A member of Congress is shot by a lunatic gunman, and all of a sudden you can’t say “crosshairs” on CNN. Not to make light of a tragedy, but had Rep. Giffords been hit in the face with a whipped cream pie, would the Food Network have to go off the air?
What the Tucson shootings reveal about our political culture is its gross opportunism, not its violent imagery. Six people died in an attack on a freely elected member of our republican government, and the left decided that the appropriate response was to rip the nation apart by blaming the tragedy on the right in general and Sarah Palin in particular.
The gravity of the situation on that awful Saturday was perfectly obvious. This nation survives because we check our guns at the ballot box. We have agreed to settle our political disagreements with felt-tip pens and touch screen machines, not weaponry. Giffords’ shooting raised the specter of that agreement unraveling. This wasn’t a presidential assassination, an assault on the human symbol of American power. It was a hit on a rank-and-file representative, her staff, and her constituents. The target could have been any one of us. If this were the tip of a domestic political movement, it could, conceivably, portend civil war.
Yet with this raw national wound still fresh, the left reached for the biggest bag of salt it could find. Civility? It was nowhere to be found among the chorus of “progressives” shrieking, “Sarah Palin did it!” And when they were proven wrong — when it was revealed that the suspected shooter never watched political TV, never listened to talk radio, and was a mentally disturbed loner with no detectable political ideology — they fell silent without apology. Except for the ones who continue to debase themselves by brazenly, shamelessly spreading the lie.
The only apology America got was from CNN anchor John King, who semi-apologized this week for a guest’s use of the term “crosshairs” in a political context. “We’re trying, we’re trying to get away from that language,” King said. Why?
King’s own CNN reported a week earlier (on Jan. 11), “There’s no evidence the heated political environment played any role in the shooting spree that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition and killed six others…”
If CNN itself reported that there is no link between political rhetoric and the shooting, then why would CNN avoid using generic military terminology when discussing politics?
There is no reason. There are only guilt and fear. Guilt that one’s use of a metaphor might have somehow contributed to a lunatic’s violent act, and fear that, if it didn’t in the past, it might in the future. So CNN tries to “get away from that language.”
Obviously, the executives haven’t thought this through. For what is to replace our common political terms derived from the language of warfare? What do we say in place of “campaign,” “target,” “attack”?
If we scrub this terminology from our political lexicon, we have to replace it with something.
Some suggestions for the CNN brass:
In place of “campaign”: Peace caravan. “The Romney peace caravan had no comment today on allegations…” Or: “An Obama peace caravan spokesman said….”
In place of “target”: Flower. “The AARP sent out a direct mail piece flowering retirees….”
In place of “attack”: Love tap. “Sen. Ringworm’s peace caravan today love tapped the president for suggesting a tax cut for people who have voted in the last three federal elections….”
In place of “sights” and “crosshairs”: Rainbows. “Sarah Palin today released a map with multi-colored rainbows over congressional districts she wants conservatives to flower on Election Day….” Or “There’s no question Rep. Greasepalm is in the Tea Party’s rainbow….”
CNN will not replace those terms, of course. It will simply “try” to avoid using them. It will fail. We use military metaphors in politics for good reason — they apply. They catch the spirit of politics, which is a sublimation of conflict. Using passive words to describe aggressive acts, or simply not describing them at all, on the hope that the switch will reduce violence is a fool’s errand.
As such, only fools will pursue it.
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