Let’s cut to the chase: we all remember how the entire left and its vast media apparatus rose up as one to blame the Tucson shootings on conservatives in 2011. The process began during breaking-news coverage of Jared Loughner’s rampage, as media airheads began speculating that Sarah Palin’s use of crosshair symbols on an electoral map had somehow inspired the killer.
This was not a one-off comment by some loon on MSNBC. It became a major media narrative — indeed, one of the strongest, most quickly-organized Narrative drives the mainstream media has ever mounted. Every big network and left-wing media outlet published lengthy chin-stroking pieces about Palin’s murder map. A contemporaneous example from CBS News can be read here; another from the Atlantic’s “The Wire” blog is here. Examples are ubiquitous. One need only do a Google search for Sarah Palin’s name in early 2011 to find more.
The driving force of this despicable, slanderous Narrative was a presumed-guilty attitude toward Palin, and through her the rest of the conservative movement, for creating a nebulous “Climate of Hate” that made Loughner trigger-happy. No connection between any individual conservative and Loughner was necessary to sustain this narrative. The idea was that even the mildest criticism of big government and the left’s agenda was part of an ideological continuum that led inexorably to militias and lone-wolf madmen opening fire on politicians and officials.
Virtually nothing was known about Jared Loughner’s motivations when all of these vile, dimwitted “think pieces” were written, or when political opportunists looped additional prominent conservatives like Rush Limbaugh into the Climate of Hate. “The kind of rhetoric that flows from people like Rush Limbaugh, in my judgment he is irresponsible, uses partial information, sometimes wrong information,” mused Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who almost certainly knew enough of the then-confidential details of the Tucson shooting to know he was lying through his teeth. “He attacks people, angers them against government, angers them against elected officials, and that kind of behavior in my opinion is not without consequences.”
After weeks of this garbage, we finally learned that Loughner had no connection whatsoever to any branch of the conservative movement, never saw Sarah Palin’s electoral map, and probably never listened to a Limbaugh broadcast. That didn’t really matter to the “Climate of Hate” narrative, which was always about using a very loose system of ideological guilt-by-association to make even the most kind, gentle, salt-of-the-earth conservative feel like an accessory to murder. As the Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan put it, “No one is saying Sarah Palin should be viewed as an accomplice to murder. Many are merely saying that her recklessly violent and inflammatory rhetoric has poisoned the discourse and has long run the risk of empowering the deranged. We are saying it’s about time someone took responsibility for this kind of rhetorical extremism, because it can and has led to violence and murder.”
Of course, every last one of these miserable, cowardly hypocrites is currently shaking in their boots, scared to death that people will begin digging up their old “Climate of Hate” rhetoric and plugging their names into the slots formerly reserved for Palin and Limbaugh, linking the left’s irresponsible rhetoric to this weekend’s murders of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. Like other angry cowards, they’re pre-emptively lashing out in blogs and social media, thundering “how DARE you!” at anyone who dares to measure them with their old Tucson yardstick. Phalanxes of shrieking liberal ninnies have formed up online to defend politicians like President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and even New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — who, until those shots rang out on Saturday afternoon, had been styling himself as a leader in the revolution against his own law-enforcement personnel.
I’ll be happy to lay down the same marker I did during the Tucson affair, when answering slander like Paul Krugman’s disgusting “Climate of Hate” post at the New York Times, which would have ended his career at any paper with a shred of editorial integrity. Liberal Americans, as a class, are not responsible for the deadly actions of New York City shooter Ismaaiyl Brinsley. Neither are opinion writers who have advanced stern criticism of the use of force by police. Even when such criticism is misguided, it’s not beyond the bounds of civilized discourse. Misguided critics should be engaged and answered, not told to shut up because they’re encouraging lunatics to take up arms. The left has been working very hard to pull the bounds of civilized discourse in tight around their ideology. I won’t stop calling them out for that game, but I’m not going to play it.
However, there are people who have issued irresponsible statements that fed directly into the rage, paranoia, and rebellious sentiments of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner protest movements. None of the insane guilt-by-association games played by liberals after Tucson are necessary to draw a straight line between those who promote the false “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” narrative, make broad accusations of systemic police racism (as Barack Obama has done), or indulged the worst excesses of the demonstrators (as Mayor de Blasio has done) and the rising tide of violence against police. The murders of Officers Liu and Ramos were not the first assaults on police by these mobs — far from it. Watching the people who instantly conjured up a link between Sarah Palin’s map and Jared Loughner’s gun do a little song-and-dance about how the violence of the Brown/Garner protesters is a stunning aberration, which has nothing to do with rhetoric that paints the police as racist thrill-killers, is sickening.
There is no continuum between criticism of the police and slander of the police. There’s a dividing line between those two classes of rhetoric that would be much easier to see, if it were not obscured by the tire tracks of so many left-wing narratives running over it. Racism is one of the worst accusations that can be made in America today. Guilt is presumed, and a very heavy burden of proof lies upon those who would demonstrate their innocence. “Systemic racism” is even worse, because the burden of proof builds into a mountain of calumny that pokes through the atmosphere into outer space. How do “The Cops,” as a group, prove they aren’t the unsavory, untrustworthy characters that professional agitators and their political partners paint them as?
Another profound difference from Tucson is that none of the people slandered by the left saluted Jared Loughner’s actions, while Ismaaiyl Brinsley has a lively fan club on social media. An impressive volume of tweets and Facebook posts either applauding the murder of Liu and Ramos and calling for more bloodshed, or accepting the killings as an inevitable consequence of police racism. After Tucson, the Left — including a lot of big-ticket celebrity pundits and journalists — issued dark warnings about incipient Tea Party rebellion, portraying mainstream critics of big government as wannabe militia leaders in a budding insurrection. The Ferguson mob actively portrays itself that way, an image fed by professional agitators, grifters like Al Sharpton, opportunistic Democrat politicians who wanted to be seen as movement-friendly because they thought it would grab them some votes in 2014 (and maybe again in 2016), and left-wingers eager to flatter demonstrators as populist revolutionaries. Why, if their hatred is carefully nourished, they might just turn into the leftist uprising that Occupy Wall Street spectacularly failed to deliver!
This new Climate of Hate is indulged by politicians who make special exceptions for Brown and Garner demonstrations, waving aside civic ordinances and allowing them to shut down major traffic intersections or invade shopping malls at will. Nothing of the sort was ever contemplated by the Tea Party, which was neat as a pin and polite to a fault, despite relentless left-wing efforts to caricature them as brutes. Suspending the rules in favor of these demonstrators validates their view of society as weak, corrupt, and unable to muster an argument against their righteous fury. They’ve long needed to hear strong words from local leaders about the need to hold orderly demonstrations in broad daylight to make their case. Maybe they’ll finally hear such a lecture from President Obama, who should have given it to them over a month ago. How can official indulgence of lawlessness, or even active collaboration against it, be spared from the charge that it has contributed to a destructive climate of violence?
There is no reason to believe racism had anything to do with the deaths of Michael Brown or Eric Garner. None. In the latter case, the presence of a black female police sergeant on the scene argues rather strongly to the contrary. Our political and cultural establishment should have long ago stood as one, liberal and conservative together, to emphasize the importance of due process and the presumption of innocence – values that must be held in our hearts, as well as written into our laws. Instead, the loosest, easiest, most callous form of slander was indulged, not only unfairly imputing dark motives to the police officers involved, but challenging the very rule of law itself. What else can be on the minds of people – including members of the House of Representatives — giving the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” salute long after grand jury testimony established that nothing of the sort happened during the confrontation between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown? That’s a huge vote of no confidence in the legal system, and it’s coming not just from loudmouths with bullhorns haunting street corners, but from highly-placed Democrat officials within the government. Why should anyone be surprised that people who have been relentlessly told society is hopelessly corrupt and biased against them, to the point of holding their very lives worthless, decided to give anarchy a shot instead?
There is a very real Climate of Hate surrounding the Brown and Garner protest movements. The old fires simmering for years are clear to see, as are the fresh gallons of gasoline thrown upon them. That’s not a blanket indictment of everyone who criticized the police, but it’s a fair charge to level against those who spread false narratives in search of political gain, or allow those narratives to grow because they’re afraid to speak up and alienate voters they prefer to take for granted. Be that as it may. liberals may rest assured that nothing they said after Tucson has been forgotten.