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Tools of Fear/Demonization/Tragedy in Tucson

After Tucson:

The Right-Wing Media Offensive

Conservative pundits have been quick to criticize as opportunistic the suggestion that Jared Lee Loughner, the accused shooter in the January 8 Tucson killing spree, might have been influenced by right-wing conspiracy theories or violent rhetoric. Conservative publications such as the National Review, Reason, and Human Events suggest Loughner's writings and videos are those of a madman, ignoring the pieces of text that reflect longstanding conspiracist claims. Some on the Right have gone on the counteroffensive, labeling Loughner a liberal. Sarah Palin claimed to be the target of a "blood libel."

The term "blood libel" describes a false antisemitic claim that Jews murder Gentile children and drain their blood for religious rituals. The conservative Washington Times rushed to defend Palin's use of the slur, while compounding its offensiveness by claiming that there is "an ongoing pogrom against conservative thinkers."  Congressional Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), the target of Loughner’s rampage, is Jewish, and Palin's choice of words has been challenged by Jewish organizations.

Let's cut through the hyperbole.  Perpetrators of violence make choices about their targets even if they suffer from a mental illness, as appears to be the case with Loughner. In recent years there has been a pattern of violence carried out by people with right-wing views.

Loughner has written that he could not "trust the current government," rejecting what he called the "current treasonous laws." He wrote of a "second United States Constitution," a term used by right-wing ideologues, from economic libertarians to White supremacists, to condemn the post-Civil War amendments that emancipated the slaves and granted citizenship to anyone born in the United States. Loughner also expressed concern about the value of U.S. currency compared to gold or silver---- another right-wing preoccupation. This doesn't mean that Loughner is a right-wing ideologue, but it may explain his choice of target.

Loughner's mental illness does not absolve right-wing pundits from moral culpability. For years, Palin, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and other right-wing spokespeople have demonized Democrats, liberals, leftists, and immigrants.  Many of the people who have committed acts of political violence since the election of President Barack Obama have feared the nation is on the brink of political, economic, or moral collapse, and lashed out at these targets.  

We at PRA are working hard to keep media coverage of the Tucson events focused and honest.  Here are some of the news stories that have incorporated our research and analysis:

 

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