The tragic shooting in Tuscon, AZ continues to dominate the headlines and occupy the attention of our President and Congress. Fueled by the relentless nature of the 24-hour cable news cycle and the modern impulse to derive a sociological lesson from even the most inexplicable and senseless acts of violence, there is already talk of a need for laws regulating the use of "inflammatory" imagery and rhetoric. And, not surprisingly, it looks likely that the issue of gun control will once more find a place at the forefront of the national public policy debate.
In response to pronouncements from many prominent figures on the Left that the Tea Party and Sarah Palin are responsible for inciting Jared Lee Loughner to commit his murderous act, many commentators – from both the Left and the Right – have felt compelled to respond. The general consensus is that it is neither helpful nor fair to cast about for a larger villain when it is an unavoidable fact of human existence that from time to time demented individuals do terrible things for reasons we'll never understand – or, perhaps, for no reason at all.
In the world of politics, however, who gives a fig about helpful or fair? Never let a good tragedy go to waste, to paraphrase the inimitable Rahm Emmanuel. If there is political hay to be made, best to seize upon a time when emotions are running high and the people are feeling vulnerable. This is when government does its best work, after all! There are new laws to pass, new regulations to draft, new liberties to curtail in the name of safety and security for all! There is, however, something deeper and more insidious at work in the Left's reaction to this shooting than the mere desire to score a few political points: the Left's irresponsible, baseless, and hyperbolic accusations and aspersions of all things conservative, Republican, libertarian, and Tea Party is designed to create a chilling effect on any speech that runs contrary to their world view. George Will addressed the Progressive habit of ideological demonization through sociological explanation in a recent Washington Post column: