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    « Social-liber-moder-conserv-fiscal-ali-docious | Main | Voter ID Laws: Is the Damage Already Done? »
    Saturday
    Oct132012

    Must We Always Fill in the Missing Pieces?

     

    Yesterday a single shot rang out in downtown Denver, Colorado, shattering the window of President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters.  Here’s the Reuter’s version of the story, filed last night at 11:18 p.m.:

    (Reuters) - A gunshot was fired into President Barack Obama's downtown Denver re-election headquarters on Friday while campaign workers were inside but no one was struck, police said.

    Denver Police Detective Raquel Lopez said a worker inside the office called police in mid-afternoon to report that a bullet had shattered a window pane.

    "Right now, no one is in custody and investigators are looking at surveillance video to see if a vehicle can be identified," Lopez said.

    Lopez said it was a single shot and no one inside was physically injured.

    Detectives are not aware of any threats made to the campaign, but are exploring all possibilities, she said.

    And here’s one of the comments below the story:

    Welcome to the new Republican Party. They’re attracting a whole bunch of nutjobs. They feed ‘em lies and hate and this is what happens.

    Note that there’s nothing in the story that mentions Republicans or nutjobs, yet that gives the author no pause.  He seems perfectly happy in immediately jumping to conclusions about both the GOP and its ability to attract people who apparently have no compunction about blasting out storefront windows.

    At least the comment limits itself to only a part of the Republican Party, the part he can somehow define as “nutjobs.”  The next commenter isn’t so specific:

    I would have to agree with that. It’s just a matter of time before this starts to happen everywhere. GOP needs to be held responsible.

    I understand that our media are overrun with polarized commentary and that the GOP has done plenty to embarrass itself.  But that combination in no way justifies painting nearly half the country with this particular brush.  And, yes, I know... the extremists with the microphones happily do it every day.  But that, too, is no justification.  What's happening seems to be this: prejudice towards the right, from the left, has somehow become okay.  And it feels like it's spreading (sometimes combined with a hypocritical sense of erudite superiority) with increasing rapidity.

    Now we’re getting down to it, aren’t we? We see that some on the left can be just as prejudiced as some on the right.  Feels a little like a pot-and-kettle moment to me. So:  who's planning to hold that guy responsible, the guy who wrote that comment, the guy who is now contributing another tiny drop of poison into our political conversation? 

    There are crazies on the right. I get that.  And they are certainly much louder (and maybe more numerous) than the crazies on the left.  However, that doesn’t excuse the rapid urge to fill in the missing pieces of this story with deprecation and generalization.  It’s uncivil, irresponsible, and just plain wrong.

     

    (Oh: and here’s my ultimate insult… it’s something I would expect FOX to do…)

    At the center of it all is this compulsion to react emotionally and to fill in an incomplete narrative in any way we can.  We like stories with beginnings, middles, and endings. But to my dear friends on both sides I say this: sometimes you don’t get your stories all tied up in neat little once-upon-a-times, and when you decide for yourself how the story should go—and then broadcast it to others who will pick it up and amplify it, then you help nothing and no one.

    In a day or two, or a week, or a month, we may find out that it was a “nutjob” from the right who shot out that window.  Or we may find out it was a random shot from a kid out for a joyride. Or we may find out it was a crazed lover whose ex-girlfriend just happened to be an Obama volunteer.  Or we may find out nothing at all.  That’s okay.

    Fight the urge to rush to judgment, please, especially when that judgment only attempts to force a badly cut piece into an incomplete puzzle and when, in doing so, it only heightens tension, prejudice, and hatred.

     

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    Reader Comments (15)

    "Note that there’s nothing in the story that mentions Republicans or nutjobs"

    Stopped reading there. Sure, there wasn't anything about Republicans, but there was nothing about nutjobs? Firing a gun into a campaign headquarters doesn't take a nutjob? What a joke this blog is.

    October 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

    I get what you're saying. It does seem a bit of a stretch, HOWEVER... we had the Giffords shooting, the guy who committed suicide and homicide over the idea Barack might be president again, we have pastors wanting to burn holy literatures, etc. etc... If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck... well it is probably a duck. The problem here is that the right has allowed all of this to happen and nobody, not a loud voice is standing up and condemning these actions on a large scale.

    In short, comments like the ones you put are emotional and short sighted, but the only people to blame is the Right for not nationally condemning this behavior.

    October 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjason wilczak

    If you're going to draw equivalence between hate for people based on their bodies and birthplaces with disdain for people who willingly chose to be members of a party whose mainstream regularly uses violent, eliminationist rhetoric against sitting members of government, which believes that abortion ought be outlawed even in the case of rape, and whose presidential candidate has been dogwhistling hate throughout his campaign, then there's really no way to take you seriously.

    You've chosen to support, with your vote and your time, a party which relies on and makes regular appeals to jingoism, sexism, racism, and homophobia. I don't care how much of a moderate you are, and I don't care how unoffensive your personal views are. You are voting for a candidate, and that candidate's party leadership has made a conscious decision not to reject the extremist wing you talk about, but to embrace it. And, so long as moderates like you continue to vote for them in spite of this, they will continue to do so, because it wins elections.

    tl;dr: It's not the philosophy, it's the party

    October 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark Rubeo

    @MarkRubeo placed my sentiments exactly and much more eloquently.

    October 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjason wilczak

    I agree that there is no real justification for this, and I wish that people in general could be more circumspect in their judgements. However, this is not a right vs. left issue; this is a human beings issue. We all jump to conclusions and fill in the missing parts of stories. In my view it is just the natural result of being a species driven to understand things which are not always understandable.

    With that said, I think the assumption that this act was perpetrated by a GOP nutjob is probably quite fair. 100% guaranteed? No. But reasonable? Certainly. It is reasonable to assume that an attack on a political headquarters was politically motivated, and it's reasonable to assume that people that shoot randomly into occupied buildings are nutjobs.

    With that said, the part of the comments that I find unfair is the idea that the GOP ought to take responsibility for this.

    What I believe the GOP needs to be held accountable for most is creating a climate where "prejudice towards [that side], from the [other side], has somehow become okay." Having the left join in too is the inevitable result of the tactics of the right, the GOP, and Fox News, to say nothing of the comments left by right wing people on news stories. Who is going to hold THEM accountable?

    The fact is that nobody has any power at all to hold anonymous news commenters accountable. What we all need to do is seek first to hold OURSELVES accountable, and then to hold to account those that we support (politically, financially, or morally). That is the power that we have available to us.

    But most especially I believe that we need to work ourselves to foster a political climate where civility, facts, and reason prevail. Withholding support from those who act irresponsibly is part of the picture, but I believe that rewarding those who act in accordance with our values (even if we may politically disagree with them) is equally important.

    October 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

    Beautifuly said, Monica. Thanks.

    October 13, 2012 | Registered CommenterMichael Charney

    @Monica,

    Your last paragraph hits an important note that needs to be shined upon, let me quote it:

    "But most especially I believe that we need to work ourselves to foster a political climate where civility, facts, and reason prevail. Withholding support from those who act irresponsibly is part of the picture, but I believe that rewarding those who act in accordance with our values (even if we may politically disagree with them) is equally important." -Monica

    Too often do we respond to negative things when we should be praising positive actions. That is a powerful message that most parents learn early in child rearing and it works incredibly well.

    October 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjason wilczak

    Jason Wilczak says, "The problem here is that the right has allowed all of this to happen"

    Jason, you're doing the same thing that the author is say to NOT do!! How on Earth does the right "allow" them to happen? If "the right" allowed the bullet to hit the Denver building, didn't "the left" do it too? What about "the center"? Does it get a pass?

    " and nobody, not a loud voice is standing up and condemning these actions on a large scale. "

    WHAT? Does only "the right" have to do that? Do we need to give events like this and the often-attention-seeking individuals who perpetrate them that much attention??

    October 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJimbaux

    To add to my prior comment, my reply to Jason Wilczak, we do not even know why the person fired a shot or even who fired a shot. Unless the shooter is identified and then claims himself to be a registered Republican - or even a registered Democrat - I don't see any reason why people - especially only a certain group of people - have to come out and "condemn" his actions.

    We are all individuals, and if you're going to assume anything about the motives and beliefs of anyone at all, aren't you supposed to assume that someone does NOT approve of the shooting instead of assuming that they DO approve of it? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I don't need to prove to you that I do NOT approve of the shooting; you need to prove that I DO, if you're even going to do anything like that at all.

    October 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJimbaux

    @jimbaux The context of my comment is in the fact that the right has allowed it to happen because their side has been calling for this kind of nonsense. Talking about defending their rights, putting people in targets, etc. This is being done and people that listen to them are doing it. Gabby Giffords is a perfect example.

    So you are right, if their is no proof then I need to prove it. However, there is proof, it has happened. They need to condemn these kinds of actions. Yes, everyone needs to, but they need to especially since they have promoted this atmosphere in various ways.

    Now, if this was switched and it was on a republican headquarters, then I would also expect the Dems to publicly outcry this behavior as well.

    My words may have been less clear and honestly, @monica expressed my thoughts pretty much exactly.

    October 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjason wilczak

    Jason says, " the right has allowed it to happen because their side has been calling for this kind of nonsense."

    Who? When? Where? How? Facts, please! Does the fact that some people with X ideological ideas have done some act mean that all people with X ideology are guilty of the acts of a few?

    "However, there is proof, it has happened. "

    Where is the proof? I thought that all that we knew about the Denver incident is that a shot was fired toward the building!

    "Now, if this was switched and it was on a republican headquarters, then I would also expect the Dems to publicly outcry this behavior as well."

    Why? Why would the Democrats need to outcry the behavior when they neither know who did it nor why it was done??

    Yes, Monica's comments were very good and sober, except for maybe the beginning of her second paragraph.

    October 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJimbaux

    @jimbaux Well, here's your proof. A nice article with some points and at the bottom are a ton of references for the stories they talk about:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-rucker/demand-the-gop-stop-incit_b_510566.html

    and the Gabby Giffords incident: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Tucson_shooting

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/10/AR2011011006653.html

    I could do this for awhile, but a simple google search will yield much more. Now, if you switch 'gop' in your search with 'democrats' the results will speak for themselves...

    On top of that, they need to outcry against this behavior regardless of who did it. They need to make it loud and clear that this behavior is unacceptable, silence is almost as bad as condoning it. They are political leaders and are supposed to be helping direct our country, they have a responsibility to make it very clear that political violence is never acceptable, even if it turns out it wasn't necessarily politically motivated. It is a moment where people is watching and for them to make a clear statement.

    October 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjason wilczak

    There's a huge difference between being prejudiced against someone and and standing up to what has been, for years now, constant bullying from the right. I realize two wrongs don't make a right (no pun intended) but what, exactly, did they expect to happen? Sooner or later, people who get pushed around eventually push back. Right now it's negative comments on blogs, next week it could be worse. The right and the GOP have done little-to-nothing to stem the tide of violent rhetoric coming from their side of the fence, so your complaint here falls in with the rest of their fake outrage. Have you ever bothered to read the comments that conservatives leave on liberal (or even non-political) blogs? What you're complaining about here doesn't even compare.

    October 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Van Gossen

    In my opinion, I don't think it's important that the GOP or any right wing group condemn these actions. I am willing to stipulate that 95%+ Republicans find these actions as dangerous and repugnant as I do. Certainly after the Gabrielle Giffords shooting many people from both sides spoke out. What, if anything did this accomplish? Speaking out against violence that almost everyone is against is cheap and easy and affects nothing. After all, it is generally the nature of nutjobs who do this kind of thing to create their own reality.

    And while I do believe that many on the right have a lot to answer for in terms of their rhetoric, I find that adding my complaints to the pile doesn't accomplish anything either, beyond contributing to general negativity.

    In the end, I read this blog because I believe that Michael at least, is genuinely trying to respond honorably to the events of the day. So even though I may disagree with him on many things, I am more interested in supporting him and those like him than I am in tearing them down.

    October 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

    The hate rhetoric has been ramping up for years. And as much as people love to call the media "liberal", there is a very right-wing bias on major news channels. It may be filling in missing pieces, but there is a logical connection between media and pundits blaming the current administration for everything, a very angry and frustrated citizenship who is looking to place blame, and uncivil, bullying behavior.

    All you need to do is go read some of the Birther blogs to see how much the right is stirring up emotions. John McCain disagreed when someone in his party said Obama was not born in this country. He did the right thing. Unfortunately candidate Romney will not do the right thing and stop this nonsense, he appears to be embracing it for the sake of votes.

    An example of "assumptions": My sister and brother-in-law are Democrats but my BIL is registered with the NRA. Every election year they get calls for Republican candidates where my sister has to tell them they are not Republicans. So the assumptions are made by both sides.

    October 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna Keeley

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