Four years ago a deranged man shot into a crowd of people in Tucson, Arizona. Within hours the leading voices of the Left identified the real culprit. It wasn’t the mentally troubled man who pulled the trigger: It was Sarah Palin and the “climate of hate” created by the Tea Party. After this weekend’s shooting of two police officers, the Left seems to have collective amnesia about the “climate of hate” argument.
Saturday afternoon a man named Ismaaiyl Brinsley crept up on two NYPD officers who were sitting in a patrol car and murdered them. Brinsley has a long rap sheet and is believed to have shot his girlfriend before murdering officers Liu and Ramos. After the shooting, he ran to a subway platform where he shot himself.
What makes this story of national importance is that prior to the shooting, Brinsley left a message on social media indicating he was seeking revenge for the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Gardner. “I’m putting wings on pigs today,” he wrote, adding “They take 1 of ours…Let’s take 2 of theirs #ShootThePolice #RIPErivGarner #RIPMikeBrown This may be my final post I’m putting pigs in a blanket.”
This appears to be exactly the kind of thing the Left once said they were very seriously concerned about. After the shooting in Tucson in 2011, the Left argued violent political rhetoric was to blame for inspiring a deranged man to kill.
Climate of Hate
On January 8, 2011 at about 10am, a paranoid schizophrenic named Jared Lee Loughner appeared at an outdoor event in Tucson hosted by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Loughner began shooting — killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, and injuring 13. He shot Rep. Giffords in the head, but she survived. The incident shocked Americans and instantly became international news.
Two hours after the shooting took place, Paul Krugman used his perch at the New York Times to blame the shooting on Sarah Palin, framing the incident as inevitable, given the “climate of hate” on the Right:
It’s been scary for quite a while, in a way that already reminded many of us of the climate that preceded the Oklahoma City bombing. You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers [emphasis added].
Like Krugman, many leading voices on the Left declared Palin was responsible for the carnage because of a district targeting map she had published on Facebook. Keith Olbermann said the day of the shooting, “If Sarah Palin … does not repudiate her own part, however tangential, in amplifying violence and violent imagery in American politics, she must be dismissed from politics, she must be repudiated by the members of her party.” Markos Moulitsas was more blunt: “Mission accomplished, Sarah Palin.”
After evidence suggested the real cause was Loughner’s schizophrenia, the Left attempted to re-focus blame on things taking place “outside Loughner’s head.” Not just anything happening outside his head, of course; it was “anti-government, pro-gun, xenophobic populism” that was to blame. That’s the argument Slate’s Jacob Weisberg made two days after the shooting:
Based on what we know so far, the Tucson killings look like more like politically tinged schizophrenia. It is appropriate, however, to consider what was swirling outside Loughner’s head. To call his crime an attempted assassination is to acknowledge that it appears to have had a political and not merely a personal context. That context wasn’t Islamic radicalism, Puerto Rican independence, or anarcho-syndicalism. It was the anti-government, pro-gun, xenophobic populism that flourishes in the dry and angry climate of Arizona. Extremist shouters didn’t program Loughner, in some mechanistic way, to shoot Gabrielle Giffords. But the Tea Party movement did make it appreciably more likely that a disturbed person like Loughner would react, would be able to react, and would not be prevented from reacting, in the crazy way he did.
The argument wasn’t limited to the progressive media. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver went on Meet the Press the day after the shooting and said, “We are in a dark place in this country right now; the atmospheric condition is toxic.” Rep. Steny Hoyer was on CBS’ Face the Nation the same morning warning, “what we say can, in fact, have consequences.”
The result of the Left’s hectoring about violent rhetoric was visible in polls that followed. CBS reported three days after the shooting that 45 percent of Americans believed politics motivated Jared Loughner, while 56 percent said rhetoric had nothing to do with Loughner’s crime. But another poll taken later found that 48 percent believed rhetoric did play a role — and 35 percent specifically blamed Sarah Palin.
No evidence suggested Loughner had a political motive. His friends said he never listened to talk radio. They, however, did note he was a fan of the far-outside-the-mainstream Zeitgeist movement. But the facts were overwhelmed by the Left’s “climate of hate” rhetoric. Despite having no evidence Loughner ever saw Palin’s map or even knew who Palin was, the Left convinced more than a third of the public she was at fault and convinced nearly half that political rhetoric was to blame.
The Left’s Collective Amnesia
That was four years ago. Now that we appear to have a legitimate case of politically-motivated assassination of two NYPD officers, the Left has discarded the “climate of hate” argument. Meanwhile, some on the Right have been warning anti-cop vigilantism was on the rise. Here’s Michelle Malkin ten days ago:
Today, fear and political correctness reign on the streets. Few truth-tellers in public office will call out the cop-hating cultists seeking racially driven retribution. Social justice mobsters sucker punch cops in New York while “peaceniks” cheer. Police officers have been attacked with hatchets, knives, and bottles from the Big Apple to Canon City, Colorado. In Oakland, “F–k the pigs” has been a constant refrain. In St. Louis County: “Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon.” And in Denver, dedicated police officer John Adsit remains in critical condition after being mowed down by a vehicle while escorting Ferguson protesters last week. Witnesses reportedly applauded and the ongoing investigation of the driver has been characterized as “complex.”
And a week before the shooting, a You Tube video appeared in which NY protesters can be heard chanting “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!” Given that some within their own movement are anti-police, the Left is sticking its collective fingers in its ears. Slate, which once made the extended argument about what was taking place “outside Loughner’s head,” now says no one should pay attention to what was taking place inside Brinsley head. Here’s Jamelle Bouie today:
Despite what these police organizations and their allies allege, there isn’t an anti-police movement in this country, or at least, none of any significance. The people demonstrating for Eric Garner and Michael Brown aren’t against police, they are for better policing.
Clearly, that is not the message getting through to everyone. Over at Vox, there is an anodyne run down of what we know and don’t know about the shootings. Here is the entirety of the “What we don’t know” section:
Police are still investigating the shooting, including the suspected gunman’s motive for allegedly shooting his ex-girlfriend and two police officers. It’s possible more details could come to light in the next few days and weeks.
Apparently, it’s a mystery why Brinsley shot the two officers before telling the world why he wanted to kill them. Vox is also in no rush to pin down that elusive motive. That’s not at all how things went in 2011 when Matt Yglesias, now Vox’s executive editor, instantly tied the Tuscon shooting (absent any evidence) to Sarah Palin and “violent rhetoric.”
Where is the Left that was concerned about what unstable people might make of violent political rhetoric? Why are they silent now, when it seems what they claimed they feared may actually have happened?