Don’t think of an elephant: Giffords, ghouls and gimmicks

posted at 4:12 pm on January 10, 2011 by Karl

On Saturday, Jared Loughner attempted to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). He killed a federal judge, a nine-year-old girl and four others, and injured many more. Their fates were still unknown when political ghouls leapt from their muck to blame Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and other assorted elements of the right. Doug Mataconis and Gabriel Malor identify some of the more prominent ghouls and respond to them, so I need not do so at length.

Notably, the most prominent ghouls reek with the stench of hypocrisy and disingenuity. For example:

And there are more where that came from. This was sadly predictable, although one might have thought the sheer horror of this incident might have given the ghouls a moment’s pause before taking the lowest of roads for political gain. However, it was equally predictable that the shooter would not turn out to have any sort of conventional association with the right. The ghouls have a solid track record of failure in this regard.

Given the total lack of evidence for the smear, the saner provinces of the media were not about to jump aboard the ghouls’ bandwagon, especially while the evidence mounted that Loughner was a disturbed man with an ideology — to the extent one could be discerned — far outside any definition of the mainstream right, with a long-standing grudge against Giffords. Something more subtle would have to do. People on Twitter could watch the groupthink develop in real-time. When Politico’s Glenn Thrush wrote, “Whoever the shooter–this is a watershed moment that will immediately redefine current debate and view of pols embracing of extreme rhetoric,” it was quickly echoed by the paper’s Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman, the Hotline’s Josh Kraushaar and dozens more. This was the narrative pushed by the New York Times within hours, leaving the evidence that Loughner was a nutter with a liberal past to a separate piece. The WaPo echoed the narrative by the end of the day. By Sunday, the establishment media had its talking point firmly in hand, summarized in The New Yorker headline “It Doesn’t Matter Why He Did It.” Had Loughner turned out to be a Tea Party activist in good standing, who he was and why he did it would be the sole topic of discussion. But he wasn’t, so by Saturday evening, I was tweeting [in reference to Sullivan’s own attempted backfilling] about the center-left’s emerging fallback position of “Fake, But Accurate.”

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today succinctly exposing the intellectual dishonesty at the heart of the “Fake, But Accurate” gimmick:

To paraphrase Justice Cardozo (“proof of negligence in the air, so to speak, will not do”), there is no such thing as responsibility in the air. Those who try to connect Sarah Palin and other political figures with whom they disagree to the shootings in Arizona use attacks on “rhetoric” and a “climate of hate” to obscure their own dishonesty in trying to imply responsibility where none exists. But the dishonesty remains.

To be clear, if you’re using this event to criticize the “rhetoric” of Mrs. Palin or others with whom you disagree, then you’re either: (a) asserting a connection between the “rhetoric” and the shooting, which based on evidence to date would be what we call a vicious lie; or (b) you’re not, in which case you’re just seizing on a tragedy to try to score unrelated political points, which is contemptible. Which is it?

Of course, intellectual dishonesty is very much about having and eating one’s cake. When someone tells you not to think of an elephant, it is impossible to not think of one. When the establishment media tells everyone that there is no evidence to blame an elephant, while reciting the smears from the ghouls, and raising questions about “the discourse,” they know they are forcing people to think about the elephant. They are dressing the ghouls in nicer clothes, and are quite content to do so. Indeed, the Politico could bury in its coverage an anonymous quote from a “veteran Democratic operative” urging Pres. Obama and the Democrats to “deftly pin this on the tea partiers.” They could hardly be less deft than the ghouls and the establishment media, who have been as subtle as a truck loaded with horse manure crashing through a plate glass window.

Mind you, a few of the smarter ghouls (and Keith Olbermann) will be careful to stress that the rhetoric needs to be toned down on all sides. Indeed, in Saturday’s Extra-Special Comment, Olbermann even blamed himself. This tactic is known as the “Neutral Story Line,” a gimmick perhaps older than “Fake, But Accurate.” Hypocrisy is at the core of this gimmick, just as it is with the ghouls.

After all, anyone who was awake through the last 10 years — as opposed to just the last 2 — knows that violent and hateful rhetoric has been a recurring theme of the left. But you would never know it from the establishment media. The death threats at anti-Bush rallies? The establishment media must have been out on an eight-year smoke break. Did they wring their hands over The Bush assassination porn in movies, books and art? Not really. When a man — an avowed MSNBC viewer — was convicted of threatening Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) in the aftermath of the healthcare debate, was there a concerted stroking of chins, or wagging of fingers? How about when a man made a bomb threat against a Republican fundraiser featuring Senate candidate Linda McMahon? When fmr. Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) suggested that Rick Scott, now the Republican Governor of Florida, be shot? How about when Sarah Palin’s church was burned down? (Aside: Imagine the media coverage had Obama’s church had been burned down.) How about when then-candidate Obama bragged that he would bring a gun to a knife fight? That was not condemned, but celebrated as scrappy an pop-culure savvy. The list goes on and on. When Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 and wounded 30 at Fort Hood, it was very important to the NYT and CNN that no one speculate on a possible motive; now both are keen to blame the rhetoric of others for the actions of Jason Loughner.

All of this is the “who, what, where, when and how,” which leaves the question of “why.” Surprisingly, Slate’s Jack Shafer is willing to identify “The awesome stupidity of the calls to tamp down political speech in the wake of the Giffords shooting.” Unsurprisingly, Olbermann called Shafer’s piece “100% tonedeaf,” by which he means off-message. The entire point of the exercise here is to suppress speech. The blatantly unconstitutional bill to outlaw political target maps being floated by Rep. Bob Brady (D-PA) has no chance of passing, but exists solely to milk the ghoulish exploitation for all it’s worth. And as the litany of examples in this post shows, the left and the establishment media rarely show any interest in policing hateful extremist rhetoric of the left when it happens. Rather, they only acknowledge it much later (once the stories have lost any political saliency) to feign fairness when attacking the right.

Thus, in practice, the proposed suppression of free speech is not about tone, but viewpoint. It is nothing less than a naked power play by those in the business of manufacturing consent to a center-left agenda, using the shop-worn gimmicks of “Fake, But Accurate” and the “Neutral Story Line.” If that means dressing up ghouls in nice clothes and exploiting the murder of a nine-year-old girl… well, that’s just the cost of doing business.

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1. a malevolent spirit or ghost
2. a person interested in morbid or disgusting things
3. a person who robs graves
4. (Myth & Legend / Non-European Myth & Legend) (in Muslim legend) an evil demon thought to eat human bodies, either stolen corpses or children

I believe these evil people who are netroots and the media truly are consuming to dead for their vile appetites.

rob verdi on January 10, 2011 at 4:15 PM

Sheriff Dupnik said he didn’t know why anyone would go into public services today….Me, I don’t know why anyone would work in the cesspool that is the Lameststream Media.

If Dupnik feels so strongly he should resign – not that he is going to be able to look at himself in a mirror again….that ship has sailed.

Dr Evil on January 10, 2011 at 4:16 PM

Good collection of the selective media reporting.

the_nile on January 10, 2011 at 4:20 PM

Flash: Sheriff Dupnik knew of several death threats by the shooter

Who’s to blame?

faraway on January 10, 2011 at 4:20 PM

Jared Loughner to reporters: “Sarah who?”

Steve Z on January 10, 2011 at 4:25 PM

The MSM invalidates itself once again. Why they persist in self mutilation is a mystery, but so long as they continue to lose viewers, readership and relevance is fine by me.

Geochelone on January 10, 2011 at 4:25 PM

as the story comes out I suspect his department will have been shown to drop the ball numerous times.

rob verdi on January 10, 2011 at 4:25 PM

Speaking of “selective”, are major dad andI the only ones who saw NBC’s “extremist rhetoric” piece last night?

If you watch the video clip, you’ll probably recognize a neighbor…

tree hugging sister on January 10, 2011 at 4:27 PM

The WHY is no secret, so far we have had calls for more regulations on a plethora of our rights. It is clearly sick and evil to exploit tragedy for political gain.

fourdeucer on January 10, 2011 at 4:31 PM

What a horrible frickin’ mess heaped on the backs of the dead victims, courtesy of the nation’s resident liberal human garbage. They just couldn’t let it go and look what we have now.

Bishop on January 10, 2011 at 4:37 PM

If Dupnik feels so strongly he should resign – not that he is going to be able to look at himself in a mirror again….that ship has sailed.

Dr Evil on January 10, 2011 at 4:16 PM

Are they haunted or what? Can anyone tell me what is the deal with these people? I get the feeling that some of them look in the mirror, and see Sarah Palin. Gaze into their morning orange juice, and see Sarah Palin. They lie down at night, and see Sarah Palin. I expect one of them to start offering toast slices with miraculous images of Sarah Palin on Ebay.

Lily on January 10, 2011 at 4:41 PM

OT Ed on local 97.1 fmtalk, Dana Loesh’s show.

Inanemergencydial on January 10, 2011 at 4:41 PM

The WHY is no secret, so far we have had calls for more regulations on a plethora of our rights. It is clearly sick and evil to exploit tragedy for political gain.

fourdeucer on January 10, 2011 at 4:31 PM

The Problem is for the oppressive-left is that they still think they are still in charge and weren’t rejected last November. They’re still is oppressive-overdrive and think that calling for the control of free speech and self-defense rights will get them somewhere.

Insert witty screen name here on January 10, 2011 at 4:42 PM

Spot-on, Karl.

Kenosha Kid on January 10, 2011 at 4:54 PM

“political ghouls”

I think we have a name that will stick to the Left…

Seven Percent Solution on January 10, 2011 at 5:08 PM

The fire at Sarah Palin’s church was set by an arsonist, when adults and children were in the building, and it was set so as to block the fire exits.

It could easily have resulted in even more deaths than did the Arizona murders, but I do not recall one single public expression of even mild concern on the part of the media and the Democrats about that horrible act, no “whoa, maybe we should tone down the rhetoric”, no nothing!!

Of course, since the media had already established her as the Devil incarnate, anything done to Palin or anyone around her was, and is, fair game as far as they are concerned.

drunyan8315 on January 10, 2011 at 5:18 PM

If Dupnik feels so strongly he should resign – not that he is going to be able to look at himself in a mirror again….that ship has sailed.

Dr Evil on January 10, 2011 at 4:16 PM

Don’t kid yourself, Doc, he’ll have no problem looking at himself in the mirror; denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

Dopenstrange on January 10, 2011 at 5:42 PM

The ‘usual asses of the left’ are soooooo predictable.

Dupnik is a senile old fool. He LOVES face time with TV cameras – unfortunately, he can’t keep his liberal mouth shut.

GarandFan on January 10, 2011 at 5:58 PM

We need to demand that the authorities release the results of the forensic search they do on his computer to try to determine what sites he visited, what comments he made and his Bookmarks / Favorites lists.

Maybe he saw the Thursday post – now deleted – from The Daily Kos: My CongreeWOMAN voted against Nancy Pelosi And is now DEAD to me.

Laurence on January 10, 2011 at 6:00 PM

Where were all of these people when someone actually committed an act of violence against a sitting president (the shoe thrower)?

I think they were probably all making a bunch of jokes and wishing they had done it or that it had been a grenade or knife instead.

They should think about how that might have lent some legitimacy to acts of violence against elected officials.

Doodad Pro on January 10, 2011 at 6:16 PM

Maybe he saw the Thursday post – now deleted – from The Daily Kos: My CongressWOMAN voted against Nancy Pelosi And is now DEAD to me.

Laurence on January 10, 2011 at 6:00 PM

I saw this, too. But it’s “now deleted”??? No!! I’m shocked – SHOCKED – I tell you…

Dopenstrange on January 10, 2011 at 6:22 PM

For a moment Winston ignored the dial. He made a violent effort to raise himself into a sitting position, and merely succeeded in wrenching his body painfully.

‘But how can you control matter?’ he burst out. ‘You don’t even control the climate or the law of gravity. And there are disease, pain, death –‘

O’Brien silenced him by a movement of his hand. ‘We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull. You will learn by degrees, Winston. There is nothing that we could not do. Invisibility, levitation — anything. I could float off this floor like a soap bubble if I wish to. I do not wish to, because the Party does not wish it. You must get rid of those nineteenth-century ideas about the laws of Nature. We make the laws of Nature.’

‘But you do not! You are not even masters of this planet. What about Eurasia and Eastasia? You have not conquered them yet.’

‘Unimportant. We shall conquer them when it suits us. And if we did not, what difference would it make? We can shut them out of existence. Oceania is the world.’

‘But the world itself is only a speck of dust. And man is tiny helpless! How long has he been in existence? For millions of years the earth was uninhabited.’

‘Nonsense. The earth is as old as we are, no older. How could it be older? Nothing exists except through human consciousness.’

‘But the rocks are full of the bones of extinct animals — mammoths and mastodons and enormous reptiles which lived here long before man was ever heard of.’

‘Have you ever seen those bones, Winston? Of course not. Nineteenth-century biologists invented them. Before man there was nothing. After man, if he could come to an end, there would be nothing. Outside man there is nothing.’

‘But the whole universe is outside us. Look at the stars! Some of them are a million light-years away. They are out of our reach for ever.’

‘What are the stars?’ said O’Brien indifferently. ‘They are bits of fire a few kilometres away. We could reach them if we wanted to. Or we could blot them out. The earth is the centre of the universe. The sun and the stars go round it.’

Do remember this is not a cautionary tale to the Left, but a training manual.

ajacksonian on January 10, 2011 at 8:45 PM

What is becoming clear is that Jared Loughner was living in a dream world of his own, only superficially aware of politics or anything else. Who knows what he “saw” in his lucid dreaming, what private jokes he was snickering about as he sat in class, or what he meant in his remarks on YouTube?
He shot Rep. Giffords because she was the handiest celebrity he could strike at in order to attain the notoriety he wanted. He referred to her as “my assassination.” What that meant is unclear, but that smirk in his booking photo, suggests that he is proud of himself.

John Hinckley didn’t shoot President Reagan because he was an angry liberal, but because he was the President and he wanted the fame and notoriety it would give him, and, he believed, impress Jodie Foster.

The motivations of schizophrenics don’t follow any logic the rest of us would recognize. That’s why they’re considered insane.

The left had adopted a narrative about Sarah Palin and the tea party movement: that they are insane, violence-prone, and dangerous; but they lacked evidence, and if was irking them. When this attack occurred, it was as if a missing link in the narrative had clicked into place. No matter that it didn’t really fit, that there was no link whatsoever between Loughner and Palin and the tea parties. It completed their narrative and they ran with it. Now they’re the ones who seem to be using a madman for political purposes.

flataffect on January 11, 2011 at 11:35 AM