MEDIA: Was Giffords's shooting spurred by vitriol?

U.S. media outlets have been weighing in on what role, if any, vitriol in political discourse played in the shooting of Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

The shooting of Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona on Saturday at the hands of a seemingly deranged gunman has ignited a wide-ranging discussion about the heated tone of U.S. political discourse.

Journalists and media personalities on both ends of the political spectrum have been weighing in on whether vitriol may have motivated accused gunman Jared Loughner, 22, to try to assassinate Giffords.

Below is a sample of some journalists' opinions.


Arizona Daily Star

Thoughts, prayers for shooting victims 

In which the editors of Gabrielle Giffords's local paper call for prayers for "the innocents killed":

"There's been a lot of violent language — and some threatening behavior — surrounding political issues in this country over the last few years. … But Giffords has never let vitriol deter her from public service. She works hard to be accessible. She's shown not just willingness, but courage to engage with people who don't agree with her."


The National Review

The Most Cynical Campaign

In which the editors accuse "ghoulish opportunists on the Left" of appropriating Saturday's shooting for political advantage:

"Martial imagery has been central to American politics for more than a century. Why do (former Alaska governor Sarah) Palin's critics think we say 'campaign' or 'rank-and-file'? We all use language of this sort, and no one ever before has thought it constitutes incitement.

"That said, all of us have an obligation to speak with truth and charity in making our political arguments. Not because hateful talk will drive the mentally ill to criminal acts, but because civility is a good in its own right."


New York Times

Climate of Hate, by Paul Krugman

In which Krugman calls on the Republican Party to make political discourse "less toxic":

"The point is that there's room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn't any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

"And it's the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence."

In Defense of Inflamed Rhetoric: The awesome stupidity of the calls to tamp down political speech in the wake of the Giffords shooting, by Jack Shafer

In which Shafer argues that withholding political opinion to prevent "the tiniest handful people" from reacting crazily to it "infantilizes and neuters us":

"Asking us to forever hold our tongues lest we awake their deeper demons infantilizes and neuters us and makes politicians no safer."

"Our spirited political discourse, complete with name-calling, vilification — and, yes, violent imagery —  is a good thing. Better that angry people unload their fury in public than let it fester and turn septic in private. The wicked direction the American debate often takes is not a sign of danger but of freedom."


Washington Post

After Giffords tragedy, fingers point to the media model of confrontation 

In which columnists Jason Horowitz and Lisa DeMoraes offer a survey of U.S. media reaction to the shootings:

"In the media marketplace, vitriol has value. Shows and outlets that emphasize confrontation, histrionics and vehement partisan slants attract ever-larger audiences than traditional news operations. And bemoaning the lack of civility in political discourse is inevitable after the Arizona tragedy, but so is a return to the hyperbole that attracts so many viewers."