David Brooks decries the discussion of political factors in the Arizona shootings. He’s concluded — I don’t really disagree — that the crime itself seems more likely done by a person who needed mental treatment than someone motivated by over-the-top political debate and imagery. He cites a book that says while a tiny percentage of people are mentally ill, a significant percent of those responsible for rampage crimes are mentally ill. Then, he addresses issues that includes one I was criticized for bringing up at the outset:
If the evidence continues as it has, the obvious questions are these: How can we more aggressively treat mentally ill people who are becoming increasingly disruptive? How can we prevent them from getting guns? Do we need to make involuntary treatment easier for authorities to invoke?
Controlling access to guns? More involuntary comitment of unstable people? Spending lots more government money on health care, and in a branch of medicine that many too often wrongly dismiss as a wasted expenditure?
Amen to all Brooks’ questions. And welcome to the ranks of the media who’ve been politicizing this tragic event, Mr. Brooks. That is not criticism. It is the proper thing to do. Questions of context, motivation and solutions are vital elements of any comprehensive news coverage. Calling them “politicization” is just a way for people uncomfortable with the drift the conversation is taking to stifle the speech. The responsible duty is simply to avoid conclusions before all the evidence is in.
In that vein: Even if the Arizona massacre had not occurred, it is fair game to note those who — often in a contemplated pattern — wave guns around in political commercials, draw crosshairs on political opponents, make political debate the metaphorical equivalent of war and tote guns to political events to intimidate. Cheer or jeer these politicians at your pleasure, just don’t kid yourself that these aren’t considered political strategies designed to produce voter response.
ALSO: Michael Kinsley writes on the balanced formulation beloved by editorialists of nuts on the left and right and recalls when Bill O’Reilly said somebody should chop off Kinsley’s head. He was delighted, he said. And the NY Times editorializes on some common-sense gun regulation. And Talking Points Memo rounds up some of the memorable violent rhetoric — R and D — of the 2010 campaign season.