“Free speech is free speech but it’s not without consequences”

After yesterday’s horrific events took place in Arizona, the 73 year old, seven-term sheriff of Pima County, Clarence Dupnik, addressed the press. He was exceedingly blunt. Not only did he suggest that the heated political climate in Arizona may have contributed to the day’s events, but he said that his state had, over the course of these past few years, become a “mecca for racism and bigotry.” I found his honesty refreshing. Others, however, weren’t so impressed. Several on the right are accusing the Sheriff of inserting politics where they don’t belong. Here he is with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly this morning, discussing this very issue.

Kelly: “With respect, sheriff, I know that you’re a Democrat and you ran for office as a Democrat, and I just want to press you on that a little. I’m sure some of our viewers are asking themselves why you are putting a political spin on this when they may be asking why you the sheriff aren’t just focused on the facts, on uncovering the facts.”

Does she have a point?

Just so we’re clear on this, I am not blaming Sarah Palin, or others in the media, for the events on Saturday. The responsibility lies with the individual who perpetrated the act, and, perhaps to some extent, the individuals who, seeing the warning signs, chose not to get involved. (You may also want to include the person who chose to sell him a gun, and those behind the system that allowed him to do so, but I’ll save that argument for another day.) I believe in free speech, and I don’t believe that additional restrictions should be put on Palin, or others. I do, however, think she, and others, should be held accountable by the public when they cross the line. In her case, I hope this ends her political career. More importantly, however, I hope it serves as a lesson to others who might be tempted to follow in her fear-mongering “mama grizzly” footsteps. People have to understand, as Sheriff Dupnik pointed out so eloquently, that their actions and words have consequences in the real world.

While I don’t think Palin, or other popular spewers of vitriol, are personally responsible in a legal sense, however, I also don’t think that you can view this young man’s actions completely out of context. Arizona is a hotbed of political unrest, torn apart over the immigration debate, and pushed to the fringes of sanity by the Tea Party and their billionaire backers. In the wake of the health care vote, someone fired a shotgun at the Congresswoman’s office. And, she has had numerous threats against her life. So, I wasn’t surprised to hear that the suspected killer had left racist diatribes online and seemed obsessed by the supposed un-Constitutionality of our government. These are palpable currents running through the discourse in Arizona, and, yes, I think it’s irresponsible for Sarah Palin to have thrown gasoline on the fire by introducing the imagery of murder and the vocabulary of guns. And I said so at the time.

Many of us saw this, or something like this, coming. We said so, and we were called fear-mongerers. And, now that the unthinkable has happened, we’re being blamed for taking this tragedy and using it to our political advantage. There is, it would seem, no place for reasonable discourse in today’s world, and we are paying the price for it.

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  1. Posted January 9, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    The quote in the headline is Dupnik’s, by the way.

  2. Robert
    Posted January 9, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Oh, now they are saying the man who drove Loughner to the Safeway was a cab driver. It will be interesting to see who this cab driver turns out to be.

    It will also be interesting to see the trajectory maping the police do for each of the shots fired from that 31 shot magazine Loughner emptied into the crowd. The information should be pretty cut-and-dry considering the supposed circumstances. We’ll see.

  3. notoneofthecoolkids
    Posted January 9, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    I saw his first press conference comments live on MSNBC last night and I decided right then I was going to send him some kind of card thanking him for speaking the truth.
    As for him running for re-election, I think that is BS. I thought about the political angle right then too, and I looked at him, his worn aged face, and decided that he knew exactly what he was saying. He has had a long career and I think he knew the political “risk” he would be taking and spoke from heart.

  4. Knox
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    This is why I like old people who don’t give a fuck about reelection. We need more of them.

  5. Edward
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Did you see Krugman’s op-ed:

    “there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans, [not] jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist . . . Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.”

  6. Edward
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    With all due respect to Jon Stewart, this shit comes from the right.

  7. Kim
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    From Taibi’s recent RS article on Boehner.

    Another Ohio Democrat, Steve Driehaus, clashed repeatedly with Boehner before losing his seat in the midterm elections. After Boehner suggested that by voting for Obamacare, Driehaus “may be a dead man” and “can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati” because “the Catholics will run him out of town,” Driehaus began receiving death threats, and a right-wing website published directions to his house. Driehaus says he approached Boehner on the floor and confronted him.

    “I didn’t think it was funny at all,” Driehaus says. “I’ve got three little kids and a wife. I said to him, ‘John, this is bullshit, and way out of bounds. For you to say something like that is wildly irresponsible.'”

    Driehaus is quick to point out that he doesn’t think Boehner meant to urge anyone to violence. “But it’s not about what he intended — it’s about how the least rational person in my district takes it. We run into some crazy people in this line of work.” (emphasis mine)

    Driehaus says Boehner was “taken aback” when confronted on the floor, but never actually said he was sorry: “He said something along the lines of, ‘You know that’s not what I meant.’ But he didn’t apologize.”


  8. EOS
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    He was a “left-wing pothead” according to those who went to school with him. Probably radicalized by Huffington and that ilk.

  9. John Galt
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    You left wingers wanted for this to happen. You love this. You have a fetish for violence.

  10. Robert
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    My bounty on EOS’s identity is still in effect if anybody wants to collect $100

  11. EOS
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Hey – you said $200. I was waiting till you got to $1000 so that I could claim the bounty.

  12. Robert
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I don’t know your identity yet EOS, but I’m already convinced it’s not worth more than $100.

  13. TeacherPatti
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    re: consequences

    Here is what I tell the kiddos: you can do whatever you want, but there are consequences for whatever you do.

    They love to play the “what if” game and I go with it. “What if I punch the principal?” “You’ll get expelled, possibly go to jail, possibly get your butt beat by him.” “What if I leave school?” “You’ll end up a bum”, etc. I mean seriously, I can’t stop them from doing anything and I let them know that…but I also let them know there are consequences for what they do. Believe it or not, they get the lesson fairly quickly.

  14. Posted January 10, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    He was radicalized by the Huffington Post!!

    It must have been all those pictures of Jennifer Aniston at the beach.

    What you you radicalized by, EOS, the Stormfront website?

    It’s too bad this guy was too dumb for anyone to claim him as his own.

  15. Robert
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    When I said I had a bounty on EOS, I meant like the bounties you see on maps.

  16. Ted
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    By Bounty, I meant the Quicker Picker-Upper.

  17. Kim
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    The comment about him being liberal, if I’m not mistaken, was made by someone who knew him in 2007, in high school. The concept may be foreign to you, but some people change after leaving high school.

  18. Posted January 10, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I think it’s safe to say that his politics were so confused that he can’t be called anything but an idiot.

  19. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I keep hearing the “Metalica/Ozzy” argument being tossed around, as in “remember when those kids committed violent acts or suicide and people tried to blame it on those songs by those artists? This is just like that.”

    Well, no, its not. Why? Because Metalica and Ozzy are entertainers who never asked anyone to follow them or do as they do. Palin, Beck, and the rest are just the opposite; they do claim to be leaders and do tell people to act based on their words. And then they talk about killing their opponents.

    Maybe this has nothing to do with the rhetoric of the right, maybe the devil in his mind told him to do it. That doesn’t make it any less dangerous to have political leaders publicly calling for the death of their opponents. They claim to be leaders of men, what’s so shocking about they idea that someone may act on their irresponsible public speech?

  20. Kim
    Posted January 10, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Fox News’s report yesterday initially claimed that a DHS memo had outlined the possible connection, and defined American Renaissance as a “pro-white racist organization” that Jared Loughner “mentioned in some of his internet postings.” Fox later walked back the report a bit, sourcing the claim to “a law enforcement memo based on information provided by DHS”

  21. Dave
    Posted January 11, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    “the supposed un-Constitutionality of our government”

    Yes the shooting was horrible, I agree, he was an evil man.

    But to say “the supposed un-Constitutionality of our government”. Come on guys are we even paying attention to the erosion of our freedoms here at home anymore? Or has everyone given up or buried their head in the sand.

    The TSA stuff, the censorship of the Internet, the endless war, the corporatocracy, the government and Monsanto control of our food supply. All of these things are really happening and they are un-Constitutional.

  22. Edward
    Posted January 11, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    There are certainly constitutional issues to be dealt with concerning torture, privacy, and any number of other things. I don’t believe, however, that those are the things that the people screaming the loudest about the constitution really care about. They don’t care that Arab men are being tortured and held without charges being brought against them. They care that we passed a health care bill, which they see as being a hair away from socialism.

  23. Dave
    Posted January 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Nobody is focusing on the true Constitutional issues. The GOP isn’t and the liberals aren’t either either. And there is the problem. Liberals are just as bad as GOP is for muddying the waters of an intellectual political discussion. The bipartisan system that most people blindly support is largely to blame for that.

    Instead of talking party politics why isn’t anyone upset about violations of the constitution? That is an issue that is much more important than posturing and preening for the 2012 election.

  24. Knox
    Posted January 11, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    From Bernie Sanders:

    What occurred this weekend in Tucson was tragic, and I join my congressional colleagues and the entire nation in sending my condolences to the victims of this horrible attack.

    In terms of this savage shooting rampage, several points need to be made. First, this horrendous act of violence is not some kind of strange aberration for this area where, it appears, threats and acts of violence are part of the political climate. Nobody can honestly express surprise that such a tragedy finally occurred. After all, last year, after her vote in support of health care reform, Rep. Giffords’ district office was attacked and her front window was shot out. In 2009, at an open constituent town meeting in a shopping center similar to the one in which she was gunned down, a pistol fell to the ground from the pocket of a protester attending the event. During her last campaign her opponent, Tea Party favorite Jesse Kelly, invited his supporters to an event at which they could fire live ammunition from an M-16 rifle as a fundraising device in his effort to help remove Rep. Giffords from office. Congresswoman Giffords publicly expressed concerns when Sarah Palin, on her website, placed her district in the cross-hairs of a rifle – and identified her by name below the image – as an encouragement to Palin supporters to eliminate her from Congress. Interviewed on MSNBC at the time when the cross-hairs were posted on the web, Giffords said; “When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action.”

    What should be understood is that the violence, and threats of violence against Democrats in Arizona, was not limited to Gabrielle Giffords. Raul Grijalva, an old friend of mine and one of the most progressive members in the House, was forced to close his district office this summer when someone shot a bullet through his office window. Another Democratic elected official in Arizona, recently defeated Congressman Harry Mitchell, suspended town meetings in his district because of the threatening phone calls that he received (Mitchell was also in the cross-hairs on the Palin map). And Judge John Roll, who was shot to death at the Giffords event, had received numerous threatening calls and death threats in 2009.

    In light of all of this violence – both actual and threatened – is Arizona a state in which people who are not Republicans are able to participate freely and fully in the democratic process? Have right-wing reactionaries, through threats and acts of violence, intimidated people with different points of view from expressing their political positions?

    My colleague, Senator John McCain, issued a very strong statement after the shooting in which he condemned the perpetrator of the attack. I commend him for that. But I believe Senator McCain and other Arizona Republicans need to do more. As the elder statesman of Arizona politics McCain needs to stand up and denounce the increasingly violent rhetoric coming from the right-wing and exert his influence to create a civil political environment in his state.

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