Doctors are now cautiously optimistic about the recovery of Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic congresswoman who was shot in the head during an open meeting with constituents in Tucson, Arizona on Saturday. In total, 14 people were shot, six were killed. A deranged and socially isolated 22-year-old man who was turned down by the military and recently thrown out of community college wielded the gun. But if you’ve been reading Internet dialogue or listening to cable news, you’d swear Sarah Palin was an accomplice.
Immediately after word of the shooting hit the Internet on Saturday, amid the expected reactions of shock and sympathy, political trolls were trying to use the shooting to their political advantage. The liberal website Daily Kos put up a link to a Sarah Palin website that put crosshairs over Democratic-held congressional districts targeted by the Tea Party, including Congresswoman Giffords’s district. Then Kos founder and columnist Marko Moulitsas sent out this message via Twitter: “Mission accomplished, Sarah Palin.”
That was followed by Tweets, posts and comments accusing Sarah Palin and the Tea Party of murder:
“Palin should be arrested.”
“Blood is on Sarah Palin’s hands.”
“It is as if Sarah Palin pulled the trigger herself.”
Again, these Internet accusations happened within minutes of the shooting without one shred of evidence that the shooter is a member of the Tea Party or a follower of Sarah Palin. Within an hour this seemed to snowball into a coordinated narrative.
“You can’t put bull’s-eyes or crosshairs on a United States congressman or a federal official.” That’s what Philadelphia Democratic Congressman Bob Brady told CNN, as he described a bill he was proposing to outlaw “language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a member of Congress.” Meanwhile on MSNBC, Keith Olbermann blamed Palin, along with Glenn Beck and Sharron Angle, for inciting violence against the government. He demanded apologies. Again, investigators in Arizona had still not released any information about a motive or the shooter’s political leanings; and worst of all, Gabby Giffords was still in critical condition and her fate was uncertain.
And then information started to seep out of Arizona that seemed to clear Palin and the Tea Party. Jared Loughner’s tangled worldview seemed to be neither conservative nor liberal; if anything his politics were bipolar. Drugs, mental illness and an obsession with both grammar and Giffords seemed to be the driving forces in a three-year assassination plot. Loughner believed in mind control. He thought the world would end in 2012. And his favorite readings included the Communist Manifesto.
Now with the mounting evidence seemingly clearing Sarah Palin, who needs to apologize? Apparently no one, the narrative just has to be tweaked slightly. Now the shootings are being blamed on hateful political rhetoric. Again, with no evidence that the rhetoric had anything to do with motivating this deranged man. As one Democratic operative anonymously admitted to Politico: “They need to deftly pin this on the Tea Partiers … Just like the Clinton White House pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people.” It is unthinkable that people are admitting to politically strategizing this tragedy without a sense of shame or responsibility. Six people are dead and political operatives are trying to “pin” this on their opponents — specifically Sarah Palin — while ignoring the actual shooter.
Was using cross hairs on the website an irresponsible thing to do? Yes. But there’s no evidence it has anything to do with this tragedy. And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Leadership Council both used similar bull’s-eye imagery on their “target” maps. That is just one of many blatant hypocrisies. The same people who rushed to link the Arizona shootings to Palin and the right-wing, using incendiary rhetoric, are asking others to tone that rhetoric down. Also, this is the same group of people, who after the massacre at Fort Hood, begged everyone not to jump to conclusions because Major Nidal Malik Hasan might just be a disturbed individual.
Despite those hypocrisies and some media backlash today, you can be certain there will be no apologies to Palin today for the false accusations. That would require shame — and there is none in politics.