Enough said

I don’t think there’s anything I can add to our national conversation over the recent acts of domestic terrorism in Arizona.  Our nation’s shock, disappointment, and pain is palpable and appropriate when something like this happens.  I just wanted to take a moment to point out that in all this mess some are still using it as a political tool rather than a learning experience.

This is an opportunity to take something horrific and talk to friends, family and even children about politics, values and violence.  And yet, some within the media are trying to turn this into a commentary on “the political climate” in this country.  I’ll be the first to say that I believe the bitterness in our political discourse is a major problem.  In fact, I started the Pickle in an effort to try to diffuse the overly emotional and piercing commentary that I’ve heard for many years from the Left and the Right.

At the same time, there’s no excuse for the same media outlets who promote and capitalize on this bitterness and “vitriol” day-to-day to turn around and blame bitterness in our politics for this type of violence.  It drives me crazy to see articles like this one from the New York Times, Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Vitriol in Politics.”

I’m not really saying that this hypocrisy is the fault of The Times.  While I rarely read their editorials, I do read columnists like Krugman, Friedman, and Brooks.  While Krugman’s agenda is clear, all are voices of sense and appropriateness in a chaotic media environment.  So, I’m using this article as a launching point to focus on a broader hypocrisy.

This is a major problem in our politics but you can’t have it both ways.  You cannot fuel the bitterness, drama, and borderline hatred in American politics Monday through Friday and then report on its devastating effects on Saturday.  It drives me crazy.

As I read the reactions and commentary on Saturday’s shooting, I’m looking for reasons just like everyone else.  First, I hope we rightly blame the correct source – Jared Loughner.  Second, I do sincerely hope that we use this as a wake up call for how we deal with each other and conduct our politics in this country.  Lastly, we should keep an eye on those sources who claim to be neutral yet feed on the very environment that they now condemn.  If threats and hyperbole from public officials are as truly dangerous and destructive as some in the media are now saying, we should refuse to re-air and hype the problem people and instead continue to support quality sources and issue-based stories.

I’m hesitant to call-out certain sources without conducting more research.  Yet, it is clear that many Americans feel on edge and have projected life-and-death seriousness on bureaucratic or legislative decisions that do not mark the end to either life or liberty.  Yes, I’ll agree that taxes, healthcare and even immigration have emotions running hot and point to serious trends in this country both socially and politically.   Many media outlets have capitalized on this seriousness and only increased viewers’ fear and anxiety.  Eventually people begin to crack, overreact, or re-evaluate.  Let’s hope from now on we have many more Americans re-thinking their sources than cracking up or overreacting.

Why am I not optimistic?

NOTE: As my wife found out the hard way last night, reading the comments section of any article surrounding this shooting is a recipe for frustration and disappointment.  So, even as I write the above posting wondering aloud about the opportunism of certain media outlets, I must admit that it may just be a reflection of the true feelings of the viewers.  Whose to blame – sheep or shepard? chicken or the egg?


One response to “Enough said

  1. Jeremy–great post. In addition to hypocrisy of the Times and just about every other mainstream media outlet, I think that the purported connection between this tragedy to the current hyperpartisan nature of political discourse is spurious at best. Trying to make the case that political rhetoric spurred Loughner to violence assumes a degree of mental stability and connection to reality that it seems unlikely this guy possessed (based on the few details that have come out in the press). For example, as much as I don’t like her, the suggestion that Palin’s “crosshairs map” had anything to do with the shooting is obnoxious–especially, as you say, coming from the very media sources that feed into this rhetoric. We’re talking about a severely disturbed 22-year old kid, and I think it’s dangerous territory to start drawing lines between this incident and the current political climate. The last thing we need is for this incident to provide more fodder for one side blaming the other.

    That said, I agree 100% that this can and should be a “wake-up call” to re-evaluate the state of politics in the US. I don’t think we need to make the claim that this particular act of violence was caused by political rhetoric for the incident to bring attention to the intransigence and anger fueling political discourse. You and I agree that it’s of the most pressing importance, but the conversation can only grow out of mutual recognition that the current state is broken, not out of a partisan blame game. Overly optimistic as always, but here’s hoping…

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