Monday, January 10, 2011

Hate, Hypocrisy, and the New YorkTimes

Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times today, deploring
the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

And he has no doubts about the source of the problem:

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right.

It is true, of course, that the far (revolutionary) left, no less than the (actually) fascist right also believes and argues explicitly that the state is the enemy of the people and needs to be overthrown, but it has had little success and marxists at least have consistently opposed individual terrorism of the kind that occurred in Arizona and at Fort Hood.

But there is another aspect to the "climate of hate" that Krugman ignores. In the current efforts of both sides to forestall rational argument,

1) blood libels against political figures and movements of the other side (aka playing the hate card--think of the vitriolic and violent opposition to Prop. 8 in California or the way the NYT's Frank Rich vilified the mild, liberal, but pro-marriage David Blankenhorn) and

2) hypocrisy and self-righteousness
are overwhelmingly the tactics of liberal pundits and media.

As Glenn Harlan Reynolds puts it, in his piece on "The Arizona Tragedy and the Politics of Blood Libel":
Those who purport to care about the tenor of political discourse don't help civil debate when they seize on any pretext to call their political opponents accomplices to murder.

Klein, Reynolds, and John McCormack all make good points along these lines:

A Study in Contrasts: NYT on Ft. Hood and Arizona Shootings
By Philip Klein on 1.10.11

In the wake of the Fort Hood massacre in November 2009, the editorial board of the NEW YORK TIMES urged:

In the aftermath of this unforgivable attack, it will be important to avoid drawing prejudicial conclusions from the fact that Major Hasan is an American Muslim whose parents came from the Middle East.

President Obama was right when he told Americans, “we don’t know all the answers yet” and cautioned everyone against “jumping to conclusions.”

Unverified reports, some from his family members, suggest that Major Hasan complained of harassment by fellow soldiers for being a Muslim, that he hoped to get out of a deployment to Afghanistan, that he sought a discharge from the Army and that he opposed the American military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. There were reports that some soldiers said they had heard him shout “God is Great” in Arabic before he started firing. But until investigations are complete, no one can begin to imagine what could possibly have motivated this latest appalling rampage.

There may never be an explanation. And, certainly, there can never be a justification.
For now, all that can be said is that our hearts go out to the families of the 12 soldiers and one civilian killed. And we are hoping for the fast recovery of all those who were wounded, including Kimberly Munley, a civilian police officer stationed at the base, who shot Major Hasan and ended the killing.

Yet for some reason, that sense of caution was strangely absent in today's editorial on the tragic shooting in Arizona:

It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.

That whirlwind has touched down most forcefully in Arizona, which Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik described after the shooting as the capital of “the anger, the hatred and the bigotry that goes on in this country.” Anti-immigrant sentiment in the state, firmly opposed by Ms. Giffords, has reached the point where Latino studies programs that advocate ethnic solidarity have actually been made illegal.

Its gun laws are among the most lenient, allowing even a disturbed man like Mr. Loughner to buy a pistol and carry it concealed without a special permit. That was before the Tucson rampage. Now, having seen first hand the horror of political violence, Arizona should lead the nation in quieting the voices of intolerance, demanding an end to the temptations of bloodshed, and imposing sensible controls on its instruments.

Philip Klein is The American Spectator's Washington correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter at:


Paul "Hang Joe Lieberman in Effigy" Krugman Blames Tucson Shooting on Rise of "Eliminationist Rhetoric"
9:21 AM, Jan 10, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK

Paul Krugman writes on the Arizona shooting in his New York Times column today:
it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

Yes, this is the same Paul Krugman who "joked" in his New York Times column:
"A message to progressives: By all means, hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy."
What makes that "eliminationist rhetoric" even better is the fact that effigies of political figures were burned at Krugman's election night party in 2008, as the New Yorker reported. Talk about a "climate of hate."

"If Arizona promotes some real soul-searching, it could prove a turning point," Krugman concludes his column today. "If it doesn’t, Saturday’s atrocity will be just the beginning."
Krugman provides no evidence that "toxic" rhetoric played a role in Saturday's shooting, but if it's soul-searching Krugman demands, perhaps he should start with his own soul.

Retrieved January 10, 2011 from


[The term "blood libel," also used recently by Sarah Palin, is unfortunate. The term refers historically to the accusation that Jews murder Christian children to make Matzot for passover, or for other purposes. The accusation of complicity in murder made against Tea Partiers or Palin is unjustified but different in kind. Still, the term has become common English usage for a false accusation--especially of complicity in unjustified killing--made for propaganda purposes. In any case, Reynolds has a point. PA]

The Arizona Tragedy and the Politics of Blood Libel

Those who purport to care about the tenor of political discourse don't help civil debate when they seize on any pretext to call their political opponents accomplices to murder.


Shortly after November's electoral defeat for the Democrats, pollster Mark Penn appeared on Chris Matthews's TV show and remarked that what President Obama needed to reconnect with the American people was another Oklahoma City bombing. To judge from the reaction to Saturday's tragic shootings in Arizona, many on the left (and in the press) agree, and for a while hoped that Jared Lee Loughner's killing spree might fill the bill.

With only the barest outline of events available, pundits and reporters seemed to agree that the massacre had to be the fault of the tea party movement in general, and of Sarah Palin in particular. Why? Because they had created, in New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's words, a "climate of hate."

The critics were a bit short on particulars as to what that meant. Mrs. Palin has used some martial metaphors—"lock and load"—and talked about "targeting" opponents. But as media writer Howard Kurtz noted in The Daily Beast, such metaphors are common in politics. Palin critic Markos Moulitsas, on his Daily Kos blog, had even included Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's district on a list of congressional districts "bullseyed" for primary challenges. When Democrats use language like this—or even harsher language like Mr. Obama's famous remark, in Philadelphia during the 2008 campaign, "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun"—it's just evidence of high spirits, apparently. But if Republicans do it, it somehow creates a climate of hate.

There's a climate of hate out there, all right, but it doesn't derive from the innocuous use of political clichés. And former Gov. Palin and the tea party movement are more the targets than the source.

American journalists know how to be exquisitely sensitive when they want to be. As the Washington Examiner's Byron York pointed out on Sunday, after Major Nidal Hasan shot up Fort Hood while shouting "Allahu Akhbar!" the press was full of cautions about not drawing premature conclusions about a connection to Islamist terrorism. "Where," asked Mr. York, "was that caution after the shootings in Arizona?"

Set aside as inconvenient, apparently. There was no waiting for the facts on Saturday. Likewise, last May New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and CBS anchor Katie Couric speculated, without any evidence, that the Times Square bomber might be a tea partier upset with the ObamaCare bill.
So as the usual talking heads begin their "have you no decency?" routine aimed at talk radio and Republican politicians, perhaps we should turn the question around. Where is the decency in blood libel?

To paraphrase Justice Cardozo ("proof of negligence in the air, so to speak, will not do"), there is no such thing as responsibility in the air. Those who try to connect Sarah Palin and other political figures with whom they disagree to the shootings in Arizona use attacks on "rhetoric" and a "climate of hate" to obscure their own dishonesty in trying to imply responsibility where none exists. But the dishonesty remains.

To be clear, if you're using this event to criticize the "rhetoric" of Mrs. Palin or others with whom you disagree, then you're either: (a) asserting a connection between the "rhetoric" and the shooting, which based on evidence to date would be what we call a vicious lie; or (b) you're not, in which case you're just seizing on a tragedy to try to score unrelated political points, which is contemptible. Which is it?

I understand the desperation that Democrats must feel after taking a historic beating in the midterm elections and seeing the popularity of ObamaCare plummet while voters flee the party in droves. But those who purport to care about the health of our political community demonstrate precious little actual concern for America's political well-being when they seize on any pretext, however flimsy, to call their political opponents accomplices to murder.

Where is the decency in that?

Retrieved January 10, 2011 from

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