Is “violent political rhetoric” the problem?

This past Saturday, a shooter attacked U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords that left 6 people dead and 14 injured. In less than an hour after the shooting left-wing pundits were blaming the shooting on Sarah Palin and the right wing while erroneously reporting that Giffords had been killed.

There is no evidence that any political rhetoric – left or right – had an influence on the shooter (may his name be blotted out). It is appalling that less than an hour after the shootings, left wing pundits were blaming Sarah Palin without knowing anything about the shooter or his motives employing a classic version of the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy while ignoring the same rhetoric that comes from the left.

Now that more is coming to light, we know that the shooter had no definable political views – he even counts The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf among his favorite books. Furthermore, the shooter held his grudge against Rep. Giffords since 2007, long before Pailn (the supposed catalyst) was on the national stage.

The attack of a politician by a politically ambiguous mentally ill person follow is a long established pattern in this country that goes all the way back to the assassination attempt of Andrew Jackson by an unemployed painter. One of the reasons the attacker gave for his attempt on Jackson life was that “money would be more plenty” with Jackson dead. Noticeably similar, the shooter in this case also fixated on currency issues in his writings and statements.

John Hinkley was no more incited by Jimmy Carter’s warnings of Ronald Reagan being a “radical” and “hawk” that would endanger peace than the shooter on Saturday by any conservative rhetoric.

But what if the rhetoric was less heated? Michael Medved reminds us what happened in times where that was the case:

Killings often occur in placid political climates of consensus – as with the assassinations of popular, young centrist presidents, Garfield and Kennedy, following elections in 1880 and 1960 when major candidates largely agreed on issues. Fierce rhetoric doesn’t cause shootings, any more than consensus politics guarantees safety for our public figures.

Already the left is resorting to attempts to restrict speech. Attacking the wrong problem is worse than doing nothing at all by condemning those who were not culpable for any crime. Overt threats are one thing. Restricting speech that we don’t like because it is ambiguously “inflammatory” only serves those who want to silence those with whom they disagree.