Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Planting a Future

As you've probably heard, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head 2 days ago while holding a meet-the-public event. She's in critical condition, and several other people were shot, some killed, by the would-be assassin. American politics, with rare exception, is not one in which political figures are killed. Like with media stars, most of the danger comes from being prominent. The Tea Party, a strange institution for America's far-right that's somehow manage to energise some suburbanites, has paired with its sponsor FoxNews to push an alternate-news bubble detached from the mainstream. This Tea Party is anti-discussion, very nationalist, and historically revisionist. Some of their imagery is militaristic - Sarah Palin ran an advert that used bullseyes to denote candidates they'd like to defeat and has often used hunting metaphors for elections. Some talk radio hosts, going much further, have suggested "second amendment solutions" and secession.

Question: Is Sarah Palin or the Tea Party at fault for this would-be assassination?

My answer is no. Failures of political dialogue are a major problem, and there does seem to be a deliberate attempt to end productive political dialogue through use of dehuanisation, boogeymen, and the like. It's worth noting that this has not traditionally been a right-wing-only set of methods - portions of the far left have done it continually (how I long for a serious and honest socialist party in the US that's not crazy) - it's just FoxNews is willing to spotlight people (like Beck) that are as off as Alex Jones that makes this a major problem. Still, whatever this militaristic imagery and misinformation is doing to our society, it has not produced organised, sane-but-misinformed people using violence. We do need to address the problem if we want our democracy to better function, but lone disturbed individuals occur at some rate independent of political climate - unless some combination of social work, police, and other mental services can prevent it, tragedies like this will likely occur at some rate. Sometimes there isn't a big, tacklable reason for tragedy, as much as we'd like to think we can understand and adapt to anything terrible. As negative a force Palin is in our politics, the target metaphors and gun talk are not a call to do acts like this. The similarity is unfortunate, not damning. (In the heat of politics, many people use these metaphors for fun - we'd all like to be a hero for the right side - our side)

I disagree with PZ Myers on this issue - a probably-lone disturbed fellow with no clear ideological ties is not a subculture. We don't have groups proudly claiming responsibility for the act like some countries do. This is not have Tea Partiers act - as I noted in an online forum, I've counterprotested Tea Party protests, and I got a mix of scowls, good conversations, and a few people yelling at me. If an out socialist can do that in the middle of their events, the rest of the nation has little to fear in terms of direct violence.

Also political:

  • I liked Elvin Lim's analysis of the House reading of the US Constitution. I'm not sure it's entirely correct - many of the listed programs were not in fact creations of the executive, even if the President pushed congress to adopt them. The recent insurance reforms were created by congress (calling them Obamacare is weird); the self-restraint by congress claimed by the current session is real and has some of the problems Lim notes, but he exaggerates how it affects balance of powers.
  • Analysis of Hamid Karzai's political dances
  • Basque separatists declare permanent ceasefire. Is this the beginnings of a new Belfast Agreement?

I found this site visualising deletion discussions on Wikipedia to be really neat. They went back pretty far - I found the 18th nomination for an article on a troll group (which I nominated for deletion once).

Just had a family member die - although there's a specific cause, it's fair to say that he died of old age. He's been a big part of my life for almost the whole thing - sad to see him go. I've often heard a general consensus among family members that I most resemble him in personality.


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