prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Questioning Motives

Posted by prof e on January 10, 2011

It’s still much too early to figure out what motivated Jared Lee Loughner to shoot 19 people, killing six, on Saturday…but that hasn’t stopped many from speculating. News pundits, reporters and commentators have lined up to offer their opinion of what was behind the tragic and atrocious act. On the ride home today I listened as a radio reporter speculated that political rhetoric, amplified by the media, was to blame for the shooting.

Perhaps what has been most disconcerting has been the eagerness of some to score political points by ascribing motives to Loughner that fit their personal political views. Yes Representative Gabrielle Giffords is a Democrat from a Republican district, and yes she had previously been the recipient of heated rhetoric from those who opposed her policies. But too many in the media (both mainstream and online) are trying to link the actions of a madman to social movements and political activism which may or may not be responsible.

Even the local sheriff, Clarence W. Dupnik, weighed in just hours after the shooting with his opinion linking the tragedy to “vitriolic political rhetoric.” Others suggested that talk of “second amendment remedies” and maps with cross-hairs used to target political races across the country, including Giffords’ district, were to blame. There MAY BE a connection between heated political rhetoric and the actions of Loughner, but it is too soon to try to connect the dots when one of the dots is clearly not dealing with a full deck.

Please don’t mistake my objection to those placing blame for anything less than complete repudiation of Loughner and his heinous act. Blame should–and will–come to rest on Loughner, and anyone or anything that contributed to his decision to use deadly violence. I’m simply saying that to make pronouncements about causal relationships so soon after such a shocking event says more about the motives of the speaker than it does about the motives of those under the microscope.

UPDATE: According to Broadcasting & Cable magazine, Rep. Bob Brady (D-Pa.) is working on a bill to make it a federal crime to use “language or symbols” that could be interpreted as inciting violence against a member of Congress.

UPDATE 2: I just came across a thoughtful commentary from Jon Stewart’s show last evening that addresses this very issue. Stewart said, “you know we live in a complex ecosystem of influences and motivations, and I wouldn’t blame our political rhetoric any more than I would blame heavy metal music for Columbine, and by the way that is coming from someone who truly hates our political environment.” Read and/or watch more here.

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4 Responses to “Questioning Motives”

  1. Alex said

    Stewart’s statement was well thought out but naive. Right now, Liberals are hemorrhaging with Utopian dreams of kumbaya politics and Conservatives are adjusting sights in preparation for end of days scenarios.

    Others are under cover honing the senses, hoping that none of these morons stop talking and giving away their positions, so when it comes to crunch time, it’ll be easier know which people to use as sandbags and in which direction to return fire.

  2. Aj Ayala said

    This topic is a very touchy topic, but it seems oh so familiar. Whenever a great tragedy like this occurs in our country it seems like most politicians take to arms. They say they can feel our pain, that hey know what we are going through. It always just seems to have a underlining purpose whenever one of them speaks about a tragedy, and that is their views in the public eye. They always seem to promise the world or try to have their take match up with how their voters views are even if it contradicts their very own views.

    John Stewart spoke out greatly to this is seems that now a days people will have their own opinions thrown out on the the wires of the world not knowing what their words mean to people. He makes a great point of crazy people you don’t know where they are or what they are capable of. You have to watch what you say when you are in a position of power. People crazy or not will always misinterpret your words and that can have many consequences.

  3. Alex Miller said

    I think that when tragedies occur the nation goes into a huge media hype. The media jumps all over stories that end with fatalities or public destruction. This is a good thing in a way. It allows for people to be continuously updated on current topics while getting a feel for the politicians point of view. The media can also make tragedy stories bad. When school shootings occur the suspects are basically appraised on the media. Their faces and intentions are broadcasted throughout the nation. A dilusional school murderer may like the attention caused, motivating him to commit crime.

  4. Ami Gast said

    Media is always going to play a role in our lives but blaming deaths on media is like blaming a bad day on the weather. Sometimes it does effect the way we perceive things but more often then not it’s something that is there, something that will have a say in what we do or don’t do. I think that John Stewart is correct in saying “you know we live in a complex ecosystem of influences and motivations, and I wouldn’t blame our political rhetoric any more than I would blame heavy metal music for Columbine, and by the way that is coming from someone who truly hates our political environment.” I think that we can’t start blaming influenced that may or may not have an influence. We don’t know the real reason why it has happened but if we start pointing fingers, fingers will start pointing back making an even bigger issue.

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