Opinion » Ted Rall

Stop Violent Politics

Media spokesmen move to stifle violent speech


NEW YORK--The shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 11 other people is tragic. But it isn't surprising.

What is surprising is the response of the corporate-owned political and media establishment coming out against violent rhetoric.

Liberals accuse right wingers of creating an atmosphere of hatred that fuels incidents like the Arizona shootings. Violent rhetoric causes actual violence is a liberal meme.

"Mission accomplished, Sarah Palin," tweeted Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos after the Tucson, Ariz., shootings. Moulitsas noted that the website for Palin's PAC featured an image of Giffords' district with crosshairs over it. There is, however, no evidence that the accused gunman ever saw Palin's website. Righties counter that the really inflammatory rhetoric comes from the left.

The cognitive disconnect between reality and self-perception in American society and politics is bizarre and frightening. Whenever there's a school or workplace shooting, Americans act shocked. To hear commentators, you'd think this was a peace-loving nation of Dalai Lamas rather than a bunch of brawlin', trash-talkin', gun-totin', foreigner-bombin' yahoos who drive around Iraq shooting people while listening to death metal.

"Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our democracy," said Keith Olbermann. Does he live in America?

"Violence and threats of violence" are part of our daily lives. As a kid, I got beaten up by bullies. As an adult, I collect death threats in response to my cartoons. When I ride my bike, motorists try to run me off the road. Most of my female friends have been raped.

The man accused of shooting Giffords is portrayed as sick, deranged and fond of oddball conspiracy theories. In these things, he is a typical American. "Typical" Americans believe in angels and creationism, that George W. Bush found the WMDs in Iraq and trickle-down economics. Typical liberal Americans think it's fine to give trillions to bankers while millions lose their jobs and get no help.

The gunman is accused of an act of "senseless violence." But there is the covert violence all around: tens of thousands of Americans die annually because they can't afford a doctor, millions of children go to bed hungry, millions are evicted from foreclosed homes, millions couchsurf because housing is expensive.

Like terrorism, political violence is a relatively minor issue. And as guys named Lincoln and Garfield and Charles Sumner--who was nearly beaten to death by a fellow member on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1856--could attest, it is not a new one.

The brutality being carried out by the political system and its corporate sponsors is responsible for the equivalent of tens of thousands of Tucson-level shootings each year. For example, a peer-reviewed scientific study published in 2005 found the death toll directly attributable to income inequality is "comparable to the combined loss of life from lung cancer, diabetes, motor vehicle crashes, HIV infections, suicides and homicides."

But the ruling classes doesn't want us to think about reality. They want to make us shut up. Thus their calls to ramp down high-octane political speech.

Political violence? We should be much more worried about violent politics.