Once again, I seem to have taken an unplanned break from the blog. Downtime will, I expect, become a recurring feature here. This time I think the reason is because of what happened on Saturday. It left me speechless.
The killings in Tuscon describe, on too many levels, the story of the tragedy that is us. America has produced too many assassins; some succeed, some fail, but still they discharge their weapons. Just in my own lifetime: Kennedy, King, Kennedy, Ford, Reagan, a few other Congress critters (and I am sorry I don’t remember the names) and now Rep. Gifford. The wife of an astronaut. And those are just the political ones.
Public figures of all kinds – journalists, entertainers, doctors, nurses, municipal officials – it is a list too far. Agencies of the government, the buildings that house them, the innocents who showed up for their jobs that day.
We fiercely defend our guns – even the weapons of war – in the hands of those who mean us ill.
We allow – some embrace – the language of incitement, the mindset that sees government as the enemy off all that is good. A mindset that has taken hold and is endlessly reinforced. We now think it’s okay to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre.
Rush Limbaugh changed the face of radio and invented today’s shabby genre of talk radio. He’s been on the air for 20 awful years, on thousands of stations around the country (even the military carries him on its stations). How big an impact has this one man had with his endless stream of nonsense-made-real?
He broadcasts three hours a day, five days a week (not counting reruns). Over 20 years that’s over 15,000 hours of vitriolic anti-Democratic rhetoric and, when the Dems are in power, anti-government rhetoric.
His audience is enormous – he claims 20 million. Plus, there are the Rush wanna-be’s who echo his script and take it even further. They number in the hundreds. They do this on airwaves owned by us and given over to them by the government they despise.
His voice is heard in all time zones and can probably be found on air every hour of every day almost everywhere in the country.
He intentionally appeals to those among us who fear, who need enemies and who are naturally suspicious of the ‘other’. He reinforces the paranoia of the unstable who seek a target for their rage. He appeals to the deeply tribal, who already did, but now increasingly, exhibit behaviors that reject modernity.
Major American corporations support his program with advertising and he makes maybe $100 million a year. We buy their products. We allow this.
Did we allow Tuscon?
AN UPDATE: I should be clearer about this particular incident. The shooter was clearly disturbed and may not have had a political persuasion; in fact he seems to exhibit the thought disorder typical of post-adolescent onset schizophrenia. And as such, he is very susceptible to inflamatory rhetoric.
FURTHER: Then there’s Mr. Murdoch and his FOX News – friend Brian brought this to my attention: see here from the Globe & Mail:
“So while blaming Fox we have to admit that the Fox News channel’s success is rooted in Fox’s intuitive recognition of the inherent aggressiveness of the American political culture, an aggressiveness that is itself anchored in a public that’s fearful of change and hostile to opposing viewpoints . . . a few years ago, when I wrote mockingly about Fox News and O’Reilly, I felt the full, Fox-style backlash. O’Reilly called me names on the air, several times, and referred to The Globe and Mail as a “far-left” newspaper. In a matter of days I received thousands of abusive e-mails from Fox News viewers. The language of insult was extraordinarily intense.”
Note: re the graphic titled ‘Daily Rush’; inaccurate I know, but I’ve not yet gotten around to redoing it.