In this post, I argued that the Seattle Times should not have published a letter saying that “neocons” should be weeded out, especially under the inflamatory headline they chose: Eradicate those who have put us in the Middle East. The editor, Jim Vesely, seemed not to understand my argument, judging from his reply.
Perhaps Mr. Vesely does not know that “eradicate” and “weed out” are terms commonly used by some of the bloodiest dictators. Perhaps he did not know that some, especially on the left (and among the followers of Pat Buchanan), use “neocon” to mean Jew. And it was absolutely clear that the letter writer thought that supporters of Israel should be weeded out.
Perhaps now, after the shootings at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, Mr. Vesely will understand my point. Perhaps he will even realize that publishing a letter that advocated weeding out a group, and appeared to advocate eradicating them, was wrong. Perhaps.
A few days later at his own blog, he wrote:
When Naveed Haq forced his way into the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, he told the people working there that he was a Muslim-American and that he was unhappy with Israel. He then began trying to kill them.
Even before he gave himself up to the police, our local journalists were ready with the excuses. Haq was a lone gunman (as if that made him less dangerous). He had a history of mental illness (many terrorist are not quite right in the head). He had a minor criminal record (many terrorists do). And so on.
As we’d soon find out, the local journalists’ “excuses” weren’t really excuses, they were the facts of the case. Haq was a lone gunman with a history of mental illness and a criminal background. But at the time, Jim Miller wasn’t satisfied with that explanation: Naveed Haq was acting as an agent of a larger force, intent on eliminating Jews from society. He saw this shooting as the natural consequence of the kind of eliminationist rhetoric that often emanates from those who radically oppose Israel.
Of course, after a mentally unstable lone gunman in Arizona shoots a Democratic Congresswoman in the head, Miller points to this passage from Instapunchline Glenn Reynolds, saying that it’s “worth reading”:
To be clear, if you’re using this event to criticize the “rhetoric” of Mrs. Palin or others with whom you disagree, then you’re either: (a) asserting a connection between the “rhetoric” and the shooting, which based on evidence to date would be what we call a vicious lie; or (b) you’re not, in which case you’re just seizing on a tragedy to try to score unrelated political points, which is contemptible. Which is it?
I realize that a moron like Jim Miller is an easy target, but this level of hypocrisy seems to be extremely commonplace on the right. With the Haq case, Miller was right to point out that the kinds of extreme rhetoric against Jews can often have consequences like this. And Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is similarly correct in pointing out the exact same thing regarding Arizona’s right-wing crazies.
From what we know already about the Tucson case, alleged shooter Jared Loughner is a mentally unstable loner who doesn’t fit neatly into any political profile. This is similar to Haq, who was clearly not an Islamic radical, and had even tried to convert to Christianity. But just because a mentally disturbed person doesn’t fit a particular profile doesn’t mean that they’re not influenced by the political atmosphere that surrounds them. Haq was clearly influenced by anti-Semitic eliminationist rhetoric that has a long history in numerous places around the world, especially among Muslims. And I find it nearly impossible to believe that Loughner wasn’t influenced by the eliminationist rhetoric against progressivism, multiculturalism, and government in general that’s become more commonplace within America’s far right in recent years (and especially in Arizona).
As with the aftermath of every terrorist attack, I cringe at the natural impulse to respond with stupid symbolic legislation. The answer here isn’t to ban anyone’s right to speak their mind. But if there’s one rallying cry that’s worth listening to, it’s the call to improve the state of mental health treatment in this country. That’s really the common thread between the Haq shooting and this past weekend’s tragedy. Of course, when it comes to providing help to the mentally ill, it appears that our fiscal situation leaves us with only enough money for rhetoric.