New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow deserves congratulations.
Tucson Witch Hunt
Immediately after the news broke, the air became thick with conjecture, speculation and innuendo. There was a giddy, almost punch-drunk excitement on the left. The prophecy had been fulfilled: "words have consequences." And now, the right's rhetorical chickens had finally come home to roost.
The dots were too close and the temptation to connect them too strong. The target was a Democratic congresswoman. There was the map of her district in the cross hairs. There were her own prescient worries about overheated rhetoric.
Within hours of the shooting, there was a full-fledged witch hunt to link the shooter to the right.
"I saw Goody Proctor with the devil! Oh, I mean Jared Lee Loughner! Yes him. With the devil!"
As I've said before, conjecture, speculation, and innuendo in the immediate hours following an unexpected event are to be expected. The national press has obvious regional and race prejudices that boil to the surface when there are few facts at hand. Demonizing white Arizonans has been a major theme of the mainstream media since the spring of 2010, so it was inevitable that they would seize upon this seeming opportunity to reinforce the narrative.
What was truly dismaying was the doubling down on the original stereotyping once plenty of disconfirming evidence was available by later on on Saturday.
The only problem is that there was no evidence then, and even now, that overheated rhetoric from the right had anything to do with the shooting. ...
Great. So the left overreacts and overreaches and it only accomplishes two things: fostering sympathy for its opponents and nurturing a false equivalence within the body politic. Well done, Democrats.
Now we've settled into the by-any-means-necessary argument: anything that gets us to focus on the rhetoric and tamp it down is a good thing. But a wrong in the service of righteousness is no less wrong, no less corrosive, no less a menace to the very righteousness it's meant to support.
You can't claim the higher ground in a pit of quicksand.
In theory, no. In reality, you can often get away with a lot just by shouting angrily enough about how angry the other guys are.