Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Yeah, what he said...

Greg Mankiw responding to Paul Krugman who blamed the political right for violence-promoting rhetoric:
Paul Krugman in today's NY Times:
The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.
And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.
Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized.
On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal reported back in 2008:
Mobster wisdom tells us never to bring a knife to a gun fight. But what does political wisdom say about bringing a gun to a knife fight?
That’s exactly what Barack Obama said he would do to counter Republican attacks “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” Obama said at a Philadelphia fundraiser Friday night. “Because from what I understand folks in Philly like a good brawl.”
Whatever happened to that Obama guy? Did he get ostracized, as Paul suggests he would? My view: We should and do condemn people for their crimes, not for their metaphors.

And David Brooks on PBS NewsHour last night:

"I have no great love for Sarah Palin. I have no great love for the Tea Party movement or the anti-immigration movement.

But to say that their speech was somehow responsible or created or contributed to the killing of those people, including a 9-year-old girl, to me, that wasn't only irrelevant; that was irresponsible. And that is what I saw all weekend."

Me: I ditto the above. Matt Yglesias wrote several posts in the last year arguing that political rhetoric isn't any more charged today than it was in the 1700s. That doesn't mean it's okay, just that it's nothing new. And we haven't seen much connection to actual violence.

From everything I read and see in the exhaustive news coverage the shooter fits the profile of a paranoid schizophrenic-- turning in geometric doodles as homework, rants about government mind control, etc. His neighbors and classmates were terrified of him. The New York Times reported that when he had political views, they were left-wing, not right. There has been no evidence that a single political issue-- health care, immigration, etc. -- set him off. So all of the high-handed rhetoric and comparisons to Oklahoma City are ridiculous. The best comparison is perhaps to that of Sirhan Sirhan, as James Fallows (no conservative himself) points out.

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