‘gabrielle giffords is the victim of a debased political culture’

Jonathan Raban (UK Independent): One could be shocked, but hardly surprised, by the news on Saturday … it was an event that seemed to grow out of America’s present disturbed and angry climate, like a killer-tornado or hurricane: awful, yes, but part of the weather, and, in some sense, only to be expected.

….an ad published last March by Sarah Palin’s political action committee … showed a map of the United States, dotted with 20 vulnerable Democratic seats in Congress, each identified by cross-hairs in a gunsight. Giffords’ seat was one of these. The legend above the map read: “We’ve diagnosed the problem… Help us prescribe the solution.”

….it would be absurd now to claim that the proposed “solution” was death by assassination … but Gabrielle Giffords made great sense when, in March 2010, she discussed the Palin map with a TV interviewer, saying: “Sarah Palin has the cross-hairs of a gunsight over our district – and when people do that, they’ve got to realise there are consequences to that action.”

In the martial atmosphere of an election year (and in a country where four sitting presidents have been assassinated, and many more have survived serious attempts on their lives), extravagant figures of speech can all too easily become literal, and rhetorical guns turn into real ones.

In November last year, Giffords was narrowly re-elected against a Tea Party Republican named Jesse Kelly who… conducted his political campaign in the language of warfare. …. “Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automated M-16 with Jesse Kelly.”

Kelly’s campaign website closed down some time after noon on Saturday, and was replaced with a message of sympathy for Gabrielle Giffords … before the site closed, I caught his November thanks to the “thousands of warriors who fought with me in this campaign”.

….voters became “warriors” … but the word also exactly reflects the Tea Party mindset: this is war. Or, as Sarah Palin put it in a Tweet last year: “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: ‘Don’t retreat – instead RELOAD!’…..

….The Tucson shootings can’t be blamed on Palin, Kelly, or the Tea Party: all three are more or less typical inhabitants of the debased, exaggerated and vitriolic language that now dominates American public discourse. Keith Olbermann, on the liberal left, speaks it as fluently as do Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck on the right….

….There is a chance, if rather a slim one, that the Tucson massacre will make both politicians and commentators draw back and reconsider their terms. Politics is not warfare. The Democratic party is not a colonialist tyranny. Obama is not George III. To live in a slew of overheated metaphors, in language vastly disproportionate to the occasion, is to invite and license the kind of atrocity that happened the day before yesterday.

Read the full article here

(Is it fair for the writer to lump Olbermann in with Limbaugh and Beck? Yes, he is of course hugely partisan, but does he use hate speech??)

10 Responses to “‘gabrielle giffords is the victim of a debased political culture’”

  1. January 9, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    I’m not sure that “debased, exaggerated and vitriolic language” means hate speech. And you know that sometimes K.O. does seem to go off the deep end. I think “exaggerated” would apply to him occasionally.

  2. January 9, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    I would say yes, to a degree. Olbermann and ED can go over the top at times. But they aren’t prejudice. As the others are. But they can get rowdy. And don’t forget Dylan Ratigan. But he is Libertarian.

    • January 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm

      I agree with you Brezzydee, Olbermann definitely goes over the top at times – well, lots of times – and often I just switch him off, he can drive me nuts, but I really amn’t sure you could describe his commentaries as debased or vitriolic (although I would accept ‘exaggerated’!), or link him to hatemongers like Beck and Limbaugh? Or are my ears just plain biased? 😐

      • January 9, 2011 at 9:02 pm

        Oh no he isn’t vitriolic. Olbermann that is. But he can and have apologized a few times for crossing the line. And he and ED can drive me nuts to sometimes lol. And no you aren’t biased. If so then most of us are to 🙂

  3. 5 africa
    January 9, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    I no longer listen to Keith. But to be fair to him, I think thus far, he’s one of the few in the Media who is trying to connect the hate speech to what happened yesterday.

    Yes, he goes over the top sometimes, a key reason why I stopped watching him, but I can’t say that he is equally as ugly as the dough boy or the man on Fox. I refuse to give these people any power by using their names.

    It seems like people in the foreign press are largely the ones addressing the violent rhetoric in correlation to what happened yesterday.

    Our MSM, I don’t believe will go there. Because to my mind, they are complicit in what happened yesterday. They all made excuses or for the sake of objectivity turned a blind eye to what was happening in this country. Or better yet, the rage was good for business.

    They have never held themselves accountable for falling down on the job with Iraq. I don’t expect them to do anything different this time. Most with their self-inflated egos, will criticize politicians, but they need to stop and look themselves in the mirror.

    • 6 Sue in Minnesota
      January 9, 2011 at 9:54 pm

      I wanted to comment on this last night after watching KO’s coverage for two hours, but I struggled with how to express it, and wasn’t sure if my emotional upset was coloring my impressions. I came away feeling that no one was willing to assign or express responsibility, not for the event that unfolded, but for the power and influence of words. The very same people, who by profession, are paid to communicate with the public, using….Words. Some may not agree with me, but I believe words are powerful, reflecting both thought and intention. One of the many reasons I love President Obama is the care he uses in expressing himself. He is fully aware of the power of words, uses them to good effect, and doesn’t use them to decieve or abuse.

  4. 7 Sue in Minnesota
    January 9, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    I see Beck, Limbaugh as flagrant distorters/liars. Although no longer a viewer of KO’s, I don’t consider him a prevaricator. My discomfort with Keith, is the self-aggrandizing, sanctimonius arm chair quarterbacking. It’s over the top, and serves no positive function, IMO. I really appreciate facts, I’m not interested in political talking points, and very weary of the “valued” opinions and analysis of the media pundits, I just really want the facts.

  5. 8 Asher in Boston
    January 9, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Come on now, you cnat lump olbermann in the same hateful, racist, homophobic click of Beck, limbaugh, hannity and palin. He can go over board at times, but he states facts and takes on the hate and lies from the right.

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