57% of Americans Think "Tone" of Politics Had Nothing to do with Tucson Shooting


From a CBS News poll:

57 percent of respondents said the harsh political tone had nothing to do with the shooting, compared to 32 percent who felt it did. Republicans were more likely to feel the two were unrelated—69 percent said rhetoric was not to blame; 19 percent said it played a part. Democrats were more split on the issue—49 percent saw no connection; 42 percent said there was.

Independents more closely reflected the overall breakdown—56 percent said rhetoric had nothing to do with the attack; 33 percent felt it did.

The telephone poll was conducted among 673 adults across the country. The margin of error is +/- 4 percent.

More here.

Hat Tip: Former Reasoner Dave Weigel, who writes at Slate, "That's still around a third of the country that blames rhetoric for the attack, despite evidence that it had nothing to do with it."

I agree with Dave that there's no evidence that political rhetoric had anything to do with the shooting, and note the poll question above was not whether rhetoric caused the attack but whether it had anything to do with it. So even the third who think that political talk had something to do with the attack are not necessarily saying it was the main cause.

These numbers reflect an America that is remaining pretty level-headed despite an incredibly ugly killing spree and a strong push by many in politics and the commentariat to say that Loughner's insanity is tied to the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, hard rock music, you name it.

An essential piece of an emerging motivation for Jared Lee Loughner's violence is emerging thanks to Mother Jones, who interviewed a friend of the alleged shooter. The friend describes Loughner's anger after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords didn't answer a question he posed at a public event in 2007. Read the interview here.

[The friend, Bryce] Tierney, who's also 22, recalls Loughner complaining about a Giffords event he attended during that period. He's unsure whether it was the same one mentioned in the charges—Loughner "might have gone to some other rallies," he says—but Tierney notes it was a significant moment for Loughner: "He told me that she opened up the floor for questions and he asked a question. The question was, 'What is government if words have no meaning?'"

Giffords' answer, whatever it was, didn't satisfy Loughner. "He said, 'Can you believe it, they wouldn't answer my question,' and I told him, 'Dude, no one's going to answer that,'" Tierney recalls. "Ever since that, he thought she was fake, he had something against her."

That question and its response further undergirds Loughner's insanity that was on display in his online postings. From almost any perspective, it is extremely unsatisfying that a killer is motivated simply by mental illness. We want there to be a stronger, deeper, somehow more complicated explanation in cases such as these, both to to dispel lingering fears that chance and contingency dominate the cosmos and because, oddly enough, it helps elevate the suffering of the victims and survivors of monumental violence if they were somehow caught up in a grander plan, no matter how matter evil.

I suspect that the more we learn about Loughner, the less we will feel secure that the world is a tidy, orderly place.

NEXT: Reason Writers on Teevee: Matt Welch Talks Jerry Brown's Austerity Budget on Varney & Co.

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  1. If it’s true that political rhetoric killed those people in Arizona, is it also true that video killed the radio star?

    1. Yes, that is true

    2. It’s been true since 1980, dude.

    3. Yes, but ‘reality’ TV killed the video.

  2. Can someone translate this incoherent rambling:

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    1. It makes sense in the original Mandarin. A better translation reads as follows: “Laugh-a while you can, monkey-boy.”

      1. “The original title of this book was ‘Jimmy James, Capitalist Lion Tamer’ but I see now that it’s… ‘Jimmy James, Macho Business Donkey Wrestler’… you know what it is… I had the book translated in to Japanese then back in again into English. Macho Business Donkey Wrestler…

        1. For the record, Root is a graduate of the University of Florida. So is James:

          Jimmy: “Ah don’t mind me. I’ve been reading Malcolm X lately, and I just wanted to say fight the power, kids! I want to give a big ups to all my peeps in lockdown. University of Florida Gators rule! Okay, let’s do this.”

    2. Translated: “I blame Bush.”


    3. Why the hell are you reading the Post-Intelligencer, dude?

      1. Morbid curiousity.

  3. The Mother Jones article is essential reading. The kid is an authentic whackjob.

    1. It’s obvious from all the TV interviews that almost everyone who associated with the guy regularly knew that he was mentally ill and potentially dangerous. It’s awful that nobody could get him the help he desperately needed before he hurt anyone. I think we need to have a serious national conversation of what should be done about people like this, for their own sake as much as the sake of those around them.

      And if the government is telling the truth about the evidence they have, Laughner was obviously obsessed with Giffords and may have been planning to kill her as far back as ’07, before the TEA Parties existed or anyone knew who Sarah Palin.

      The Krugmans of the world ought to be ashamed of themselves, but they have no shame to speak of.

      1. That’s the bad thing — there is an obvious problem here we could be working to correct, but everyone wants to talk about self-serving bullshit instead.

      2. It’s awful that nobody could get him the help he desperately needed before he hurt anyone. I think we need to have a serious national conversation of what should be done about people like this, for their own sake as much as the sake of those around them.

        OK, I’ve only heard a few interview snippets with those directly involved with Loughner, most notably his former math teacher at Pima CC, who reported Loughner’s bizarre behavior according to the school’s protocols, ultimately leading to his expulsion.

        Not sure that Loughner could have been “helped” in any meaningful fashion; the best that society could have done was involuntarily commit him to protect the rest of us from him.

      3. To be fair, we’re surrounded every day by people with fringe opinions. Heck, I live in San Francisco–if you asked me if I know anyone who believes in aliens, mind control, government conspiracies, or hatred of politicians, I’d have to say most of them.

  4. I’m all for heated, political rhetoric.

    1. Warmist!

  5. I remember when Bill Clinton tried to blame Right-Wing talk radio for the Oklahoma City bombing and Howard Stern actually blasted Clinton on the air for that. This is like when certain people want to blame music or video games for kids who join gangs or bring a gun to school. Just plain ignorant.

    1. Let’s not also forget Jerry Falwell blaming 9/11 on homosexuality and feminism.

      1. Wasn’t one of the hurricanes sent by God for similar reasons?

        1. What I find funny about that is people calling Hurricane Katrina divine punishment for the hedonism of New Orleans. Despite the fact that the French Quarter was hardly touched.

          1. the flying spaghetti monster protected the French Quarter by throwing dry pasta around the area to soak up the water.

            1. The FSM is great in his (or her) wisdom.
              I shall pray to the immmortal subgenii Yeti to cut the FSM some SLACK for not giving Loughner more noodles to play with. RA-men brother.

              1. Awesome FSM thread and great puns.

      2. And there was Michael Moore complaining about the indignity of New York City being attacked on 9/11 when they didn’t even vote for Bush.

      3. Be glad they’re not teaming up.

    2. It is not ignorant… it is a calculated ploy to use the ignorance of others to silence political opponents and gain power. Not exactly rocket science, but definitely not ignorant.

  6. “I suspect that the more we learn about Loughner, the less we will feel secure that the world is a tidy, orderly place.”

    Nick, I guess your address for the past ten years has been “A Rock” (get it?). I think the stache is affecting your mind, and not in a good way.

    1. The more fur someone has on their face, the more old timey their thought processes. Truth!

      1. But does it help them understand the old timey language in the Constitution?


  7. The big question is this: In a city where everybody can carry a concealed weapon, why didn’t somebdoy take loughner out? What kind of candy ass pansies live in Tuscon? At least, one hopes more law-abiding citizens will start carrying semi-automatics with extended magazines and use them. That will soleve the problem. That’s libertoid loigic, sshioles.

    1. Somebody did “take Loughner out”, genius. Just because you have a hammer doesn’t mean everything is a nail.

  8. The big question is this: In a city where everybody can carry a concealed weapon, why didn’t somebdoy take loughner out? What kind of candy ass pansies live in Tuscon? At least, one hopes more law-abiding citizens will start carrying semi-automatics with extended magazines and use them. That will solve the problem. That’s libertoid logic, assholes

    1. Where’s the real hate? Are you sick or something? You have no value other than as a vitriol-spewing moron, so if you can’t even do that well, you might want to give it up.

      1. You just don’t have an asnwer to the gun question, you fucking piece of shit.

        1. It’s like this, Maxidog. People trained in firearm safety understand that shooting in a dense crowd is, well, dense. The guy who tackeled the shooter HAD A GUN, but understood this, unlike you.

          BTW, I really love anal!

    2. RON PUALS COCK!!!111!!!one!!11one!!!11!!SUCK IT!!!!ONE11!!!!11!!!!

    3. Not that it really matters to you, but here’s why, according to the guy who could have shot him:

      “They’d already had a-hold of him, and there was a lot of people around him, and I wasn’t going to cause any more collateral damage or scare anybody any further than they needed to be scared.” Joe replied. “I felt like I could hold him down and wait for police, and it wasn’t my responsibility to end his life.”

      1. That doesn’t sound like the gun owners I read about in HuffPo. What happened to shoot first and ask questions later?

        1. Shoot first and ask questions later is for the cops.

          1. Shoot first and make stuff up later, you mean.

        2. No dogs around.

      2. NEM, can you link to your source for this?

  9. This is a great post! No one likes to think that someone will do things just because they are crazy – and that is it!

    I have learned this lesson myself from a certain few significant others. 🙂

  10. In other news, 100% of those polled had little to no objective and relevant information for forming such an opinion.

    1. And 42% of Democrats are disingenuous die-hard leftists who will convince themselves of The Truth? come Hell or high water.

    2. …and even so, 57% of them realized blaming “rhetoric” for any of this was retarded.

  11. Mentally unstable people with guns kill people in Arizona because mentally unstable people can get guns in Arizona.

    1. Let’s just outlaw mentally unstable people.

      1. If did that most politicians would be locked up their whole lives.

        1. That’s a feature, not a bug.

          1. WINNER!!!

    2. People that are dangerous and mentally unstable, but not flagged as such in the system, you mean.

  12. Only 57%?

    1. The other 43% are retarded.

    1. ;0)

  13. Considering how many on the political left think I’m Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs constitutes mind control, I’m surprised they don’t ALL think it was Rush Limbaugh’s fault.

    1. I wouldn’t go as far as saying ALL of them think it’s Limbaugh’s fault. There’s one Liberal commentator in my neighborhood who actually thinks Loughner is just some guy with a screw loose that finally came off.

  14. I suspect that the more we learn about Loughner, the less we will feel secure that the world is a tidy, orderly place.

    It is, as Ayn Rand stated, a natural, normal risk of existence.

    1. ^^THIS^^

      Shit happens. You can’t lock everyone up who might cause mayhem.

      1. Oh, we’d like to try!

      2. Oh yes we can. And doing so creates lucrative union construction and prison guard jobs.

  15. “From almost any perspective, it is extremely unsatisfying that a killer is motivated simply by mental illness.”

    Personally, I find it comforting that someone is motivated to kill a bunch of people simply by mental illness, and not by opposition to Obamacare, or illegal immigration or whatnot.

    1. Yeah, and it’s also really comforting to know that somebody with paranoid delusions has ready access to semi-automatic pistols with extended magazines. When you top that off with a severe lack of treatment for the mentally ill, you have–Libertopia! Let freedom ring!

      1. So what’s your brilliant solution Max? Ban semi-automatic handguns? Ban extended magazines? (Oh wait, we did, I guess you mean we should send cops to round up the ones which are already out there.)

        Lots of mentally ill people don’t want or seek treatment even if it’s “free,” so for your brilliant plan to work we’ll also need mandatory government testing for mental illness.

        I love this plan; I’m excited to be a part of it.

  16. From a CBS News poll:

    57 percent of respondents said the harsh political tone had nothing to do with the shooting, compared to 32 percent who felt it did.

    OTOH, (SWAG alert) 95.4% of Balloon-Juice posters and commenters do.

    The sports bar politics crazy is strong with this group.

    1. Errr, the above was me [kicks self in ass].

    2. I challenge any one of you you nitwits in the comment section*** to come up with a list of liberal offenses scarier than this list of right-wing offenses (from Coalition to Stop Gun Violence), which is a mere two years’ worth of violent rhetoric and obsession with guns and the second amendment.

      I love how the Left’s definition of “good” is “less bad than the right.” Don’t set the bar too high now!

    3. Why did I click that link? I knew I shouldn’t but curiosity got the better of me. Just sad.

  17. From almost any perspective, it is extremely unsatisfying that a killer is motivated simply by mental illness.

    Not sure I agree. I take some solace in knowing he was bananas. When sane people — who constitute a large majority of the population — go around on killing sprees, that’s when I start to worry.

    1. exactly, im actually quite glad this was not a rational political assasination.

      1. As bad as it would be for the representative and federal judge who both got hit anyway, presumably a rational political assassination would have spared the others.

        Assuming the liberty sapping fallout for the rest of us will be great either way, I’d rather those other folks not be harmed.

  18. Q: “What is government if words have no meaning?”

    That Q is hard to fathom and answer, but a related one is not as hard: “What is the rule of law when words have no meaning?”

    That is to say, if words have no meaning, then rule of law makes no sense, because laws are words; when words have NO meaning, they can assume ANY meaning, thus “the law,” consisting of words, is neither understandable nor predictable.

    If words have no (commonly agreed upon) meaning, then government must be based on the case-by-case interpretation, by judges or dictators, of whatever words there are, no to mention the whims of those rulers. This is, however, not rule of law, but rule of (by) men. In other words, it’s a very subjective, “we say so” type of government.

    I can’t even get my own elected reps to explain via correspondence how they square the laws they sponsor with the Constitution. If Loughner thought he could put Giffords on the spot to answer his much more abstract question in a limited-time public forum, then he really is crazy.

    On the other hand, maybe he demonstrated exactly what government is, when words have no meaning. Perhaps appointing himself king for the moment, he acted out “off with her head.”

    The whole incident is very, very sad.

    1. Well, answering lunatics is a fool’s errand, but in any case — “If words have no meaning, why would I understand anything you just said? You seem to believe that words have meaning, or else you wouldn’t have asked. If words have meaning, it invalidates the entire premise of your question. Now, take your fucking meds, psycho.”

      1. A la Orwell, words do not have any fixed meaning in the world of politics. If this is what Loughner had in mind, his question is a valid one, though cryptic. Though it could have just been some nonsense without any real significance, just as well, like other statements of his.

    2. Hans Hermann Hoppe in the m’f’n house.

    3. What are words for, when no one listens any more?

  19. ?”I have always known about man… a warlike creature who gives battle to everything around him – even himself.” -Dr. Zaius

  20. Even if this was caused by political rhetoric the notion that somehow the rhetoric today and occasional violence that comes with it is greater, more frequent, or more tragic than any in the past 200 plus years is just plain stupid.

  21. Has there ever been any proof, anywhere, that any person was led to commit a violent criminal act that the person otherwise would not have committted but for Sarah Palin comments, political “vitriol,” violence on television, violent movies, video games, rock songs with Satanic messages, exposure to porn, comic books, “bullying,” or any other form of expression that has been blamed over the years for “causing” violence? At what point are we finally going to put this nonsense to rest?

  22. I’m tempted to start trolling “false flag” posts around the TUBES, if only to fuck those making these asinine “tone”, “climate”, “rhetoric”, “responsible speech” arguments.

    Yep, Jared Lee Loughner was a Democrat operative who shot Giffords and KILLED the Bush appointed judge so that Robert Brady could introduce gun control legislation he had in his back pocket at the start of business on Monday.

    That sounds appropriately crazy and more plausible than “Reagan Bush Newt Delay Bush II Palin did it.”

    1. Notice that practically NO ONE is talking about the killing of the judge. It’s all “congresswoman” and “9-year-old girl”.

      1. I know. Isn’t political tribalism a wonderful thing?

      2. To be fair, “9-year-old girl” resonates more with me than either of the other two.

        1. Hush!

          We don’t want anyone getting the idea that government men are replaceable.

      3. Im only seen one mention of “Dude who jumped in front of bullets to save his wife”.

  23. Giffords’ answer, whatever it was, didn’t satisfy Loughner.

    She probably just thought the Master would whack her with a stick for trying to “solve” a koan.

    1. You have raised assholeness to cosmic levels.

      1. Where as you just keep rolling around in the mud oblivious to higher form and function.

        1. In his defense there is some fun to be had rolling around in the mud. (I can’t help it, it’s the redneck in me.)

  24. Yo, fuck Dave Weigel.

  25. You have raised assholeness to cosmic levels.


  26. The articles by the Left since Sat. have been lying accusations against all things Conserv and so called tone of hate speech. Yet it has been the Left that has ranted, lied, smeared ala the Sheriff, Time, Politico, NYTimes, MSNBC. Read today’s Commentary and the Will article in the WAPO on this and I think the poll numbers will increase for people not believing the lies of the Left and not wanting an end to gun ownership or a return to the so called Fairness Doctrine. That is the game plan of the Obama Admin. and the Dems. You can already read and hear it being played out. Obama and Nap. going to AZ with the same type of soothing lingo that Clinton did after OKCity is another ploy. It might not work this time because the Left’s hypocrisy on this murderous madman is so self evident.

  27. I think the problem is that we on the left have been expecting something like this for a very long time. The Fox News crew HAVE been using revolutionary, fear-driven rhetoric to aggitate the far right. So the fact that this guy had absolutely nothing to do with it is very hard for many people to accept,to the extent that they keep insisting on the illusion that it was caused by divisive rhetoric and not just a secluded weirdo.

    1. Here is an Obama quote: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” Talk about fear-driven rhetoric. Mr Loughner brought a gun! Is Obama responsible?

      1. Nope, just like Sarah Palin isn’t responsible because she used bullseyes to mark target districts. Take a few deeps breathes, read my post, and then comment.

  28. The American people, in their wisdom, are overwhelmingly rejecting the far left wing haters like Paul Krugman at the NYT in their despicable attempt to use this to damage their political opponents. Trying to blame the Tea Party and Gov Palin was a silly idea under any circumstance, and now that we know this guy was just a badly disturbed person with no recognizable political agenda its clear how shameful and hateful it was to try and use this terrible event so cynically.

  29. Which begs the question: WTF were the other 43% thinking?!

  30. And of those that feel the tone of the debate had an impact, how many feel the liberals are most at fault and how many feel the conservatives are more at fault?

  31. What does it matter what most Americans think? Most Americans do not understand math.

    If the shooting was purely a random event, and any Congressperson could have randomly been shot by any random crazy person, then what are the odds that the person who was actually shot was one of the two survivors of Sarah Palin’s crosshairs map? The odds are only 2/435 = .0046. In other words, less than 1/2 of 1%.

    Thus, it is hard to believe it is just a coincidence.

    1. Bwaaahahahahahaha!!! OMG… “What does it matter what most Americans think? Most Americans do not understand math.”

      So true, so true…

      You do realize this is the exact kind of sad shallow delusional justification that started this whole schizophrenic tragedy, right?

    2. The “math” only matters if you accept that Loughner’s reason for killing Giffords was due to right wing political beliefs in the first place.

      He wanted to kill her because:
      A) She was the face of authority in his state, and he loathed the government.
      B) His run in with her in 2007 did not go well, which one can see from how he was obsessing over her between now and then.

      I believe that she died because, to put it bluntly, a crazy person wanted to kill someone in the government and she was the closest one he could find. She died due to her proximity to Loughner; the map had nothing to do with it.

      Also count me as one of the plurality of liberals that does not believe rhetoric or the Tea Party was responsible.

  32. For some To pretend Palin & the Tea Partiers did not have some influence is to deny the enormous influence that media and radio has on the public conscsiousness. This shooter did not live in a bubble. I am sure he turned on his local television news station where he would see Palin and the Tea Party’s spout their ugly and negative lines. I am sure he searched the web, wherein he would hear and see Palin and others do their thing. Palin was in the papers, on magazines pictured with guns; she was the media darling and no one could get away from her and the other ulgy depecitions of tea partiers and their slogans during news segments, which everyone watches sometime — in the doctor’s offices, before going to school or work. The media loved to show these devicive stories so let ‘s not pretend this young man never saw these stories or was not influenced by these stories!

    And, of course all of this anger and ugliness started on talk radio by the King of Darkness, Rush Limbaugh!

    1. I looked for some hint of sarcasm in that entry. Sadly I didn’t find it.

      angellight appears to actually believe that drivel.

      1. Commenter “is sure” – get off his/her back already!!!

    2. Ah, if Tea Party/Palin violent rhetoric is everywhere, and everyone is exposed to it – and it causes people to become crazy and violent; then why aren’t more people getting shot? Three hundred million Americans listen to the stuff but one, ONE, acts out and somehow this is the result of the Tea Party.

      If Sarah Palen’s rhetoric caused nuts to shoot Democrats, there’d be a lot more dead Democrats. (‘Cause Lord knows there’s plenty of nuts!)

  33. “Blood Libel” is a concrete phrase of what the Juornolist conspirators are doing. It is sad. One Libtard says the outrageous and then they all turn into Parrots. It is NOT AN ACCIDENT.

  34. Wrong again, 39% of Americans think there is a connection. Just like Palin to ignore or discount the views of those who do not agree with her. After I saw her crosshairs map, I told my spouse that someone was going to get shot, not because they were targeted by Palin but because Palin was agitating crazy people. This is not a shock and Palin should be shunned

    1. Who are all these “crazy people” Palin should be aware of?

  35. correction, 43% think there is a connection. I was not looking at the numbers in the article when i wrote the post. Please don’t correct me

  36. Soon after Brutus had stabbed Julius Caesar, Andrea Mitchell asked him why he did it.
    He replied: “It was listening to Rvsh Limbavgh

  37. The shooters’ friends said he never watched TV, listened to talk radio, and wasn’t into politics!!!



  38. Unbelievable that so many sources would be blamed for motivating this murderer while no one has mentioned his parents’ political affiliations. I’ll bet you everything I have that they are liberal and they are registered democrats. The murderer was a nut and his parents would have had more influence on his worldview than any other source. Any one want to refute that?

  39. ere more likely to feel the two were unrelated – 69 percent said

  40. othing to do with the shooting, compared to 32 percent who felt it did. Republicans

  41. she was the media darling and no one could get away from her and the other ulgy depecitions

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