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« McNeill Smith RIP | Main | Under a bushel »

Jan 16, 2011


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Very nice.

If only he would...


One of the best pieces I have read by Ed Cone.

Congrats and thanks for putting it out there.

greensboro transplant

So, ed would double down on the bogus incendiary speech claim? Even when he's been proven wrong, he still asserts he's right.

Just so you know ed, your rigidity and you're inability to yield to facts is one of the major complaints i've heard about your blog.

every time this happens there are two things that usually occur. One is that you lose credibility with fair minded people. (i'll point out the other if it happens.)

Ed Cone


My original post said that crazy people don't need external stimulus to do horrible things. The column says "the shooter was a nut and not motivated by the ad [Giffords] complained about."

What I said, and repeated in the column, was that the shooting of a woman who had spoken out about the rhetorical climate was a reasonable cue to consider that climate. Which I believe to be true.

I believe what I said about making up stories about Obama, too. The climate of otherism is a real problem.

A lot of people reacted to my post as if I had just repeated one of the two rigidly-defined talking points out there in pundit land. But there's a lot going on outside those media-industry boxes.

sean coon

great column, ed. top to bottom.

greensboro transplant


"the shooting of a woman who had spoken out about the rhetorical climate "

is coincidental.
is sadly ironic.
is a tragedy.

but it is not related to the climate she spoke about.

It's one thing to decry the climate, but to associate the climate with talk radio, sarah palin, and the tea party is to paint these groups as the other. you advance the mindset you rightfully see as a problem.


So we should ignore the coincidence because it's instructive of absolutely nothing. Got it. This applies to every coincidence, ever.

Great column.

greensboro transplant

ed (or dan or anyone else),

it isn't that there aren't lessons to be learned. it's that the lesson is not that the political right is inciting violence.

if the gunman had been a muslim would the shooting still be a cue to discuss the political climate? how about if the shooter had been a convicted sex offender angry at sex offender registration laws? how about if shooter was in the country illegally?

of course not. in any of the these scenarios, a discussion about the political climate would have been as silly as this one.

bottom line. the only reason for linking it is to attempt to gain political advantage and to demonize the other.

sean coon

political advantage? anyone who's going to vote for palin or tea partiers is going to do so regardless of what *any* liberal type feels about the tone of discourse in this nation and where this shooting fits into the scene. if anything, such discussions will have those people digging in even deeper and doubling down their efforts to win elections.

bottom line: quit whining for political gain.

Ed Cone

Discussion of the rhetorical climate was inevitable in the wake of Giffords' shooting, no matter who shot her or for what reason.

In fact, that conversation has been happening and is ongoing, so saying "false alarm, unrelated nutjob occurrence, no need to talk about this now" is a non-starter.

How we talk about it matters a lot. There's a tendency to get defensive and make assumptions and talk past each other. That's what the cable nets are for, we can do better here, can't we?

Andrew Brod

GT is rapidly moving into Methinks He Doth Protest Too Much territory. If this can't be made to look like a flowchart with Sarah Palin on one end and Jason Loughner on the other, then conservatives believe the entire discussion is off-base.

But American culture often turns its attention to new issues in ways that have no resemblance to a nice tidy flowchart. And sometimes much more is done than mere talk. 9/11 had us all thinking about Muslim terrorism, as was natural. In response we attacked Iraq, which made no sense. There was no flowchart with Saddam Hussein on one end and the 9/11 hijackers on the other. But the war was just fine with conservatives.

It's not just that issues pop up on the public's radar is odd ways; often the debate proceeds nonlinearly. Ryan White's AIDS had nothing to do with homosexuality, but it led to greater public sympathy for AIDS in the gay community.

Sometimes it's not public discourse that meanders nonlinearly. It still strikes me as bizarre that the Whitewater investigation ended up pursuing a president about his adultery. But again, conservatives were okay with that.

Yes, these examples are, um, a bit diverse. These just came off the top of my head; maybe there are better ones. But their diversity is kinda the point. Expecting the public conversation to be as neat and tidy as GT is demanding is a fool's errand. And now that the public conversation has moved in the way it has, people like GT are starting to sound like cranks. He (he?) might as well order the tide not to come in.

The fact is that a Congresswoman (and a federal judge and others) was shot at a time when many people had concerns that the political rhetoric had become overheated. As I've noted, it's not the violent imagery that's problematic; it's the apocalyptic language, the talk of tyranny, the Other-ization of one's enemies. The events in Tucson triggered a conversation that's far from unprecedented and far from unreasonable.

One response might be to join the effort to improve political rhetoric emanating from both sides of the aisle. Another would be the crank approach.


"This applies to every coincidence, ever."

It only applies to the ones that are demonstrably false, such as the particular incident under discussion.

However, as well established from countless occasions on this blog, certain people of a certain "progressive" bent never let something like that stop them from their usual pious pontification in their hurried rush to claim the non-entitled moral high ground.

greensboro transplant

andrew & ed,

i'd just like thoughtful people on the left to ask themselves why so many people were so quick to assume the guy was a tea party type, and why so many people assigned blame to palin, limbaugh, etc without one fact or piece of evidence pointing that way. what does this say about their thoughts and their opinions?

how can you see the tea-party crowd as "other-izing" opposition and not see that the same thing happening on the left?

conversations do morph in odd ways. we'd all be much better off if the conversation about islamic terrorism had not been confused with what to do about an evil dictator.

that's my part of my point here i guess. i think it'd be better if these issues didn't get similarly confused. so we don't let a tragedy used for partisan purposes like limiting free speech.


It's a stretch to say the language of either party would incite violence, but it's not a stretch to say that neither does enough to condemn incendiary and violent language of others for fear of losing votes. Acquiescence through silence is just as troubling.

Ed Cone

I think the fact that Giffords had complained about Palin's ad made that ad an inevitable topic of conversation. That doesn't make it right to jump to conclusions about a causal link, but it does explain the connection.

If demonizing people and groups is wrong, if violent rhetoric and otherism are wrong, then they're wrong for all parties. The goal is for all of us to aspire to a higher standard.


GT, I only speak for myself, but it seems reasonable that people who lack the controls and inhibitions that keep most of us from running amok might easily be inspired by or comforted by or encouraged by successful and seemingly enviable public figures who paint the world in "Us or Them" colors, particularly when their "Them" coincides with someone's persecution fantasies.

That does not mean there is, necessarily, a cause-and-effect relationship. It does mean that painting some people as The Other, as a threat, can define a specific target for the fears and animosities of the irrational among us.

That is, whatver your political persuasion, if you keep telling people that the other side is evil and bent on bringing on the apocalypse, eventually someone will do something about it.

sean coon

i just read about the rush limbaugh / clear channel / newstalk790 billboard that was removed yesterday. can we all agree that such metaphors do nothing but add the type of Other-izing negativity we speak of to our communities?

note to all knees jerking:

1) i did not attack rush limbaugh
2) i read the part where he didn't give the explicit go ahead on the radio station's billboard

the reality of the situation is that when one's corporate image and/or name is used so freely in an advertisement, either the client (or in this case, the syndicated talent) provided an explicit degree of leeway that wasn't taken into account in the creative process (making the marketer completely liable for misrepresenting the brand) or there were loose or no guidelines to speak of.

we'll never know if EIB didn't clearly communicate such guidelines to clear channel or if clear channel failed to provide proper guidelines to the radio station. all i know is that i've worked in and around marketing long enough to know that process and it's completely unprofessional to not have guidelines in play -- it's "anti" conservative, business behavior.

so there's "free" speech at play.

my question is: why was the billboard taken down if it's not an example of the communication that us "progress wanting people" find to be reprehensible?

did the radio station remove it because of short-term pressures to their brand in the national spotlight? (most arizonians seem damn happy to have concealed weapons without permits, so i'd bet the majority of folks in that market didn't care about the billboard)


is the station acquiescing, even agreeing to the notion that when one promotes a conservative talk show host -- particularly one who's famously known for ranting and raving about any and every perceived liberal action in the universe -- with a tag of "straight shooter" alongside an antithetical visual representation of a non-straight shooting spray of bullet holes, there's a very good chance that people might take it in a way that isn't... christian-like?

as a cynic, i highly doubt the latter came into play. if it did, it probably only factored into the former's rationale for the short-term and wouldn't stop the same people from producing similar messaging going forth if they felt it spoke to their target (pun not intended) audience.

did i ever mention how much i hated advertising and it's machinations?

Andrew Brod

GT: i'd just like thoughtful people on the left to ask themselves why so many people were so quick to assume the guy was a tea party type, and why so many people assigned blame to palin, limbaugh, etc without one fact or piece of evidence pointing that way. what does this say about their thoughts and their opinions?

It says that people on the left are humans, and humans--both liberals and conservatives--often jump to conclusions too quickly. We look for meaning even when there's no tidy flowchart.

But while the absence of a flowchart exonerates Sarah Palin or Sean Hannity or whoever, it doesn't imply that there's no meaning in this. Hence the conversation about how we converse.

GT again: how can you see the tea-party crowd as "other-izing" opposition and not see that the same thing happening on the left?

Because the same thing isn't happening on the left. Yes, liberals make fun of the Tea Party (for example, Bill Maher calls them tea-baggers), but that's part of the tough politics that conservatives have defended vigorously since January 8. Both sides ridicule each other. There's a well-established habit on the Right to characterize liberalism as limp-wristed and unmanly. All's fair.

What wouldn't be fair would be liberal insistence that, say, John Boehner is really a Communist whose goal is to destroy America, or that extending tax cuts for the rich will lead to literal enslavement. But you don't hear that coming from the Left these days. Those are the types of things coming from the Right. To be sure, reasonable people can disagree about the effects of such language. But that's the conversation we're having, and the conversation that some feel we shouldn't have.

Will Tax For Food

Keep espousing your higher standards, Ed. You a good man for it. Sadly, nothing good will come until politicians can be found holding signs that read... Well, you know...


"i'd just like thoughtful people on the left to ask themselves why so many people were so quick to assume the guy was a tea party type, and why so many people assigned blame to palin, limbaugh, etc without one fact or piece of evidence pointing that way."

It's just Standard Operating Procedure, as are the pious pontifications we see in these comments.


At the risk of letting the fox in among us chickens, while temperate discussion of our fall into intemperate discussion is long overdue, the villain of the piece is how and why we let Loughner acquire the gun and the ammo he used on his rampage.

Dogmatic attitudes on both sides -- no guns at all versus guns for all no matter what -- stand in the way of rational people discussing this issue rationally.

We like to honor those who gave their lives to defend this nation, yet more Americans were killed by guns between 1979 and 1997 than in all of our foreign wars since the revolution. About 30,000 of us are killed each year by guns. Is that the price of defending an absolutist interpretation of the Second Amendment?

sean coon

why states should be able to set their own gun laws is beyond me. one nugget of information i've discovered because of this tragedy is that arizona residents don't even need to have permits for concealed weapons. that seems backwards on every level post 19th century american civilization.

greensboro transplant

"What wouldn't be fair would be liberal insistence that, say, John Boehner is really a Communist whose goal is to destroy America,"

but it's fair to assert that conservatives want to see people combing through dumps for their food.

Andrew you're a bright guy. but you need to open your eyes. there are plenty on kos, msnbc, huff post, etc that are guilty of what you say the conservatives alone are guilty of.

just curious, what conservative news sources do you follow?

Andrew Brod

And GT, it'd be great if you could stop missing the point. I'm not talking about whether this liberal pundit or that liberal analyst is saying mean things about conservatives. I'm sure they are.

The people I'm talking about are liberal political leaders, the counterparts to the Republican leaders who have used what I've described as apocalyptic language to characterize some fairly mundane garden-variety policy proposals (many of which were originated by Republicans!).

I realize that conservatives have trouble making the distinction between punditry and statesmanship. Given Fox News' role as the communications arm of the Republican party, who can blame you?

greensboro transplant


the "punditry" you referenced was a speech by a democratic congressman on the floor of the house. i take it you didn't bother to look at the clip before responding. (or maybe you just have trouble making the distinction)

i could show example, after example from congressmen and the formal and informal dem leadership. are you ignorant of their statements or do you just believe that what they say is true?

i can only assume by the fact you didn't answer my last question, that you limit your news sources to those that reaffirm your beliefs and do not challenge them.

FWIW, i don't watch fox news. i read, i listen to npr, and i do listen to some talk radio. i get a balance in my news and information, and most of my conservative friends do much the same.

Andrew Brod

Um, no. I didn't watch the clip because the link doesn't work.

But I see now how you garbled the link, and it's easy to ungarble it. So now I've watched it, and now I'm wondering if you watched it. It sounds pretty straightforward, and actually pretty accurate. But apparently you believe that claiming that children might go hungry as a result of ending emergency unemployment benefits is akin to claiming, say, that the president is not really an American.

And so I'll just back away slowly and avoid any sudden movements. Feel free to have the last word.

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