Should Tucson Prompt a Discussion About Climate Change?

Some angry e-mails this morning about civility, specifically about my earlier posts asserting that, so far, the Tucson massacre story has more to do with mental illness and gun control than it has to do with violent rhetoric in political discourse. Here's one such e-mail:

Get your head out of the sand Goldberg. These kinds of shootings wouldn't happen in a country that wasn't ruled by Fox. Wait until your targeted for death threats, then you'll see.

Put aside that bit about death threats -- I keep mine in a file cabinet (and no, I'm just reporting here, not engaging in what Michael Kinsley calls "death-threat chic", though it's true that sometimes I'm flattered by the attention, especially from neo-Nazis) -- the shooting in Tucson is not, so far at least, related to the work of Roger Ailes. Jared Loughner seems, by all accounts, to have been a paranoid schizophrenic for quite a while, and his influences seem darker and more obscure than Fox News and Sarah Palin. To me, asking whether this shooting should prompt a discussion about civility in public discourse is like asking whether it should prompt a discussion of climate change because Arizona is hot.  Just as civility is something worth discussing, so too is  climate change, and yes, Arizona may be getting hotter because of it, but climate change is not related to this shooting, just as the decline of civility doesn't appear to be related to this shooting.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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