A lot of words are flying in the wake of yesterday’s shooting, and a lot of things are unknown still about the shooter and his motivations. There’s plenty of talk out there about all that, so I’m not going to add to the pile here.
I just want to point out that the right swung into action immediately with a well-honed strategy of deflecting blame. Their strategies for defending violent, paranoid rhetoric have developed, one act of political violence at a time, into a routine defense that’s activated the second violence happens or almost happens.
*Minimize the effect that environment has on individuals, by implying that the person who acted basically lived in a vacuum. Drop the word “crazy” as often as possible, exploiting people’s misbelief that crazy people don’t have a relationship to their political and rhetorical environment, as well as the erroneous belief that mentally ill people are more violent than average.
*Try to characterize the terrorist/shooter as “liberal”, no matter how thin or ridiculous your “evidence” for this is.
*Equate calls for voluntary toning down of the paranoid, violent rhetoric with censorship that has government force behind it. Remember, being criticized is the same thing as being thrown in jail for publishing a newspaper, but only if you’re conservative!
*Deny that things that were said meant what they clearly meant.
*Play the “both sides” game, equating impassioned, fact-based rhetoric on the left with paranoid lies and inciting language on the right. This one is good for guilting some liberals and centrists who’d rather appear fair than be truthful.
*If the shooter/terrorist has undeniable political affiliations with the hard right, pretend that they’re completely separate from the mainstream right, all while defending the way the mainstream right is mainstreaming extremist rhetoric (see Whining: Free speech).
*If you’re an anti-choice activist, don’t forget to slur the victim(s) of the violence as a bad person who probably had it coming. To be fair, most right wingers outside of those circles are smart enough to avoid this one.
Yes, some of these contradict each other, but that’s never really mattered to the right wing noise machine. The main thing is throwing as much shit as they can in order to see what sticks. That there is a well-honed, well-practiced script that the right whips out in response to these events should give us pause. Contrary to what Jack Shafer says, the reason their response is so automatic, so well-honed is they’ve had lots and lots of practice.
Consider also: Making sure there is no moral or social obstacle that might slow down the violent, paranoid, lying rhetoric on the right is the hill that the wingnut defense machine is willing to die on.
Probably because without lies and paranoia, they don’t have a fucking leg to stand on.