Exhibit A: Sarah Palin’s idiotic “blood libel” accusation about criticism of her.
Exhibit B: MSNBC anchor Ed Schultz’s overblown charges that Fox News is engaging in violent rhetoric despite reported warnings by Fox News president Roger Ailes that network anchors should “tone it down.”
But that’s just the Circus Maximus stuff.
The real action is in the serial linkmanship the chin-strokerati are practicing.
[Official Campaign Outsider Wayback Machine Interlude: For just about the entire 20th Century, the media unit of value was the package (newspaper, newscast, album, etc.). In the digital 21st Century, the unit of value is the unit (newspaper story, broadcast report, song). That makes web links the virtual currency of today’s media. (For charts ‘n’ stuff, see this 2006 New York piece on Linkology.)]
So, for instance, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes a loony piece about the “Climate of Hate” culminating in the Tucson shootings, and Charles Krauthammer hammers him in a column headlined, “Massacre, followed by libel:”
The origins of [Jared Lee] Loughner’s delusions are clear: mental illness. What are the origins of Krugman’s?
Or New York Times columnist David Brooks writes a reasonable piece about the news media’s tendency to attribute political motivations to public actions:
We have a news media that is psychologically ill informed but politically inflamed, so it naturally leans toward political explanations. We have a news media with a strong distaste for Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement, and this seemed like a golden opportunity to tarnish them. We have a segmented news media, so there is nobody in most newsrooms to stand apart from the prevailing assumptions. We have a news media market in which the rewards go to anybody who can stroke the audience’s pleasure buttons.
(In other words, anybody who can gather links faster than the competition.)
Cue prolix blogger Andrew Sullivan, who takes Brooks to task for ignoring what’s obvious to Sullivan:
David Brooks is astonished, sickened, appalled that an attempted assassination of a sitting congresswoman should be immediately regarded as something possibly … wait for it … political. In fact, Loughner must be seen in a context in which politics does not exist:
The evidence before us suggests that Loughner was locked in a world far removed from politics as we normally understand it.
So why, one has to ask, does this person with mental illness, carefully select for assassination an already targeted and demonized congresswoman, rather than, say, a supermarket, or a workplace, or a school? We don’t know precisely yet – but it sure is relevant to ask that question. Why not shoot up the animal shelter he was fired from? Or the classroom he was banished from? In fact, it is a kind of bizarre suppression to avoid the obviously political fact of the target Loughner selected.
And round and round they go – link upon link upon link.
Formerly known as journalism.