(photo credit:erik lesser / AP)
NEW YORK – In the wake of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’s shooting on
Saturday along with 17 others at a Tuscon supermarket meet-andgreet, conjecture
abounded as to the shooter’s motives and how they were linked to American
While the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, has not
yet disclosed his motives for the attempt on the Democratic Jewish
Congresswoman’s life, many speculated that the high level of violent anger in
modern American political discourse could have led to the attack.
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vice presidential candidate and current Tea Party figurehead Sarah Palin came
under particular attack by many across party lines.
The incident followed
a widely-covered post by Palin on her political action committee’s page,
Sarahpac.com, which showed gunsight crosshairs on each one of the states Palin
considered a “problem.” The site listed Congress members – including Giffords –
Palin also recently tweeted one of her catch phrases: “Don’t
retreat – reload.”
After news of Giffords’s shooting, the gunsight map
was taken off the page, as was the aforementioned Tweet.
Palin posted the
following on her website in its stead: “My sincere condolences are offered to
the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today’s tragic
shooting in Arizona. On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the
victims and their families, and for peace and justice.”
For some, the
condolences came too late.
Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, who
represents an Arizona district adjacent to Giffords’s, attributed Saturday’s
shooting to the virulent rhetoric of Palin and her followers.
climate has gotten so toxic in our political discourse, setting up for this kind
of reaction for too long. It’s unfortunate to say that. I hate to say that,” the
Democratic congressman said in an interview with The Huffington Post
“If you’re an opponent, you’re a deadly enemy,” Grijalva said of
the mindset among Arizona extremists. “Anybody who contributed to feeding this
monster had better step back and realize they’re threatening our form of
Grijalva added that Palin should particularly consider the
inflammatory rhetoric she has employed.
“She – as I mentioned, people
contributing to this toxic climate – Ms. Palin needs to look at her own
behavior, and if she wants to help the public discourse, the best thing she
could do is to keep quiet.”
Giffords herself, after her office was
vandalized in March 2010, decried Palin’s angry rhetorical flourishes, citing
the gunsight graphic specifically.
When asked if she was afraid, she said
that she wasn’t, but noted that the “rhetoric is incredibly heated.”
are on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the way that she has it depicted has the
crosshairs of a gunsight over our district,” Giffords said in March. “When
people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that
At least one commentator has said that the shooting should
effectively demonstrate that, as Atlantic monthly associate editor Matt Yglesias
tweeted, “gun imagery and electoral politics don’t mix.”
gross and mad act of violence, which took the life of a nine-year-old girl, a
judge and others who had productive lives to lead, will shock politicians and
partisan pundits into higher degree of civility, or at minimum tone down some of
the divisive, corrosive rhetoric,” CBS commentator Dan Farber wrote.
several videos Loughner had posted on YouTube before Saturday’s shooting, he
expressed furious anger at the US government, referred to himself as a
“terrorist” and listed Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf
as being among his favorite
At Saturday’s press conference on the shooting, Pima County
Sheriff Clarence Dupnik suggested that “vitriolic rhetoric” in political debates
could have deadly consequences.
“When you look at unbalanced people, how
they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down
the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this county
is getting to be outrageous. Unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of
the capital,” he said. “We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”
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