Right now, across the right leaning part of the news media and blogosphere across the USA, and in parts of the UK, a large straw man is taking shape.
After the Tucson shootings on Saturday, one quickly identifiable contributory factor to the whole sad business was the incendiary level of rhetoric that has gradually permeated politics Stateside. The target of the shootings, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, during her campaign for re-election to the House, had faced accusations from her Republican opponent of being, variously, a socialist, a communist, a fascist, and a traitor.
But those on the right are now screaming that they are being victimised by the left, that the shootings have been politicised, and that the events are being used as an excuse to stifle free speech. The right, when on the defensive, can be scary.
One of the first out of the traps in showing that their own rhetoric will not be getting scaled back any time soon has been Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse). Following MSNBC’s special Saturday edition of Countdown, and Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment – where he called for the language of violence to end, and did not exempt any part of the political spectrum – Fox arranged a Sunday edition of America Live, fronted by Megyn Kelly, which is part of the Fox “opinion” strand.
Kelly had lined up an interview with Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. But it wasn’t really an interview, but Kelly lecturing Dupnik: “I know that you’re a Democrat, and you ran for office as a Democrat ... I’m sure some of our viewers are asking themselves why you are putting a political spin on this when they may be asking why you the sheriff aren’t focused on the facts”. In other words, Kelly has uncovered a rotten leftist who isn’t doing his job properly – her supposed “question” is of course assertion and conclusion in one.
And Fox is only one of a number of organisations trying to demonise Sheriff Dupnik and lay responsibility for the shootings with the left. Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips labelled Dupnik a “leftist sheriff” and the suspect a “leftist lunatic”. The group sponsored the 2010 Tea Party Convention – keynote speaker Sarah Palin. In Tucson, conservative radio host Jon Justice called for Dupnik to step down – not that he’s trying to curtail free speech, of course.
It’s not just in the USA either: MEP and occasional Tory Dan, Dan the Oratory Man is in full flow in the Maily Telegraph today, asserting that the “left” are “chiding ... opponents for hate speech while ... accusing them of murder”, which is not being done. The same site also carries Nile Gardiner talking of “the Left’s shameful exploitation of a national tragedy”.
Expect more of this sickening behaviour in the next few days.