There are several aspects that are, sadly, uniquely American at work in the mass shooting by Jared Lee Loughner of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others: the easy access to guns and the lack of easy access to mental health care, for starters. But the one that has dominated the public discussion of the event is the one that is also most closely connected to what we talk about here: the heated political rhethoric — on TV, radio, and the Internet — that has, in the United States, turned what should be serious discourse about the state of the nation and our culture into a sort of circus sideshow more concerned with entertaining audiences than with addressing the many problems we face.
Last night Jon Stewart put satire aside on The Daily Show to engage in a remarkably nuanced chat about the matter. While acknowledged that the public political conversation is “toxic” and “unproductive,” he doesn’t believe we can blame it for Loughner’s actions: “You cannot outsmart crazy.” But he followed that immediately with this:
Which is not to suggest that resistance is futile… It would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn’t in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on TV. Let’s at least make troubled individuals easy to spot.
Watch the whole thing:
Will heated political rhetoric cool down in the wake of the Tucson shootings?
I agree with Stewart, but Alex Weprin, coeditor of TVNewser, has probably read the situation correctly (via TheWrap):
I don’t think you’ll see cable channels change their ways. Anchors and network bosses may play lip service to the idea of changing the rhetoric, but the 2012 campaign is just around the corner and when it heats up we’ll be back to using violent imagery.
If the Tucson shootings don’t change anything in how we talk publicly about politics, what would?
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