There has been a lot of discussion and punditry around the shooting in Arizona and trying to place blame. I firmly believe that blame rests solely on the perpetrator. Could things been done to avoid it, probably, and we can all think of things like, better mental health care, better gun control, etc. I am sure there are many more ideas. This diary is not about the shooting, but the political rhetorical climate of the past few years.
There have been lots of lies, lots of baseless rhetoric, lots of attention getting inflammatory statements that don’t get called out. While most people can see through the hyperbole, many others start to believe it. When they don’t get called out, people start to believe them. We can all repeat many of these lies and inflammatory rhetoric:- Obama isn’t a citizen - Obama is a socialist/nazi/Kenyon/Muslim - Death panels - Job killing health care bill that no one knows what’s in it - The big government take-over of the banks/car industry - Second amendment solutions - They are racists - They hate America
Much of this rhetoric will not go away. While the examples I give are mostly from the right, I think both sides of the discourse are equally at fault for lies and rhetoric. The real winner of the 2010 election cycle wasn’t the Republican party, the and the losers weren’t the democratic party. The ideas of tax cuts and cutting government didn’t win over health care coverage for all, and government supporting the economy. The real winner was the environment of lies over truth and honesty. The traditional media is at fault, the politicians are at fault, many professional bloggers are at fault, many of us are at fault (me included).
So what can and should be done about it. First off, rather than calling it out and refuting the statement, ask for clarification. Seek first to understand. "What do you mean by second amendment solutions?" "what do you mean by watering the tree of liberty?" "Are you suggesting an armed insurrection against the government?"
This allows the speaker to clarify that statement, then continuing on the questioning, to things like, "OK, if you aren’t really calling for armed insurrection, then you must be making rhetorical statements just to get attention. What specific solutions are you suggesting?" "I’m sorry, I must be really stupid here, because I am not exactly sure why you are saying that, can you explain what you mean?"
Many of the statement made by speakers like Limbough, Hannity, Angle, Palin, (yes I am only using the right as examples, and I know it) it is just that – getting attention. No consequences of the lies, no consequences of the inflammatory statements, and certainly no clarification of these statements to show that they are just that – attention getting hyperbole. Rarely does a statement get called out to the degree that is should. When statements like that do get called out, they are refuted by the opponents, repeated by the allies, but never called out to the speaker, asked for clarification until the truth, and motivation of the statement are fully accounted for. Calling BS on statement is not the same as making the person making the statement explain themselves.
Politicians in debates need to act like lawyers in a court room, rather than just repeating political rhetoric, call for explanation and more explanation until the originator of that statement looks like the idiot they are. Interviewers also need to continue the line of questioning, rather than act like a know-it-all, like O’Reilly, and arguing, let the person convict themselves. Steven Colbert did this beautifully with a representative that wanted to put the 10 commandments in the capital. Colbert asked the representative if he could repeat the 10 commandments, and he could not.
The real winner of the 2010 elections were the hyperbole, lies, and the liars that tell them, not one political party over another, and certainly not one sides ideas over another.