Wednesday, January 12, 2011

'Rush Limbaugh Shot Giffords!?' Opinion Polls, Tuscon, and Loughner's Mind

'If 300,000,000 people really believe in a stupid idea: It's still a stupid idea.'

I think opinion polls are interesting: and reflect what the folks who were polled feel.

I also think opinion polls are important for marketing professionals, politicians, and network programmers: whose jobs involve dealing with the opinions of some segment of the population.

As a reflection of reality, though: I don't think opinion polls are all that accurate.

Even when they seem to support something I think is true, like "flossing between meals is good for your teeth." In that example, I'd be much more interested in what dentists and medical researchers had learned: and could prove.

Blame Game and Assumptions

It's very easy, I think, to assume that folks who don't share one's views are evil. I've run into assertions that Jared Lee Loughner has a Satanic temple of sorts in his home - and, of course, that Sarah Palin is to blame for Mr. Loughner's killing a half-dozen people.

It wasn't the same person making those assertions, and I don't take either all that seriously.

Or, rather, I don't take the 'Satanic temple' claim all that seriously. Given the assumptions of America's dominant culture, and the common sense of the rest of us, my opinion is that we're not likely to see a pogrom started based on the assumption that demon-worshipers are threatening national security.

Action against Ron Paul supporters, maybe: and that's another topic. (March 23, 2009) Almost.

I've discussed emotions and reason before:Bottom line: in my considered opinion when emotions are high, logic is not a big factor in how folks respond.

'The Other Guy's' Opinions are Hate Speech?

As I said, it's easy to assume that folks who hold views that contradict one's own are to blame when something goes wrong. I think that's part of the reason why we got 'hate speech' legislation in this country - and that's almost another topic.

I don't think it's any surprise that some of America's old-school information gatekeepers, like the folks who control media like television news, decided quite quickly that conservatives were to blame for killing that 9-year-old girl and wounding Giffords. 'Obviously,' saying things like 'we'll fight for our right to express our opinion' is an open invitation to kill pre-teens, and a threat to national security. When the 'wrong sort' say it, anyway.

Just like, back in my 'good old days,' it was 'obvious' to quite a few folks that the commies were to blame for everything they didn't like. I don't think we'll see McCarthyism again: This isn't post-WWII America, and 'the establishment' doesn't include the same lot who decided it would be a good idea to hunt commies.

Human nature hasn't changed, though: not as far as I can tell anyway. It's still easy to assume that 'the other guy' should keep those dangerous views to him- or herself.
"Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik got plenty of attention when he quickly pinned the blame for the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., on conservatives, Rush Limbaugh and even Republican opposition to the 'progress' being sought by his fellow Democrats.

"But it has now been revealed that Dupnik's department had prior interaction with suspect Jared Loughner. The department is still holding back details of the calls, but has now confirmed that deputies made multiple visits to the Lougner home in recent years...."
The news source I used for that excerpt isn't part of the old-school media establishment: which, in my opinion, is part of why the article didn't put the 'right' spin on Sheriff Dupnik's remarks.

What's a bit surprising, to me, is what's showing up in the more familiar new outlets:
"A majority of Americans reject the view that heated political rhetoric was a factor in the weekend shootings in Arizona which killed six and critically wounded a congresswoman, a CBS News poll said on Tuesday.

"Since the Saturday incident in which Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot at point-blank range, various politicians and commentators have said a climate in which strong language and ideological polarization is common may have contributed to the attack.

"Some of the analysts cited anti-government statements from the man arrested in the shooting, Jared Lee Loughner, as support for that view.

"But CBS said its nationwide telephone poll found that, '57 percent of respondents said the harsh political tone had nothing to do with the shooting, compared to 32 percent who felt it did.'..."
I'm a tad leery of secondhand reports, like "CBS said." I'd rather read what a resource actually wrote - not what someone else says was written. So, from CBS News:
"Forty-five percent of Americans believe that Jared Loughner's political views were "probably" a factor in the shootings in Tucson Saturday, a new CBS News poll shows. One in three say they probably were not a factor, while 22 percent say they do not know.

"Loughner has not cooperated with investigators in the wake of the shooting, and evidence suggests he held muddled political views far outside the mainstream. Many partisans have nonetheless tried to link the alleged shooter to the right or left.

"The poll also shows that while three in four Americans say violence against the government is never justified, 16 percent say it can be justified -- the same percentage that said as much in April. Twenty-eight percent of Republicans said such violence can be justified, compared with 11 percent of Democrats and independents. ..."
(CBS News)
That's interesting. Quite interesting. Not because I think the poll results have much to do with Loughner's motives, but for what they show about the attitude of whoever CBS News decided to ask.

Which gets into statistics, sampling error, propaganda - and those are other topics.

'He's Crazy - Lock Him Up?'

I don't think it's any surprise to learn that Mr. Loughner isn't your average young man from Arizona. Most folks, from any state, aren't all that likely to open fire on a crowd of people near a grocery. If that were the case, the carnage in Tuscon wouldn't have been particularly newsworthy, outside Arizona. Just as we generally don't hear about traffic accidents in Flagstaff. In my opinion.

Oddly enough, Mr. Loughner doesn't seem to be particularly political: in any direction.
"Arizona massacre gunman Jared Loughner's downward spiral may have been touched off by a broken high school romance and fueled by drug use -- but it was not politically motivated, according to his best friend in high school.

"Zach Osler, in an interview Wednesday with ABC's 'Good Morning America,' said: 'He did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didn't listen to political radio. He didn't take sides. He wasn't on the left. He wasn't on the right.'

"Media speculation swirled after Loughner allegedly opened fire at a Tucson rally last Saturday, critically wounding Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 13 others and killing six. Immediately, the Tucson sheriff and liberal pundits and lawmakers chimed in that the shooting somehow was politically motivated and a result of the extreme rhetoric being used by conservatives such as Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

"But Osler said Loughner wasn't shooting at people, 'he was shooting at the world.'..."

"Osler's admission comes as blame for the national tragedy continues to be cast everything from Arizona's immigration law, to Sarah Palin, to charged rhetoric in the political arena rather than apparent mental illness.

"In an e-mail to students and staff at University of California-Berkeley on Monday, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau blamed the shooting that killed six and wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- and 13 others -- squarely on the state's controversial immigration law S.B. 1070 while acknowledging Jared Lee Loughner was 'profoundly disturbed.'

" 'A climate in which demonization of others goes unchallenged and hateful speech is tolerated can lead to such a tragedy,' the e-mail read. 'I believe it is not a coincidence that this calamity has occurred in a state which has legislated discrimination against undocumented persons.' "
That's familiar enough to me: 'those people over there' practice "demonization of others," while epithets like "male chauvinist pig" are hailed as part of the liberation of women from legalized rape.1

With 20-20 hindsight, it's easy to see that someone might have prevented Mr. Loughner from killing those folks in Tuscon.

I'm also rather glad that a sheriff, high school buddy, or 'concerned citizen' can't call 'Mental Sanitation Department,' or whatever the bureau would be called - and have Jared Loughner shipped off to some asylum where he'd never be seen again.

And that's another topic.

Related posts:In the news:
1 Crazy feminism seems to be on the way out: but we're still cleaning up the fallout, in my opinion. More about that in another blog:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.