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Intro: "Let us grieve the slain and wounded in Tucson, and pray for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, targeted for assassination by a clearly unbalanced young man. Rep. Giffords was shot as she made herself available to citizens exercising the most basic of rights: 'to peaceably assemble' and petition their representative. The heinous act has generated a good debate about the connection between the rhetoric of violence and violence itself."

Flowers at the Arizona Capitol building commemorate the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, 01/11/11. (photo: Michael Reynolds)
Flowers at the Arizona Capitol building commemorate the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, 01/11/11. (photo: Michael Reynolds)



Hate Speech in Arizona

By Rev. Jesse Jackson, Reader Supported News

11 January 11



Petition: Congressional Action on Political Violence Advocacy


et us grieve the slain and wounded in Tucson, and pray for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, targeted for assassination by a clearly unbalanced young man. Rep. Giffords was shot as she made herself available to citizens exercising the most basic of rights: "to peaceably assemble" and petition their representative.

The heinous act has generated a good debate about the connection between the rhetoric of violence and violence itself. As we approach the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, this reminds me not just of Dr. King's assassination, but also of his response to the violence wreaked upon black citizens in the South seeking to assemble peaceably.

In Alabama, for example, Gov. George Wallace cynically fanned racist fires with his rhetoric and actions, denouncing outside agitators, calling on Alabamans to "stand up for segregation" and decrying the "frightful example of oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this state by ... the federal government."

Civil rights leaders warned that Wallace's rhetoric was like fuel poured upon the kindling of anger and fear caused by blacks demanding their rights. Three months after he stood in the door at the University of Alabama, a bomb planted by Klansmen at Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church killed four children. One day later, King stated the simple truth: "The governor said things and did things which caused these people to feel that they were aided and abetted by the highest officer in the state. The murders of yesterday stand as blood on the hands of Gov. Wallace."

It wasn't that Wallace condoned violence, and he surely did not want the lives of four little girls snuffed out. But King argued that you can't simply walk away from the consequences of your actions. Wallace's inflammatory rhetoric and reckless actions fanned the flames of anger and fear of the back-alley racists.

There is no evidence that Jared Loughner, the alleged gunman in Tucson, was a member of a right-wing hate group. He was clearly a young man whose mind was unraveling. But it is exactly the mentally unstable who are most likely to be influenced by an atmosphere filled with hate and murderous rhetoric.

In Arizona, the kindling was there. The economy has been hit hard by the financial collapse, with employment opportunities for young people particularly limited. With families losing jobs or homes, fear and depression are inevitable. Add to this a venomous, racially charged debate on immigration and health care reform, as well as some of the worst gun-control laws in the country.

Arizona's conservative governor and legislature made it legal for anyone over 21 to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. After an instant background check, Loughner was able to buy over the counter a semiautomatic Glock 9mm gun with a 30 bullet magazine.

As Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik stated, Arizona has become "a Mecca for prejudice and bigotry," a cauldron of Tea Party anger, right-wing hate groups and anti-immigrant posturing.

Giffords' life was threatened, her office vandalized. Her Tea Party Republican opponent had invited supporters to "remove her from office" and "shoot a fully automatic M16" with him at a campaign rally.

Giffords was demonized as a traitor, a communist, a fascist, a job killer. The congresswoman was distressed when Sarah Palin's PAC targeted her district by putting it in the crosshairs of a gun site on Palin's Web page. In next-door Nevada, Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle suggested that frustrated voters might have to take up "Second Amendment remedies."

Extreme statements are, as many have stated, as protected under the First Amendment as any speech. And vitriolic rhetoric in American politics can be traced back to the earliest days of the republic. But that doesn't mean there are no consequences.

With rights come responsibilities. In Alabama, King stated what everyone knew to be true: that the extreme rhetoric and actions of Wallace were like setting the woods on fire.

Let us defend every person's right to speech, to fierce and independent expression. But let us not fail to challenge those who exercise those rights irresponsibly, particularly those with megaphones like public leaders or media stars. In the hotbed of politics, we expect them to set an example, not to light a match.

 

Comments   

We are concerned about a recent drift towards vitriol in the RSN Reader comments section. There is a fine line between moderation and censorship. No one likes a harsh or confrontational forum atmosphere. At the same time everyone wants to be able to express themselves freely. We'll start by encouraging good judgment. If that doesn't work we'll have to ramp up the moderation.

General guidelines: Avoid personal attacks on other forum members; Avoid remarks that are ethnically derogatory; Do not advocate violence, or any illegal activity.

Remember that making the world better begins with responsible action.

- The RSN Team

 
-79 # charsjcca 2011-01-11 23:23
Jared Loughner has a right to have his personhood respected. When someone who lokely has never spoken to him begin to assassinate his character it is time to draw the line in the sand. Who is competent to judge another human? Hold fast to the notion that restraint of tongue and pen is called being personally responsible. America needs more personal responsibility and less bad mouthing of others.
 
 
+24 # George D 2011-01-12 00:19
Quoting charsjcca:
Jared Loughner has a right to have his personhood respected. When someone who lokely has never spoken to him begin to assassinate his character it is time to draw the line in the sand. Who is competent to judge another human? Hold fast to the notion that restraint of tongue and pen is called being personally responsible. America needs more personal responsibility and less bad mouthing of others.


Anyone with common decency and a grasp of right and wrong knows that murder is the worst crime against another human being that anyone can inflict. Respect his personhood? Are you for real? "Respect" is not a term to use with this young man or with the people that helped to trigger him.
 
 
-23 # TommyD1of11 2011-01-12 09:27
Loughner is insane. No one "helped trigger him" just as Jody Foster didn't trigger Hinkly to shoot Reagan. Every national politician, both Left, Right and in between has and should continue to use military analogies. Such language is often ideal for explaining strategies and tactics. Obama, Reid, Pelosi, JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King, et al have all used them (remember LBJ’s “War on Poverty”. Such language also gives passion … “fight the good fight” … “defeat the forces of evil” … “hate hate”, etc.
 
 
+19 # A. Edward Cullin 2011-01-12 10:24
Quoting TommyD1of11:
Loughner is insane. No one "helped trigger him" just as Jody Foster didn't trigger Hinkly to shoot Reagan. Every national politician, both Left, Right and in between has and should continue to use military analogies. Such language is often ideal for explaining strategies and tactics. Obama, Reid, Pelosi, JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King, et al have all used them (remember LBJ’s “War on Poverty”. Such language also gives passion … “fight the good fight” … “defeat the forces of evil” … “hate hate”, etc.

Symbols and rhetoric have consequences. Sarah Palin could just have easily used a check mark to list the districts she felt the Republicans should "concentrate their efforts to unseat the incumbent."
 
 
+1 # genierae 2011-01-12 13:31
George D: Every human being deserves to be treated with respect, no matter what they've done. If Jared Loughner had been respected instead of rejected, he might have gotten the help that he so desperately needed. If you take the time to read the articles on his past, you will find that every person he came into contact with, even adult professionals, failed him. It should have been obvious that he was not functioning in a normal way, and that his mental state was getting worse, but instead of helping him, they ridiculed him and pushed him away. It may have been Jared Loughner who pulled the trigger last Saturday, but it was the people who refused to help him, that abandoned him to his fate. Where was their compassion when he needed it?
 
 
-10 # forparity 2011-01-12 01:01
Loughenr has lost all rights in my view. Almost time for the "death panel" review.
 
 
+6 # Matthew Unfried 2011-01-12 01:06
That, um, gentleman disturbs me very deeply as a both Libertarian and Constitutionali st. I am also animatedly liberal, with a small L, too. Anyone that reminds me of Anthony Hopkins in 'Silence of the Lambs' should go see a shrink, but I would never agree that we should curtail the rights of the whole if we are just worried about a few loose cannons.

I pray for all of us (and I'm not religious).
 
 
+27 # othermother 2011-01-12 04:11
Please bear in mind that the assassinations in this episode were carried out by Mr Loughner. He put himself on Myspace, youtube, etc., and Rev Jackson is entitled to draw conclusions from his postings and from the testimony of Loughner's friends and classmates. To say that his mind was unravelling is hardly character assassination.
 
 
+12 # Suzy 2011-01-12 08:34
Dear charsjcca,
When someone takes action that leads to the death of other people, innocents, they loose their right to respect of any kind. They have the right to be tried by a jury of peers and by their maker, but they certainly have invited public comment on their person as well as their actions. It was Mr. Loughner who made the judgement. "Assassinate" his character? Interesting choice of words.
 
 
+4 # genierae 2011-01-12 13:36
And so you think that mentally insane people are responsible for their actions? If he had been given the medicine that he needed, this would not have happened. He got NO help from anyone.
 
 
+3 # TommyD1of11 2011-01-12 09:20
Charsjcca, you are the poster child for why MORAL RELATIVISM is dangerous. In your world view, there can be no evil, nothing is either right or wrong.
 
 
+4 # Melody Johnson 2011-01-12 11:04
wtf?
 
 
+1 # claddagh49 2011-01-14 07:13
You speak as though you know Jared Loughner personally. You don't think his personal friends who did know him and knew he was unstable didn't try to help him? Please! Jared Loughner obviously had a personal vendetta against Ms Giffords. He decided to act on his vendetta. People who are sane are able to restrain what they say, they think about what they say before they say and do things that could harm others. Loughner obviously was not sane! People like Loughner can be influenced by people who say things that are wrong, the assult on another's character as you have put it. People like the Glenn Becks, and the Rush Limbaugh's of our society, the fact they are paid millions to spew hate appalls me. People who are already unstable feed on these kind of sick remarks they spew, people who think they are funny or agree with them, I have to wonder about their characters. So, yes, we need to stop bad mouthing, especially people who don't deserve to be bad mouthed. Jared has a right to a trial by jury, but to be respected? Sorry, not after the horror he caused.
 
 
+64 # George D 2011-01-12 00:01
Rev. Jackson is correct, as he adds his voice to the many that have said the same thing. But like sheep to the slaughter, we continue to use "codes" instead of truth. We continue to "tone down" instead of state plainly.
Make no mistake; Though people keep saying it was her "District" that was targeted by Palin, that is clearly not the truth. Had it been her "district" the label would have said "District X" under those targets; Not a NAME. Those are NAMES under those cross-hairs; Names of REAL PEOPLE, and it's about time people make a point of stating so.

Palin is a guilty as Manson was. He killed nobody but incited unbalanced people to do so. Let's get real and for once I agree with the right wingers comment; Let's stop trying to be "politically correct" on this one. There's too much at stake to do anything but state the obvious truth and pounce on the liars as they refuse to acknowledge their part in this and try to spin it as something that it is not.
 
 
-16 # TommyD1of11 2011-01-12 09:53
Loughner became obsessed with Gifford’s back in 2007 and planned his assassination long before he and m