Sunday, January 9, 2011
Loose Lips and The Principle of Imminent Collapse
Nature doesn't support the conditions that result in a domino effect because individual events over a long period of time serve to eliminate the interior dominoes that propagate the big collapse.
Man creates domino sets and waits for one to be knocked over then proclaims surprise and outrage when they fall. He may also deny that he ever knew that the dominoes were all setup to fall and that his words or actions were complicit in initiating the collapse.
When there is a multitude of people making statements against a subject, it is very difficult to isolate which one or ones were instrumental in initiating actions against that subject. Now if the subject is an idea or a law, it is appropriate to speak enthusiastically for and against the inanimate entity. But when the subject is the people who support and defend the law or idea, or those people who resist it, care must be taken to not incite action against the persons. Indeed, it may only be the combination of causation that leads to the emergence of negative outcomes.
When a person has the ear of millions of people, that person has the responsibility to be judicious in their use of words. The speaker of antagonistic and resentful rhetoric may not be able to be held responsible (in a legal sense) for the actions of their listeners, they are nonetheless responsible.
One can claim that it was not the intent to incite murder with such rhetoric as "reload" and "take aim" at the opposition, but those words were explicitly aimed at human beings who were running for public office. They were not aimed at legislation that was being proposed for passage or repeal. The national map that was published with reticules (gun sight symbols) pointed to the legislative districts where opposition candidates were running for office. One can similarly deny that calling for the removal of opposition legislators and pointing them out on a map leads an unstable person to murder 6 people at a public legislative meeting. The idea that a political candidate would invite constituents to come and shoot an M16 assault weapon as part of a highly contentious campaign, is appalling. However, the perpetrator of such virulent motivations cannot deny that she/he knows that somewhere out there in this nation of 307 million people that there is a significant number of loose cannons who will act upon that accumulation of rhetoric and commit violence as the result.
People who originate and propagate such language may not be convict-able of inciting murder, but they are nonetheless culpable in part for creating the conditions under which the murders were committed. Very specific persons words are picked up and carelessly spread across the nation's airwaves. Other less literate bloggers pick up on the words and construct a landscape of distrust, resentment and anger against individuals, some of whom now lay murdered or critically wounded. U.S. District Judge John Roll is dead and U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is critically wounded by the man who put his and her thoughts into action.
Prominent people have acted to incite actions by members of the American public. Whether or not one can draw a direct line between them and the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, but as nothing happens in isolation, the seeds they have sown grew out into the mayhem at that Arizona Safeway market.