Before I launch into a bit of a rant, for what little it’s worth, I’d like to offer my condolences to the families who lost loved ones and my best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to those wounded in the attack in Tucson Arizona last Saturday (1-8-2011).
For the last few days I have been reading and listening to “liberal” friends and media pundits shrilly denouncing all Republicans, “conservatives” and/or tea-party members as malevolent violence inciting demons who, I am given to understand, are almost entirely responsible for the horrific shootings that took place in Arizona on Saturday. Yes they had a minor assist in the crime from the apparently schizophrenic gunman Jared Lee Loughner but judging by some of the rhetoric emanating from the Left-wing of the country, the real perpetrators of this monstrous act of violence was, in descending order of responsibility: Sarah Palin, various wingnut talk show hosts and Republicans and tea-party people in general.
It is true that Loughner seems to be a deeply disturbed young man but apparently, according to many on the Left, he likely never would have contemplated violence, not even in his most fevered psychotic dreams, had not Sarah Palin used target symbols on a map of North America during the last election cycle; which for all we know Loughner never saw.
Yes, there can be no doubt whatsoever that young Loughner was nigh on brainwashed into doing violence by Palin and her tea-bagger minions and we know this based on… Well he shot a Democrat, and, ah, tea-baggers don’t like Democrats and many of them have engaged in overheated extremist rhetoric, with target thingies, therefore Loughner must be a tea-bagger.
That is sum total of evidence that I have seen presented for Loughner’s supposed tea-bagger motivations. The (apparent) primary target was a Democrat (Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) and some tea-party/Republicans have used extreme possibly violence inspiring rhetoric therefore any violence done to a Democrat must therefore have been perpetrated by someone sympathetic to the tea-party/Republicans and who was inspired by their rhetoric.
Of course slowly over the last few days details about Loughner have started to leak out that if not good evidence against his supposed tea-bagginess, at least seem not to fit the stereotype. This of course led to the equally ridiculous Right-wing backlash. According to some on the Right now Loughner is a “Marxist-loving, Hitler-loving, Bible-hating Atheist Doper ” and his atheism may have contributed to his motivation in some way.
This backlash caused some on the Left to finally start looking for evidence for what they already thought must be true (that Loughner is a tea-bagger). For example my estimable colleague in the fight against antievolutionists, P.Z. Myers, after having “guessed” on his blog Pharyngula that the perpetrator of the shooting would turn out to be a “Teabagger who listens to a lot of AM talk radio“, responded to the conservative backlash by posting a screen shot of what was purported to be Loughner’s voter registration, listing him as a Republican and asking sarcastically: “My eyes are getting a little old. Does it say “SOCIALIST” for political affiliation?”
When it was pointed out that this image was a hoax and that Loughner was in fact registered as an independent, PZ added an addendum noting that is was fake and saying: “I’m a little mystified about why anyone would forge a record like this, though.”
It seem pretty obvious to me why they did it. They faked this image for exactly the same reason PZ, based on zero evidence, “guessed” that the perpetrator would turn out to be a tea-bagger and for the same reason he uncritically posted the fake image in support of his earlier guess. They did it because they wanted to exploit this tragedy to score rhetorical points against their political rivals. The truth can be sorted out later.
That’s fine. PZ has every right to do such things. However it may tend to detract from his credibility when he wants to criticize Answers in Genesis the next time they imply (stupidly) that similar tragedies can ultimately be pinned on Charles Darwin and evolutionary theory, as they did with the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings.
However amongst all the anti-bagger wailing and gnashing of teeth, there were a couples of well known Left leaning pundits that commented on the tragedy whose responses I thought were spot on. First Jon Stewart:
Exactly right! Thank you Mr. Stewart.
Secondly with a shorter and more comedic take, Stephen Colbert:
Once again we have to depend on the “clowns” for reasoned, rational discourse…