| So. A 23-year-old kid opens fire on Pittsburg police and kills three. He donned a bulletproof vest and ambushed the officers with an "assault rifle." But the big news on the 'tubes is that the shooter -- Richard Poplawski -- had a thing for far-right conspiracy theories, and recently expressed a fear that Obama was going to take his guns. And the shooting took place three days after a screed on gun shows appeared in the Pittsburg Tribune.
Dave Niewert is all over this story, writing, "We've been reporting for a while on the surge in gun sales, and how the paranoia around guns is making the more unstable elements of the right particularly edgy. Inevitably, that edginess is going to break out into actual violence -- as it appears to have done today."
Of course, it's not ju st extremist rhetoric on firearms -- it's all over the place lately, even extending to calls to arms over sparkly dishes and embodied by the weird rantings that Glenn Beck has engaged in since getting his Fox News gig. But Poplawski obviously had mental issues. Kicked out of the Marine Corps. Arguing with neighbors. Shooting cops in the head. Is it fair to blame talking heads for this incident?
John Cole, in a post entitled "Glenn Beck's America":
...when you point out that certain individuals with all their talk about "revolution" and "armed insurrection" are inciting this kind of behavior in unstable people, you will get howls of protest about the 1st Amendment and what not. Sure, crazy people do crazy things. But that doesn't make it responsible to encourage them, which is what a lot of really foolish people are doing right now for purely political reasons.
And that's a legitimate point, I think. This kind of insane chatter used to be reserved for late-night AM shows and obscure online forums, but mainstream media has abetted, even encouraged this kind of rabble-rousing. Just think of Dan McGee's recent rant over abortion:
McGee said Republicans attempted to work with Democrats on these issues but it did not seem to take. He also compared abortion with slavery and predicted an upheaval comparable to the Civil War. "You bet there will be," McGee said.
Certainly (I hope) this was overheated rhetoric -- start a war over abortion? -- but if a Montanan lays waste to a health-care clinic that provides abortions to women who want them, how responsible is McGee? Wouldn't the senator deserve some censure?
And yet...there is no reprimand for McGee from anyone, neither his fellow legislators, nor the newspapers that are supposedly serving our communities. Shouldn't someone -- besides a partisan hack blogger, I mean -- step forward and let McGee know that a violent solution to a political problem won't be tolerated and demand that he recant his statement? Shouldn't we let these people know that extremism won't be tolerated in a democratic society?