Who is to blame for politically shaded shootings?

Floyd Lee Corkins, armed with a gun, spare ammo, and 15 uneaten Chick-Fil-A sandwiches attacked the Family Research Council wounding an unarmed guard. Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, blamed the Southern Poverty Law Center for giving Corkins “license” to shoot at them. Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog discusses the question of assigning blame, suggesting that Perkins got that wrong.

Here’s the thing. One could say that Corkins was acting under some sort of inspiration created by organizations like the SPLC and other leftish or progressive organizations or groups who have spoken out against anti-gay rhetoric and policies. Similarly, one could say that when Jared Loughner killed and wounded a bunch of people at a Democratic Congresswoman’s public event people could have assigned blame to right wing rhetoric which is plenty enough laced with references to violence.

Is either of these assignations of blame valid? Yes. One is, one isn’t. Generally speaking these days, progressive movements and for the most part the “left” in America speaks out against violence, is more or less either anti-gun or pro gun regulation, mostly anti-war, and mostly pacifist, while the right wing tends to form heavily armed paramilitary militias, is totally against almost any kind of gun related regulations, is pro war, and bellicose. So when someone from the right shoots someone on the left, it really is a natural extension of what they talk about. When someone on the left shoots someone on the right, that’s a crazy person.

Correct?

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9 Responses to Who is to blame for politically shaded shootings?

  1. JDunham says:

    Well, it would be correct if idealized values and actual values were the same thing… I know people most would call liberal who nevertheless hate conservatives passionately, consider them total nutjobs/sheep/don’t deserve to live/etc., and plenty who most would call conservative who actually live the pacifism and love taught in the gospels rather than using it to justify hate. I suppose I think the propensity of a given person to violence is pretty evenly distributed on both sides, albeit expressed in different ways, and that I see a difference in rhetoric more than in action.

  2. Greg Laden says:

    ” I suppose I think the propensity of a given person to violence is pretty evenly distributed on both sides, albeit expressed in different ways, and that I see a difference in rhetoric more than in action.”

    The empirical evidence does not really support your supposition, though. I’m sure this sort of thing changes over generational time, but at the moment there really are no liberal/progressive militias but there are piles of conservative/right wing militias. That’s not ideology, that’s guns and ammo. In the case off Oak Creek, that’s guns and ammo and dead brown people and shot-up cops.

  3. JDunham says:

    Sure, but I think the measures of guns and ammo and militia as measures of violence are flawed choices, in that they appeal to one party platform over the other.
    I do not see, however, evidence that, for example, rape is disproportionately decreased among liberals, or that liberal soldiers are less inclined to war crimes, or that liberal police officers are less inclined to shoot suspects, or that those with liberal views are less inclined to violent crime, etc. I do not think it valid to conclude that a conservative who is violent is an extension of their views and a liberal who is violent is an exception without first showing that liberals, as a rule, are less violent, and I don’t think just measuring militia numbers does that convincingly.

  4. Greg Laden says:

    You are committing two fallacies. First, you have encountered something you’ve not thought of before and assuming that because you hadn’t thought of it before it must be wrong, and adducing as evidence a bunch of other stuff you also don’t know. That you have no idea of the association between rape, war crimes, etc. and politics has absolutely nothing to do with actual links, data, or suggestive associations. It just means that there is even more stuff you don’t know than you imagined when you woke up this morning.

    The second is that you are arguing a point that is not the point being argued and adducing your performance in that argument as evidence that the original point is wrong. Rape and war crimes are not politically motivated shootings.

    Off hand I don’t have overwhelming evidence regarding the specific points you make but there are some strong suggestions that your assumption that everybody is the same until you learn otherwise is wrong.

    Foe one thing, there is a drop in many crime rates as one goes up the scale of education. And, there is an increase in liberalosity and progressive attitudes as one goes up the scale of education. The hypothesis that people with higher levels of education on average are a) more liberal and b) rape less is a reasonable one as starting point for a study. It suggests that your guess is wrong.

    Second, the right wing wants women who are raped to not have access to abortions. That does not mean that the right wing is going around raping women, but it does mean that rapists and the right wing have an alliance, even if it is a tacit one. That is pretty horrible.

    Militias are not a flawed choice of attitudes or actions surrounding political violence. Your suggestion that rates of rapes is a better measure is absurd almost to the level of being disturbing.

    Let me rephrase your last statement:

    “I do not think it valid to conclude that a conservative who engages in or supports politically and socially violent activities such as gunning down brown people because they are brown or forming malitias in the woods of northern Michigan is an extension of their views and a liberal who is violent is an exception without first showing that liberals, as a rule, are less violent, and I don’t think just measuring militia numbers does that convincingly.”

    So, no.

  5. JDunham says:

    No, Greg, I am arguing against the conclusion you drew at the end of your post–I have committed neither of the fallacies you mention, and I still believe your first conclusion, “Generally speaking these days, progressive movements and for the most part the “left” in America speaks out against violence, is more or less either anti-gun or pro gun regulation, mostly anti-war, and mostly pacifist, while the right wing tends to form heavily armed paramilitary militias, is totally against almost any kind of gun related regulations, is pro war, and bellicose. So when someone from the right shoots someone on the left, it really is a natural extension of what they talk about. When someone on the left shoots someone on the right, that’s a crazy person.” to be insufficiently supported by the evidence you presented. It contains the assumptions, 1)That political views can be naturally extended to individual behavior; 2)That presence or absence of violent tendencies in rhetoric is linked to presence or absence of violent action in individuals; 3)That because of the above, violent conservatives are normal and violent liberals are aberrations.

    If I were to “rephrase” that statement of yours, it would be “right-wingers are generally violent and left-wingers are generally not.” Although you support well that politically-motivated shootings are more in line with one party ideology than the other, you have not presented sufficient evidence to reach the conclusion I quoted from you above. Specifically, you have failed to prove the “left-wingers are not violent” portion of your argument. Asking you about data you failed to provide is not “imagining stuff you don’t know,” it is asking you to support your original point, respecting that you may have some knowledge on that point, and wondering whether you have considered alternative possibilities and explored your idea fully. Unlike in a formal academic paper, discussions do not generally take the form of individuals citing research for every concept–rather, they take the form of individuals proposing ideas and all those present treating those ideas with interest and respect, and perhaps even doing some research, rather than assuming their first point to be unassailably sound. I did not give you links, etc., for those possibilities, I presented them as things I would like to see before I would accept you conclusion. Neither are they unreasonable–if, in fact, violent tendencies are greater in one party than another, I would expect to see this in more than one single area. I can find no evidence that those things are split along party lines, despite looking for it, and so I don’t accept your original assertion.
    Finally, I must point out that though you are very smart, you are not reading my posts very closely. You misrepresented my statements in your response just now, almost on a straw-man level, which I find rather unhelpful. Allow me to correct some of those misstatements:

    “You have encountered something you’ve not thought of before and assuming that because you hadn’t thought of it before it must be wrong”
    Not so–I have encountered something I have thought of before but for which I have insufficient convincing evidence. It would make life sufficiently easier for me to believe that the right-wingers in this country are violent nutjobs, but in the absence of very strong evidence to that effect, I refuse to allow myself to reach that conclusion. Your evidence, though relevant to shootings, does not seem objectively sufficient to support you final conclusion as stated in your post. This is not a presumption of error, it is guarding against the dismissive and derisive practice of reducing people one disagrees with to caricatures.

    “your assumption that everybody is the same until you learn otherwise”
    I do not assume this. I do, however, expect most things to follow a standard distribution unless there is strong reason to think they do not. The question of whether violent tendencies are higher in one party would require a whole host of presuppositions for which I do not have evidence. Now, if you, as an anthropologist, have evidence that violent tendencies are not on a standard distribution and that they are instead weighted to one side or the other, I will revise my working model.

    “Militias are not a flawed choice of attitudes or actions surrounding political violence. Your suggestion that rates of rapes is a better measure is absurd almost to the level of being disturbing.”
    Your first statement there is correct. However, I did not make the suggestion you attribute to me. What I did say is that militias are not a convincing piece of evidence of violent tendencies and their distribution, and proposed that if, in fact, the distribution you imply exists, it might show up it rape as well as in other violent acts, and that if the distribution you propose is in some way in error, that might also be revealed.

    I also must point out that as a skeptical thinker, I consider it essential to approach any discussion with the possibility that I might be in error, while at the same time being willing to discuss my points clearly and completely and consider alternatives. I must also point out that the most difficult place to do this is in points which have high emotional value, and that it is those points also which are most in need of it.

  6. Greg Laden says:

    If I were to “rephrase” that statement of yours, it would be “right-wingers are generally violent and left-wingers are generally not.”

    There’s your problem! That is not the basis of my argument. It is possible, but it is not what I’ve said. It may well be the case that violence expressed as shooting sprees or assassination of liberal candidates or brown people is a simple linear function extended to the far extreme, but more likely things are much more complex than that. For one thing, “liberal” and “conservative” (or left and right) are internally heterogeneous groupings.

    Having said that, it remains true that the right wing includes things like militias and white supremacist groups, cuddles up with the NRA, and so on and so forth to the extent that extreme subunits of that larger subculture are not criticized internally, allowed to exist, and sometimes even lionized. The Oak Creek shooter was a member of a subgroup of a subgroup that is very much allowed, even encouraged, by the right, even if many people (maybe most) on the right are not especially violent themselves.

  7. JDunham says:

    Hmm, well, if that is not your point, perhaps we are arguing at cross-purposes. I considered it rather a required assumption if one is to say that political rhetoric is to blame for violent action. Does not attribution of blame based on rhetoric require the presumption that rhetoric has a causal relationship with violent acts? That in turn seems to require evidence that groups with violent rhetoric have more objectively violent members. Is there some other chain of reasoning that I am missing that will get one to this same end point of blame based on rhetoric?

  8. Greg Laden says:

    What you are doing wrong, I think, is assuming that there are one or two variables that are fairly simple and apply to all of the individuals that we categorize as “left” or “right.”

    It could be the case that 90% of individual in the Left and Right groups are very similar in their levels of violence measured any way you like, but the left does not embrace, allow, or support armed militias, but the right does.

    Also, there is not necessarily a clear or easy link between accepting or even encouraging violence and being violent or having violence somehow in one’s behavioral repertoire or history. George Bush got us into two major wars and kept us there, but never served, Eisenhower, a professional soldier, was not especially bellicose as a president, I think.

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