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Attempted Assassination of Congresswoman Giffords in Arizona

Stirling Newberry's picture

As fast as fingers can fly the news has gone from bad to worse, Democratic Congresswoman Giffords was shot at a public event. She is now reported in surgery, though earlier she had been reported dead. Fox News reports at least 12 were shot. This is not an isolated incident. Napolitano was the target of a mail attack earlier this week.

The right wing is in revolutionary mode, they are now close to gain a seat in Congress if the shooting becomes a successful assassination, and they have already put the Democrats on notice that they have the support to wage war within the United States upon the Democratic Party. So it is move to the right, or else. This has happened in Israel already, where politicians have admitted that the assassination of Rabin led to a move to the right. Political violence works, that is why people do it. Political violence does not work, in that societies that lose their sense of civil norms, cease to function. The United States has lost these norms over time, both in our civil and popular culture.

How many films have you seen where the plot was:


  • Ordinary person wronged.
  • Ordinary person gets gooned up.
  • Ordinary person goes postal on the perp.
  • Ordinary person is exonerated.

Many have been released, and it is difficult to avoid the genre. It comes in male and female flavors, whether the wrong is economic harm, or sexual attack. As a staple of culture, think on what it tells people.

However, it is a staple of public culture, because we have made normative, the nomos, of the society a continual illegality, and disrespect for the ideas of fairness. A recent example is the "Ibanez case" in Massachusetts, where the state's highest court put the beat down on foreclosures without title, and title transfers that failed to meet even the semblance of compliance with the standards of the law.

It is impossible to condemn assassination with the full force of the social order, when our popular mythology, and economic reality, is of the res the order of things, being one of casual violence against common decency, where the mythically approved response, is to go on a personal killing spree. It speaks to a rage in the society, which is the analog of the Victorian repression of sexuality. The Victorians placed their superiority on greater artifice and greater naturalism, as well as a cult of romantic love. However, economically, they were constantly on the ragged edge of starvation, and therefore had to link sex to marriage, and marriage firmly to economics. This denied their founding literature, and created the genre of novel as exploration of infidelity: their deep fault line. The Victorians had a cult of the naturalistic romantic, but a practical fear of its obvious results. Our own age places revolution as a value in itself, and action as a virtue in itself. However, as our society relies on a vast structure to extract a few rents from a few places, process them through a very fragile supply chain, controlled by a relatively easy to disrupt digital architecture, actual change, is actually not allowed. Anyone who is really a revolutionary, has ever force imaginable against them.

Thus, what lust was to the Victorian, rage is to our own age: the hidden demon that is both worshipped, and feared.

-::-

The right wing sanctifies this rage, by combining it with reactionary intent. The right wing allows revolutionary violence in favor of a reactionary order. It can no longer be called plutocratic, because the bankers and other leaders do not actually control the capital. They do not own most of the factories, they do not own the resources. They own the pipes, but these pipes are virtual creatures: securitized mortgages, broadcast channels, even seemingly physical lines do not actually have the ability to exclude others, without force to do so.

Thus force, itself, is increasingly the currency of the society, rather than capital, or even physical assets. This is a shift from asset based money, where the money supply and the means of its expansion, was regulated through the proxy of home values, to a strategic money, where the question is quite simply one of the consequences of not accepting the increase in money, and the responses that it brings.

In doing so, the right wing creates a dislocated, poor, populist front, which is a revolutionary class, in favor of a right wing revolution. Palin's embrace of this front is not coincidental, her record of governance shows that she is that creature that is constantly erased from historiography, and sociology, because it is inconvenient: the right wing socialist.

The right would be demanding that the left disown an act even a fraction as violent. If the left has a single piece of wit about it, it would be to goad the moderates into demanding a denunciation, not only of the act, but of Palin's crosshairs, and SarahPac. The left should say "This is Terrorism!" because, in fact, it is terrorism: violence to send an expressly political message to suppress unwanted political action. The message from the right is for the center to return to a right wing- center alliance, with the right wing as the dominant partner, that is, the Bush coalition.

If the Democrats have any sense, they will begin demanding that politicians return any donations from "an organization that incites terrorism," which is what SarahPac, demonstrably, now is, an organization that incites terrorism. Giffords was shot for being a Democrat. She was not a liberal Democrat, nor a friend to the left, but she was a loyal Democrat on votes that had a core of rabid opposition in her district. It took courage for her to continue to do public events.

There are two lessons that need to be learned. The first is that the moderates must understand that they will not survive in coalition with the right, that the noose around their necks will tighten, and grown tighter with each year. The second is for the left to realize that if there is to be political courage, there must be political coverage. That means the willingness to put bodies in the line of fire, because otherwise, the center will see us as fair weather friends, and foul weather dead weights.

The bullet box is replacing the ballot box.

In large measure this is the fault of the moderates, they were happy with a "good enough" recovery, and have sat down and declared themselves the best of all possible worlds. Since this was a recovery for the rich, but not for everyone else, the inevitable result is violence in favor of the out party. Since there is no extreme left party available in any form, right wing socialism is the natural outlet for the violence.

If this lesson is not learned, that active recovery, combined with a forceful ideology, are the only counters to a reactionary revolution – and so far it has not been – then we will see more spiraling steps downward. This was the most successful attack, but far from the last.

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votermom's picture
Submitted by votermom on

I find it a bit ghoulish to be blaming people when it’s not even clear who was injured, who was killed, and what the shooter’s motives were.

votermom's picture
Submitted by votermom on

a disturbed and angry white man vents his deadly rage on a woman in a position of authority and bloggers rush to blame another woman in position of authority.

That's what I see.

scoutt's picture
Submitted by scoutt on

Nobody on the left was outraged about "taking Hillary into a backroom" and she's the one that doesnt' come out. Or the Sarah Palin doll hanging from a tree in a noose, or the art exhibit with a gun to Sarah Palin's head. Or Sarah getting gang raped by a gang of NY thugs would be a good thing. My god, there were countless other violent expressions against those two candidates with almost no shock from media talking heads and the left.
It's easy to make the case that because that stuff is ok , it's easier for someone to commit violent acts against women.
I'm disgusted even playing this game.

Card-carrying_Buddhist's picture
Submitted by Card-carrying_B... on

by that comment.

And I'm on the left.

Don't know how you're measuring, except by your own preconceptions.

And political assassination is hardly a game -- is it?

Submitted by Fran on

I don't get the blaming of Sarah Palin for, or dragging her name into, everything that happens.

The profile here is a young, alienated white man. Sort of a typical profile. And, a high profile, attractive, maybe controversial (in AZ, what is not?) woman is the target. Also rather typical, or not unusual.

I think it is random in the sense that it is violence where the 'crazy' and the victim crossed paths. Or, that, because the victim is high profile, the 'crazy' easily targeted her as the cause of his problems. It does not appear to be a political statement. The guy's 'political' ramblings are really, probably just insane ramblings - not unusual either.

We are going to continue to see an increase in violence, random or otherwise, as our social structure continues to unravel, our economy slides away, the state becomes ever more repressive and viewpoints more polarized and antagonistic.

btw, I had no idea that the marks on the map were cross hairs.

Submitted by lambert on

1. No, you probably didn't know the marks on the map were crosshairs, but you weren't the intended audience (and must have missed the "don't retreat, reload" rhetoric as well). However, her audience certainly did.

2. When a Vice Presidential Candidate with a history of using gun-oriented rhetoric and imagery puts up a poster putting a political opponent in crosshairs, and that same political opponent later gets shot... Well, mentioning that hardly constitutes dragging the candidate's name in, surely?

3. I mention, again, the history of right wing violence against abortion doctors, incited by web sites with pages like Palin's poster. That history is awfully easy to forget, seemingly. Odd, especially from defenders of women, especially since one might even see the technique as a precedent. Then again, because Palin does it, I guess that's OK? Not the kind of jersey I care to wear, thanks very much.

Submitted by Fran on

Maybe I am out of the loop on these things, but I just don't draw such a strong parallel.

I don't think it is just political, anymore than the killing of abortion doctors is really political. They are the self justifications of warped minds. The una-bomber thought he was fighting a cause, but he was really just crazy.

Unfortunately, when you have more stressors in society, people who previously could manage to maintain a fragile balance, will go over the edge. I believe we are going to see more of that.

I think it is a matter of some emphasis and context. I think that putting one person up as responsible for so much is too simplistic. Palin's chart existed in a larger context of violent imagery in politics and sports, even getting ahead in school and the workplace. I don't condone any of it.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

Do have anything besides the fact that Palin's anti-abortion? I certainly have never heard her say anything condoning violence against clinic doctors or workers. And as I said above, even I (and I find a great deal of anti-abortion rhetoric horrifying and damaging to women) don't think that just being anti-abortion means you rationalize killing doctors or clinic workers.

Did anyone on this thread say that anti-abortion violence was unimportant? Where are these jerseys? I don't see them anywhere.

I definitely do not keep up with everything Palin says, but had she said anything even remotely along those lines I can't imagine it wouldn't have been emblazoned across the blogosphere.

Because if that is the criteria -- anti-abortion = condone murder, then again we have the problem of why put Palin forth as the standard bearer, when there are literally millions of others who fall under the same rubric? Many of which are just as famous as she is, and not all of the same party as she?

I also can't imagine that there aren't a very large number of politicians who can rival Palin in both the number and severity of "gun-oriented rhetoric." We already know she's not the only one who uses the crosshairs thing. It's not as if she's the first politician to mention guns. Heck, I bet other Republican politicians even used it! The only reason "everyone" knew about the Palin crosshairs pic was because it was Palin in the first place. Many others used it but she's the only one with the big press.

Palin seems to agree that she should expect criticism, or she wouldn't have removed the targets from her site, I expect. But while the pics aren't irrelevant, that doesn't mean they connection isn't being overplayed.

Aaahhh whatever. I'd be way more psyched up about the whole thing if what we were having is a national conversation about new Brady bill (the Giffords bill?), instead of Palin yet again.

Submitted by jawbone on

to name politicians she wanted removed from political viability. Perhaps she did not actually review the graphics, but, as the leader of the PAC she certainly should have. And it does fit her radical rightwing populism.

She could have used any number of other symbols and symbolic (metaphorical) language. But she chose to use gunsight target acquisition symbols.

For that, she should have been condemned by right, center, and lef -- by any responsible political and public figures. She was by some, not by others.

Now, whether her chart caused certain people to become part of this assassin's fixations cannot be known. There is only circumstantial evidence that it could be part of his learning or process or obsessions.

But, since he's now labeled "mentally ill" good liberals will blame tha illnesst, not the person himsefl or his political alignment. Or those who might have encouraged him....

The right would have no such compunction were this a conservative pol assassinated by a ragingly crazed lefty or liberal.

When I heard about this shooting yesterday, it brought back some of the feelings of loss and powerlessness that I felt as a young person who admired Jack Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy. For awhile I couldn't think of any conservative figures killed by lefties, crazy or not. Wallace was shot, Reagan was shot at, Ford was shot at -- did any Republican or conservative pols get killed/assassinated?

I have no problem holding Palin accountable for the words and images of her SarahPAC. None whatsoever.

As Hillary said when Palin was given the VP slot, criticize her actions, ideas, ideology, not her personally. One of her clear actions was to allow that map to be used to raise funds.

Now, of course, I have to add that I hold persons who pictured Palin with a gun to her head as also condenmnable and contempitble. I would like to think that was obvious, but it is not, so let it be noted: I feel it is contemptible and very wrong.

I also concur with lambert that it is remarkable that the guy killed two figures "targeted" by the right.

Submitted by wlarip on

shot and Brady suffered catastrophic brain injury.

beowulf's picture
Submitted by beowulf on

I don't think Stirling's post would have been any different if it had been a Republican male politician who put figurative crosshairs on a Democratic politician, who then became the target of a spree shooter.

That Governor Palin and Representative Gifford are female seems besides the point.

Card-carrying_Buddhist's picture
Submitted by Card-carrying_B... on

"During the fall campaign, Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate, posted a controversial map on her Facebook page depicting spots where Democrats were running for re-election; those Democrats were noted by crosshairs symbols like those seen through the scope of a gun. Ms. Giffords was among those on Ms. Palin’s map, which later removed the crosshairs symbols.

A statement posted on Ms. Palin’s Facebook page Saturday expressed her “sincere condolences” to the family of Ms. Giffords and the other shooting victims. Ms. Palin said that she and her family were praying for them “and for peace and justice. . . "

New York Times link here.

scoutt's picture
Submitted by scoutt on

The knee jerk reaction to politicize the human tragedy. Entire story unknown, oversimplification of cause and effect and the almost addictive desire to find our own hate target.

votermom's picture
Submitted by votermom on

agreed.

Submitted by lambert on

But when a Congressman gets shot and a Federal Judge gets shot and killed, both at a constituent event, the political frame seems quite natural as a first cut analysis, no?

Certainly, the implications are political, and immediately so, regardless of the motives of the shooter.

UPDATE And the "hate target" comment is ridiculous. Why in the name of The God(ess)(e)(s) Of Your Choice is this a hateful post? Talk about a kneejerk reaction!

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

I think what scoutt said above has some merit. It's the same reason I posted my 5:14 comment - from the links provided, it's clear that Loughner is severely mentally ill, so I thought some elements of the political analysis were premature, and thought I should put up a comment before the bandwagon rolled too far. Thought about saying that explicitly, but decided to let Loughner's videos speak for themselves (i.e. providing that message implicitly).

Lambert: Certainly, the implications are political, and immediately so, regardless of the motives of the shooter.
That's a sidestep (seems to rather evade the point). The analysis is not simply about "implications", "regardless of the motives of the shooter".

Lambert: Newberry is not asserting a Palin -> poster -> shooter direct causal relationship in his post.
Well, you can argue this as a technicality. But again, it seems somwhat of a sidestep. See my own note about saying something implicitly. The general message seems clear.

Valhalla: Where was the outrage of the left against the violence imagery against women scoutt inventories?
The left has many strands. Ditto Lambert on this - many of us were speaking out adamantly. Though I would agree with your general point that the predominant response seemed to be a wink and a nod.

I found Stirling's comment about erasure of the right wing socialist (from historiography and sociology) an interesting point. And I think the Tea Party right is contributing to an atmosphere potentially supportive of violence, and Palin is not entirely without responsibility in this regard. But it's premature to draw too many conclusions in this case (especially given the apparent mental illness).

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

premature. Let's wait to get better understanding.

Nice analysis, Stirling.

scoutt's picture
Submitted by scoutt on

The speculation is premature but the analysis is "nice"?

Submitted by lambert on

This, for example:

It can no longer be called plutocratic, because the bankers and other leaders do not actually control the capital. They do not own most of the factories, they do not own the resources. They own the pipes, but these pipes are virtual creatures: securitized mortgages, broadcast channels, even seemingly physical lines do not actually have the ability to exclude others, without force to do so.

Thus force, itself, is increasingly the currency of the society, rather than capital, or even physical assets. This is a shift from asset based money, where the money supply and the means of its expansion, was regulated through the proxy of home values, to a strategic money, where the question is quite simply one of the consequences of not accepting the increase in money, and the responses that it brings.

That's fine analysis. Not sure I agree, but there's food for thought.

lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

This is sexist shit. That is all.

Please do note that I am very sparing, historically, in calling that out but this reeks. Pay attention.

Card-carrying_Buddhist's picture
Submitted by Card-carrying_B... on

Uh, pardon me, but.

This is hardly sexist shit.

This has zero to do with gender.

Sarah Palin presented her hit list, complete with the crosshairs icon -- how can you or anyone else, for that matter, fail to connect the dots?

The right wing targeted doctors who provided family planning services -- and eventually that poisoning influence led to targeted doctors being killed.

Same here.

BruceW07's picture
Submitted by BruceW07 on

" a strategic money, where the question is quite simply one of the consequences of not accepting the increase in money"

I've read those two paragraphs several times, and everytime, I stumble on the phrase quoted above -- it's incoherent. "the question" is "one of the consequences", but what is the question? What is the referent for "the question"?

lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

And quite disgusting. So glad you reminded us of those incidents in which 'liberals' have been strangely quiet.

Might not the actual violent words of some MALE right wingers have been a lot more likely to have contributed to this? Hell no, when you can blame a woman, I guess. Sickening.

Hello folks, can't we name some truly incendiary wing nuts? Or maybe the deranged perp himself? Probably there's some indication in his own writings which will indicate who he was listening to - just maybe we should wait for that evidence.

(meant this to be a reply to scoutt above)

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

Where was the outrage of the left against the violence imagery against women scoutt inventories? (extremely briefly, I may add). How does that fit into this analysis of "the res the order of things, being one of casual violence against common decency, where the mythically approved response"? (and don't get me started again on "the left's" response to the Assange rape allegations).

Perhaps threats of violence against women are so commonplace and acceptable that the left are absolved from making them? Or somehow don't count as "political" violence worthy of analysis? Or maybe it's just so old and boring, where reactionary revolutionary violence is sexy and new?

I'd suggest that the rage in the country, and there is a lot of it, is located not only in the right-wing.

The really disappointing thing about this post (besides the fact that when I saw Stirling's name after reading umpteem ridiculous posts written just minutes after it happened I thought "great, Stirling will have something really interesting and nonstupid to say") is tying the target optic into the shooting.

Assassination and violence is a complex thing, and we know next to nothing about this shooter. Palin's graphic is offensive, yes, but not really any more offensive than a 1000 violent images we plod through every day. And to imply a cause and effect relationship in this one case with only that as an example is not only crap, but distracts from the main point of the post, with which I otherwise mostly agree.

Already today I've read an easy dozen blogs making either the implicit or explicit connection between the target visual and the shooting. And I think it's more than just the rush to update ourselves on breaking news (h/t Lambert), but a rush to find simplistic answers, bias-confirming and ultimately reassuring answers. If only Palin wouldn't have put little targets on her website! This would never have happened! See how right we all are sneer at her! How all events do conspire to confirm our bias against those bitter gun-toting rednecks! (oops, I forgot racist -- well I'm sure that will turn up sometime). Nothing going on here, folks, move it along!

I'm really not quite sure how to put this, but the value I've always found in Stirling's posts is his ability to create a coherent (and brilliant) analysis out of extremely complex social and political dynamics. The success of the right-wing revolutionary populism is fueled in great part by the massive abdication of everyone else, and especially on the left, to express a scrap of concern (nevermind action) towards the majority of people who are losing everything. And the expression of that disdain has many, many times been worse than Palin's web graphic.

Submitted by lambert on

Find me the place where any direct, causal relation between Palin, the optic, and the shooting is asserted.* You cannot, because it is not there. Most of the discussion about Palin is framed quite clearly in terms of what the Ds would do if they had any sense, and the rest is Palin as "right wing socialist."

* * *

Agreed on the disdain.

* * *

My takeaway is the idea that violence is what backs the currency. That is a very interesting idea that I need to think about.

NOTE * Your words: "And to imply a cause and effect relationship in this one case with only that as an example is not only crap..."

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

How many implicit or explicit expressions of violence against not-us are there by the right-wing/Tea Partiers floating around on the internet? Thousands? Millions?

As far as implied violence goes, Palin's graphic isn't even out of the ordinary as far as "mainstream" political and social discourse goes. And I don't just mean ordinary for the right-wing. I remember the threats of "blood in the streets" if Obama didn't get the nomination as early as the first weeks of March in '08. Reactionary rage-channeling is not unique to the right-wing; it's just that the left is a bit behind as to the count (plus they seem to have wisely aimed most of it at females, where it's much more acceptable and likely to go unremarked upon).

That doesn't mean Palin's targets picture wasn't offensive (it was) or that it didn't play its part within a much greater culture of violence (including the idea of to-be-admired revolutionary violence). But most of Stirling's post was about a much larger point which is rapidly on its way to oblivion in the context of the blogwide rush to connect Palin's picture to this shooting particularly.

Politically, it probably would be smart in the short term for the Democrats to start demanding the stuff Stirling itemizes, but I seriously doubt it will bring moderates any closer to realizing they've been the dopes in a giant economic con by the elites. Rather it will just serve as another Palin-based distraction, based on the number of websites that have posted that target picture since 2 this afternoon.

And the louder the Democrats make their demands, the closer they are to just one left-wing crazy taking a shot at a right-winger away from destroying any credibility they have on that score. (for my part, they have pretty little credibility as the party of peace and nonviolence). Just because the right-wing slaps the terrorist label on everyone in sight doesn't mean it's a good thing we ought to emulate.

Violence backing the currency is probably quite true; I think there are many historical examples of that (empires everywhere, really). It's whether it has a particular or rare application to right-wing populism that's the interesting question.

Submitted by lambert on

Initially, let me pull through unrefuted point that on causual relationships. You don't disagree, so assume you agree. Newberry is not asserting a Palin -> poster -> shooter direct causal relationship in his post. Since there are several bullshit assertions to that effect on this thread, I think it's important to point that out.

* * *

For my part... I'm a blogger. This is a story I have to write about. I think that both parties form a single system, and that the Ds therefore kill just as many people as the Rs do. And I raise the issue of what it would be smart for the Ds to do only to place Stirling's statement in the correct context, which several bullshit comments on this thread do not do.

Good point on "blood in the streets." I think, though, that with the Ds (and again, both parties are a single system) that sort of talk is "just talk." For the most part, the Ds don't have the skills, don't have the operational experience, don't use weaponry as cultural markers, etc. For the most part, the Rs are "just talk" as well; most of the militia movement was clownish. But Tim McVeigh was not. Nor -- and, oddly, this example seems to go uncited on this thread -- were the assassins who killed doctors providing abortions to women, whose names were put in real crosshairs by a site much like the Palin poster.

Personally, I have no interest in what the Ds do one way or the other. I'm a slow politics guy and I think NV is the only way forward (Stirling's "put the body" is spot on, it's only that by temperament, skills, and possibly even morality (if that's not lack of courage) I'm not equipped for violent acts. And thinking about the events in Thailand, it's crystal clear that any leader who looks remotely like a general in sunglasses should be shunned like the plague.)

UPDATE Totally, totally agreed that the rage is not all on the right; the OFB in the 2008 primaries surely have taught us that. Heck, I'm pissed off a good deal of the time, though I try to maintain. I suppose I should have been calling out Palin for her rhetoric all this time too, but (a) if I started doing that, I wouldn't be able to do anything else (see Valhalla above, "plod through"), and (b) I couldn't bear to get into bed with the creative class, who are doing nothing else, most of the time. What a mess.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

but this comes awfully close:

The right would be demanding that the left disown an act even a fraction as violent. If the left has a single piece of wit about it, it would be to goad the moderates into demanding a denunciation, not only of the act, but of Palin's crosshairs, and SarahPac. The left should say "This is Terrorism!" because, in fact, it is terrorism.

If Palin's crosshairs and Sarahpac (based on the crosshairs?) are terrorism, then most all of our ordinary conversation is terrorism. One could certainly make a case that that the violence inherent in our ordinary conversation differs little from the language of terrorism, but in that case Palin's hardly a singular example.

What people are reacting to, I'm guessing, is that Stirling's post seems to taking advantage of a tragic situation to make a political point, via Sarah Palin, which may be much more loosely related to his larger point than it really is. In general, we reject this pretty much out of hand when the right does it, or Obama. I was genuinely surprised to read him doing it while at the same time making a distinction between right and left. The rejection on this thread seems to be to the via Palin part rather than against his point as a whole. And while it may not be correct to say that Stirling wrote this equation: Palin targets = Giffords assassination attempt, the Palin targets are the only picture attached to the post, she is the only person referenced in relation to right-wing violence, and she and her pac are the only ones attached to his claim that “This is terrorism.”

I'm not sure the fact that the Ds don't have the skills and cultural markers means squat. Ds don't have the skills and markers to the same extent, perhaps, but the question is not who has the greater gun culture (for instance) but whether the Ds have sufficient gun culture to produce the small number needed to create would-be assassins or people capable of lesser but still intimidating and silencing violence. For the latter, we have pretty good evidence of harassment from 2008. Actually shooting someone is a distinct section of a violence continuum, but it's still a continuum. The power of a small group to invoke fear and influence behavior by a very small group is a fundamental of terrorism (as opposed to “war”, although we could debate that point too). And while I too doubt that my “blood in the streets” example would have actually come to pass, that's only because the people making those threats mostly came from the D subsector that is too comfortable and privileged to risk the consequences of actual violence for a political cause (sports riots, on the other hand, are another matter entirely).

I could almost make an equivalent connection to male violence against women as the targetpic to assassination of a Democrat. Giffords is a Democrat and the shooter is apparently right-wing. Giffords is also a woman and the shooter is a man. Giffords is a woman of some power and the shooter is a man of (apparently) little power. Goodness knows there are a million optics more offensive and powerful than the targets of male-to-female violence around, we're swimming in them. The whole situation is just as likely to be gender terrorism as political terrorism.

As for the anti-abortion murder example, there's not many with clean hands there, eh? Even I don't think holding anti-abortion views is the same thing as facilitating, encouraging, or advocating murder.

The thing is, I agree with much of what I understand Stirling is saying. The right has claimed an admired cultural tradition – revolutionary action – and leveraged the enormous fear and rage in this country of the have-nots, and twisted it to serve furtherance of the oppressive regime rather than displacing it. And along the way, they are steadily normalizing even more violent conversation than is already normal in our violent culture. The trend won't be reversed until and unless some group takes a stand in rejection. But I'm really not sure the targetpic or even Palinpac is the most representative example of that.

Anyway, I'm obviously not equipped for violent acts either. Not that I don't have stray thoughts on occasion...

Submitted by lambert on

If ACLA's web site was an incitement to violence*, then Palin's crosshairs were too. I don't see a way to distinguish the cases. Do you? Typically, I would argue, "gender terrorism" is not incited by women, though I'm willing to be educated on the point. If I'm correct, then normalizing violence is happening right here on this thread, and from Palin's defenders, too.

I do agree (see my Summing Up comment below) that the connection to Palin is "loose" (yes, not direct). It would have been better to have more examples, which exist. However, Giffords/Palin is the news hook, and rightly so, in my opinion. One cannot decry normalizing violence on the one hand, and not decry Palin's crosshairs on the other!

* * *

I think we're agreed on the state of the discourse and the right. Thing is, violence in retaliation is, I think, exactly what the powers that be would like from the left; they want to deke us into it, because that, they know how to deal with. And the moderates would sell us (as "extremists") down the river in a heartbeat, just as they do on everything else.

NOTE * I'm not claiming that anti-abortions per se are an incitement to violence, since apparently that was not clear.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

were ok? Or justifiable? I don't see anyone making that argument.

WHO is arguing that the targetpics AREN'T part of the larger culture of violence (whether the general culture or Stirling's revolutionary reactionism)?

WHO is arguing that targetpics of doctors who perform abortions were not ok while Palin's pic was?

The only thing I see which even comes close is scoutt's link to all the Democratic-generated target pics with the comment (which I took for sarcasm) that maybe those graphics prompted the shooter.

And just for the people who might not click through to the link, here's the ACLA site:

the late 1990s, an organization called American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA) was accused of implicitly advocating violence by its publication on its "Nuremberg Files" website of wanted-style posters, which featured a photograph of a physician who performed abortions along with a monetary reward for any information that would lead to his "arrest, conviction and revocation of license to practice medicine".[41] The ACLA's website described these physicians as war criminals[42] and accused them of committing “crimes against humanity” The web site also published names, home addresses, telephone numbers, and other personal information regarding abortion providers – highlighting the names of those who had been wounded and striking out those of who had been killed. Dr. George Tiller's name was included on this list along with many others. The site was accused of being a thinly-veiled hit list intended to incite violence; others claimed that it was protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution

The ACLA clearly did a lot more than Palin (and again, the Democratic leadership) did, although it's definitely of the same genre.

And again, the only reason every knows about Palin's target pic is because it's Palin. Who besides the right was upset when Democrats posted their own crosshairs pics (oh, excuse me, bullseyes) before Palin posted hers?

I'm quickly losing the various comments and replies, but on your Summary comment, yes, scoutt overstated the case that "Nobody on the left was outraged" by the very abbreviated list is incorrect. My references to similar failure of action or rhetoric was aimed at the general "left" and not every single member. I should have been more clear. But since much of the left failed to object, or was in fact perpetrating and cheering on violent rhetoric against Clinton, Palin, and a number of other female politicians, plus we have the recent retreads by much of the left on the Assange allegations, the overall point still stands -- rhetorical violence seems to be a dominant concern in some cases yet not in others, in a noncoincidental way. Again, but much of the left.

Also noncoincidental is the failure of much of the left to even mention the damage to reproductive rights unless the origin is the right wing; I seem to remember pretty little outrage, for instance, from the visible left when the Democrats shoved reproductive rights under the rug for the convention, or when Obama signed the Stupak-satisfying EO. Much of the left has a lot to answer for before they start throwing stones at other people's glass houses.

Submitted by lambert on

I would like the cases ACLA and the Palin cross-hairs distinguished.* Once more:

Why, if it's OK for Palin to name a political opponent who is also a woman, Gifford, and put her in crosshairs, was it not also OK for pro-lifers to name George Tiller and other doctors providing women with abortion services, while highlighting the names of those who had been wounded and striking out those of who had been killed. Distinguish the two cases, please.

I think that's a prima facie case that the Palin crosshairs and the ACLA crossing out are the same from the standpoint of incitement*. Here's one WHO -- at least by omission; as I say, a lot of the Palin apologias are unlinked hit-and-run comments, so it's hard to tell what point is being made.

So, until you distinguish the cases, I'm very much afraid that the "WHO" is you. A simle test:

Assassination and violence is a complex thing, and we know next to nothing about this shooter. Palin's ACLA's graphic is offensive, yes, but not really any more offensive than a 1000 violent images we plod through every day. And to imply a cause and effect relationship in this one case with only that as an example is not only crap, but distracts from the main point of the post, with which I otherwise mostly agree.

Already today I've read an easy dozen blogs making either the implicit or explicit connection between the target ACLA visual and the shooting. And I think it's more than just the rush to update ourselves on breaking news (h/t Lambert), but a rush to find simplistic answers, bias-confirming and ultimately reassuring answers. If only Palin ACLA wouldn't have put little targets on her website! This would never have happened!* [Deleting material on OFB "creative class" classism]

In addition, most of the Palin -- dare I say it -- apologists on this thread, though not precise about about they are defending Palin from, are most likely reacting to the Palin crosshairs, since that's the dominant imagery on the D/"progressive" side right now. Nothing to see here!

NOTE * Not, as a prophylactic, in terms of direct causation, but in terms of normalizing a discourse of violence.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

so why need I be the one to distinguish two cases which I'm not arguing are distinguishable?:

The ACLA clearly did a lot more than Palin (and again, the Democratic leadership) did, although it's definitely of the same genre.

What I'm questioning is the singling out of Palin for what is evidently a quite common practice across the political spectrum (as truncated as it is) and then associating it with a fatal shooting and terrorism. Why not call out the Democratic leadership as terrorists?

As far as I'm concerned, no one should be painting little targets on anyone's heads, not Palin, not on Palin, not on politicians D or R, not on doctors, not on clinic workers, not on anyone.

If Stirling's point is that the right is exploiting an appeal to revolutionary tradition, which moderates should be goaded into condemning, then how does focusing on an offensive but unexceptional violent usage serve to distinguish right-wing violence from any other type?

The key to Stirling's argument does relate to Palin, but not to her or others' targetpics:

In doing so, the right wing creates a dislocated, poor, populist front, which is a revolutionary class, in favor of a right wing revolution. Palin's embrace of this front is not coincidental, her record of governance shows that she is that creature that is constantly erased from historiography, and sociology, because it is inconvenient: the right wing socialist.

I'd go further than "inconvenient" to "unthinkable"; the erasure is fueled by the left's own attachment to the idea that they have an exclusive claim on populism. To admit otherwise simply destroys their own mythology and legitimacy. It's the populist rage which the right is harnessing which distinguishes Palin and the right's current violence-contributing rhetoric from the general movie-scenario type Stirling identifies. That's the part moderates and the left need to understand. Singling out the targetpics when Palin does it (or calling it terrorism) doesn't advance that understanding at all.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

This argument holds no water whatsoever.

Democrats "targeting" Republicans is hardly similar because there is no similar context within the Democratic party or elements thereof to tacitly condon either an armed citizenry, or "taking the law" into their own hands. There is no recent history of political violence, while there is plenty on the RW side (as Basement Angel documented). There is no Dem party equivalent to either the concealed carry movement (not Dem, and one of Stirling's points), nor the militia movement (not-Dem, my point), nor the anti-abortion movement (one of everybody's points), nor the anti-immigrant/border control movement (one of my points). Nor is there any eliminationist movement, or description of the RW as "Anti-American", there is no talk of "Second Amendment" solutions as Giffords last opponent brought up. Have any of these "trageted" Republicans received death threats from "left wingers"? Had guns dropped at their events?

Sorry, Palin has positioned herself as the leader of the reactionary, revolutionary, and menacingly violent faction of the Republican party. She has been dog-whistling them. These elements have a history of political violence. When elements of that element "go rogue", she can't avoid her portion of responsibility. Well, she probably can from the talking heads on teebee, but not from me, and I would have hoped not from anybody on Corrente.

Yes, yes, "Dems bad", but let's not reach for false equivalence. Obama is a fully-owned corporate stooge, Palin has basically sought to lead the thug alternative, and a wink and a nod to that crowd has so far been her most successful schtick.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

Stirling pointed out any of the many contextual points you just did, I would not have even commented.

Submitted by lambert on

See Stirling's post:

This is not an isolated incident. Napolitano was the target of a mail attack earlier this week.

I missed that the first time, and shouldn't have. Another incident is Raul Grijalva.

Looking back on the thread, the "Don't blame Palin" posts look a lot like derailment, to me. I shouldn't have fallen for the bait. My bad.

* * *

Fine, a dozen blogs are doing it. Stirling didn't, I didn't. And the other blogs are never cited to. I made a classic moderator's error of giving general proffers, addressed to the air, and without linky goodness, credence instead of calling bullshit on them, on that ground, immediately. (The comments about "the left," here, were also bullshit, and I should have done better on that. Ditto the false equivalence on violent rhetoric between both legacy parties. I tried to clean out the Augean stables on that one elsewhere, and I have no time to invest in that here. The link offered as "evidently" proof of general practice has already been addressed; it's bullshit too. Quelle surprise.)

A good thread nevertheless, but "Look! Over there! Sarah Palin!" seems to be a tactic now universally used.

Submitted by lambert on

... on a political opponent who later gets shot is going to face, at a minimum, a public relations nightmare, and rightly so. If pointing out that rather obvious fact, and its political implications ("... If the Democrats have any sense...."), be "blaming Palin," then so be it.

Whether the shooting itself (as opposed to the above, which is meta) is the equivalent of shooting Rabin -- that is, done for conscious and mainstreamed ideological reasons to affect public policy -- remains to be seen; based on the (alleged) shooters YouTube's and reading list, and assuming them not to be disinformation*, I don't think so.

NOTE * Like all the "lone gunmen" in the 60s somehow mysteriously left diaries for the FBI to discover.

UPDATE Background on the (alleged) shooter.

votermom's picture
Submitted by votermom on

The danger of blaming the opposition for this is that it gives the admin a perfect excuse to institute draconian police-state measures.
Shock Doctrine.
This happened in my home country way back. Someone exploded a molotov at an incumbent's rally and the next thing you know it was martial law.
If you look at who the admin is fronting -- banksters -- I think they would love the excuse to crack down more.

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