This comic has attracted more irate email than usual, with a longtime conservative reader referring to it as done “with vitriol.” I don’t see it as a particularly angry cartoon — if anything, it seems like my usual absurdist approach, showing how ridiculous militant right-wing rhetoric sounds coming from the mouths of famous progressives. (Aren’t we usually accused of being wimps?) I planned to do this strip ever since a blog commenter (not here) hilariously referred to Paul Krugman as an example of incivility on the left equivalent to the insurrectionist language on the right that has come under criticism since the Giffords shooting.
To answer those readers who are upset, let me first say yes, I am aware that Obama once used that quote from The Untouchables. And yes, there have been occasional instances of Democratic politicians saying bad things, like the guy in Florida who said his opponent for governor should be shot for his role as CEO of a health care company that defrauded Medicare. But here’s the thing, people: you are forgetting to contextualize.
Only one side of the political spectrum has a broad, organized movement — once fringe, now growing ever-more mainstream — based on extreme paranoia of the government and the idea of resistance through armed revolution. This stuff forms the very raison d’etre of the Tea Party and various “patriot movement” subgroups. You have heard of the Oath Keepers, yes? If not, look ‘em up. Much of the rhetoric I criticize in my cartoons comes from politicians stirring this particular pot – they are pandering directly to their gun-nut base. They aren’t just trying to use more action verbs.
Now, about Loughner: while the cheese may have fallen off of his cracker, he was clearly paranoid about the government and into currency conspiracy theories. Dude was down with the gold standard! That’s classic far-right stuff. To quote my colleague Clay Jones, who drew a controversial Sarah Palin cartoon that cracked me up:
I do know the rhetoric is too much. I know it’s wrong to put crosshairs on human beings. I know it’s wrong to mask threats as political overtones. It seems conservatives would agree with that.
I ask that you ask yourself what I’ve asked myself. Did the right wing contribute to this?
I can’t say it did.
And you can’t say it didn’t.
And one last thing: I don’t care about “scoring political points.” Giffords feared for her own life, as I’m sure many politicians do today. Something is wrong when running for office — especially as a liberal — feels so dangerous. That’s what really bothers me.