37 thoughts on “Enough.

  1. Mike Kennedy says:

    Well said, Bruce.

    Unfortunately, even the most civil debate may not have prevented what happened yesterday.

    This guy seems as though he wasn’t living in a reality most of us know, all politics and debate aside.

    While I agree that toning down hate speech against leaders of both parties (Bush and Obama are the most high profile hate targets to come to mind) is in all our best interest, there are simply people out there who are so bent on destruction that they don’t care who gets in their way.

    A lot of very good and decent people got in the way of this deranged man.

  2. john sherman says:

    I get a little tired of the “both sides do it” meme, particularly when only one side does it. Who would Reid or Pelosi tell to throttle back? The violent left wing menaces, rhetorical or otherwise, have faded into the past; last I knew Bobby Seale was busy selling his barbeque cookbooks and Jerry Rubin was running investment seminars. At the current moment, the violent, crazy rhetoric and actions are from the right.

    It seems to me there is something wrong when a crazy violent guy can get his hands on a Glock with an extended magazine, though I suppose Jesse Ventura or somebody like that will explain that if the 9 year old had just had her own Glock the tragedy could have been prevented.

    1. frogster says:

      I agree. It’s a false equivalency. Regarding Rubin, he died in 1994, hit by a car while jaywalking in LA.

    2. PM says:

      I have to say that, at the moment, based on what we know, your point about the ability of a clearly troubled person to get this type of a gun (or any gun at all) suggests that we have a problem…..

      Clearly, not everybody should have a gun. Right now, it seems as if too many people have them–this guy is a clear example. This must be a part of the discussion.

    3. 108 says:

      The guy fits the pattern of a known archetype. You can safely include him with Czolgosz, Oswald, Fromme, and a few others.

      This is not new, and a historical perspective is useful.

    4. Momkat of Apple Valley says:

      Gail Collins in the NYT this morning: “we should be able to find a way to accommodate the strong desire in many parts of the country for easy access to firearms with sane regulation of the kinds of weapons that make it easiest for crazy people to create mass slaughter.”
      Unfortunately, the NRA will never let this happen.

  3. Gary Pettis says:

    It’s a bit to early in this tragedy to pull the hate speech and political vitriol cards. None of us have all of the facts straight considering the shooter’s motive, as well as the human condition of the shooter and of those who orbited his life in one form or another.

    At this moment, it’s impossible to determine to what degree inflammatory words between the Left and the Right served as the catalyst for motivating a seemingly mentally ill young man in his twenties to open fire at a meet-and-greet for a U.S. Representative.

    Did the shooter feel juiced up and ready to go after listening to Talk Radio?

    Did he act impulsively after listening to motivational talk from a charismatic leader who related to his personal struggles and could feel the pain of his loneliness?

    Did he plot this shooting down to the finest detail only after listening to the voices in his head?

    Like everyone, I want to hear the answers to these questions eventually.

    But one thing is certain: In our way of life, there is no fool proof plan or reversal of tactics (e.g., tone down the rhetoric, guys!) that will rid our country of real twisted people who want to murder in great numbers on a grand scale. They will have the means and the determination to kill.

    That’s why the terrorists, well, are the terrorists. They are hell bent on gnawing away at our American way of life, rather than attacking us with more conventional military strategies. They are smart enough to know where our vulnerabilities are.

    This shooter was no political assassin championing a political cause. He was just a sick kid from a home that did little to curb or seek help for his sickness. It sounds like he was in and out of the doors of an educational system whose only interest was to wash its hands of him. In the end, this kid chose a political event with a well-known political figure as the platform to express his rage.

  4. mike kennedy says:

    Oh, I know the “false equivalency” would rear its head. It does constantly on this blog.

    You are simply flat out wrong about violent acts only coming from the right. Why, look in your own back yard at the Republican convention in 2008. I can point out numerous examples of things getting ugly on the left recently, but that shouldn’t even be the point of examining this whole incident.

    There is simply no evidence whatsoever that political speech — heated or not — had anything to do with this crime. Furthermore, it isn’t clear that this man had any political point of view at all.

    True, not everyone should have a gun. We currently do have gun laws. But banning guns from certain people isn’t going to stop them from getting them.

    1. PM says:

      It would be nice to have laws that were effective in terms of keeping guns from those who should not have them. I think that it should be possible to do so.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        What would you propose? How would you specifically enforce it?

        The trouble I have is what criteria do you use to deny someone? Past legal record? A sanity test?

        Most gun owners are responsible but how do you weed out the ones who shouldn’t have access?

      2. PM says:

        The problem is that any method that would be feasible would not pass muster with the NRA.

        To make it work, you would have affirmatively allow people to purchase a firearm–ie. you can’t buy one unless you can show that you qualify to own one. (and the qualifications could be as onerous or as loose as we would like them to be–that is a different issue altogether). but just this idea would arouse intense opposition–trying to liscence gun owners! I think that it is a non-started with the NRA, and, hence, with the Republican Party.

      3. 108 says:

        We do have laws that are effective in keeping guns from people who should not have them. We have the permit system and we have instacheck.

        The trendlines for crime have largely been positive, that is to say, downward, over the last 15 years.

        You can spend a gazillion dollars trying to eliminate a small quantity of aberant behavior. It won’t be effective, and its an encroachment on a civil right.

      4. Minnesotan says:

        Too easy to blame the gun here. Might make people feel better to say we need tighter gun control, when that doesn’t alleviate the problem of people wanting to inflict harm on the masses. Taking away the gun doesn’t get rid of that.

      5. Jim Leinfelder says:

        How about eliminating 30-round clips for sale. No one outside of a military context needs a 30-round clip. The kid at Virginia Tech had a 30-round clip. Happily, this disaffected lunatic was not able to put his 30-round clip to use. Fine, it’s an ineluctable cultural artifact in American life that people must have their guns. But they do not need ammo magazines that turn their handguns into weapons of mass destruction.

      6. PM says:


        it is a lot easier to do the one than to do the other. And the fact that there will always be people who will want to kill other people is no excuse to make it easier for them to do so.

  5. Mike Kennedy says:

    I think the last paragraph was particularly instructive.

    Portraying anyone as evil or a demon, as the right as done to Obama and the left did by comparing Bush and Cheney to Hitler and other mass murderers isn’t even a debate.

    People who do this are so consumed with hate or have such mental issues that they can not be engaged in any rational way.

  6. Newt says:

    Bruce raises good points – the language, behaviors and instruments of political hate must stop.

    Like the 2004 Soros commercial portraying George Bush dragging a black man behind a pickup truck.

    Or the 2008 arrest of RNC protesters with guns and explosives here in our own Twin Cities.

    Or the liberal militant bomber Ted Kazinsky.

    Or the head of the Bergen County Education Association who publicly wished for the death of NJ Gov Chris Christie.

    Or ELF.

    Or ACORN.

    Or eco-terrorists.

    Or the Black Panthers.

    Or the New Black Panthers.

    Or the Weather Underground.

    Or the Winter Soldiers

    Or Mumia Abu-jamal and CAIR

    Or Lamont Hill.

    Or Van Jones.

    Or Saul Alinsky.

    Or Code Pink.

    Or Sashid Khalidi

    Or The Most Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

    Or Bernardine Dohrn.

    No one has a lock in virtue – except the media, which will fail again and trying to make Sarah Palin the triggerman. This guy was an imbalanced nut – as are the people I reference here.

    The subject doesn’t require any other analysis.

    1. john sherman says:

      You forgot Ward Churchill and Bill Ayres. Except for Ted Kazinsky, an anarchist and luddite and therefore classifiable as left, right, both or neither, those you list haven’t done much in the way of producing casualties, certainly nothing in the Tim McVeigh league.

      In the mean time, off the top of my head: the guy in OK who should his disaffection with the IRS by flying a plane into the IRS office; the guy who murdered the guard at the Holocaust Museum; the guy in CA who loaded up his mom’s car with assault weapons and headed off to San Fransisco to shoot up the ACLU and an obscure foundations that somehow managed to get on Glenn Beck’s shit list and then got in a shoot out with the cops who stopped him for erratic driving; the guy in Philadelphia who shot the cops because he was afraid Obama was going to come to take his guns.

      Where the old New Left is now, This goes back a few years, I was talking with a guy from Chicago who told me about watching his kid’s Little League game. The league had a I think 6:00 rule, that is when the clock struck the game ended. It was about 5:55 at the end of an inning, the guy’s kid’s team was several runs ahead, so the ump decided to pack it in when suddenly a woman from the other team came out and screamed at the ump and demanded he start the next inning. The guy asked the person next to him, “Who is that awful woman?” The answer, “Bernardine Dohrn.” She is still a menace to civility and common sense, but life and limb, not so much.

      By the way, I don’t think I would classify fundamentalist Muslims as liberals.

  7. PM says:

    Look, this is a tragedy, and I do not mean to deny or belittle it.

    That said, exactly how big a tragedy is it?, and how much of a problem is this type of speech? Is this really a new problem?

    And there is one thing we can be certain of–the media (all manners of media) will not be of much help in putting this in perspective.

    All of which is an awkward way of getting you to look at this really cool graphic of media scare stories:

    Remember, the media is out to sell advertising to you, and a story like this is a huge gift to them. Count on them trying to milk this for all it is worth (and it certainly is a much more serious issue than the Millenium Bug turned out to be). Do not count on the media for perspective here! You will have to provide that yourselves.

  8. Mrs. Fay says:

    The Congresswoman was targeted because she was a congresswoman, that much seems to be clear. The shooter is mentally unstable (anyone who shoots people on purpose outside of the line of duty should be categorized this way).
    Violence in our society, especially today, is a problem. From TV to the interwebs, it’s there, all the time.
    As a society, can we agree that we need to address the underlying theme, as Bruce says, tone it down? Be more careful in our choice of words?
    I don’t want to censor anyone, but I wish wish wish that the noisemakers would realize that words can have such an impact…they aren’t necessarily benign. If this weren’t the case then no one would bother spending so much time and energy and money trying to figure out the best way to get the message out.

  9. Joe Loveland says:

    Most of us are blessed to have the psychological equipment to recognize hyperbole as hyperbole, and so we chuckle and dismiss it as “well they’re obviously just overstating the point to be be entertaining and/or make a slippery slope argument.”

    But to mentally ill people, hyperbole is consumed as reality. A clinically paranoid person doesn’t laugh off the absurdity of the “Death Panel” language, they can feel mortally threatened by the non-existant Death Panel, or the “gun confiscators,” “America haters,” “freedom stealers,” etc. They can feel like killing the “killers” keeps them and others safe.

    I have no way of knowing at this stage if this particular kid was motivated by the over-the-top political rhetoric. But if he wasn’t, other mentally ill people are and will be in the future. There are 24 million people in the world who are paranoid schizophrenics, a lot of them untreated. If the lofty notion of “civility” doesn’t motivate folks to tone it down, the more base notion of public safety should.

    1. Mike Kennedy says:


      There is absolutely zero evidence that I’m aware of that paranoid schizophrenics take ideas that someone has about heated political rhetoric at turn them into paranoid delusions which they then act out.

      Now, I’m not a psychiatrist, but Charles Krauthammer is — I’d like to hear his opinion.

      But I did work on a psychiatric ward of a state hospital while working on my undergraduate degree in psychology (paired with a mass comm major but that’s another story).

      People who suffer from this disease often hear their own voices in their heads, which drown out yours or mine or anyone else’s.

      In other words, they are not processing the “news of the day” and twisting that — they have thoughts and delusions independent of what’s going on around them. Is it possible some might be influenced by hate speech? Sure, but I don’t think it is the threat you are making it.

      1. Mike Kennedy says:

        Yes, he correctly is stating that plenty of mentally ill people do not commit mass murder.

        What I was pointing out to Joe is that people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia are no more violent than the population at large.

      2. Joe Loveland says:

        You’re right, I don’t know enough about the disease to know if paranoid schizophrenics are more vulnerable than others to believing violent political hyperbole. My apologies for speaking ill-informed.

        There are plenty of good reasons to tone down our rhetoric, but I rescind that one.

      3. Mike, I’ve always been grateful you could tell the difference between the folks at the state hospital and John and Ellen and me at the MSU journalism program.
        ….I mean you could, right?

  10. Newt says:

    “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun…” – Barak Obama, at a 2008 campaign fund raiser in Philadelphia.

    I can assure everyone that the Left has a surplus of quotes like this – far more than the Right does.

    I don’t think this is a topic the Left wants to push.

  11. Minnesotan says:

    PM, if you want to make it tougher for people not to commit these acts you’ll have to ban/restrict a lot more than firearms.

    You’d probably have to start with blogs and the Internet, where many of these people get their twisted ideas in the first place.

    1. PM says:


      are you saying that overheated rhetoric does indeed cause people to behave in this fashion? Do these people get their “twisted ideas” from blogs or Fox News or wherever?

      Somehow, I don’t really think that is the answer.

      The problem isn’t “twisted ideas”, the problem is that is should be difficult to act to kill people. By making it easy for people to get the tools that make it easy to kill, society is enabling them. We should be making it difficult for them to kill people.

      My understanding is that this guy legally bought this gun–but he was clearly mentally unbalanced, and shouldn’t have been able to do so.

      Or do you think that he should have been able to get that gun legally and easily, as he did?

  12. Minnesotan says:

    PM, up until this point what conceivable type of background check would have proven he was “clearly mentally unstable?” The problem with “clearly mentally unstable” people is you can’t prove they are that way until they snap.
    Until this tragedy the only thing I’ve read that was officially on his record was a minor conviction for pot possession. If you’re going to blame someone (and I don’t think you can with a lunatic) you have to blame the people in his life that never intervened. The college he went to kicked him out until he could “get a mental health clearance that he wasn’t a danger to himself or others.” Really, you believe someone is a danger to themselves or others and you just kick him to the street? Where is that going to show up on any type of background check?

    It sounds like the only reason he was rejected for the military was a failed drug test. Chew on that for a second. After all physical and psychological evaluations they do, the only reason he wasn’t accepted was he couldn’t pass a drug test?

    My point about the Internet was if you’re looking you can find all sorts of dangerous/unsettling information. If you’re so disposed you can learn how – or interact with people who will teach you – to carry out all sorts of evil things. You can learn how to make weapons out of items found at hardware stores.

    Do you think if he couldn’t have purchased a gun that would have been the end of it? He would have said, “this is too hard, I guess I’ll go play video games instead?” The notion that getting rid of guns will get rid of these types of tragedies just doesn’t hold water with me. Suicide bombers are proof enough that people will carry out these crimes with or without a handgun.

    1. PM says:

      apparently he was banned from campus and kicked out of the school he was attending prior to getting that gun….security people had been notified (campus, don’t think it went to the police).

      And if he couldn’t have gotten a gun, yeah, maybe he would have given up. m aybe he would have used a knife, and not actually killed anyone. Maybe if he hadn’t been able to get a gun he would have said to himself”what a loser I am, I might as well end it all” and committed suicide.

      Who knows?

      but he shouldn’t have been able to get that gun.

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