Rightbloggers Comfort the Real Victims of the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting: Themselves
You can understand their defensiveness. Back during the 2010 campaign, Sarah Palin had endorsed Tea Party challengers to Giffords and others with little gun-sight images and the cry, "Don't Retreat -- Reload!" Giffords had noticed ("When people do that, they've got to realize there are consequences to that action..."); so did the local sheriff.
Oops. You might expect rightbloggers to be pouring oil on troubled waters right now, eschewing violence, promoting civility, etc.
You might expect that -- if you didn't know them. If you do, you will have guessed that they responded in their traditional manner: With rage at the great injustice they had suffered.
After the violence, Palin had her people try to spin that old shooty-shooty campaign material away -- which we can understand, as she is an American politician and that's what they do. Liberals gave Palin a hard time about that ("fuck it, I'm going there," said TBogg of "Sarah Palin's Hit List"), which we also understand.
Some leftbloggers went further, teasing out a connection between the violent, pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric sometimes heard from Tea Party people and this very violent event. "To the more mainstream right-wingers who fail to condemn the poisonous claims of the far right," wrote Adele Stan at AlterNet, "I say, you're hardly off the hook." "[Accused assassin Jared] Loughner, while clearly in the grip of delusion rather than any coherent ideology," wrote Michelle Goldberg at Tablet, "nonetheless shared many far-right obsessions."
To be fair, we can imagine a reasonable answer to this argument. And we have to imagine it, as no one is actually making it. (Those who come closest are actually milquetoast liberals like the New York Times' Matt Bai who, in our current, debased political discourse, take the role once filled by moderate Republicans back when such creatures existed.)
I know it looks bad, but I can explain.
What we got instead was less reasonable, because once a connection had been suggested between the sainted Palin and an actual, horrific act of violence -- worse, a connection that such Americans as can remember back a few news cycles might actually grasp -- the necessity of severing that connection became stronger for rightbloggers than any faint impulses they might have had toward decorum, logic, or common sense.
For example, when leftblogger Matthew Yglesias cited Congressnut Michele Bachmann's 2009 "armed and dangerous" comments as an example of violent rightwing lunacy, the Daily Caller's John Guardiano said it wasn't as bad as it sounded: "Bachmann clearly was using 'armed and dangerous' in a metaphorical and political, not literal and violent, sense," he said.
Unfortunately Guardiano tried to prove this with direct quotations from Bachmann, including this: "Thomas Jefferson told us, 'Having a revolution every now and then is a good thing.' And we the people are going to have to fight back hard if we're not going to lose our country."
As the American Revolution involved muskets and cannons, not political debates, this would seem to run exactly contrary to Guardiano's point. In any event, Guardiano told us the real extremist here was "the reprehensible" Yglesias -- "a tool of the rabid Left" who "sees people only in political, and not human, terms."
In the real world, Yglesias is actually a moderate liberal who tries to engage small-gummint types by opposing barber licensing and going to the rifle range with Megan McArdle. But when you're aggressively defending your own moderation, and your best defense is a reference to armed revolution, radicalizing the reputation of your opponents must seem like a good idea, if not your only hope.