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Journal of America Team:


 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

 Managing Editor:
 
Mertze Dahlin   

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January 9, 2011

Gabby Giffords – A victim of the politics of hate

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

“I know nothing about the man who shot Gabby, and what was going through his mind when he did this. But I will tell you this - if he shot Gabby out of hatred, then it wasn't Gabby he was shooting, but rather some cartoon version of her, drawn by her political opposition,” these words of Alan Grayson, Democratic Congressman from Florida, perhaps best describe the motives behind the assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

Giffords was shot in the head Saturday (Jan 8, 2011). While meeting with constituents, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner fired shots killing six people and wounding 13 others. Among the killed were federal judge John Roll, and a nine year old schoolgirl, Christina Taylor Green, who was born on another unfortunate day: 9/11/2001.

After the fatal shooting, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik told a news conference, that law enforcement had reason to believe that Giffords was specifically targeted in the attack. He added that evidence suggests one suspect -- Jared Loughner who is already in custody -- likely did not act alone. "When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous," said the sheriff. "And unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

Tellingly, in June 2010, Giffords Republican opponent, Jesse Kelly, held an event to “Shoot a Fully Automatic M16″ to “Remove Gabrielle Giffords.” Kelly’s campaign event website had a stern-looking photo of the Iraq war veteran in military garb holding his weapon. It includes the headline: “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”

Giffords was among 20 other members of Congress who were on a so-called hit list published by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin who had often employed rhetorical attacks that leverage imagery and terminology familiar to gun owners and evocative of firearms. In March 2010 she said that her supporters should "reload" and "aim for" Democrats.

Palin's "Take Back the 20" campaign (the website has been taken down since the shooting) called on Americans to vote out of office Democrats from conservative districts who had voted for health care reform. On March 23, 2010, she posted an announcement about the campaign on her Facebook page, which was accompanied by an image of her targeted districts. The districts all had crosshairs over them, which are usually associated with gun sights. According to Stephen C. Webster, hours after Giffords was shot, that list was still available on Palin's Facebook page.

However, Sarah’s staffer Rebecca Mansour, has been tweeting in defense of her boss since the tragedy took place, stating that the crosshairs were never intended to be gun sights.

According to Kevin Gosztola, multimedia editor of OpEd News, there is clear a indication that the "far-right" in this country, or whatever you want to call them, have escalated their rhetoric to the point where individuals are feeling like there is nothing else they can do but arm themselves and defend their country from people who might "forsake" this country's traditions, this country's so-called history of freedom and liberty. Individuals have been taking drastic violent action against abortion doctors like Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated in 2009.

“They have been acting out violently against Muslims, whom they believe to hate America for its freedom. And, they have joined outfits like the Minutemen on the Mexican border to help border patrol and shoot down "illegals," who they see crossing the border. The GOP has consciously been using hate speech to win votes and move citizens to act in a manner that can serve their interests.”

Gary Hart, Scholar in Residence at the University of Colorado, argues that gradually, over time, political rhetoric used by politicians and the media has become more inflammatory. The degree to which violent words and phrases are considered commonplace is striking. Candidates are "targeted". An opponent is "in the crosshairs". Liberals have to be "eliminated". Opponents are "enemies".

Today we have seen the results of this rhetoric, he said adding: “Those with a megaphone, whether provided by public office or a media outlet, have responsibilities. They cannot avoid the consequences of their blatant efforts to inflame, anger, and outrage. We all know that there are unstable and potentially dangerous people among us. To repeatedly appeal to their basest instincts is to invite and welcome their predictable violence.”

Consequently, it will not be too much to say that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, re-elected in November elections with 49% votes, was a victim of hateful, inciting and inflammatory political rhetoric.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of America.