In the immediate wake of every tragedy, the New York Times rarely stops itself from politicizing the incident. Most often, tragedies are used to prove the brilliance of some Paul Krugman policy recommendation or the importance of apppreciating Maureen Dowd’s snark, and understanding that of course if we’d listened to these folks none of this would have ever happened.
While The Times editorial board massages the facts every now and then, today’s editorial, “America’s Lethal Politics,” goes a step further by implying Sarah Palin was partially responsible for the shooting of former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Such a pronouncement is objectionable and inane. Here’s why:
For starters, the timing of the editorial suggests that Rep. Steve Scalise’s shooting is merely a symptom of some sort of bipartisan culture of political violence. It’s not. The attempted murder of the House majority whip might represent a significant escalation in America’s political polarization—but it’s more likely just another incident where a bad guy uses a gun.
And that’s precisely why the editorial writer couldn’t think of a single analogous example other than the 2011 Tucson shooting that left six dead and fifteen wounded, including Giffords. Some “lethal politics” we have, huh?
But it’s worth remembering that the Times has a twisted interest in our political debates getting bloodier. Such a culture of violence would help reinforce the stereotypes and caricatures of ignorant, gun-toting Americans that so many of its writers harbor. Remember, they’re the smartest guys in the room.
Yet the most craven part of the editorial comes from the following passage:
In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.
If the idiots at the Times editorial page spent a few minutes actually researching the political views of Loughner, they’d know that he was registered as an Independent and obsessed with conspiracy theories—not low taxes, fewer environmental regulations, or immigration. Moreover, even if Loughner did hold conservative views, does the editorial writer really think that the Palin super PAC was sending a coded message to psychopaths? Of course, even if you did think that, you’d have to deal with the fact that there was zero evidence Loughner ever saw the crosshairs map.
Perhaps those over at the Grey Lady are easily influenced by various symbols, but most people don’t see a crosshair as a suggestion to start murdering people. Nor do most people blame their political opponents for senseless acts of violence.
Again, the cheap shot at Palin isn’t about holding politicians accountable — it’s about taking down conservatives by any means necessary, even if it means making a fool out of yourself.
Update: Turns out the Times realized that its readers aren’t too stupid to recognize the lie they were trying to pull off: