I consider Glenn Beck to be dangerous, untruthful, and hugely irritating. So even though I don't like to see his name get used more often than it already does, I was pleased to see that "Becking" has become a new word.
From a moral viewpoint Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is the victim of demagogues such as Glenn Beck and his allies at Fox News and in the Tea Party Movement. This is not about legal liability but about moral culpability. This is about a nation that has lost its moral compass.
...Now the shootings have created a new word floating across cyberspace: “becking.” To be “becked” is to be held up as such an evil and destructive person that someone, somewhere, will interpret it as a call to eliminate that problem through violence.
Now, it seems obvious that both mentally ill and mentally healthy people are affected by public discourse and messaging. If this wasn't true, advertising wouldn't work. Or political ads. Or inspiring speeches.
Surprisingly, though, quite a few people have been arguing that Jared Loughner (who shot Congresswoman Giffords and killed six others) wasn't influenced by anything in our nation's increasingly divisive, vitriolic, and hate-filled political culture.
This makes no sense. Which is why "Becking" is a word that does make sense. Let us count some of the reasons why.
(1) A CBS poll found that 28% of Republicans feel it is justified to take violent action against the government (only 11% of Democrats and Independents felt the same way). And the poll was taken after the Giffords shooting. When over a quarter of a major political party says violence against the government is justified, won't this attitude affect people like Loughner who are inclined toward picking up a gun and shooting a government official?
I do think it’s important for us to watch our rhetoric. I do think it’s a worthwhile goal not to conflate our political opponents with enemies. If for no other reason, than to draw a better distinction between the manifestos of paranoid mad men and what passes for acceptable political and pundit speech.
It would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn’t in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on TV.
Let’s make troubled individuals easier to spot.
The non-sensical ramblings of Glenn Beck aren't much different from the non-sensical ramblings Jared Loughner left on the Internet. For example, they both are big on gold and mistrust the government, big time.
(3) Crazy violent stuff has gone on in Gifford's district for a long time.
The rampage on Saturday that left six dead and Ms. Giffords gravely wounded may prove to be an isolated act of violence by a mentally disturbed man. The suspect attended at least one of Ms. Giffords’s town meetings before the event Saturday.
Still, the shootings came after a disconcerting run of episodes in this district of mountains and desert, raising temperatures here in a way that some of Ms. Giffords’s friends argue fed an atmosphere that might encourage violence.
(4) Tea Party supporters need to own the rhetoric of their movement, which has been filled with angry threats. So says Nick Christensen, who wrote a great piece for Blue Oregon:
"If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.” – Sharon Angle
For a good deal of America, the Second Amendment represents freedom – freedom to protect yourself, freedom to hunt. For many, it also represents freedom to protect your family from the government, if and when such a time comes that it's necessary to take up revolution.
Make no mistake – the message has been clear. From Glenn Beck's "If you must shoot, shoot to kill," to Sarah Palin's "Don't retreat, reload," there's been an thinly-veiled pushing of a right-wing agenda for revolution, a coddling of the notion that everyone has their limits, an embracing of the idea that sometimes, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.
So here's where I get confused. The war drums have been pounding for almost two years, with the implication that sometimes, armed revolution is justified. Then someone goes and follows through, someone gets just enough crazy in them to start shooting at a congresswoman and a federal judge and a little girl, and somehow they've crossed the line?
The Tea Party is having it both ways! You can't in one breath say there's a time and a place for warfare, and in another breath disown it every time it happens. Take it one way or the other, Tea Party.
(5) Arizona has become #1 in the nation for political vitriol and bile. How likely is it that Jared Loughner was unaffected by all this crap?
When news bulletins first flashed on Saturday that a congresswoman had been shot at a public event, it didn't take too much imagination to correctly surmise that it was Arizona, and that the victim was Gabrielle Giffords. Nor were you shocked, as some clearly were, when Pima County sheriff Clarence Dupnik declared his home state to have become "a mecca for prejudice and bigotry." The grim, blood-soaked crossover from death threats and broken windows to actual murder and mayhem seemed inevitable.
(6) Jared Loughner's political views were closer to far right than leftist, says a LA Times story.
The ramblings of accused Arizona killer Jared Lee Loughner are difficult to tie to a coherent political philosophy, yet in them can be discerned a number of themes drawn from the right-wing patriot and militia movements, experts said.
...Most wind up concluding that Loughner suffered from mental problems. But experts said that several oft-repeated phrases and concepts — his fixation on grammar conspiracies, currency and the "second United States Constitution" — seem derived from concepts explored with regularity among elements of the far right.
...Berlet wrote an article this week noting that similarly disjointed talk of government currency and money manipulation plots was found in the case of antiabortionist John C. Salvi III, convicted in the 1994 clinic shootings in Massachusetts that left two women dead and several people injured.
Potok said it appeared that Loughner's frequent references to government control of the public through grammar ("The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar," Loughner said in one video) were drawn from David Wynn Miller, a far-right activist in Milwaukee.
(7) Mental illness experts say that we should be asking whether the political climate in Arizona and the nation helped trigger the shooting. Greg Sargent wrote:
A leading expert in mental illness tells me that asking whether the Arizona shooter's violent behavior might have been partly triggered by the nation's political climate is a wholly appropriate line of inquiry -- even if the shooter is found to be insane.
"It's a reasonable question to ask," Dr. Marvin Swartz, a psychiatry professor at Duke University who specializes in how environment impacts the behavior of the mentally ill, said in an interview this morning. "The nature of someone's delusions is affected by culture. It's a reasonable line of inquiry to ask, `How does a political culture affect the content of people's delusions?'"
..."We know the manifestation of mental illness is affected by cultural factors," Dr. Swartz said. "One's cultural context does effect [sic] people's thinking and particularly their delusions. It gives some content and shape to their delusions. While we don't know whether there was a specific relationship between the political climate that he was exposed to and his thinking, it's a reasonable line of inquiry to explore."
...In other words, even if the shooter is a complete nut, we should be asking whether the tone of our political discourse might also have played a role in triggering the shooting -- and if so, whether such a thing could happen again.