Krugman gets heavy

I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion… One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.

It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.

Last spring Politico.com reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 percent. A number of the people making those threats had a history of mental illness — but something about the current state of America has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence.

And there’s not much question what has changed. … It’s not a general lack of “civility”…, there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement.

The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric … that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And 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. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist… Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

Of course, the likes of Mr. Beck and Mr. O’Reilly are responding to popular demand. … But even if hate is what many want to hear, that doesn’t excuse those who pander to that desire. They should be shunned by all decent people.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening: the purveyors of hate have been treated with respect, even deference, by the G.O.P. establishment. …

So will the Arizona massacre make our discourse less toxic? It’s really up to G.O.P. leaders. Will they accept the reality of what’s happening to America, and take a stand against eliminationist rhetoric? Or will they try to dismiss the massacre as the mere act of a deranged individual, and go on as before?

If Arizona promotes some real soul-searching, it could prove a turning point. If it doesn’t, Saturday’s atrocity will be just the beginning.

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Paul Montgomery
Paul Montgomery
10 years ago

I don’t agree with this being a partisan issue. Too much energy is being spent on political pointscoring and virtually none on arguing for gun reform. What would it take for America to have its Port Arthur wake up moment? Is that even possible any more?

FDB
FDB
10 years ago

Paul M – if having multiple presidents shot wasn’t going to do it, nothing will.

Ian Milliss
10 years ago

Odds on it’s just the beginning. The US is sliding towards ungovernability and ultimately breakup, just like the USSR. And not too far into the future either. My guess is before 2020.

Doug
Doug
10 years ago

There has been an attempt to break up the USA before – the Civil War. that attempt had a clear economic, geographical and ideological basis to it.

How would a break up work now?

When South Carolina led the charge out of the Union, a Unionist within the state observed that South Carolina was too small to be a republic, but too large to be a lunatic asylum.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

So what did McVeigh or the UnaBomber have to do with?

I think trying to make this a partisan issue or reflective of a partisan issue is just pathetic.

Paul M, America’s Constitution is a formidable obstacle. Chances are that we wouldn’t have had gun control reform if we had a second amendment, and that’s even with Howard (a fair cut above any recent American President for political courage and effectiveness, imho).

Ian Milliss
10 years ago

Doug, the driver here is racial/cultural and that’s always stronger than economic or ideological. So, a white part, a latino part and probably east and west multicultural parts.

Rafe Champion
Rafe Champion(@rafe-champion)
10 years ago

Nicholas, I don’t share your admiration of Paul Krugman’s economics and I worry about the partisan stance that he takes on political issues.

Is he seriously blaming the Tea Party movement and Sarah Palin for this kind of thing?

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/256697/political-vultures-victor-davis-hanson?page=1

http://erudito.livejournal.com/950968.html

Soul searching is in order, and not just on the so-called right.

Rafe Champion
Rafe Champion(@rafe-champion)
10 years ago

Well the centre had better hold, and I do not doubt that it will. There is a massive fund of goodwill in the community as we see in times of disaster.

One possible response to this is to virtually ignore the whole slanging match and simply press on debating the issues.

I appreciate that the truth is stranger than fiction, at demonstrated by the more extreme examples of vilification of Sarah Palin.

I would really like to see the ABC set an example in the discussion of these things, they are spending our money and a part of the contract is to provide even-handed coverage and balance.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

If you think that’s Krugman’s point, Nick, then you are managing to make a very obscure writer out of a very clear one. One of Krugman’s bright spots is that it is usually hard not to understand him.

What’s more, he’d still be wrong. Just to take the most excruciatingly blindingly obvious example, wtf is he doing trying to blame the actions of an extreme-wing (if anything slightly left, but hard to tell that far around the circle) lunatic on Palin et al? What kind of rhetoric is that and what kind of climate does that contribute to? In that vein, a partial list of attacks which various lefties have blamed on conservatives (via Ann Althouse):

“The Columbine shooters. The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing… The DC sniper. The New York City Times Square car bomb attempt. They tried to blame that on some Tea Partier angry at the health law, then we find out that was radical Islamists. The February 2010 IRS plane attack in San Antonio. Remember that? It had to be an anti-government clown that flew that plane into the IRS office, had to be. The Pentagon subway shooter. The Fort Hood attack. The Discovery Channel hostage taker. And this guy [John Patrick] Bedell who went into the Pentagon and wanted to shoot these people up. This guy, by the way, is a dead ringer for Loughner. Amy Bishop who shot her colleagues at that Alabama college.”

Or this list of distinctly left-wing vitriol and assassination chic.

(yes, I’m sure you think that those are right-wing hate sites, but that seems to be where Krugman’s going, too, so maybe it’s all ok).

Out of interest, where where you when assassinating Bush was all the rage? In fact, I recall you vaguely emoting something about concerns about assassinating Obama (expressed by some idiot like Frank Rich), and I probably responded at the time that assassinating Bush had been in vogue for a few years already without unduly disturbing you.

conrad
conrad
10 years ago

“Just to take the most excruciatingly blindingly obvious example, wtf is he doing trying to blame the actions of an extreme-wing (if anything slightly left, but hard to tell that far around the circle) lunatic on Palin et al”

Whether he’s right or wrong, it isn’t a very polite thing to do to stick gun targets on people, which have of course mysteriously disappeared from the Tea Party’s site with some rather pathetic explanation as to why they were removed (why can’t they just admit it was a stupid thing to do?).

You might also like to check out what happened to the in-trade odds of Sarah Palin going for president etc. . What you’ll find is that her odds dropped massively, so it’s pretty clear that many people don’t think too highly of inciting the deranged which these sorts of things no doubt do. It also isn’t just a small set of liberal leftists that happen to think that either — given that this group don’t vote republican anyway, if it was the case, then presumably it shouldn’t have done much to Palin’s chances of going further. This suggests that people are betting that a far greater set of people, including swinging voters, don’t think too highly of what has gone on.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Also, nG, off-topic but this looks a bit like the product you have been waiting for:
http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2011/01/the-best-new-phone-is-from-our-wacky-sci-fi-dreams/

Mel
Mel
10 years ago

I don’t like Palin. She is dumb and creepy and her ideas are dangerous. But there is not a single shred of evidence that draws a straight line, not even thin and fragile line, between Palin’s rhetoric and behaviour and the actions of Loughner. Loughner’s fixation on Giffords dates back to a time before Palin became well known.

Accordingly I find the schadenfreude, false outrage and finger pointing by all the usual suspects, like the venal Larvatus Prodeo crowd, vomit inducing.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

In the same vein as Mel’s comment I love this line from Charles Krauthammer:

Rarely in American political discourse has there been a charge so reckless, so scurrilous and so unsupported by evidence. . . . The origins of Loughner’s delusions are clear: mental illness. What are the origins of Krugman’s?

Conrad, I disagree, I think putting little mock cross-hairs on a map is pretty innocuous and has probably been done hundreds of times before. Again, the difference between left and right here appears to be that nearly all the assassination chic comes from the left: both the actual calls for assassination and the projection of desire for it onto the right.

Antonios
10 years ago

Mel, that’s a disingenuous argument.

It’s like saying that government policy cannot cause any change in, for instance, the road toll because people drive and government policy doesn’t causally (in the way a physicist would use the word) affect how people drive.

Although cause is one word, there are countless gradations of meaning.

I thoroughly recommend this blog post by the way: http://philosophersplayground.blogspot.com/2011/01/causes-and-gifford-assassination.html

Tel
Tel
10 years ago

Extremists and terrorists advocate a large amount of violence applied to a small number of people.

Big Government supporters (including higher taxes, stronger regulation, dilution of individual property ownership, wealth transfer, and stifling the political voices of dissent) advocate a small amount of violence applied to a large number of people.

Krugman is as partisan as any. Krugman and friends have taken their turn to “ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them”, I remember the recent name-calling episode when anyone non-Keynesian must be “zombie”. I’ve seen the movies, I know what happens to the zombies — they get a dose of Bruce Campbell. You know how it is with zombies… they may look like your best friend, but you have to put that right out of your mind, you just have to. Hit ’em with the chainsaw fast as you can. Best thing is to condition yourself so you don’t waste time thinking.

Mel
Mel
10 years ago

Antonios says”

“Mel, that’s a disingenuous argument.”

No it isn’t. Let’s consider the known facts:

1/ Loughner’s Gifford obsession predates the rise of Palin

2/ There is no evidence that Loughner took any notice of Palin’s rhetoric let alone was influenced by it

3/ The readily available commentary by Loughner (on YouTube etc …) cites a number of far right, including libertarian, bugbears, rather than conservative ideas espoused by Palin etc.. – fiat currency being an example

4/ We have information about the websites Loughner visited as well as his group associations, these don’t include Palin or any group connected with Palin

5/ etc etc …

What else do you need? A free set of steak knives?

Mel
Mel
10 years ago

Oh yes- another point. Dutch pollie Pym Fortuyn was gunned down by an animal liberationist and the Unabomber called himself an environmentalist. It would be very easy to rewrite the limp article cited by Antonio with half a dozen word changes to blame animal libbers and environmentalists in general for the actions of a couple of unhinged individuals.

Antonios
10 years ago

In response to Mel:

There’s first of all the general question: can we say that the government or respected officials or a political party cause others, in the weak sense of cause, do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do?

Now in the general case, of course, it’s pretty clear that government, for instance, affects the behaviour of people, causing them to do things that they wouldn’t ordinarily do even though there’s no direct causal link between government action and a person’s actions.

Then there’s the question of whether the general case applies to this specific Gifford case, i.e. can we say that Tea Party rhetoric and Sarah Palin’s rhetoric caused Loughner’s shooting spree.

That’s obviously a very hard thing to answer, but we can say this: the Tea Party has spoken about eliminating opponents; conservatives encouraged supporters to go to rallies armed in order to send messages; there have been shooting threats made by these same conservatives if policy demands are not met; and then there’s Palin’s ridiculous crosshairs thingy.

Then after all that, a mentally unstable person shoots a Jewish Democrat. Don’t you think that’s fishy? Maybe Loughner might have done the shooting even if the Tea Party never existed, but regardless doesn’t it make some already irresponsible Tea Party behaviour seem even more irresponsible and perhaps morally culpable?

If a left-wing extremist shot Palin, could you really point to any left-wing rhetoric spouted by people in positions of influence that could be said to have incited such behaviour?

Antonios
10 years ago

Actually, I think I’ve come up with a better example to illustrate my point.

Imagine the following four situations:
– Good parents raise a child who becomes a good adult.
– Good parents raise a child who becomes a bad adult.
– Bad parents raise a child who becomes a good adult.
– Bad parents raise a child who becomes a bad adult.

In none of these cases do the parents directly cause the adult to be good or bad. Nevertheless, we do know (or at least make the reasonable assumption) that good parenting leads to good adults and bad parenting leads to bad adults.

Thus, are the good parents morally culpable for their bad adult? No, because the good parents did what’s considered reasonable to produce a good adult.

Are the bad parents morally culpable for their bad adult? Yes, because the bad parents should have taken better care of their child, despite the fact that the adult formed might have been bad even with good parents.

This to me is the same thing as the Gifford incident. Loughner might have shot Gifford without the Tea Party’s existence, but the Tea Party’s dodgy rhetoric render it morally culpable for Loughner’s behaviour because the Tea Party should have acted more responsibly anyway. Even though there’s no rock solid proof that the Tea Party’s existence was a contributing factor to Loughner’s actions, we do know that inflammatory rhetoric has a tendency to produce these kinds of incidents, and the Tea Party’s rhetoric was certainly of that inflammatory kind.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Loughner might have shot Gifford without the Tea Party’s existence, but the Tea Party’s dodgy rhetoric render it morally culpable for Loughner’s behaviour because the Tea Party should have acted more responsibly anyway.

Uh-huh. It’s Palin’s fault even when it isn’t. About what I thought you meant, actually, but glad to see you spell it out.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Ok, I’ll be clear, in case I wasn’t.

I do not think that anything said written or published by Palin or any other Republican- or tea-party-affiliated person of any prominence whatsoever had anything to do with the shooting of Rep Giffords or with any shooting whatsoever*.

I don’t think anyone could even begin to make a plausible case, even by inference, that such was the case. I think it is absurd and ridiculous to talk of incitement or ‘reasonably be anticipated to make violence more likely or legitimate it’ when your only example is completely and utterly irrelevant to your argument.

Silly asides asise, in light of that I think all the sanctimous twaddle about ‘violent’ political speech is
a) completely unfounded;
b) hypocritical;
c) appalling opportunism;
d) pretty damned insensitive; and
e) dangerously counterproductive (if you only fix imaginary but convenient problems, the real one stays).

I don’t believe that tea-partiers or Palin or Republicans or anyone of such affiliation actually preaches any form of insurrectionism other than that of moral pressure (ironic perhaps in light of your rather generous summary of Anonios’ position) and the ballot box.

I might add that those are working out pretty well for the them thus far.

Now, with that off my chest I will concede that remarks like Angle’s comment about ‘second-amendment solutions’ are ‘overheated political rhetoric’. But I don’t see them as any worse (in fact much less so) than remarks suggesting that Republicans engineered or planned or were complicit in 9-11, for example. Enough would-be Democrats of as much significance as Angle were guilty of that.

Finally I can’t help noticing one tiny difference between your students in the sixties and Tea Parties: what have Tea Partiers ripped up, exactly?

*There was this shooting:Man shoots TV over Bristol Palin’s “Dancing” success. Presumably not what you had in mind.

Antonios
10 years ago

Looks like I’m gonna have to observe Godwin’s Law and make a reference to Hitler.

Do you really think, Patrick, that Hitler’s speeches had nothing to do with the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany?

Antonios
10 years ago

And just in case my point gets misinterpreted, I don’t mean the Tea Party or Sarah Palin is comparable to the Nazis or Adolf Hitler.

Patrick, if I read what you say correctly, you seem to imply that no political speech can induce violence.

Now, I’m citing the case of Hitler and the Nazis as one example of extreme political speech that I consider made violence more likely, on this occasion against Jews.

If you agree with me on the Hitler case, then you must agree on the general point that political speech can incite violence.

So whether or not Palin’s and the Tea Party’s rhetoric should be considered dangerous enough to incite violence is only a question of degree.

But if you don’t agree with me on the Hitler case, well, we really can’t hope to have a proper argument about the Gifford incident without us both agreeing one way or the other that political speech can or cannot induce violence.

Mel
Mel
10 years ago

Antonios,

Obviously rhetoric can incite violence. But in this particular case all of the available evidence points AWAY from Palin, not to her. For example Loughner’s fixation on Giffords predates Palin’s arrival on the political scene. The available evidence makes the “It woz Palin wot done it” argument hard to defend.

Nonetheless, the Tea Party as a whole has certainly created an atmosphere of violence and a quickle google reveals literally dozens of examples of nigger-baiting, intimidation, vandalism, threats etc… This is one of my favourites:

“A nasty battle between factions of Legislative District 20 Republicans and fears that it could turn violent in the wake of what happened in Tucson on Saturday prompted District Chairman Anthony Miller and several others to resign.

Miller, a 43-year-old Ahwatukee Foothills resident and former campaign worker for U.S. Sen. John McCain, was re-elected to a second one-year term last month. He said constant verbal attacks after that election and Internet blog posts by some local members with Tea Party ties made him worry about his family’s safety.

….

Miller said when he was a member of McCain’s campaign staff last year has been criticized by the more conservative party members who supported Republican opponent J.D. Hayworth. The first and only African-American to hold the party’s precinct chairmanship, Miller said he has been called “McCain’s boy,” and during the campaign saw a critic form his hand in the shape of a gun and point it at him.

“I wasn’t going to resign but decided to quit after what happened Saturday,” Miller said. “I love the Republican Party but I don’t want to take a bullet for anyone.”

http://www.azcentral.com/community/ahwatukee/articles/2011/01/11/20110111gabrielle-giffords-arizona-shooting-resignations.html

Apparently moderate niggers aren’t that welcome in the Tea Party’s Republican Party.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Antonious, the point of Godwin’s law is that in 99% of cases no-one is going to respond to as inane an argument as yours.

Antonios
10 years ago

Mel, I don’t think anyone in this particular forum is making the claim that the shooting was the Tea Party or Palin’s direct fault, only that Palin’s and the Tea Party’s rhetoric was irresponsible, can incite violence and should be condemned on moral grounds.

I then made the case that they are morally culpable for this particular shooting if the shooter was influenced by the climate or not, just as we would consider bad parents morally culpable for the acts of a criminal adult even though we don’t know whether the criminal adult would have been a criminal anyway.

Also Patrick, my touching on Hitler didn’t actually follow Godwin’s law because I didn’t compare anyone to Hitler. I used him and his speeches only as an example in an argument, but, hell, I thought I’d introduce a little levity into proceedings and make reference to an amusing internet law.

And I just jumped on my high horse this morning, Patrick. There’s nothing like some faint ridicule instead of counter argument to make me feel pretty damn good about the world.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Whether you are a sentient being or an amoeba is also only a question of degree, really, Antonios. Is that really the kind of argument you expect someone to respond to?

Antonios
10 years ago

And now just straight ad hominem!

I just jumped on the high horse that was standing on top of the high horse.