Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Sticks and stones may break my bones (but words will never hurt me).

with 4 comments

I’m sure almost every English speaking person heard that in their childhood, a mantra someone uses when someone has called them names. Of course if it was actually true, there would be no need to say so, the mere fact that such idioms exist is proof positive that words can most definitely hurt. Words can hurt, for good or for ill, they are one of the most powerful tools humans have for affecting how other people think and feel. Leaders don’t inspire crowds by drawing pictures or doing dances, most of the time they use words.

So I’ve been a little peeved at the amazing circumlocutions I am hearing from the right how the violent eliminationist rhetoric used by so many influential  figures on the right is somehow irrelevant when someone actually acts out that violence. Yes, the Arizona shooter is a nut, no doubt about that, but since Obama got elected there have been half a dozen other nuts who also went out and shot people acting out right wing ideals, from shooting policemen out of fear of gun confiscation, to actual targeting liberals such as the fellow who shot up the Unitarian church. Granted this is a very small number of cases, but still, there is a pattern here. More on point, these shootings didn’t take place when Bush was in office, they took place after the whole Tea Party movement started and the rhetoric (not to mention actual guns) at political events reached new heights.

Do I think this is  a major problem? Not yet, though it’s a major problem for those whose lives have been affected by this sort of violence. The fact that so many on the right are in complete denial about this though, that’s a problem. Let’s look at this. The right is constantly making the claim that liberal media and liberal educators are poisoning people’s minds. Some have even gone so far as to create Conservapedia, to counteract the alleged liberal bias of Wikipedia.  So let’s see, all this liberal bias in the media is poisoning people’s minds … but all the vitriol, hate speech, and violent eliminationist rhetoric coming from talking heads on the right has no influence on people? While breathtaking hypocrisy is stock-in-trade for American politics, simultaneously ranting about the liberal media  while denying that violent right wing rhetoric has any influence is about as hypocritical as it gets.

Moving right along in my random revisiting of the Arizona shooting, once again we have an incident that has been blown all out of proportion by the press and the politicians. President Obama even gave a speech at the memorial service. It was a stirring and inspiring speech by most accounts, but I’ve heard stirring speeches before and unless they are followed by action, I’m underwhelmed. It’s not like any effective gun control is possible in the USA, the conservatives have pretty much won that battle. And it’s not like people like the shooter are going to get more mental health resources available to them, again, the conservatives have worked hard to prevent spending on public health. Yes, I am not so subtly implying that aside from  violent rhetoric, other conservative policies also contributed to this shooting.

Granted both sides used this incident  to score political points. And I seriously doubt it will result in any changes in American politics one way tother. It’s just the story of the day. And despite the nonstop coverage in our so called Free Press, little of substance will be said. The Americans dying in our foreign wars for example, how much press do they get? And as a perceptive commenter pointed out on my last post, we are committing massacres like the Arizona shooting on almost a daily basis in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And this was a war the USA chose, the Taliban and the Pakistani tribesmen are only fighting back, we attacked them. This too isn’t likely to change any time soon, but like the endless conservative violent rhetoric, it’s going to come back and bite us in the ass again sooner or later.

Do we really want to inspire and incite another Timothy McVeigh or Osama bin Laden? Sometimes I wonder.

(The above image is a funeral after a drone strike in Afghanistan. It’s claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit: NY Times. Pretty good bet many or most of those people don’t look too kindly on the people who killed their friends and relatives. Why are we fighting these people again? When is Obama going to give a speech explaining that? And in a final macabre note, on top of my Internet and computer problems, I tried to saw off my thumb on Monday. No, not on purpose. So that too is going to limit my on line and writing time, sigh.)





Written by unitedcats

January 13, 2011 at 5:26 pm

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. US politics is more or less hopeless at this point. Each side (many, many more than two) is pointing at everyone else and commenting smugly about their self-evident lunacy. It’s just annoying.

    As regards Loughner, apparently he’s never followed any rightists, and became fixated on Giffords in 2007. I think this one is a false alarm.

    Tom Dickson-Hunt

    January 13, 2011 at 7:11 pm

  2. “Timothy McVeigh or Osama bin Laden”, pfft, you know what I think about those so called “terrorists”…
    As for inspiring these acts, I think the media riding it is responsible for most of the “vitriol”. Instead of just treating the whole thing with sorrow and disgust, they add political fuel the fire of the debate between two “sides”, ramp up the herd mentality, and anybody who says neither side is right, is always wrong. People can say an do as they please, it was his choice to listen and then to act, yeah “vitriol” played a part, but if it wasnt the Giffords thing it would have another, the guy is crazy…Shoulden’t matter if “vitriol” or Mickymouse influenced him do it, HE, still did it….



    January 14, 2011 at 1:22 pm

  3. It’s rather suprising that this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often, especially in a nation where guns are so easily available.


    January 14, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    • If guns weren’t available, other items would be fashioned into a weapon. There are so many ways to hurt people if one puts their mind to it. The focus on guns distracts our attention away from exploring what motivates people to lash out violently (regardless of weapon of choice, be it a bomb, a gun, a vehicle, poison or bleach).

      Simply labeling them crazy nutjobs (as is popular) dehumanizes them and thence complicates attempts to grasp the offender’s perspective or to place the offender’s reaction within a sliding scale where perhaps many of us exhibit milder or less neurotic symptoms, but plenty experience noticeable symptoms nevertheless.

      For example, anxiety shows itself in many forms. For some it manifests in undue stress at work or home. For a growing number it leads to a search to grasp onto something to instill a sense of certainty and security (e.g., evangelical christians and duopoly party enthusiasts). For others it leads to emotional breakdowns. And for a small minority it leads to going postal and taking extreme measures. Sometimes this occurs after a disconnect from reality, but that isn’t requisite in every event involving extreme violence.

      As I’ve discussed briefly in a comment to another post on here, humans are a homicidal species — push people far enough and they may snap. We may be relatively civilized, but that goes out the window when someone feels repeatedly threatened or victimized. The threatening source may be another individual or it may be the work of anonymous forces, as is becoming common in modern, technologically-sophisticated societies (Erich Fromm discusses this concept in his books — see “Escape From Freedom”). With a source seemingly impossible to pin down, it’s not uncommon for distressed people to pick a target to vent their frustration at. It seems irrational on first glance, but further socio-psychological exploration aids us in making sense of this perplexing social phenomenon.

      I’m very interested in this subject and have in recent months resumed studying sadism, nihilism, authoritarianism, and their implications in modern social relations. It can be argued that we in the U.S. live in what’s become a crazy-making society. Logically, this will create ‘crazy’ people of varying degrees. Loughner and others appear to be examples of the far end of that spectrum, but that doesn’t indicate the rest of us are significantly saner or more rational, just better at obeying laws perhaps.


      January 29, 2011 at 3:38 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: