Monday, January 17, 2011

Violent rhetoric and the mentally ill: The intersection of lethal irresponsibility

-- by Dave

I've got a post up at The Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute's blog, an effort to explain what it really means when a mentally ill person is inflamed by extremist right-wing rhetoric. Hint: The people who fill them with rage are not as blameless they want to claim:

For some time now, it's been something of a reflexive response by media pundits, particularly conservatives and "moderate" liberals, to point to mental illness when some violent and unstable person commits a horrifying act in the name of extremist right-wing beliefs. If they're just mentally ill, you can't blame the people whose ideas they happened to pick up, can you?

Thus we have witnessed a steady stream of "isolated incidents" in which angry, mentally unstable men walk into churches and shoot their liberal targets in the head, or walk into public spaces and open fire, or crash their planes into government offices and gun down police officers. Yet when all these, and a long list of similar incidents, occur, they are dismissed as "isolated incidents." Because, you see the perpetrators are just "nutcases."

Likewise, when an oddball college dropout named Jared Loughner walks up to Representative Gabrielle Giffords in a Safeway parking lot and shoots her point-blank, then empties another 30 rounds into the crowd around her, killing six and wounding 14 more — well, that can't be laid at the feet of his incoherent (but largely right-wing) belief system, can it? After all, he's obviously got mental problems, right? Therefore, it's just another isolated incident.

That's a cop-out, and a dangerous one. One of its chief consequences, in fact, is that the list of "isolated incidents" — and the body count that accompanies it — will just keep mounting. At some point, people will realize that the incidents are perhaps not so isolated after all.

Go read it all.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

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