The debate rages on, and thanks to media spin and constant false equivalencies, at least one poll has 57% of its respondents rejecting any possibility of inflammatory speech having any influence over Jared Lee Loughner's actions on Saturday morning. Welcome to the confluence of media echoes and denial.
It was predictable, this la-la-la response. Kneejerk, even. No one wants to believe that words can influence, because that would require individuals to own their own words. God forbid.
This is true in every context but politics, it seems. I believe there are some things one doesn't say to their spouse unless they really mean it. Words like "I want a divorce", "I hate you", "I want to be with someone else" are not things one says unless they're prepared to follow through with the appropriate actions. This is because once that barrier is broken, it cannot be rebuilt. The foundations of that marriage are forever weakened and possibly broken. Matt Taibbi takes that one step further.
Which makes sense. If we're being honest with ourselves, we in the media understand that our job descriptions do not entirely overlap with the requirements of good citizenship. If you're in a marriage, or are a parent or living with parents, or have brothers or sisters or close friends, when you argue over a difficult issue, you don't just take out all the weaponry in your arsenal and blast away. In the interests of preserving the relationship, and because you respect and love the other person as a human being, you argue as politely and respectfully as possible. And your goal in arguing is always to fix the actual problem -- there's no other, ulterior motive.
That's just not the case in either journalism (and I should know-- more on that momentarily) or politics. In politics, you don't need to treat everyone with decency and humanity, just 51% of the crowd. Actually, given that half or less than half of all people don't vote, the percentage of people who require basic decency and indulgence is probably even lower than that, maybe 20-25% of the population. There's plenty of power and money to be won by skillfully stimulating public anger against some or all of the rest, and there are few rewards for restraint.