Saturday, January 15, 2011

Arizona shootings

This is a very sad event, made even sadder by its instant and all-encompassing politicization.

My thoughts:

First, this is not really an appropriate time for smug superiority by the left. Even if the shooter had rightish politics, which it appears he did not, the smugness would still not be appropriate. Though it seems to have gone down the memory hole, the amount of violent rhetoric that emerged from the left during the years of Bush Derangement Syndrome (or, farther back, during the Ray-gun administration) easily matched that from the right during the years of Clinton Derangement Syndrome or presently under Obama. Paul Krugman provides an example of the problem.

Second, this is also not an appropriate time to use the incident for political fund-raising.

Third, the shootings are not a good reason for clamping down, either legislatively or rhetorically, on free speech. American political discourse is more civil now than in much of the country's history. Indeed, it is not clear why one should attribute the shooting to speech at all.

Fourth, the shootings are not a good reason to re-institutionalize the mentally ill. Again, the record seems to have been swallowed up by the memory hole, but the mentally ill were originally de-institutionalized because in practice the institutions that housed them were often wretched and sometimes abusive. Would things be any better in a culture that now celebrates and jokes about prison rape? I think not. Some related thoughts from Steve Sailer.

Fifth, it strikes me that in quantitative terms the much more important problem is the terrorizing (and sometimes killing) of innocent citizens by agents of the state, rather than the reverse. Would that such incidents - you can find links to dozens of them if you search on "isolated incident" on Radley Balko's Agitator website - elicited a similar outpouring of media sympathy, outrage and calls to action.

Finally, some further thoughts from Steve Sailer on the lunatic fringe, Greg Mankiw on violent metaphors, Eugene Volokh on the law of the matter, and from Michael Moynihan, David Harsanyi and Peter Suderman at reason.

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