Last night Keith Olbermann gave a ‘special comment‘ on yesterday’s shooting in Arizona, connecting the violence in Arizona to the “ever-escalating, borderline-ecstatic invocation of violence in fact or in fantasy in our political discourse.”
“It is essential tonight not to demand revenge, but to demand justice; to insist not upon payback against those politicians and commentators who have so irresponsibly brought us to this time of domestic terrorism, but to work to change the minds of them and their supporters,” he said, before linking the shootings to Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party movement, among others.
If Sarah Palin, whose website put and today scrubbed bullseye targets on 20 Representatives including Gabby Giffords, does not repudiate her own part in amplifying violence and violent imagery in politics, she must be dismissed from politics – she must be repudiated by the members of her own party, and if they fail to do so, each one of them must be judged to have silently defended this tactic that today proved so awfully foretelling, and they must in turn be dismissed by the responsible members of their own party…
If the Tea Party leaders who took out of context a Jefferson quote about blood and tyranny and the tree of liberty do not understand – do not understand tonight, now what that really means, and these leaders do not tell their followers to abhor violence and all threat of violence, then those Tea Party leaders must be repudiated by the Republican Party…
If Glenn Beck, who obsesses nearly as strangely as Mr. Loughner did about gold and debt and who wistfully joked about killing Michael Moore, and Bill O’Reilly, who blithely repeated “Tiller the Killer” until the phrase was burned into the minds of his viewers, do not begin their next broadcasts with solemn apologies for ever turning to the death-fantasies and the dreams of bloodlust, for ever having provided just the oxygen to those deep in madness to whom violence is an acceptable solution, then those commentators and the others must be repudiated by their viewers, and by all politicians, and by sponsors, and by the networks that employ them.
So yes, I think a fairly expected reaction from Olbermann who has perfected the art of outrage. To his credit he also noted his own role: “Here, once, in a clumsy metaphor, I made such an unintended statement about the candidacy of then-Senator Clinton. It sounded as if it was a call to physical violence. It was wrong, then. It is even more wrong tonight. I apologise for it again.”
This is the beginning of what viewers can expect to be a week of ‘introspection’ as anchors and talking heads alike ‘discuss’ whether there was a connection between Gabrielle Giffords shooting and the frequently ratings-hungry, violent rhetoric you hear spouted on cable. And whose fault is it it has gotten so bad.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
While all signs point to yesterday’s shooting as being the lone act of a deranged gunman, it’s not secret that public discourse in this country in the past year has been, as Olbermann says, amplified by violent imagery. In the past month or so alone an alarming number of cable and political personalities have been casually calling for various people‘s assassination. To question why that is acceptable is a welcome, necessary discussion and should not have had to be brought about by yesterday’s tragedy.
However, to draw a direct line between excessively violent rhetoric of particular people — many of whom simply and irresponsibly have one eye on their ratings and/or struggling political campaigns and one eye on Google trends — and yesterday’s tragedy, especially based on the facts we have on hand, is I think almost as ill-conceived as the rhetoric Olbermann is talking about here.
Olbermann video below.
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