“She didn’t pull the trigger”

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Is it just me, or has the whole world gone mad?

Some rational thinking required please.

In my writings on Oprah I put forward the proposition that influential people will, well, influence, some portion of the population at any one time. This is regardless of how sensible, mature, successful that portion of the population is. Is this so far fetched? We have seen it for so many years, in so many contexts. Some are serious (Charles Manson anyone?), some less so (Oprah), and some just recreational as is the case with sporting or movie stars.

This latest incident in the US, in which a Democrat member of the House of Representatives was shot at point blank by a loony has brought this issue into sharp focus again. The media has been abuzz with discussion of this guy’s motivation, with many people drawing a line between the rhetoric of violence being perpetrated by the right-wingers (especially the so-called ‘tea baggers’, and some media commentators like Glenn Beck), and the eventual act of this man. In particular, Sarah Palin has copped a bit of flack for her map of opponents, with targets superimposed on them. She has also apparently been reflecting this rhetoric in her websites and twitter accounts. But she is not alone. Apparently, conservatives in the US like their guns and their violence-inspired analogies.

I was appalled today by an article by Daniel Flitton of the The Age in Melbourne, in which he displays some deliberately obtuse thinking in a bid to absolve the those pushing the hate and violence line. Daniel gives us that hoary old one that Palin ‘didn’t pull the trigger’. As I said, Charles Manson anyone?

How can he fall for that nonsense? How can he deny the influence of charismatic figures and movements in people’s behaviour? We have the likes of Palin and others using the language and symbology of violence in a culture such as the USA, and he says it doesn’t influence people? It’s like saying that Jim Jones didn’t pour the kool-aid down people’s throats – they knew what they were doing. Or that the woman who used the bogus ‘Secret’ to manage her breast cancer based on Oprah’s support for the scam, was an adult and knew what she was doing.

Daniel is simply rationalising. If powerful figures speak the language of violence, even in a coded form, then a certain percentage of ‘adults’ will respond. The Palins of the world know it motivates certain people – that’s why they do it! No, sorry, Daniel’s piece was a soft, simplistic article, devoid of understanding of a key human failing.

Please have a look at these great quotes at the end of this article by PZ Myers.

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