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NYT: Shootings Aren’t Changing Enough

From a shameless New York Times:

After Tucson, Is the Anger Gone?

By MATT BAI
January 15, 2011

WASHINGTON — For anyone who hoped that the tragedy in Tucson might jolt the political class into some new period of civility and reflection, suddenly subduing all the radio ranters [sic] and acid bloggers, the days that followed brought a cold reality.

Within hours of the shooting rampage that killed six and critically wounded Representative Gabrielle Giffords, liberals were accusing conservatives of inciting the violence, and conservatives were accusing liberals of exploiting the actions of a madman.

In what may have been his most emotional speech since the 2008 campaign, President Obama registered his own disappointment, pleading with all sides for temperance. “What we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another,” the president said in his Tucson eulogy. “If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost.”

If the shooting didn’t feel like the turning point in the civic life of the nation that some of us had imagined it might become, then it may be because such turning points aren’t always immediately evident. Or maybe it’s because the murder suspect appeared to have no obvious ideology, his crime an imperfect parable for the consequences of political rhetoric.

Perhaps, though, we have to consider another explanation — that the speed and fractiousness of our modern society make it all but impossible now for any one moment to transform the national debate

Not all transformational moments entail violence. John Lewis Gaddis, the pre-eminent cold war scholar and Yale professor, sees a national turning point in 1954, when Senator Joseph McCarthy testified before a Senate subcommittee in what came to be known as the Army-McCarthy hearings.

The interrogation of McCarthy by Joseph Welch, an Army lawyer — “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” — resonated throughout a country that was just then discovering the nascent power of television. Years of ruinous disagreement over the threat of internal Communism seemed to dissipate almost overnight

Of course, this kind of shift is probably never so apparent in real time. It may be that in 50 years, historians will look back at the last week and say that a long period of shrill, fear-inducing politics and escalating vituperation, which seemed to paralyze our politics at a time when we could little afford the inaction, began to fade at last as a horrified nation buried a 9-year-old girl and prayed for a congresswoman to wiggle her toes

There was a brief time, after 168 people were killed in the 1995 bombing of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, when it seemed that all the extremism on the right had been deflated. But the impact of the blast receded so quickly from memory that Michael Kazin, a Georgetown historian, says a lot of his students today had never heard of it

Not even the terrorist attacks of 2001, which surely rank high among the most jarring events in American history, did much to unify the society in any lasting way. The collapse of the World Trade Center towers had immediate and significant consequences for the nation’s foreign policy, but any sense of common purpose had more or less vanished by the next year’s elections, when Republicans slammed their Democratic opponents —including Max Cleland, a man who lost three of his limbs fighting in Vietnam — as insufficiently patriotic.

Does the New York Times have "no sense of decency, at long last"? The Republicans did not slam Mr. Cleland for not being insufficiently patriotic. And Mr. Cleland lost his limbs due to a grenade accident. (For which he did not receive a Purple Heart.)

It may just be that modern society is impervious to brilliant flashes of clarity.

And exactly what "brilliant flash of clarity" are we impervious to at this moment in time, Mr. Bai?

A century ago, news traveled slowly enough for Americans to absorb and evaluate it; today’s events are almost instantaneously digested and debated, in a way that makes even the most cataclysmic event feel temporal.

A madman shooting people is now "the most cataclysmic event"?

The stunning massacre at point-blank range at a Sun Belt strip plaza is at least partially eclipsed, within a few days, by Sarah Palin’s “blood libel” comment and the outrage of Jewish groups. And onward we go.

What an inane sentence, even for the New York Times. And, needless to say, it is purposefully misleading. There was no grounds for outrage for Ms. Palin’s perfectly standard use of that commonly used phrase.

Unlike Americans in the television age, who shared the common ritual of watching an Ed Sullivan or a Walter Cronkite at the same hour every night, modern Americans increasingly customize their information, picking up radically different perspectives from whichever sources they trust — Fox News or MSNBC, Newsmax or Huffington Post. There is very little shared experience in the nation now; there are only competing versions of the experience, consumed in such a way as to confirm whatever preconceptions you already have, rather than to make you reflect on them

Yes, if only we could go back to the good old days when the New York Times and CBS told us what to think. (Oddly enough, though, this is almost word for word what Mr. Obama wrote in his second autobiography, "Audacity To Hope." See below.)

By the way, it sounds like Mr. Bai agrees with Mr. Loughner when it comes to the importance of ‘mind control.’

None of which is to argue that the country and its dialogue can’t be reshaped by events. But it may mean updating our theory of fundamental change to rely more on the power of cumulative, smaller revelations, rather than singular, transformational ones. Perhaps the modern society just changes more grudgingly and more gradually than it did before.

Gee, this sounds like the revisionism that is going on in the theory of evolution. But of course it also sounds like the naval gazing of an adolescent. And yet it is supposed to be a news article.

By the end of last week, after all, there were some positive signs amid the recrimination. Roger Ailes, the Fox News Channel’s combative president and a pioneer of personally injurious politics, said he had called on his anchors and reporters to “shut up” and “tone it down.” Democrats in the Senate were pushing for a new seating arrangement for the upcoming State of the Union address that would force the two parties to intermingle — a symbolic gesture, to be sure, but one that would present a different kind of visual to a public weary of division.

They were tiny steps in the right direction. And even as the shots in Tucson still echo, that may be all any of us can really expect.

And don’t question the timing. Don’t question that we must end all political debate now that conservatism is so clearly winning the argument.

As we mentioned above, here is what Mr. Obama wrote in ‘The Audacity Of Hope,’ pages 75-76:

“The spin, the amplification of conflict, the indiscriminate search for scandal and miscues—the cumulative impact of all this is to erode any agreed-upon standards for judging the truth… We have no authoritative figure, no Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow whom we all listen to and trust to sort out contradictory claims. Instead, the media is splintered into a thousand fragments, each with its own version of reality, each claiming the loyalty of a splintered nation. Depending on you viewing preferences, global climate change is or is not dangerously accelerating; the budget deficit is going down or going up

Ah, yes. The good old days when a reader of the news could declare a war lost.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, January 16th, 2011. Comments are currently closed.

5 Responses to “NYT: Shootings Aren’t Changing Enough”

  1. Mae says:

    Delusional, I think it’s called…delusional dialogue, delusional thinking, delusional conclusions…messianic delusions. Like, “We have no authoritative figure, no Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow whom we all listen to and trust to sort out contradictory claims,” is even sensible…I thought that’s what Obots were buying when they cast their votes in 2008.

  2. Liberals Demise says:

    It seems the NYT won’t be happy until the streets are red with
    a Civil War and people dying everywhere!
    NYT is nothing more than a Cheerleader for an incident to happen.

  3. Astravogel says:

    Well of course, LD, kitties getting themselves
    down from trees don’t sell newspapers.

    Mr. Hearst will have his war. Nothing’s changed.

  4. TerryAnne says:

    suddenly subduing all the radio ranters [sic] and acid bloggers

    Of course, it was only the talk radio and bloggers. Those two things used primarily by conservatives.

    [/sarcasm]

  5. canary says:

    NY Times & media overlooking the reality behind Loughlin’s violent action is going to waste. The Virginia Tech shooter’s doctor did not notify authorities that the immigrant was a danger to society did not follow through with treatment, (the doctor could have forced treatment) nor notifying law enforcement.

    What treatment Loughlin received ; an abundance of opportunities out there schools, DHS, state mental health, law enforcement recommendations, every college has a medical unit.
    At some point surely he received some type of counseling. If not, then it might be everyone blamed
    his well-known substance abuse, to include hallucinogenics (salivia (sp? one of the latest dangerous fad drugs making the media & schools sending warnings to children’s and parents even) or his mushrooms.
    I have to wonder if the police even did a blood test on him.
    That one article mentioned “his black eye” precedent to his rampage. Duh, people holding him down to stop him from shooting people.
    NBC, & now CBS turning to reckless poor reporting. Nothing good comes from tragedies. But, we can try and take something to learn from. An entire opportunity to reach our youth and say look what could happen if you experiment. Look at this young man who was using the latest fad herb salvia did. No, instead
    Michelle gives WH grown herbs to the UN leaders wives. She and her eating obsession.


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