It's fundamental to their psychology, as Digby often observes, for right-wingers to constantly portray themselves as victims -- indeed, the American Right long ago mastered the art of flipping reality on its head and turning attempts to hold them accountable for their predilection for violence into a vicious and unfair attack on their honor -- of turning the perpetrators into victims and the victims into perpetrators. In 1870, it was the "bloody shirt". Today, in the wake of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, it's the "blood libel," as Glenn Reynolds puts it.
Indeed, the only thing more predictable than the eventuality of actual violence erupting in a climate of broadly sanctioned violent eliminationist rhetoric is the certainty that the Right will attempt to claim that any discussion of accountability and the need to examine the role our national discourse has in fomenting violence is an attempt to victimize them.
See, for instance, Tea Party Express spokesman Sal Russo this morning on Fox, attempting to claim that Jared Loughner was actually a "far left loon" (sorry, Sal, but that just won't fly). Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin is trying to counter by claiming that it's actually folks on the Left who've been purveying the ugliest rhetoric.
Predictably, there are the usual suspects among the "concerned liberal" segment likewise wringing their hands that we shouldn't jump to conclusions (see especially Jon Chait at "even the liberal" New Republic, and Jack Shafer at Slate).
The bottom line for all of them is that this is just another "isolated incident" because Jared Loughner is just "a lone nut".
Once again, we call that a complete cop-out.
Sure, there are lots of complicating factors, especially Loughner's pretty clearly deranged mental state. But there are also some factors that are simply undeniable, in particular that Giffords was shot in a climate of extraordinarily heated and hateful rhetoric, including the casual associations of guns and targets with Giffords personally.
Moreover, what's equally undeniable is that it comes amid a gradually mounting litany of violence directed against "liberal" and government targets, effectively suggesting a fresh onset of domestic terrorism from the extremist American Right.
Just in the past two and a half years, here's the record of "isolated incidents" amassed so far:
-- July 2008: A gunman named Jim David Adkisson, agitated at how "liberals" are "destroying America," walks into a Unitarian Church and opens fire, killing two churchgoers and wounding four others.
-- October 2008: Two neo-Nazis are arrested in Tennessee in a plot to murder dozens of African-Americans, culminating in the assassination of President Obama.
-- December 2008: A pair of "Patriot" movement radicals -- the father-son team of Bruce and Joshua Turnidge, who wanted "to attack the political infrastructure" -- threaten a bank in Woodburn, Oregon, with a bomb in the hopes of extorting money that would end their financial difficulties, for which they blamed the government. Instead, the bomb goes off and kills two police officers. The men eventually are convicted and sentenced to death for the crime.
-- December 2008: In Belfast, Maine, police discover the makings of a nuclear "dirty bomb" in the basement of a white supremacist shot dead by his wife. The man, who was independently wealthy, reportedly was agitated about the election of President Obama and was crafting a plan to set off the bomb.
-- January 2009: A white supremacist named Keith Luke embarks on a killing rampage in Brockton, Mass., raping and wounding a black woman and killing her sister, then killing a homeless man before being captured by police as he is en route to a Jewish community center.
-- February 2009: A Marine named Kody Brittingham is arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate President Obama. Brittingham also collected white-supremacist material.
-- April 2009: A white supremacist named Richard Poplawski opens fire on three Pittsburgh police officers who come to his house on a domestic-violence call and kills all three, because he believed President Obama intended to take away the guns of white citizens like himself. Poplawski is currently awaiting trial.
-- April 2009: Another gunman in Okaloosa County, Florida, similarly fearful of Obama's purported gun-grabbing plans, kills two deputies when they come to arrest him in a domestic-violence matter, then is killed himself in a shootout with police.
-- May 2009: A "sovereign citizen" named Scott Roeder walks into a church in Wichita, Kansas, and assassinates abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.
-- June 2009: A Holocaust denier and right-wing tax protester named James Von Brunn opens fire at the Holocaust Museum, killing a security guard.
-- February 2010: An angry tax protester named Joseph Ray Stack flies an airplane into the building housing IRS offices in Austin, Texas. (Media are reluctant to label this one "domestic terrorism" too.)
-- March 2010: Seven militiamen from the Hutaree Militia in Michigan and Ohio are arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate local police officers with the intent of sparking a new civil war.
-- March 2010: An anti-government extremist named John Patrick Bedell walks into the Pentagon and opens fire, wounding two officers before he is himself shot dead.
-- May 2010: A "sovereign citizen" from Georgia is arrested in Tennessee and charged with plotting the violent takeover of a local county courthouse.
-- May 2010: A still-unidentified white man walks into a Jacksonville, Fla., mosque and sets it afire, simultaneously setting off a pipe bomb.
-- May 2010: Two "sovereign citizens" named Jerry and Joe Kane gun down two police officers who pull them over for a traffic violation, and then wound two more officers in a shootout in which both of them are eventually killed.
-- July 2010: An agitated right-winger and convict named Byron Williams loads up on weapons and drives to the Bay Area intent on attacking the offices of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, but is intercepted by state patrolmen and engages them in a shootout and armed standoff in which two officers and Williams are wounded.
-- September 2010: A Concord, N.C., man is arrested and charged with plotting to blow up a North Carolina abortion clinic. The man, 26-year--old Justin Carl Moose, referred to himself as the "Christian counterpart to (Osama) bin Laden” in a taped undercover meeting with a federal informant.
The Giffords shooting brings the tally to 19 total cases of domestic-terrorism inspired by right-wing extremism in the past couple of years. Oh, excuse me: I meant to say "isolated incidents". Because that is how each of these cases was treated -- and how they continue to be reported by the mainstream media, particularly at Fox, which generally does not report on them at all.
We'd like to ask Glenn Reynolds and Michelle Malkin: Exactly how many left-wingers can you find out there who walk into churches, museums and political rallies and shoot people in the head?
When you can name any, then maybe we can talk about how ugly the Left is getting. Until then, all the focus is going to be on the angry people creating a climate in which extremist, unhinging right-wing rhetoric is widely broadcast and officially condoned by supposedly "mainstream" conservatives -- at the very top of the food chain, and through the Right's prominent mass-media organs. That, frankly, is as it should be. Because the toll is mounting.