Arizona shooting has parallels in Pakistan

January 15, 2011


Three days before the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a courageous Pakistani politician was shot dead by one of his guards.

The circumstances of the two shootings, of course, were very different. Salman Taseer had infuriated conservative Muslims by criticizing his country’s apostasy law, which prescribes death for insulting Islam. Much of Pakistan’s media made excuses for the killer, while leading clerics denounced the victim. Top politicians were too timid to attend Taseer’s funeral.

In the United States, by contrast, the media and a bipartisan array of politicians praised Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona, as she struggled for survival. President Obama traveled to Tucson to deliver a healing message.

Yet a thread links these two crimes and their victims: Before they were shot, both Taseer and Giffords were battling for moderation and against the politics of hatred in their respective lands.

In Taseer’s case, the struggle was far more stark. He called for an inclusive Pakistan in which apostasy laws aren’t used to persecute minorities. But in a country where feudal landowners rule, illiteracy is high, and unemployment is rampant, his campaign put him in acute danger. Angry youths like his killer, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, look for guidance to radical mullahs who preach hate.

Giffords, a centrist, pleaded for more tolerance in a state bitterly divided over immigration and health care. The week before the shooting, she e-mailed a friend: “We need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down.”

She had good reason to worry. In March, after she voted for Obama’s health-care bill, the glass on the front door of her Tucson office was shattered.

During her re-election campaign last year, her opponent, Jesse Kelly — a Republican with tea-party backing who defeated a moderate Republican in the primary — appeared in a Web advertisement holding an assault weapon. According to news reports, he said at a rally, “ ... if you dare to stand up to the government, they call us a mob. We’re about to show them what a mob looks like.”

This kind of vitriol — the constant demonization of government with language that invites violence — has become the norm for some conservative pundits and candidates. Jared Lee Loughner, the accused Tucson shooter, appears to be deranged and has no known political affiliation. Yet, in troubled times, the mad and the unstable can find validation in the language of a Jesse Kelly and of other rhetorical bomb-throwers.

Talk of “gangster government” (a term used by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., the founder of the House Tea Party Caucus) is magnified many times over by repetition on chat shows and the Internet. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III observed after the Tucson shooting: “The ubiquitous nature of the Internet means that not only threats, but hate speech and other inciteful speech, is much more readily available to individuals than ... it was eight or 10 or 15 years ago.” Such language can help provoke “lone wolves or lone offenders” into “undertaking attacks,” he said.

Yet, unlike in Pakistan, the shooting of Giffords offers a chance for our pols and pundits to modify their language. It’s telling to note who has and hasn’t done this so far.

Congressional Republicans, including Michele Bachmann, paid tribute to Giffords. (But will Bachmann stop tossing vicious verbal grenades at opponents?)

Rush Limbaugh, however, shrilled that “the left” was out to suppress debate. Newt Gingrich used the moment to accuse liberals of being weak on terrorists. And Sarah Palin, whose website had included a U.S. map with crosshairs on the districts of 20 Democratic candidates, including Giffords’, has not spoken publicly about the shooting. Instead, she posted an Internet video calling criticism of her rhetoric a “blood libel.”

Unlike the mullahs of the right, Sen. John McCain unequivocally denounced the Tucson shooter, saying, “Whoever did this, whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country, and the human race.”

Nor did they grasp the message of Giffords’ astronaut brother-in-law, Scott Kelly, which was beamed down from the International Space Station. He decried the “unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions, but also with our irresponsible words.”

Kelly added a phrase that should shame the pols and pundits for whom vitriol is an elixir: “We’re better than this.”

We’re so different from Pakistan, with its sermons of hate, aren’t we? Aren’t we?

— Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer.


CorkyHundley 7 years, 2 months ago

Trudy Rubins "vicious verbal grenades" has Parallels in Madness

Her profiling of Pakistan conservatives with a lone crazy man in Arizona is reminiscent of DRD 4 Genies profiling Palin with the lone crazy man in Arizona.

Trudy, Trudy, Trudy

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

Is it difficult to breath with your head in the sand? I sorry you are insisting the political assassination attempt was not political in any way. It means no one can take you seriously on the subject of politics. I wish the murderer was alone. Only he, is armed, angry and ready to attack. That is not true. That is not true. Your simple minded claims, that the climate of hate in Pakistan has no resemblance or correlation to the current climate of hate in America is just wrong. One of the hate mongers in Arizona politics, claimed that people misjudged the election atmosphere in Arizona, everyone was really mellow, there was no racism, no hate. Is denial the necessary hurdle to chip away at, before any discussion of real events can ensue. Discussion and disclosure of responsibility for either the right or the left. We hold sports figures to a higher standard then political figures.

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

You are claiming the president said "Lougner was not incited by political rhetoric. " I remember he said " For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind."

Which of course differs from your premise that the political assassination was not political in any way. But I couldn't find the statement you claim the president made. I am not calling you a liar, I just can't find it.

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

It looks like you are saying that Obama said, "There is simply no evidence that this was a "political assassination". I am not able to find that anywhere. Nor where he said "Lougner was not incited by political rhetoric. "
i am not calling you a liar. I just can not find where he used those words. They don't make much sense even if that is exactly what he said. How would he know at this point what drove Lougner. Of course he could have been privy to some part of the investigation that hasn't been made public, but I find nothing like that on line.

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

I am sorry, My husband has pointed out you didn't mean Obama actually said those statements, you meant that was what you thought he meant.

You and I have a different definition of political assassination attempt. I am guessing you put the definitive on proving the shooter must be of sound mind and with clear political stands. I mean the subject was chosen probably because he or she was a political figure. In your definition very few shooting of political figures would qualify, in mine, most. I assume there is no reasoning with you past this point.

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

You are right Gifford is alive. I was slow in not understanding when you said Obama had made statements that made no sense, you were just saying how you interpreted his statements. Some persons were killed in the political assassination attempt. It is a fine hair to draw. i don't care to discuss a definition that dismisses the dead as not really to be counted.

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

Of course, I admit my mistakes, or in this case, miss types. Good catch, more than I expected of you. I have always been lucky in my life. You seem to put a lot of faith, base your happiness or worth on the current electoral state. Good luck with that. I am probably a lot older than you, seen regimes come and go, all that. Can't base your life on the snags or who is in office. Life is broader than that.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

It most certainly was a politically motivated attack. While he may not be affiliated with any particular political movement, he was clearly motivated by a belief that "government is evil."

Yes, that's irrational and illogical, but it's a sentiment that's expressed widely in this country, and lies behind most of the heatedly uncivilized rhetoric that sucks all the air out of the room in our attempts at political discourse.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

Thomas Paine also never took a bath in his life (and was proud of that fact.) It was a crackpot idea.

And while government certainly can be used for evil purposes, so can lots of other human institutions-- churches and corporations, to name but two. But it's the actions of the humans who misuse these institutions that are "evil," not the institutions themselves.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

Translation: I don't like the way the discussion is headed, so I'm resorting to sophomoric personal attack.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

"Let's dismiss the bathing canard and address the beliefs of Paine and the other Founding Fathers."

I did address the belief you pointed out. You just chose to get your panties in a wad over the bathing remark instead of following up on the discussion you claim to want.

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

I don't agree, sometimes the culture of an institution can be so corrupt it deserves recognition. It is not humans who misuse the institution, the institution which is evil. Organized crime, some military regimes, some corporations, and even some churches. I feel the clan could qualify.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

I agree that some institutions exist solely to facilitate the evil intents of the humans who populate it. But in my opinion, the evil still resides in the humans who make up the institution.

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

Of course it was a politically motivated attack.

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

the day I give up saying what think because some wing nut or pacifists cries that he doesn't want to hear anything but comfort thoughts you can assume arthritis keeps me from typing, I can tell it pains you to be questioned, to be told that I don't find your reasoning sound nor your facts accurate. I don't agree with your reliance of wobbling definetions. I think they get in the way of any decent conversations. Most of the right seems to be intent on blocking discussion, shouting out the opposition, like it was a sports arena. Most of the left is intent on being temperate, to be seen as fair. I don't appreciate barriers so people don't have to look at anything but their fantasy of what is going on.
You might not think the billion dollar ad campaigns are insulting, the lost jobs preventable, the foreclosed homes important, the ever increasing division of the wealthy getting richer at the expense of working families are real. I don't think giving the wealthiest will translate into more jobs, I think it translates into more wealth for the wealthiest. If you read my posts, brace yourself. I don't feel it is all unrelated. I have no interest in agreeing to garbage. That lies and spin are better than facts. bah. You have a right to say It isn't political to shoot congresswomen in the head, I have a right to think political assassinations are political acts. We probably agree the shooter was deranged. If the right wants to blame the left for not solving the problems and if the left wants to demonize the meanness, the tactics of the right. That is ok, but if that dialogue stop this country from addressing it's real problems then I think, enough. I don't want to watch the right dismantle the "lefts" victories and I don't want to watch the left prove the venality of the right.
My response to the tragedy in Tuscon is a desire to respond to what happened to the slain, the wounded and the heroes. I don't want to hear how it effects some tv big mouth the most. I don't want to hear how it proves Bush was ineffective. I want to actually address the real situation, effecting the real people. I am not interested in imaginary disclosures of how someone knows positively a madman never was triggered by anything related to the right , left. . Bah on shutting up. BS to you. I am darn eager to keep semi automatics from going off into some child's head. If you don't care to even try to do something about that, then don't.

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

No, I have a wonderful lie with great things to do.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

"But in a country where feudal landowners rule, illiteracy is high, and unemployment is rampant,"

Sounds a lot like what Republicans have in mind for this country.

Liberty275 7 years, 2 months ago

Outside of the landowner bit, it describes a good portion of the democrat party.

Jim Phillips 7 years, 2 months ago

Really j_a_b_o_t_b? Tell me, just where do you find that in the Conservative manual or doctrine? Chapter and verse please. Or is it that you are using the same "strawman argument" you claim everyone else uses?

If Loughner's attack was politically motivated, which side was he attacking? Does anyone recall that, although Giffirds is a Democrat, a Bush appointed Federal Judge was murdered? Or do you just conveniently ignore that little fact?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

"Tell me, just where do you find that in the Conservative manual or doctrine?"

It's merely a matter of paying attention to what they actually do and say --the insistence on using government almost exclusively to further the interests of the wealthy aristocracy that owns it; their complete disdain for public education, and the global, economic race to the bottom that has put millions of people out of work in just the last 3 years.

"If Loughner's attack was politically motivated, which side was he attacking?"

An attack doesn't have to go against a particular "side" to be politically motivated. He was clearly motivated by his view that "government is evil," and he saw the congresswoman as (a) face of that evil. The judge and the rest of the folks there were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

camper 7 years, 2 months ago

After wathing Kelly's ad, I find it ok. But I don't really like it because he seems to be talking at his district like they are children. If I were a Republican in his district, I would not vote for him just because of this repulsive ad.

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

nattewktib Boy, your voice seems familiar, did you use to have a different name. MMMM

camper 7 years, 2 months ago

Well it was ok as far as not being inflammatory or hate filled as you correctly point out. "Repulsive" however applies to my own my own taste. This ad is not my cup of tea. But there are not many political ads that I don't have an aversion to.....from any party.

camper 7 years, 2 months ago

This killer had no known political ties (from what we know at this point). So we cannot declare that it was politically motivated. By the same logic, we really don't know what was going on in his mind, and what influenced him, so we cannot rule out that hateful political discourse was partly the cause (no matter how large or small). We may find out more.

But this event rightly shocked, infuriated, and caused many of us to step back and take a look at the dialouge that is prevelant today and ask ourselves if this is good for the country? Is this good for our own health and peace of mind? Thinking about it in this way is not laying blame and should not be confused as being so. "We are better than this".

Flap Doodle 7 years, 2 months ago

Next up, left-of-center writer links Mr. Nutcakes to Albert Fish in a desperate attempt to smear conservative Americans.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years, 2 months ago

"He/She who excuses themselves, accuse themselves" That about covers it. All the voices screaming "Not my fault" tend to accentuate the plain fact that it is their fault. Limbaugh has made a commercial enterprise earning millions trashing the government, the President, his Democratic Party and its members and followers, and those individuals that he and his idiot dittohead followers characterize as "liberals" like it is illegal to have any political view other than the view of his "conservative" gang. Palin is an enigma. A failed elected official from one of the distant states, put in the limelight by the failed candidate in the last election (much to his utter dismay, I think) and coddled by the extreme right tagged "tea party", an unorganized band of political wonks who think the government should bug off and leave the potholes in the road. Palin's gunshot metaphors are plenty enough to damn her to the dust bin of history. We can only hope.

geekin_topekan 7 years, 2 months ago

And, Pakistan has mountains. Arizona has mountains.


Flap Doodle 7 years, 2 months ago

The word "Pakistan" contains two "a"s. The word "Arizona" contains two "a"s? Connection?

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

The word denial has an e in it just like crackle. At least someone has found a way to keep going. Bless her heart. Palin to speak on how politics affect the current state of hunting and fishing.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

Nancy Pelosi is clearly mistaken. An accident is when you slip on a banana peel. This was no accident, it was a deliberate attack. It wasn't caused by conservatives, for sure, but it was no accident.

Just curious, do you honestly think of John Boehner as your "leader"? Personally, while I may be a liberal and Pelosi may be a representative with more liberal views than others, she is not my leader.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

I got distracted while reading this -- is the conclusion that Sarah Palin is now responsible for someone getting shot in Pakistan?

I don't care for Sarah Palin nor the ugly rhetoric, but liberals can't take the stand that incivility is just one sided. That isn't going to get us anywhere. ugh

camper 7 years, 2 months ago

Tom, I don't think the poli/media relationship is similar to Pakistan. So I agree with you here. I think the ugly rhetoric used by politicians is used primarily to achieve votes here in the US. But what worries me, is that this can expand almost like a lab experiment gone awry. Bad consequences can happen if this "beast" whatever it may be, is continually fed.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 2 months ago

Have thousands of people turned up somewhere to cheer Mr. Nutcakes as the fans of the homicidal security guard in Pakistan did?

Jeremiah Jefferson 7 years, 2 months ago

Sick of hearing about the shooting in Arizona. Everyone but the shooter is being blamed for it. If it had been a bunch of fast food workers or factory workers it would have never even made the news.

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

We actually had thoughtful people who were touched by the tragedy and said what they thought about the possible implications the tea party rhetoric might have, how they might of influenced the events. Tom Humphries, the Tuscon teaparty leader recently mounted the medium podium and told the victims they should not talk about guns at this point, told them to not to criticize hate speech and impliedit was Gifford's responsibility not to be attacked by deranged gun nuts. He has the right to his opinions. I am sorry he got the chance to throw his opinions in one of the victim's face. If this is the best voice for the Tuscon tea party, they need to regroup. I suggest someone who can take a little heat and not whine like a hurt puppy. He claims he is the victim because someone doesn't like his remarks and tactics and they say it aloud? He could of stood up for his remarks and tactics, not just blame people for mentioning them and not liking them.

voevoda 7 years, 2 months ago

In terms of the gunmen, the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords and the assassination of John F. Kennedy are pretty similar. I'd call the assassination of President Kennedy a political act, even though Lee Harvey Oswald's political motivations were pretty nebulous and confused. Ergo...

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

One of Giffords' favorite charities now has a special fund,Those wishing to donate can log on to: www.communityfoodbank.org . I thought it was nice of the family to direct support for them in this way. It is the old neighborly, bringing a dish to the family, in this case to the community table. I feel that any donation to local food banks in honor of her service and in reaction to the attack would be appropriate.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 2 months ago

In other news: "TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Two things are clear from Saturday's ABC News town hall meeting in Tucson. One: Tucsonans are eager to move forward and recover from last week's horrible shooting rampage. And two: that process is going to be slow and painful. That latter point was driven home by the arrest of a shooting victim, who threatened a speaker during the taping of the program...." Read the rest at: http://www.kgun9.com/Global/story.asp?S=13849741

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

Is there more than one type of civility?

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

I have a lot of friends on multiple sides of politics. They are decent, thoughtful people. One of my dearest and oldest friends is a right wing gun loving nut. We have strong discussion but he and I get a lot out of the debates. I respect his opinions, I respect how he presents his points. We have different priorities, different values. He can discuss the issues.

Jay Keffer 7 years, 2 months ago

This is all such hooey, total fabrication.

Dupnik and the media fabricated this connection between the 'tone' of the political discourse and the shootings in Arizona. All within mere hours of the event. Unfortunately it grew legs and now we are stuck with it.

We now know that the shooter was a wacko, and acted alone. He was neither Republican or Democrat. He targeted Giffords long before Palin, the Tea Party, the 2010 elections were even on the horizon.

NPR recently reported on a Secret Service study of these issues. From their radio broadcast:

"Perhaps the most interesting finding is that according to Fein and Vossekuil, assassinations of political figures were almost never for political reasons.

"It was very, very rare for the primary motive to be political, though there were a number of attackers who appeared to clothe their motives with some political rhetoric," Fein says."

This wacko wanted his 15 minutes of fame, and chose a political figure to carry it out. He was not motivated by the talk radio chatter. Please - y'all have more common sense then that. ENOUGH of this fabricated issue. It is a classic case of framing the argument around the exception rather than the rule.

Don't be a dope/Dupnik - don't fall for this silly media creation.

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

Darn lefties. complain, complain , they act like somebody came in the door shooting. They are really crazy. It is all just words. Words don't mean anything. A crazy guy got hold of a gun and went to a meeting and blasted people away. it certainly was not anything to do with politics. Maybe crazy guy didn't like how someone was dressed. They would like for people to think something significant happened, but man that what happened? It has nothing to do with gun regulations, mental health care access, or politics. Just isn't so , didn't happen, media made a big deal out of nothing. . The messages from the hospital are promising, http://www.kvoa.com/news/umc-doctors-give-victim-condition-updates/ One of the victims went berserk at an open meeting where gun advocates told him to not talk about gun regulation until everyone was buried and things had quieted down. Why he lost his cool when everyone was assuring him to ignore the whole thing, is inexplicable. Lefties just can't take direct fire. they are really unfair. Can't talk sense to them. Be quiet, everything is all right. just happens some time, nothing anyone should do something about. It is just luck.

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