Does this shooting in Arizona reflect the state of political debate in the US?
This topic was discussed on 10th January 2011. Click here to listen to the programme.
Another grey morning in London today, Nuala wrote about the shooting in Arizona over the weekend and I’m spending the early part of my shift moderating your blog posts and looking over comments on Facebook and Twitter. It wasn’t long before many of you started to draw a link between the tragedy and tone of political debate in the US.
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Politics desperately needs to right itself with truthful, civilized discourse conducted by honest brokers to avert worsening tragedies.
However many of you don’t see it in the same way, Jennifer writes:
The shooter was just crazy; and he is responsible for his actions. Sarah Palin should not be blamed for this shooting. I got the same email contribution request with the crosshair graphics that some are saying incited this violence. The implication that the crosshairs meant anything violent is inaccurate.
Of course Jennifer is referring to a much criticised campaign run by 2008 Vice President Nominee Sarah Palin. The campaign used cross-hairs to target key campaigns in the recent midterm elections. Mrs Palin is no stranger to using gun metaphors, she’s often used the phrase “Don’t retreat, reload.”
Commentators are saying it’s this kind campaigning that’s contributed to a highly charged atmosphere in US politics. Even Gabrielle Giffords herself warned of the repercussions of this kind of debate:
The way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district, when people do that, they have got to realize there are consequences to that.
What do you think? Can you draw a link between the tragedy and angry political debate? The Sheriff investigating the shooting is quoted as saying “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous.” Is he right or is this simply the act of a deranged gunman? Is it wrong to read too much into this?
Reading many of the political commentary websites, blogs and discussion sites it’s hard to keep up with claims and counter claims. The language used is pretty fiery in itself, people talk of hate speeches, shutting down discussion, political weapons, firebrands and cutthroat politics. I’m amazed to see how much commentary there is on, well, other commentary.
Some writers, including Jack Shafer are saying as aggressive as this language is its hard to draw a link with direct violence:
For as long as I've been alive, crosshairs and bull's-eyes have been an accepted part of the graphical lexicon when it comes to political debates. Such "inflammatory" words as targeting, attacking, destroying, blasting, crushing, burying, knee-capping, and others have similarly guided political thought and action. Not once have the use of these images or words tempted me or anybody else I know to kill. I've listened to, read—and even written!—vicious attacks on government without reaching for my gun. I've even gotten angry, for goodness' sake, without coming close to assassinating a politician or a judge.
So should this type of debate be accepted? Does a hot debate make things more interesting? Or do you want politics to be reserved and measured?
Today, as part of our discussion on this shooting we’ll be hooking up with KJZZ, a NPR station in the capital of Arizona. I’m sure they’ll give us a good flavour of how people in the state are reacting and what they are saying. In the meantime I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.