Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Tragedy of Tragedy

Just because something is sensational doesn't mean it's true.

After yesterday's tragic shooting in Tucson, which left six dead, including a nine-year-old and a federal judge, and several more wounded, including Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the media responded with its traditional tragedy two-step program: first, report the facts; second, try to explain why the event occurred.

The first step was generally respectful, as media reporting of tragedy usually is. The second step was occasionally disturbing in that many linked Sarah Palin's trigger-happy metaphors to the terrible outburst.

Let me be clear before I go any further: I find Palin's ideology, rhetoric, and image utterly execrable in every way. I cannot defend her early departure from Juneau, and find her and her family's opportunistic reality spotlight-hogging a frightening example of a possible future direction of American politics.

And while it's arguable that Arizona's hyper-conservative politics played a role in alleged shooter Jared Loughner's timing and target, it seems unlikely that they made him a crazed shooter.

Tucson Weekly has an interesting piece on Mr. Loughner's personal internet presence, which makes it pretty clear that he was likely to shoot and kill in one venue or another at some point in time. It also happens to be the case that his home was a short walk from the Safeway where the attack occurred.

The nature of the attack, Mr. Loughner's personality, and his previous communications seem to put this incident in the same category as the Columbine shootings, not the JFK assassination.

But this doesn't match the agenda of some commentators. It appears as though some wish the shooter had been able to be clearly tied to the admittedly ridiculous, extreme rhetoric that has become the stock of American political discourse. (egregious example) Upon examining the evidence, this appears not to be the case. The man had extreme, iconoclastic political beliefs, and appears to have been on a rampage, rather than a mission.

To ignore the evidence and provide a false connection to an unwanted person or ideology disrespects the memory of those who died in this terrible tragedy. There are enough valid arguments against Ms. Palin's stances; making specious accusations is unnecessary.

(Update: Fox News accuses "many on the American Left" of misusing the tragedy, and changed the headline of this story from 'Dems Blame Rhetoric for Shooting' to 'Tragedy Inspires Political "Cheap Shots"'. Stay classy, Fox.)

1 comment:

  1. I think I agree with you. Glad to see that cooler heads exist, even during a horrific tragedy.

    As perhaps you did, I found it a bit difficult to write clearly and concisely about this topic, particularly while it was fresh. Nevertheless, my attempt is here: