This is, I think, a serious problem. But it’s also a problem that has nothing, or almost nothing, to do with the tragedy in Arizona. This was not a right-wing militia member taking apocalyptic right-wing rhetoric about watering the tree of liberty too seriously. It was a random act.
I can see why those concerned about the rise of right-wing hysteria would want to use Loughner as a cautionary tale — even if he wasn’t a product of right-wing rage, they may be thinking, he is an example of what right-wing rage could lead to. Yet they fail to understand that this will appear to conservatives as an attempt to use the emotion of the moment to stigmatize them. The mania of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party must be dealt with on their own terms.