‘In Defense of Inflamed Rhetoric’

Crosshairs in the crosshair! Other than violating the first amendment, what could go wrong?

“Representative Bob Brady of Pennsylvania told The Caucus he plans to introduce a bill that would ban symbols like that now-infamous campaign crosshair map.“‘You can’t threaten the president with a bullseye or a crosshair,’ Mr. Brady, a Democrat, said, and his measure would make it a crime to do so to a member of Congress or federal employee, as well.

“Asked if he believed the map incited the gunman in Tucson, he replied, ‘I don’t know what’s in that nut’s head. I would rather be safe than sorry.’”


Of course he would.

In Slate of all places, Jack Shafer explores “The awesome stupidity of the calls to tamp down political speech in the wake of the Giffords shooting:”

Sheriff Dupnik’s political sermon came before any conclusive or even circumstantial proof had been offered that the shooter had been incited by anything except the gas music from Jupiter playing inside his head.

For as long as I’ve been alive, crosshairs and bull’s-eyes have been an accepted part of the graphical lexicon when it comes to political debates. Such “inflammatory” words as targeting, attacking, destroying, blasting, crushing, burying, knee-capping, and others have similarly guided political thought and action. Not once have the use of these images or words tempted me or anybody else I know to kill. I’ve listened to, read—and even written!—vicious attacks on government without reaching for my gun. I’ve even gotten angry, for goodness’ sake, without coming close to assassinating a politician or a judge.

From what I can tell, I’m not an outlier. Only the tiniest handful of people—most of whom are already behind bars, in psychiatric institutions, or on psycho-meds—can be driven to kill by political whispers or shouts. Asking us to forever hold our tongues lest we awake their deeper demons infantilizes and neuters us and makes politicians no safer.


As somebody quipped on Twitter over the weekend, at what point do we start blaming Charles Manson on the Beatles’ lyrics?


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