Who are the lunatics who helped create this grammar-driven climate?

As I explained in earlier posts, the fact that so many people are trying to blame the Tea Party and Sarah Palin for the actions of a deranged gunman does not surprise me, because placing blame is what people do. When a horrible violent crime is committed against a loved one, the enemies of that person tend to become suspects in the minds of those who love the victim. When the loved one is a politician, obviously those with political motivations become "likely suspects."

While this might make sense when there are no suspects in the shooting of a politician, it becomes irrational when the culprit is known, as Jared Loughner is. And it becomes even more irrational once it becomes clear that he is as nutty as a fruitcake, and has no conceivable connections to the political enemies of his victim, much less any indication that the victim's political enemies were directing him.

But the fact that it is irrational does not stop anyone from having a field day with irrational speculations. While such irrationality might be understandable in the case of a victim's family, in an earlier comment, Frank quoted Andrew Sullivan as saying things which I thought were about as logical as the shooter's "thoughts" on grammar and currency. 

One of the constants in Sarah Palin's worldview is violence. You see it in her reality show where most wildlife is immediately identified as a threat to be guarded against or killed. You see it in her inflammatory language, and the ways in which she corrals supporters to sometimes shockingly violent threats. You see it even in completely innocuous Facebook postings on sports. 

And this:

The entire psychological structure of the "Tea Party" is rooted in the theme of patriotic armed revolt against an illegitimate tyrant. Violence and the rhetoric of violence is embedded within it. When you do that, someone somewhere will take you seriously.

If we are to entertain seriously the above argument, all sports and hunting discussions, talk about the American Revolution, even displays of the Gadsden Flag could all be seen as things which "someone somewhere" might "take seriously."

So what does that mean? That some "impressionable" mentally ill person somewhere might consider them a justification for going on a shooting spree? Are Sullivan and others (like Paul Krugman, who according to Frank had complained of a "climate") seriously suggesting that political discourse should be limited according to a new threshold set by what might be misinterpreted by most impressionable members of the mentally ill population? 

I have heard of lowest common denominators before, but this one takes the cake.

However, in light of my admitted penchant for overanalyzing things, I am going to try to be patient here, and entertain an idea I consider completely loony.

In future, all subjects which might trigger impressionable minds.... No, I can't say that! I just said "trigger"! Who knows what that might trigger? And what if the word were heard the wrong way, because of another word it rhymes with? At the very least, there should be no more discussion of trigger, which means no mention of Roy Rogers' horse. And now that I think about it, wasn't Roy Rogers an armed man, prone to acts of violence? And wasn't "Trigger" an exploited and abused enslaved animal?

See what I mean? Scratch the Roy Rogers climate, and you'll find the Sarah Palin climate. Impressionable mentally ill people may be listening and reading everywhere and anywhere, and it doesn't take much to trigger them. No, not trigger; I should say "set them off"! No, but I can't say that either, because setting off implies bombs and acts of war, and an impressionable mentally ill person might read that and then "go off." (I guess I shouldn't say that either.)

Sorry, but if I had to hold myself to the impressionable mentally ill standard, I would be unable to blog.

Some ideas are too loony to be taken seriously. 

Perhaps I should stick to issues of grammar.  

I just said that, didn't I?

And you know, it almost just slipped out unconsciously, and but for the impressionable mind of Jared Loughner, it might have almost been funny in a reductio ad absurdum way.

But according to the news reports, if the man's loony crime had a motivation, it was grammar-driven:

On both the MySpace and YouTube web pages, Loughner mentions his concern over literacy rates and the fact that few people speak English. He also talks about his distrust of the government and suggests that anyone can call anyone a terrorist.

"I can't trust the current government because of fabrications," Loughner wrote in a YouTube slide presentation. "The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar."

According to property records, Loughner lives with his mother, Amy Loughner, in a north Tucson subdivision. She could not be reached for comment.

The scene around Loughner's modest ranch house was chaotic Saturday afternoon, with sheriff's deputies and FBI blocking access to the street and standing guard outside.

Officers wrapped caution tape to prevent anyone from getting near the house.

Neighbors said they were shocked by the shooting. They described Loughner as a loner and outcast with a tendency to dress in all-black "goth-type clothes."

Those Goths again! Just like Columbine! Why do these atheist punks want to kill us?

The shooter's purported cultural attributes (flag-burning, pot-smoking, etc.) have not been lost on the WorldNetDaily crowd, who have seized on that as evidence of his "liberalism." In some circles, tattoos or piercings are probably considered "leftist."

But these irrational notions persist, whether in the form of Andrew Sullivan's linking of metaphors, or the claim that cultural attributes are to blame.

Sorry to get sidetracked by the Goth issue, but I don't want it to appear that I am singling out Andrew Sullivan here, and I do think it is fair to point out -- again -- that the blame-anything-and-anyone for the actions of a mentally ill individual meme is not limited to the left.

That stuff is a very old issue here, so please let me beg my readers to try to return to the latest shooter's most conspicuous "motivation" (if it is fair to call it that) and keep the discussion within the realm of grammar. I used to think that grammar was a fairly dry subject, and one which could be discsussed in more or less rational terms, but after this shooting spree, all I can say is that I would hate to be a grammarian in America today.

Think I am making this up? They are actually exploring the shooter's grammar links! To so-called "grammar extremists."

So, like it or not, grammar has now become one of those touchy issues, like sports, hunting, firearms, and the American Revolution. Perhaps we should avoid grammar too, lest rise be given in some impressionable mind to feelings of being brainwashed!

And why not? According to the Sullivan-Krugman-WND schools of thinking, grammar is just as likely to create a climate as anything else, and it's hard to deny that this shooter was driven by -- dare I say it? -- 

A CLIMATE OF GRAMMAR! (Or maybe a grammar climate...)

In the most shocking irony of all, when the shooting occurred, I was writing a post about the McGuffey Reader which is not only a book about grammar, but was intended for use in grammar schools! My post (published at 2:20 p.m. EST) was started right after my earlier 11:22 a.m. post, and the shooting occurred at approximately 10:15 a.m. Arizona time -- (12:15 p.m. EST).

What this means is that that the grammar-driven shooting occurred right while I was in the middle of writing a grammar-driven post.

I now shudder in abject irony over the implications.

Do I share blame for helping to create the same sort of grammar climate that drove Jared Loughner to mass murder?

The thought strikes me as lunacy. 

But if the goal is to hold us to a new standard dominated by impressionable lunatics, then we are all lunatics. 

Should such ridiculous ideas be taken seriously?

I'd like to think they should not, but I cannot shake the creepy thought that ridiculous ideas have become serious questions. 

AFTERTHOUGHT: To the extent that it is possible to put politics aside, I would like to politely suggest that the mentally ill mind is an absolutely terrible yardstick.

I hope it does not become a new national standard.

MORE: Glenn links some very apt thoughts from Jack Shafer on the idea of words that might set off impressionable nuts:

For as long as I've been alive, crosshairs and bull's-eyes have been an accepted part of the graphical lexicon when it comes to political debates. Such "inflammatory" words as targeting, attacking, destroying, blasting, crushing, burying, knee-capping, and others have similarly guided political thought and action. Not once have the use of these images or words tempted me or anybody else I know to kill. I've listened to, read--and even written!--vicious attacks on government without reaching for my gun. I've even gotten angry, for goodness' sake, without coming close to assassinating a politician or a judge.

From what I can tell, I'm not an outlier. Only the tiniest handful of people--most of whom are already behind bars, in psychiatric institutions, or on psycho-meds--can be driven to kill by political whispers or shouts. Asking us to forever hold our tongues lest we awake their deeper demons infantilizes and neuters us and makes politicians no safer.

Ann Althouse has more on the word war.

I think the idea that we could ever hope to avoid cross-contamination of the word salad of nuts is nuts.

To avoid any further confusion, let the record note that while I used the phrase "word salad," the proper term should be schizophasia.

Because words matter, right?

MORE: In today's editorial, the Wall Street Journal characterized grammar Loughner's "main complaint":

Judging from Mr. Loughner's own website, his mind was a mess of conspiracy theories, influenced by tracts like "Mein Kampf" and the "Communist Manifesto." His main complaint about government seems to be that he believes it is trying to control American "grammar." Yet this becomes an excuse for the media to throw him in with the tea partiers as "anti-government."

I've spent a lot of time with Tea Party people, and I can't remember a single complaint about grammar control.

AND MORE: In an interesting twist, one of Glenn's readers says that "by Underpants Gnomes logic, Loughner's actions can be blamed on a vast conspiracy of Black Gay Dyslexic science-fiction authors."


I guess that means my question about the identity of the lunatics who helped create this grammar-driven climate has been settled.

Oh what a relief it is!

posted by Eric on 01.10.11 at 11:12 AM


but I cannot shake the creepy thought that ridiculous ideas have become serious questions.

I'm just curious, do you think I'm joking about the Funniest End of Civilization Ever?

The movie "Stay Tuned" was about Satan's tv network (666 channels) and it had a bunch of darkly humorous ads for shows.

One was, " How did James Dean die? Autopsies of the Rich and Famous."
The Discover channel has a show about Michael Jackson's autopsy called, "How did Michael Jackson die?", they're not showing it, they say, because of the court case.

We've crossed some weird line where the most ridiculous things are commonplace and the most powerful people in our society have little or no connection to reality.

Veeshir   ·  January 10, 2011 11:51 AM

the Funniest End of Civilization Ever?

By the gods, sir, I would remind you that extremism in the defense of grammar is no vice!

Eric Scheie   ·  January 10, 2011 12:35 PM

I would class that as grammar in defense of extremism, that's an entirely different thing.

Veeshir   ·  January 10, 2011 6:29 PM

"Schizophasia" - thanks. I now have a new word.

See my comment on your latest (as of right now) post for my take on this.

Kathy Kinsley   ·  January 10, 2011 8:04 PM

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