January 10th, 2011

Misplaced Political Opportunism in the Arizona Shooting


photo credit: Simone Lovati

Tragedy struck over the weekend, with a madman going on a shooting spree in Tucson, Arizona. Americans reacted with horror, sympathy for the victims, and curiosity and speculation about what would drive somebody to do such a thing.

Others saw an opportunity.

Within mere minutes of the atrocity, articles began to proliferate placing blame and suggesting indirect complicity. Broad brush strokes aimed to target the entire “Tea Party” movement, for example.

Anti-gun groups quickly pushed out emails decrying the existence and use of the murderer’s tool of choice, and anti-gun legislators followed suit, promising legislation. The local sheriff, quick to politically posture himself as an authoritative commentator on the shooter’s motive and influence, indirectly pointed his finger towards a recent Supreme Court decision that allowed for more liberal and unrestricted political free speech. And carrying that argument to its legislative conclusion, congressmen are hoping to further restrict free speech.

Closer to home, Senator Mike Lee suggested on CNN that some have pointed to “the breakdown in the family structure” as an influence in what would lead somebody to the point of embarking on a murderous rampage—a reasonable comment that might be interpreted in a variety of ways. Within hours, a local advocacy group for homosexuality pounced, publishing an article that claimed the Senator was blaming the shooting “on gay marriage”. Eh?

This disgusting political opportunism is not new. President Clinton, for example, exploited the Oklahoma City bombings 15 years ago as a means to demonize his ideological opponents. But while the theme is a recurring one, evident in the wake of each new tragedy, its popularity does not in any way justify its ever-present existence.

Nobody is to blame for this shooting but the shooter himself. Any legitimate influences that substantially and directly led him to commit this heinous act will be determined by experienced psychologists—not political pundits and talk show hosts. And those influences do not suggest that others who have any history with them may some day act likewise; that the shooter enjoyed reading through the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf does not mean that all who read them, let alone enjoy them, will follow in Loughner’s footsteps.

This situation is what it is: a 22-year-old who made a decision based on a variety of influences and factors. Our collective decision should be to not politicize this unique event to demonize our ideological opponents and promote our interests.

24 Responses to “Misplaced Political Opportunism in the Arizona Shooting”

  1. Joel
    January 10, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    Thanks for taking a moment to shed the truth on this; I was honestly disgusted by several people I’m friendly with on Twitter that wasted no time jumping on the blame game (to either side, although it was definitely a much bigger volley from the left). Before any facts were even out the blame fire was raging; almost as if it was planned. It’s scary how quickly we Americans are pitted against each other over a tragedy just to try and toss some political mud. Civil discourse is practically unheard anymore in the realm of politics.

  2. james numark
    January 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Well written article. I could not agree more. Within seconds after hearing about this news on facebook my cousin, a very outspoken liberal, blamed Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and a host of others for a hostile political climate caused by tea parties. Really? Then he criticized Sarah Palin for offering words of sympathy for the event and called her comments political expediency and opportunistic.

    I felt that this uproar over blaming people for this great tragedy beyond, “this guy was crazy” and blaming ANYONE is political expediency and opportunistic. Yes, people disagree politically, and some of these individuals are passionate about their beliefs. But I find this to be, in some ways, refreshing. People care about their country more now than I have seen them care in the past.

    Of course no one is condoning these actions, or taking anything to this extreme. However, I wonder why we are so affraid in this country to have political debate and difference? Is there anything more American than having a voice and feelings strongly about it? Are the liberals and other politicans blaming a “hostile political environment” saying that we should not be so concerned about our country? Not sure the mixed message is all that productive.

    I suppose it is natural to try and ascribe reason to such a senseless act. But how is blaming Sarah Palin, or Glenn Beck, or anyone else for that matter going to make things better?

  3. Jacqueline Smith
    January 10, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    Great article Connor. I got a call from a local newspaper asking for my reaction today. The questions seemed so unbelievable. “So do you condemn this behavior?” What person in their right mind ,from the left, the right, or the center, wouldn’t?

  4. Gdub
    January 10, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    Though I agree with the general premise of this post, I don’t quite believe that we should behave so cavelier as to dismiss this sort of action. True, we cannot know what exactly caused this to happen (aside from a deranged man’s misuse of agency), but we also cannot simply shrug it off in a dismissive attitude.

    The dialog that this event is causing, though inevitably partisan, is good.

  5. Jeremy Manning
    January 10, 2011 at 10:25 pm #

    A friend of mine re-posted this essay originally written shortly after 9/11:

    http://www.dr5.org/why-the-shootings-mean-that-we-must-support-my-politics/

    I always think of it when some group attempts to take political advantage of a tragedy.

    This was a great post Connor.

  6. Connor
    January 11, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    This editorial cartoon says with only a few words what this post did with far more.

  7. Jim Davis
    January 11, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

    Here is a video of an interview of the man who lost his 9 year old daughter during that shooting. Even in the emotional state he was in he had the right state of mind to say that this is not an opportunity to restrict people’s freedoms. He also didn’t try to seize an opportunity to politicize the tragedy. His response to the incident- “There’s a lot of good people out there.”

    What a good man!

  8. Kelly W.
    January 12, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    There seems to be much more to the story than just a lone gunman who is mentally deranged.

    Some of the odd things I have heard:

    *You hear very little about the judge who was killed. Judge Roll allegedly had just ruled, some 72 hours previously, against the Obama administration’s attempt to confiscate private citizens’ pensions.

    *The 9 year old girl was listed as being born on September 11, 2001.

    *The attorney assigned to represent Loughner is the very same attorney who represented Timothey McVeigh.

    *Some medical people who treated Giffords said that the bullet entered the back of the head and exited the front. Other medical people stated vice versa. Now when asked for a clarification, they refuse comment.

    http://www.eutimes.net/2011/01/top-us-federal-judge-assassinated-after-threat-to-obama-agenda/

    I’m not sure what to think about these weird anomalies. Just sayin’ ………..

  9. Lin
    January 12, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    I agree w/ you Connor. Thanks for posting the cartoon…that was great. I really appreciated listening to the Father of the nine year old and l also the interviews with Joe Zamudio (sp?). Somehow, hearing from first hand witnesses helps cut through rhetoric and get back to some real perspective.

    Interesting quotes, Kelly. I don’t know anything about the first three (well, I knew about the birthday), but I thought I’d share some insight on the last point about the entrance and exit wounds. I’m an ER RN, and recently went to a trauma conference, in which our state forensic pathologist (an MD) took us through a review of gun shot wounds and identifying so-called entrance and exit wounds. Long story short, we are taught only to describe them, not to label them as ‘entrance’ or ‘exit.’ She said, at least 50% of the time, the docs get it wrong. It’s not till you get them to surgery (or really, an autopsy) that it can be accurately identified. So this comment that the medical personnel are giving conflicting reports (and now withholding…esp since it is forensic evidence), is not surprising to me.

  10. rachel
    January 12, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    Sadly, when my husband first heard about this shooting of Congresswoman Giffords, the second thing he said was, “She’s a democrat.” *groan* He anticipated the media spin and all the hubbub that would come with it.

    It is so unfortunate that the political climate is so full of animosity that we (and I use the term “we” loosely) have to use events like this to point fingers and try to make the opposing side look bad. More importantly, those who would have a tight squeeze on our freedoms use these opportunities to “manage by crisis” and propose and pass unconstitutional legislation in the name of keeping us all safe.

    No one at our house cares what political party a person belongs to when he or she is the victim of a violent crime. It is despicable no matter what. The only reason it matters that Congresswoman Giffords is a Democrat is that if she were a Republican or some third party, the whole story would most likely have been handled in a different way, in my opinion.

  11. Kelly W.
    January 13, 2011 at 7:23 am #

    @rachel,

    Judge Roll was a “staunch republican.”

    http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/01/09/20110109john-roll-gabrielle-giffords-arizona-shooting.html

  12. Clifton Brown
    January 13, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    Let me give you a little food for thought here…

    Within just a few a hours of the shooting, Rep. Giffords’ father was asked if she had any enemies. His immediate reply was, “yeah, the whole tea party”.

    Why would he say that?

    Do you honestly believe that this man, in the midst of his grief, was attempting to make a shrewd and calculated political statement. Was he seeking to take advantage of this tragedy that had nearly killed his own daughter in order to score a couple of political points?

    OR….maybe, just maybe, he blurted out the one thing that is so painfully obvious to everybody in the world EXCEPT for you Glenn Beck drones?

    You guys can cry me a river about how unfairly maligned you are. Rep. Giffords’ father would never have said such a thing if there had not been a consistent pattern there long before last Saturday.

    I don’t know what was going through Loughner’s head that day. I do not doubt that he was a deeply disturbed individual. But we do know a couple of things. For one thing he deliberately targeted a member of Congress. He didn’t just go on a shooting rampage at the local mall.

    People, whether sane or insane, do not live in a vacuum. If society sends the message that our public servants are a bunch of dishonorable, power-mad thieves and that people that don’t share your own political ideologies or your own personal interpretation of the Constitution are somehow enemies who actively seek the downfall of our nation, honestly, how surprised can you be when someone who is paranoid to begin with responds to such paranoid rhetoric?

    This has not been the only such incident. A very fortunate traffic stop by police (and subsequent shoot-out) was the only thing that prevented a massacre at the Tides foundation – and unlike Loughner, there was absolutely no getting around the fact that Byron Williams was totally inspired by Glenn Beck.

  13. Connor
    January 13, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Glenn Beck drones?

    Hahahahahahahaha!

    It’s funny when people who are so immensely accusatory are so, so incredibly far off their mark.

  14. Clifton Brown
    January 13, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    Actually Connor, that particular line was directed more at the posters above than at you personally.

    I guess I should say, “if the shoe fits”. And in most cases, I suspect that it does.

    And yes, I know and appreciate that for whatever disagreements I have with you, you are definitely not a drone. It is one of the things that keeps me coming back to your blog.

    However, aside from the drone part, I think my point still stands.

  15. james numark
    January 13, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    The term tea party is such a weird term in our society today. It seems like anyone who doesn’t like liberals are being thrown into this category. There isn’t even really a formalizing of a party per say. So, for this whole thing to be triggered against the tea party at the drop of a hat by Gifford’s father is just sad.

    What is even sadder (is sadder a word?) is that enough people without the ability, or refusing to use the ability, to think for themselves would follow suit with such baseless accusations so immediately. Isn’t blaming this whole thing on the tea party just as inflammatory a rhetoric as what the tea party is being accused of in setting the stage for this tragedy?

    The judge that was killed was a very conservative judge who just had struck down an Obama policy would have been very much aligned with this “tea party” mentality. He was shot and killed along with 5 others from what I have read most recently. If this was a tea party problem, then this judge would not have been killed either.

    Just to take the argument in advance, yes I know that this would seem like the Judge was in the wrong place at the wrong time…. I agree. But that just goes to show illustrate the craziness and outright rage of a crazy person, not the calculated designs of a sane assassination attempt.

    People blame the tea party because they feel threatened by the movement. Plain and simple. If there was no value or merit to the movement then people would just leave them alone till they died out. I think, at best, calling all tea partier’s enemies to his daughter is in poor taste at best, and political opportunism mixed with poor taste at worst.

  16. Jim Davis
    January 13, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    Clifton,

    I don’t think there are many people here who care much for Glenn Beck. Personally, I don’t like him. Be mindful of using such a broad brush when you attack people. It doesn’t help your argument at all. Carelessly slapping labels on people who think differently than you might help you feel better but it adds no meaningful value to this discussion.

  17. Jim Davis
    January 13, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

    Also, it’s not fair to link liberty lovers, Constitutionalists, tea-partiers, or Glenn Beck to the violence committed in Tucson. People are upset about government, yes. But how people interpret the political environment and carry out their own actions is ultimately the responsibility of themselves. No one I know who advocates limited Constitutional government would condone such senseless aggression and I don’t hold any of them responsible for adding their voice in opposition to certain policies/politicians.

  18. Kelly W.
    January 14, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    In my morning newspaper it is saying they “think” the bullet entered the front of her skull and exited the back. They stated the word “think” two different times. It’s almost as if they know the bullet entered the back and they are trying their darnedest to get public perception to think the other way.

    I still find it odd that they can dredge up all kinds of stuff about the tea party and guns, but cannot report anything definitive on the head wound or the federal judge.

  19. rachel
    January 14, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    Clifton, I’m not a Glenn Beck drone. And I don’t consider myself a “tea partier” either. And I’m not “crying you a river” about being maligned, because I don’t affiliate with any of those who are being blamed. I was referring to the mainstream media’s handling (spin) of the story. I was simply referring to the opportunistic way that those with an agenda use tragedies such as this to further their agenda, meaning the media, mostly. And they definitely seem to favor the liberals and Democrats. I was not commenting on the motives of the shooter.

    And Clifton, about this statement:

    “If society sends the message that our public servants are a bunch of dishonorable, power-mad thieves and that people that don’t share your own political ideologies or your own personal interpretation of the Constitution are somehow enemies…”

    Who is ‘SOCIETY’? I don’t think the conservatives are the only ones who do what you are describing. I think they all do it.

  20. Ron
    January 19, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    So what if he said the Tea Party was his daughter’s enemy? Just because someone is my enemy doesn’t mean I’m going to unload my assault rifle at them.

  21. Kelly W.
    January 21, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    I found this interesting little article that speculates on this incident as being more than we have been told in the mainstream media:

    http://theintelhub.com/2011/01/20/coporate-media-fails-to-report-facts-of-giffords-shooting-fbi-has-security-tapes/

  22. Kelly W.
    January 23, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

    another interesting clip speculating that Judge Roll was the target, not Giffords.

    http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/1008.html

  23. JJL9
    January 24, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    Clif shows his true colors as always with this:

    “People, whether sane or insane, do not live in a vacuum. If society sends the message that our public servants are a bunch of dishonorable, power-mad thieves and that people that don’t share your own political ideologies or your own personal interpretation of the Constitution are somehow enemies who actively seek the downfall of our nation, honestly, how surprised can you be when someone who is paranoid to begin with responds to such paranoid rhetoric?”

    Really? That would just be a normal response in your mind?

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