WHAT MAKES CITIZENS DO THINGS! What made Loughner do what he did? Krugman seemed to know: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, JANUARY 11, 2011
An astounding, instructive mistake: Good lord! This morning, the New York Times published a set of nine letters about the shootings in Arizona.
Some of the letters make excellent points. We especially recommend the second letter, in which a Tucson citizen describes a chilling experiencethe shouting, rude, menacing individuals he says he saw at a health care forum conducted by Gabrielle Giffords.
That said, the eighth letter contained an astounding editorial error. On-line, the Times has now disappeared its mistake. But this is the way the letter appears in our hard-copy paper:
We agree with the bulk of that letter. But good lord! That opening paragraph!
As we noted in real time (in 2009), some liberals seemed to be thrilled when that census worker was found dead in Kentucky. In at least one unfortunate case, the desire to make hay of this death was aggressively pimped at the highest level of the burgeoning liberal world. But as it turned out, that census worker had hanged himself; he had scrawled the word Fed across his chest to make his suicide seem like a murder, thus letting his son collect insurance.
Plainly, this was a deeply troubled person; his death was a tragic event. That said, he assumed the world would buy his con, given the shape of some long-standing narratives. This morning, the Times has bought his con again, fourteen months after Kentucky state police explained what actually happened (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/25/09).
Everybody can make a mistake. This mistake shows the resilience of beloved novels, even among those on our side.
One more point: For what its worth, those recurrent images of armed protesters at rallies werent really all that recurrentunless you take your images from Hardball, whose unprepared host never tires of citing those taped, well-loved events.
WHAT MAKES CITIZENS DO THINGS (permalink): Was Jared Loughner influenced by the angry, violence-tinged political rhetoric of the past few years? Was he thus driven to commit the murders he has now committed in Tucson?
Almost surely, there will never be any real way to answer that particular question. That said, the political turmoil seems to have been especially bad in Rep. Gabrielle Giffords House district. In this mornings New York Times, a Giffords friend and fund-raiser offers an explanation for the worsening animosity of the past few years:
Adam Nagourneys writing is unclear in the highlighted passage. But McNulty may be referring to the type of raucous behavior which prevailed at town hall meetings all over the country in the summer of 2009. Meanwhile, in the highlighted passage, Warne attributes this raucous conductand the growing animosity in Giffords districtto the failing economy.
Presumably, Warnes explanation is partly correct. Presumably, there would have been less animosity in Giffords district, and around the country, during better economic times. That said, Paul Krugman offered a different explanation for the general rise in animosity in yesterdays New York Times. In the process, he cited a striking news report from Politico in May of last year:
The word already may be slightly misleading. But that Politico report is well worth reading. Just click here.
Krugman describes the rise in threats against members of Congress, but he offers a different explanation from Warne for this animosity. Quoting Sheriff Dupnik, Krugman says theres not much question about what has caused the rise in threats. He then blames the vitriolic rhetoric being pimped by a range of press figures.
For ourselves, wed assume that this explanation is part of the story, along with Warnes explanation about the economy. For ourselves, though, wed speak with a bit less certainty than Krugman does. In the past few days, liberals have adopted Dupnik as the oracle of Tucson; weve done this because he said something here that perfectly fits one of our leading narratives. In adopting him as a seer, we ignore his other pronouncements about immigration, at least one of which went well beyond Arizonas SB1070 in the way it advised the targeting of Hispanics. Are we sure that Dupnik is such a seer, given this other statement? At times like this, such questions fade. We tend to advertise the statements which resonate with our preferred narratives.
Has the gruesome political climate of the past several years contributed to all those threats? We would assume that it has. Meanwhile, that climate of hate (and stupidity) deserves to be challenged, even if it hasnt. (More on that point tomorrow.) But liberals sometimes trade away their persuasive power when they overstate what they know. Indeed, at the start of his column, Krugman even seems to offer a specific explanation for Loughners act of mass murder:
Its true. There does seem to have been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials. But was Loughner actually part of that tide? Did he act because of that rising tide?
In this passage, Krugman seems to imply that he did. But do we actually know that?
In the realm of mainstream press discourse, Krugman has been the liberal worlds most valuable player for the past dozen years. Heres our question: Did he possibly trade away some influence when he seemed to overstate the things he can actually know? A similar question came to mind when he read Gail Collins column in Mondays Times. (This only matters if you care about long-term solutions and outcomes.)
Dropping her simpering nonsense for once, Collins made a perfectly sensible suggestion. Alas! This made us consider the reasons why many Americans might be reluctant to listen to what she said.
Tomorrow: Would you listen to Collins? Also: What Dionne said.