"Free" v. "Cheap"

"...As evidence that the right has gone too far, left-wingers point to a campaign website run by Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2008, which at the past election had marked congressional seats she hoped the Republicans could wrest from the Democrats with cross-hair symbols, as if in the sights of a gun. They also cite one of Mrs Palin’s gung-ho slogans: “Don’t retreat, reload”. Mrs Giffords herself said of Mrs Palin’s map last year, “When people do that, they’ve got to realise there’s consequences to that.” Mrs Giffords’s father, when asked if her daughter had had any enemies, replied “the whole Tea Party”, referring to the right-wing activists who helped to deliver the Republicans their resounding victory in November’s election, and only narrowly failed to unseat Mrs Giffords herself.

Needless to say, both tea-party activists and their inspiration, Mrs Palin, reject the idea that they somehow contributed to the shooting. Mr Loughner, tea-partiers in Tucson say, has no known ties to any local group. What is more, points out the leader of one national network of tea-party outfits, it is not really clear he agreed with their politics. Mrs Palin, meanwhile, issued a statement of sympathy to the victims; a spokeswoman condemned any attempt to tie her to the massacre as “repulsive”. In other words, the debate about whether partisan rancour had anything to do with the shooting is itself becoming rancourous. Left-wing bloggers talk of the atrocity as a wish come true for the tea-party; right-wing bloggers retort that the left is exploiting the death and injury of innocents for political gain.

It is hard to see any resolute action emerging from this shouting match. America’s protections for free speech—which Mrs Giffords herself helped remind the world of last week when she read out the first amendment to the constitution during the ceremonies surrounding the seating of the new Congress—preclude any legal limits on violent talk. It is testimony to the strength of America’s gun lobby (and another constitutional safeguard) that there has been little talk of any measures to curb gun ownership as a result of the incident. Mrs Palin and a few others may find themselves on the back foot for a few weeks, and may indeed tone down their rhetoric for a spell. But after a spate of hand-wringing, Congress is likely to do little more than strengthen its security arrangements. That will come a little late for Mrs Giffords, who was shot in the head at close range, and remains in critical condition."

The Economist

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