I'm not sure why it is so necessary that we identify a culprit in all of this. What good does it do us to know that he is, say, a paranoid schizophrenic?...A terrible thing happened. We live in a universe in which terrible things happen. That's no one's fault--or maybe, everyone's fault. Either way, I don't see much in the way of solutions coming out of this--only terrible, terrible sadness.
Indeed, Megan McArdle. Indeed.
Toning down the political rhetoric would be useless, as nobody/everybody is to blame. And just because someone approves of firearms at public political functions and uses scare tactics doesn't mean they are to blame for people actually becoming paranoid and actually using firearms at public political events. The two are totally unconnected and Megan McArdle is not in any way to blame for the actions of any individual at any time. Therefore she can say whatever she wants, since words do not have any effect.
You might be a bit confused right now since you may remember that McArdle castigated others for rhetorical violence before she realized that it's perfectly okay.
Call me a vaporing language nanny, but I thought it was pretty creepy when Jon Chait described another liberal journalist, Michael Kinsley, another journalist, as "curb stomping" economist Greg Mankiw for, yes, daring to suggest that higher marginal tax rates might have incentive effects. Woo-hoo!
But why stop with curb-stomping? Wouldn't it be fun to pile ten-thousand gleaming skulls of supply-siders outside the Heritage Offices? We could mount Art Laffer's head on a rotating musical pike that plays The Stars and Stripes Forever! Then, in the most hilarious surprise ending of all, the mob could turn on Jon Chait, douse him with gasoline and set him on fire, and then sack the offices of the New Republic!
Somehow, that's not actually funny. Neither is curb stomping, as Ezra Klein pointed out.
Our best guess is that McArdle feels that hate speech is regrettable but unavoidable, while hyperbole is deeply offensive. But let's not get sidetracked. McArdle can tell everyone that health care insurance reform will kill millions of people and it doesn't matter, which is just awesome. Since there are no consequences--none that can be definitively determined, that is--and since the shooter was mentally ill and ideologically incoherent, hate speech or creating an atmosphere of fear and paranoia is A-okay!
That is such a relief. We have always refrained from attacks that we feel are too personal or vehement, since such words might inspire others to action. We worry that whipping people up into a frenzy of loathing might have negative consequences for McArdle. Boy, do we feel silly now!
McArdle again points out in the comments of her recent post that her rhetoric was utterly unrelated to what actually happened, which is absolutely true.
If this guy had been openly carrying, you would have a point. This is what I wrote in the follow-up post:
"Do I think guns should be near Obama? I think that is for the Secret Service to say, and I would support whatever decision they rendered. But we don't know where this guy was, or if he ever even saw Obama.
But if I had to guess, I would say that I do not think that anyone openly carrying a weapon is likely to pose much danger to the president. Why? Because the Secret Service knows he is there. You can bet they have at least one guy watching the fellow with the AR-15, and that if he had taken it off his back and begun to raise it to firing position, he would have been immediately taken out. The people who I worry about are the ones who carry concealed weapons, the better to get a shot off before the Secret Service notices. Or the ones who have found a good hiding place with a sightline to the president. Etc.
It is entirely possible that some nut will shoot someone at a protest, or try to shoot the president (indeed, I expect at least one assassination attempt, as that seems to be par for the course). But I have no reason to think that the fellows brazenly carrying pistols on their hip will be among those nuts. Nor, I think, do the people hysterically accusing them of some pretty evil intentions."
And indeed, it seems to have been someone carrying concealed, which is what I predicted. I separated the two issues even back then; you're conflating them in an attempt to score points on your political opponents. Given the circumstances: for shame.
She wanted people to be able to carry guns openly at public political meetings to demonstrate support for our Second Amendment rights. The shooter hid his gun until he used it to try to assassinate a politician. It is totally unfair to McArdle to say that she is spreading paranoia and fear by encouraging people to openly carry guns at political meetings or telling people that Obama will kill them. I'll bet that if a white male showed up at a political meet-up today carrying a rife or wearing a pistol, nobody would even blink an eye! And won't the Democrats feel foolish when that happens.
And when a media personality is assassinated by a nut--which is going to happen sooner or later--it will not be because the right has been attacking and vilifying the media for years. If some nut walks up to some well-known blogger or journalist that they've seen on tv (but isn't important enough to have security) and shoots them in the head, it will just be one of those things, terribly sad but utterly unpreventable.
Because nobody can know anything ever, and nothing is ever anybody's fault.