I've been saddened by the last few days, not so much by the dishonest media coverage - after all, 'Palin did it' is a more compelling narrative than 'he was a loony' - although it's still notable how all the outlets who just couldn't work out what could possibly make Major Hasan Malik shoot lots of people knew straight away that Sarah P. made Jared Loughner shoot lots of people. No, what's really bad is the nutty stuff in the comments at CiF and on left blogs. Jared Loughner's not the only reality-challenged loony out there, that's for sure.
These accusations — that political actors contributed to the murder of 6 people, including a 9-year-old girl — are extremely grave. They were made despite the fact that there was, and is, no evidence that Loughner was part of these movements or a consumer of their literature. They were made despite the fact that the link between political rhetoric and actual violence is extremely murky. They were vicious charges made by people who claimed to be criticizing viciousness.
Yet such is the state of things. We have a news media that is psychologically ill informed but politically inflamed, so it naturally leans toward political explanations. We have a news media with a strong distaste for Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement, and this seemed like a golden opportunity to tarnish them. We have a segmented news media, so there is nobody in most newsrooms to stand apart from the prevailing assumptions. We have a news media market in which the rewards go to anybody who can stroke the audience’s pleasure buttons.
I have no love for Sarah Palin, and I like to think I’m committed to civil discourse. But the political opportunism occasioned by this tragedy has ranged from the completely irrelevant to the shamelessly irresponsible.