The Hypocrisy of Our Times: Political Rhetoric fuels opinions against Political Rhetoric and Gives Strength to Censorship
I try my best to stay out of politics-- sometimes it can be very hard to do… Especially when art writers that I know tap into stories that spark national outcry in order to twist the story in a manner that promotes their own political views. That said, the recent tragedy in Arizona has revealed the hypocrisy that is crippling our nation as a whole. What could be used as common ground to discuss the importance of supporting mental health, community, and personal responsibility is instead being used to point fingers of political blame.
The key problem is simple-- and all too common. Individuals are using this tragedy to empower their political motivations and leanings instead of discussing the one fact that we all know--- that the killer, Jared Loughner, was mentally unstable and that individuals in his life failed to offer him help and support that may have prevented the tragedy that occurred in Arizona. I don’t think anyone can be blamed for Loughner’s choice-- however, I will say that perhaps his family, friends, and community could have done more to help him… Especially since it is apparent than many individuals in his life were aware of his personal problems.
What interests me about this situation is that both sides of the political fence are trying to play the killer, Jared Loughner, as being an extremist in order to support their own political agenda. Supporters of the political left are claiming that Loughner is a “gun-totting right-winger with racist views” while supporters of the political right are claiming that he is a “left-winger fueled by anti-Christian and anti-American ideology”. The common ground-- as far as I observe-- is that both sides of the political fence are claiming that political rhetoric spurred Loughner’s brutal action-- which left several individuals dead or injured. Unfortunately, writers are choosing to rail against political rhetoric with political rhetoric-- which is unto itself a form of defeatism no matter how you try to slice it.
It may very well be true that political rhetoric sparked something in Jared Loughner’s troubled mind. However, Loughner’s mental troubles were obviously present long before the new wave of young politicians, specifically the likes of Sarah Palin and Gabrielle Giffords, were at the forefront of key national debate. That said, it alarms me that individuals, even within the core art blogging community, are trying to twist the details of Loughner’s motivations in order to show support for the political ideology they adhere to. For example, I know of one writer who has stated that Loughner is a “right-wing extremist” and that Republican politician Sarah Palin should “take responsibility” for Loughner’s actions since she used promotional material depicting gun crosshairs over Rep. Gabrielle Giffords district.
The problem with fighting political rhetoric with political rhetoric is that it often reveals hypocrisy-- at least to those who are able to think for themselves. That goes 10 fold when a writer based within the mainstream art world chimes in on a story like this for political gain. I say that because the mainstream art world has been fueled by political rhetoric for decades-- it has thrived on political rhetoric… specifically left-wing political rhetoric. Thus, I find it both shocking and amusing when an influential art writer suggests that individuals should be held ethically, civilly, and criminally responsible for the political rhetoric they release upon the public visually if violence occurs. It amazes me to observe how quick some people will rush to open Pandora’s box.
Have people forgotten all of the artwork and art exhibits that involved images of President Bush in situations that involved great peril? What about artwork that targeted Sarah Palin in ways that one could interpret as being derogatory toward women in general? What about all of the artwork that one could interpret as calling for the end of Christianity? If Sarah Palin should accept blame for Jared Loughner’s actions and “step away from politics”-- or be charged with some form of hate crime as others have suggested-- does that mean that artists, curators, and gallery owners should accept blame-- or be charged with some form of hate crime-- if a mentally unstable individual targets Bush or other individuals who fall on the opposite side of the political fence? Who is to blame if a mentally unstable individual blows up a Christian church shortly after viewing an art exhibit that depicts Christianity in a derogatory manner? I’d say the individual who resorts to violence is to blame-- especially when there is no warning sign in advance.
One can easily connect the social dots in order to find potential reasons for violent behavior. Unfortunately, that connecting of the dots often diverts attention away from the real issue at hand-- in this case, the fact that Jared Loughner is mentally unstable to begin with. Loughner’s adherence to specific political, social, and religious views does not change the fact that he is mentally disturbed. That said, reason is not a factor if someone is truly mentally unstable. In a sense, Jared Loughner is beyond reason-- which can be hard for a rational individual to understand.
I think people need to focus more on individual responsibility instead of waving fingers of blame-- especially if they are pointing simply to serve their own political motivations. A mentally unstable individual may or may not have a clear motive when he or she commits violent actions against another person or group. Furthermore, I think it is a very dangerous game to play when respected members of the mainstream art community suggest that certain political imagery should be censored in order to cater to the sensitivities of mentally unstable individuals such as Jared Loughner.
The issue at hand should not be about whether Sarah Palin was irresponsible with her choice of promotional imagery. Until more is revealed that suggestion is nothing more than forced connection of the dots, so to speak. Placing blame on Palin is simply a distraction from the obvious-- the fact that Jared Loughner is mentally unstable. Palin’s image may or may not have triggered his actions in the same way that a violent movie or episode of a children’s cartoon may or may not have triggered his actions. In the end it still boils down to choice-- his choice.
In closing, for all we know a spilt cup of coffee that morning may have spurred his final decision. Yet people blame an image-- a choice in design. People blame others-- they make a killer into a victim based on the possible influence an image may have had on him. People call for those behind the creation and use of the image to be punished. That, to me, is the equivalent of playing Russian roulette with political censorship. With that mentality the image that is censored tomorrow may be your own. People need to accept that politicians, like artists, benefit from the freedom of speech and expression that is grounded in our Constitution.
Take care, Stay true,