two hours after you charged that the right was “riding a tiger as they enflamed their base with gun imagery and rhetoric laced with violent undertones, and the tiger just got loose.” What exactly does that connote if it means anything other than a link between the rhetoric and the violence?

  60. kranky kritter Says:

    I’ll take the bet the politicians are more careful with what they say moving forward, and that they’ll be more vocal in their denuciations of inciteful rhetoric. Let’s see how many use cross hairs on the websites.

    Umm, I already predicted those things. Particularly that the usage of crosshairs by graphic artists will be curtailed. Perhaps in my comment that got moderated.

    Further, there is zero doubt in my mind that politicians will be “more careful” in certain respects. For a brief time. Then it’ll blow over. This is not a new thing. The writers and handlers for politicians routinely scan remarks and talking points to make sure their honcho doesn’t appear insensitive to any delicate current event. Except that this doesn’t really mean being “more” careful. It only means applying existing standard practices to handling public sentiment as it relates to this event.

    And I am absolutely certain that politicians “will be more vocal” in their denunciations of “inciteful rhetoric.” Because this already started two days ago. So, for those of us who haven’t lost our minds over this, we’ll have to tolerate and do our best to tolerate and ignore pious homilies against something called “inciteful rhetoric,” for which the bar has been at least temporarily lowered.

  61. kranky kritter Says:

    I’ve composed a post about the Loughner episode over at the cranky critter. Here’s the takeaway:

    We won’t fix episodes like this by toning down how we talk about politics, But we could mitigate the frequency and severity of such episodes if we beef up both individuals’ understanding of serious mental illness and the cultural framework for ensuring appropriate treatment.

  62. Laurette Rafalski Says:

    Representative Giffords is in our thoughts as our nation makes an effort to assimilate this mindless and unprovoked strike. It is to be desired that we will all transitorily put away our amplifying discord along party lines. We are all of us Americans, neighbors, and have comparable hopes and challenges, and are more equivalent than different.

  63. Tillyosu Says:

    So you think there was this mass conspiracy on the left where people were collectively waiting for one of the people on Palin’s target list to be shot so they could use it to their political advantage?

    No, as I stated I think any act of violence that could even remotely be considered “political” would have sufficed. (BTW, to my knowledge, none of the people who actually died in this attack appeared on Palin’s list, one of them a conservative judge appointed by a Republican. How does that square with your indictment?)

    But as to your conspiracy question – do I think there was a giant conspiracy as in liberals sitting around some big table plotting ways to attack Sarah Palin? No, I do not. But that doesn’t mean that people weren’t acting in concert with a common goal.

    I use Google Reader to subscribe to dozens of different political blogs. It’s not uncommon for a single blog to post a talking point, at which point other like-minded blogs will pick it up, develop it, repackage it, and then focus on it. The talking point spreads until it bubbles up into the traditional media, who usually run it under a question. Something like “Is Sarah Palin responsible for the Giffords attack? Some people think so. Analysis next.” This process happens on both the left and the right. [Admittedly, right talking points usually end up on Fox or Drudge, while left talking points end up on CNN or MSNBC.] It’s really fascinating to watch in real time. In the end, activists, politicians, and media figures do end up acting in concert, using the same talking points, with the same goals, as if guided by a herd mentality. Not quite a conspiracy, but close.

    Now, this is something I would think you’d be familiar with since you’re a blog host, and since you can usually be relied on to pick up the liberal talking point of the day and parrot it on this “moderate” blog (which is why I file it under “Liberal Blogs”…right next to Daily Kos.)

  64. blackout Says:

    @KK: “Your arguments about iconography and speaking in code are largely nonsense.”

    No. Palin courted and is still openly courting the NRA and other gun “enthusiasts”, and attached herself to a movement which flaunts their self-serving appropriation of Jefferson “the tree of liberty must be watered[sic]” and whose explicit mission statement is to dismantle the federal gov’t. You’re either not paying attention or you’re in denial. It’s one thing to decry the false causality being plied by the Left, but you’re clearly missing the point if you believe that any informed person is concerned that Palin and Angle speak to “the overwhelming majority of regular folks”, that the anger we’re seeing in political discussion is worthy of dismissal, or that the extremists who believe their rhetoric are harmless or non-existent. Your haste to combat the Left’s false narrative simply leads to insist on your own.

    Ever been to a TPM meeting? I’ve been to several here in Cincinnati, and have spoken with one of the area’s young TPM organizers several times about this very issue. I actually have an experential basis for my concern, so you can save your sophistic b.s. for those who prefer their politics to be theoretical and laboratory-approved Kranky.

  65. blackout Says:

    @Mike McEachern: “This event is giving us an opportunity to debate what we will or wont tolerate in terms of threats both explicit and implicit.”

    Yes, but unfortunately that’s not allowed without an evidentiary chain that directly links inflammatory rhetoric built on gun violence to a shooting, Mike. People might get the wrong impression…

  66. blackout Says:

    @Simon: “A majority of Americans see through the left’s lies, spin, and opportunism. It ought to be 90%, but 57% is a good start.”

    Yeah, no ideological imbalance here. How’d you feel about the percentage surveyed who were against extending the tax cuts for families making over $250K a year btw? You know, a majority of Americans. I’m sure you took that one to heart, being, not an ideologue and all.

  67. Donklephant » Blog Archive » Jared Lee Loughner’s YouTube Videos Reveal Possible Shooting Motives Says:

    […] Republicans, Please Stop Using Gun Metaphors In Your Campaign Literature Federal Judge John Roll Among Those Killed In Arizona Shooting […]

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