Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Latest Political Hot Potato

I’ve been lying low these days, writing on deadline for my next YA book. I tend to burrow into the pages and not come up for air until I write THE END, but I had to stray from my writing to watch a horrible drama unfold on TV and I wanted to talk about it here with people I respect.

With Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords still clinging to life after Jared Lee Loughner attempted to assassinate her, the debate rages on in the media and in Washington DC about who is to blame for stirring up such violence. It’s become a political hot potato.

The tragedy that left 6 dead and 13 others injured has prompted many to examine the political discourse in our country. I think the debate about how we exchange political views is a valid one, but perhaps our discussion should be more than that.

We have 24 hour news coverage that demands every minute be filled, even if the ‘breaking news’ is about who is in and out of rehab, or who is breaking up with whom. And have you noticed how reporters have become the news? They give opinions meant to stir viewers into posting online comments, often focusing on emotional hot button topics, just to see who is watching them. Our society has become more malicious in its criticism, especially given the anonymity of the Internet. If no one knows your name, does that entitle you to say things online that you wouldn’t to someone's face?

And with the Internet being in the privacy of our own homes, we have access to people, views, and images from all over the world. It has become a powerful tool and in many ways, it has made the world a much smaller, more accessible place. But has this global fishbowl made us more vulnerable, too? And with reality TV shows thriving on the open abuse of contestants and fueling our voyeuristic hunger for cruelty, is it any wonder this can have an impact on our society over the long haul?

Sure whoever pulls the trigger or detonates the bomb is ultimately to blame for that violence, but maybe it's not always that simple. In this great country of ours, we are blessed with and empowered by our right to free speech, but doesn’t that right come with some responsibility, too? I’d really love to hear your thoughts while I’m grappling with it myself.


  1. Yeah I would like to consider Palin at least sort of responsible for it.

    However, since I scorned the people who blamed Columbine on Eminem, it would be really hypocritical of me to now point fingers at Palin.

    Yes, Palin may have gone overboard with her propaganda, but in the end it is the wacko murderer who is to blame.

    Either way, it is a very sad thing that happened.

  2. I think it is dangerous for us to start trying to blame what happened on the talk of others. We should be applying what we learning in kindergarten. "If all your friends told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?" But at the same time, people need to show respect for each other in their speech. This isn't a case where one wrong caused another wrong, but a case where we have two independent wrongs. Disrespectful speech needs to be brought to an end, including the disrespectful speech that is trying to blame the shooting on the other side of the debate.

  3. I hate that so many politicians, including President Obama (his speech was beautiful in many ways), are ignoring the real issue: gun control. We don't know why the shooter killed those people and I suspect it has more to do with mental illness than politics. Either way, if he couldn't get a gun so easily, the victims might nto be dead.

  4. I have reflected on the same things over the past few years. As I said in my last blog post, somewhere along the line, we have lost the ability to disagree.

    We live in a culture that celebrates the bully. I think the only way to change it is to be vocal and let people know that nastiness is not acceptable, either in private discourse or public.

  5. I don't come to Kill Zone to hear stupid political opinions like this. Please keep your bile to yourself. I don't have time to go into the unfairness of this particular post, which is fundamentally flawed. There is no connection whatsoever to Palin or political rhetoric, and it's not one sided (Dems did the same targeting, and have you ever heard Ed Shultz?) But people like you are using this tragedy to make hay. You have every right to display your naivete. Just don't do it on a blog that has had a great history. Until now.

  6. Jordan, with all respect, my only reason for responding here is to distance myself from your post.

    According to the FBI, Jared Lee Loughner had no interest in politics and was in no way driven by political rhetoric from either side. Still, in spite of all available evidence to the contrary, you and others vaguely accuse her of tacit involvement in this terrible shooting while at the same time--and without irony--decrying the ugliness of contemporary political discourse.

    You ask, "we are blessed with and empowered by our right to free speech, but doesn’t that right come with some responsibility, too?"

    Yes, it does.

    John Gilstrap

  7. I so wish it was possible to edit comments. I meant to write:

    . . . Still, in spite of all available evidence to the contrary, you and others vaguely accuse Sarah Palin of tacit involvement . . .

    John Gilstrap

  8. I sincerely wanted to talk about this since it's been on my mind in so many other ways. And as an author, I examine things that could one day be explored in writing. I think all the texting instead of talking on the phone or in person is a strange thing that will have it's consequences...and maybe already has through our young people. When I was at the FBI in 2009, an agent actually said it's hard to find a good street smart agent these days because so many young men and women have school smarts and don't know how to communicate well face to face. I found that interesting.

    Taylor--Freedom of speech is a difficult thing to accept in all the ways it can manifest itself, but I agree we need to be consistent. We either have it or we don't. And yes, I can disagree with Palin, but I also have the right to express that when I vote. But that doesnt mean I blame her for this. I just think we need to be aware of what we say in public--and maybe apply the golden rule more.

    And Timothy--I agree. We tend to disagree by emotion and not by discussing facts or political platforms differences. One side tries to rile the other on slick marketing campaigns or the fear tactic. I wish this would stop.

    Shizuka--Gun control is an interesting point to examine further. I've often wondered about countries who don't support gun ownership by its citizens, what are their statistics on crime. That's something I will look into...just for me. Thanks for your comment.

  9. >>>>we have lost the ability to disagree>>>

    This is so true...and so thought provoking. And I've been thinking about this a lot too. Again, as an author, I feel that I must keep an open mind to portray all sorts of people/characters in my books. And to avoid flat 2-d portrayals, you have to put yourself into the heads of characters you don't want to be in. That's not easy.

    But knee jerk reactions to one person's view often launches into an emotional argument right off, as it its a personal affront. We have definitely lost our ability to construct solid discussion points that deal with only our side...without lashing out at someone else.

    >>>we live in a culture that celebrates the bully>>>

    Wow. Hadnt considered this, but this resonated with me. Thanks for posting your comment. And I can honestly say that I don't understand why we do this, but you've given me plenty to think about. Thanks for your thoughts.

  10. John--I was referring to the media's accusations and the political parties who are trying to make hay with this. I am not pushing an agenda with this case or even Palin. I'm more interested in looking at the bigger picture here. I'm simply trying to encourage calm rational dialogue on many fronts of this argument, examining how our society has changed--or will change--with the influences I've brought up.

  11. Remember when the Muslim jihadist gunned down servicemen and women at Fort Hood and, with mountains of hard evidence pointing to him and his jihadism, Obama and CNN and everyone was urging us not to "jump to conclusions"? Remember? Well, do you? It was weeks before we were allowed to connect the shooter to Islam.

    Exactly one hour after this tragedy occurred, CNN's David Fitzsimmons was positing that Sarah Palin was somehow responsible.

    That's what you're positing, Jordan, and there is absolutely NO evidence to link Loughner to Palin. NO evidence. Just your not-so-secret desire to utilize this senseless tragedy for cowardly political purposes.

    Loughner is to blame and the blame stops with him. Get over it.

    And I might add, if the main contributors to this blog allow much more of this political bullshit, I for one will abandon ship.

  12. Killers (balanced or unbalanced) kill with guns, knives, machetes, baseball bats, chair legs, and whatever they have at hand. Personally, I'd rather be shot than chopped to death, or eaten by a pit bull.

    Dennis, I agree. most of us come here to discuss our trade from some angle. Or to learn about chickens.

  13. Jordan did you edit the original post? I could have sworn that last time I read this post, there was something about Palin "having to sleep at night."

    I wasn't perturbed by the original post, because I kind of understood what you were trying to get at, I mean I understood the dialogue you were trying to create. I think you just took it too far, so people got pissed.

    But I do think you should have left your original post alone. Otherwise all these comments look like overreactions and the whole conversation fizzles.

  14. oh man, not you too!!!!

    ok so, if we use that as a premise to hypothesize.... and if someone other than the clearly unbalanced shooter is responsible for his behavior, then why aren't fiction writers responsible when hallmarks of their story are found in crimes committed by the members of society?

    and why aren't parents then held responsible for their adult children's crimes? I'm mean if people are sponsible for the behavior of others (and please note, I am not suggesting in any manner that his parents are responsible, theirs is a burden I would not wish on another living soul)

    or, to go at it from another tact, if Sarah Palin et al must be "careful" or "on guard" or "mindful" of their personal speech or public speeches to the public, then why are fiction writers permitted to write whatever they wish for their story, why is it ok for their characters commit murder...after all, it could give someone ideas.

    Restricting freedoms is not the way to diagnosis mental illness, nor is restricting freedoms any solution for untreated mental illness, which is the equation that was purported above with that premise.