Heather Mac Donald brings it to the Corner:
I don’t think that questioning the possible role of political discourse in this tragedy merely represents callous opportunism on the part of the Left; it is a salutary human instinct after a tragedy of this dimension to search for any possible collective responsibility, even if that collectivity rarely includes oneself. And let’s not pretend that if a Republican politician had been shot during the Bush years, no one on the Right would have blamed anti-Bush “war criminal” rhetoric as a possible contributor.
And of course, in such a scenario, almost all of the Left would have been just as outraged at being inculpated in an act over which it had no control. If a police officer is shot in cold blood, I myself am not immune from wondering if anti-cop rhetoric by left-wing activists fed into the murder.
Homicidal madness does not need political demagoguery to trigger the slaughter of innocent people. In the last year, there have been many mass killings that had no apparent political overlay. That does not mean, however, that demagoguery may not on rare occasions sometimes be part of that trigger. Indeed, rhetoric and ideas inevitably contribute to individual actions. The question then becomes, are the purveyors of extremist rhetoric at all responsible for the extremely rare violence that may result when a crazed individual takes their rhetoric as partial inspiration for murder? I don’t see a hard and fast answer here, or one that is independent of one’s politics. To deny any responsibility for rhetoric under any conditions without an inquiry into its content and context seems to me to be too hard and fast a position, and yet the very definition of “extremist rhetoric” is obviously in the eye of the beholder. One man’s preposterous exaggeration is another’s sober evaluation of reality.
She goes on to offer examples:
I find the charges that Obama hates America and intends to destroy it ludicrous and, yes, gratuitously inflammatory. And yet I know that many smart, sober people believe -- in sincerest good faith that such charges are literally true. By supporting the Arizona immigration law, I believe that I am merely standing up for the rule of law and for a sober evaluation of the facts on the ground. I would strenuously reject the charge that I am engaged in “hate speech,” yet that charge is also made in good faith. Sarah Palin’s bull’s-eye targets on Democratic districts disturb me; if I were a gun enthusiast, I might feel differently. And those targets pale in comparison to inflammatory political caricatures and cartoons from the past.