Sunday, January 9, 2011

Blood on Their Hands?

Like most people, I was shocked and horrified by the recent shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ and 19 others, six of whom were killed.  The Congresswoman was at a political event outside a grocery store when she and the others were shot.

Some people feel that Sarah Palin holds some responsibility for this tragedy.  She has been quoted as saying, "We don't retreat, we reload" and her Political Action Committee website contained images of Democrat-controlled districts with crosshairs on them, as if they were targets at a gun range.  Others also feel that so-called political pundits such as Rush Limbaugh ("liberalism is the greatest enemy this country faces") and Sean Hannity ("There are things in life worth fighting and dying for, and one of them is making sure Nancy Pelosi doesn’t become the speaker.") and their inflammatory remarks may have incited suspect Jared Loughner to commit such a horrific act.

Now, I am no fan of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity, but I am not sure how much I blame them as individuals for what happened in Arizona.  To me, accusing them of inciting a man to murder is not too different from accusing Judas Priest of encouraging a teen to commit suicide by embedding messages in their music.  Yeah, it's a no-brainer to say that putting crosshairs on the picture of a Congressperson on your PAC website is tasteless at best, and I would have thought that most people (especially those who share their opinions on television and are seen by millions) would think better, but obviously some did not.

I think the current political culture of finger pointing and fear mongering is more responsible than any one individual or group of individuals.  And both liberals and conservatives alike are equally guilty of perpetuating this.  Instead of focusing on specific issues or expressing their own personal or party beliefs, the extremists attack the opposition, usually via ad hominem attacks, red herrings, and straw man attacks.  Since the major broadcast and cable news outlets at best carry a slight bias and at worst promote a party agenda, it is difficult for the general population to determine exactly what is truth.  (If it's truthiness you seek, fear not, head on over to Colbert Nation.)

Can it be stopped?  I don't know.  I would like to think that there can be a return to true, fact supported news reporting, but when journalism takes a back seat to pundits expressing their personal beliefs with no factual support (or worse, expressing ideas that they might not believe in but know will get ratings), we have a huge problem.  And if none of us care enough to seek out the truth, if we keep watching the biased news channels and accept their talking heads' words as truth, then I suppose we all have blood on our hands.

No comments: