A couple of posts ago I quoted Jon Stewart “The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.”
I think what happened in Arizona to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is a case in point.
The media has turned into a “24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator” and politicians know it better than any of us. They also know that if they feed it what it wants, then the media will give them air time. And airtime creates celebrity. Politicians also know that in the absence of intellect, leadership, or integrity they still can have a shot at getting elected given enough celebrity status. Sad commentary on the American electorate, but that seems to be where we are.
The result is not our best and brightest getting airtime or even seeking public office. To the contrary, this system favors people who are looking for a short-cut to the top and will perform whatever reckless stunt the media demands. Like painting the crosshairs of a gunsight over a candidate and proclaiming “ITS TIME TO TAKE A STAND”. Yes, it reinforces her brand. Yes, it is controversial enough to get media play. Yes, it is reckless.
Yesterday, Jared Loughner took a stand. Did Sarah Palin foresee this type of action? No. Did she want Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shot in the head? No. But that is exactly the problem.
Sarah Palin is an apt poster child for the short-sighted, flag-waving political leaders and media personalities who have displaced balanced reason and civil discourse with no-holds-barred, opinionated misdirection. She lacks the common sense to understand the implications of her actions. She also lacks the common decency required to compete without such tactics — even if they work. Sarah Palin and her ilk remind me of the expression often used by parents to reprimand reckless children “It’s a lot of fun until someone loses an eye.” Guess what just happened in Tucson?
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has been the police spokesman in Tucson. He blamed this type of political rhetoric that has consumed the country. “When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,”
Sheriff Dupnik also said he was not convinced that Jared Loughner acted alone. Whether or not they find another suspect, I think it is clear that Jared Loughner did not act alone. The people who operate, fuel and consume America’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator are his accomplices.
I think Rep Giffords said it best last March on an interview with MSNBC:
“Our democracy is a light, a beacon, really, around the world because because we effect change at the ballot box and not because of … outbursts of violence …
Community leaders, figures in our community, need to say “look, we can’t stand for this.” This is a situation where — people don’t — they really need to realize that the rhetoric and firing people up and, you know, even things, for example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list. But the thing is that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district. And when people do that, they’ve gotta realize there’s consequences to that action.”
Prophetic. The full clip of the interview is below.
What can we do? Develop the one dicipline that any successful democracy demands of its people: critical thinking. Make it as objective and rational as you are capable. If you don’t agree with a politician don’t vote for them. It’s that simple. Demand that your candidates and your media remain focused on the facts or risk losing your support entirely. Zero tollerence for any individual, in politics, media or your peronal life who muddies the water with hate and misinformation. That doesn’t mean shooting them. It means calling them on their bullshit. The only people any of us should feel anger towards are the people who would undermine our democracy by marinating it in populist vitriol for their own personal gain.
My condolnces to all 19 shooting victims as well as their families and friends.