But this time, the national conversation’s clumsy crosshairs are trained on core political speech. While blood was still pooling in a Tucson parking lot, before we even knew the names of the victims, a not small number of very small people decided that the deaths of those victims, the pain of their families, and the trauma of a nation would be useful tools for hurting their political adversaries. To call these people political ambulance chasers would be an insult to the comparatively sensitive men and women who populate the commercial breaks on “Judge Judy.”
But in the toxic swirl of panic, stupidity and opportunism that is a national conversation, the media pegged a year-old graphic from the political website of a former governor as the root cause of a shooting rampage. By extension, the political rhetoric of Tea Party activists and any right-leaning elected official might be similarly “inciteful,” so we are having a national conversation about limiting one side of the conversation.
There is no evidence the shooter was actually inspired by any mainstream political philosophy or figure, but a child watching TV coverage would have thought the alleged shooter’s name was Rhetoric long before he realized it was Jared Lee Loughner. Rhetoric was the suspect most closely examined. Our rhetorical guardians claim to have good intentions, but the lack of evidence betrays their utter lack of sincerity.