Analyzing the shooting of Gabby Gifford and its relationship to political rhetoric, it is useful to divide the issues into three
- Did political rhetoric bring Jared Loughlin to attempt to kill Gabby Gifford?
Answer: No. Jared Loughlin was mentally unbalanced, and had a potential to commit violent acts as such, whose targets might have ranged from personal acquaintances, sexual partners, parents, or anyone seen as worthy of attack or any one of a broad palette of reasons.
- Did political rhetoric play a role in bringing Jared Louglin to attempt to kill Gabby Gifford?
Answer: Yes. Loughlin was potentially rife to kill someone. Who? Personal relationships might have produced a target; but social, including political, relationships were also on the palette of reasons for him to act. These might have included any one of a large number of “causes” in which extreme hostility to members of specific groups played a role, from religious fanatics to the extreme among social value defenders (e.g. anti-abortionists, anti-gays) to liberals seen as unAmericans to communists. The rhetoric of extreme tea party leaders was on the palette of causes from which Loughlin was exposed that might justify his inchoate propensity to kill.
- Did political rhetoric and use of violence as a political tool play a role in directly exposing Gabby Gifford to attempts on her life?
Answer: Yes. Not as to Laughlin’s particular attack, but certainly as to a set of attacks on her in Tucson, of which Loughlin’s was probably an accidental if not coincidental outcome. There are those that in fact advocate and practice violence as a political strategy, very conspicuously in many other countries, occasionally here. Her office had been shot at, her opponent had called for guns to be brought to and celebrated at is rallies; the language of violence used by some was easily transmuted into an advocacy of violence by others, even if outside the speakers’ direct intention.
Thus Jared Loughlin’s attack on Gabby Gifford was not “caused” by political rhetoric. But such rhetoric was on the pallets of many possible outlets for is psychic propensity to kill, one to which Gabby Gifford was particularly exposed. And the attack on her was a pat, at an extreme end, of those that in fact advocated violence against their political opponents of spoke in ways that could easily be interpreted as such advocacy.