It's important to push back against untruths as much as against incivility. And so when Christopher Caldwell writes the following in the Financial Times, I have to to ask him for actual evidence:
Many prominent people disheartened by the resurgence of the Republican party notably the blogger Andrew Sullivan, the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and the Pima County sheriff Clarence Dupnik linked the shootings to Republican ideology or rhetoric, as expressed by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin or the Tea Party movement or certain talk-show hosts.
Everything I wrote in real time can be read here, and so I challenge Chris to back up his statement. I air as much information and background as it comes in, and that includes the violent context of the last election and Giffords' prescient warning about gun sights imagery (that's my job), but my first actual venture as to the motive for this shooting is the following ambivalence:
Let's just say for one moment: this is so awful that political grandstanding seems both inappropriate right now, and yet also very appropriate. An attempted political assassination is a political act and deserves a political response. We cannot wish this side of the question away. We do not yet know the motives for this excrescence. But they matter.
An hour later, the first evidence from Loughner:
Peter Pan, Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto. Not exactly a Tea Party purist. But clearly disturbed.
My first impulse in any assassination of a political leader is to ask about possible political motivation, as well as the possibility of none. But my first personal judgment of any link between Loughner and the Tea Party is to debunk it (I still wonder what his currency crazy is about, but we'll find out at some point, I guess). Then:
His [MySpace Page] seems just plain nuts to me rather than Tea Partyish.
Compare this with Krugman with whom Chris lumps me:
We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was.
Where did I ever make that leap? I left the question open, and then leaned toward the mental illness explanation as "a key part" of this. Then:
So far, the content reveals a character not far from this reader's diagnosis: "This guy is a sui generis nut...no evidence that I can see of Tea Party influence. His concerns are to create his own reality." ... It seems to me so far that he appears a disturbed and dangerous individual able to absorb shards of political conspiracy theories and turn them into evil.
At the end of my live-blogging, I conclude with Andrew Sprung's statement:
It appears to me that this unfortunate insane individual is of no party or clique.
Did I explore the issue of far right violence after Giffords' father cited the Tea Party? You bet I did. How could I not? Did I ever "link the shootings to Republican ideology or rhetoric"? Nope. Do I think such rhetoric is over the top in a world where crazy people have access to guns? Yes. Do I agree with Giffords that Palin's imagery was dangerous? Yes. But as for the motive of Loughner, by the time 6.32 pm comes along, I have concluded that this was likely a psychotic breakdown, and cited a psychiatrist to that effect, and specifically ended with the case that he is "of no party". How can I be accused of linking Loughner to the GOP when I specifically cite that he seems to be "of no party"?
The Financial Times needs to run a correction.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.