Matt Taibbi has written a searingly honest piece on his Rolling Stone blog about media culpability over the Arizona shootings. It's well worth a read:
For my part, as a member of the political media, and a vitriol-spewing one at that, the Tucson shooting immediately made me ask myself the question: do I personally do anything to add to this obvious problem of a hypercharged, rhetorically overheated political atmosphere? And the unfortunate answer I came up with was, maybe. I've always told myself that what I do is different from what someone like Rush does, because I don't target classes of people and try not to exempt anyone (even myself) from criticism, or favor either party.
I've also counted on the belief that anyone who's willing to devote the mental energy to even follow whatever wild rhetoric I'm using is probably also smart enough to tell the difference between reality and hyperbole. I also hope that anyone reading my articles will get the underlying message that I'm pretty sure -- I hope I'm sure, anyway -- I'm conveying at all times, i.e. that violence is irresponsible, that we should use our brains instead of baseball bats to solve problems, etc.
But while I tell myself all these things, I also know that I would never talk to my wife or my mother the way I talk to Lloyd Blankfein.
I think Taibbi is being a little hard on himself here, but the sentiment is probably right. The real culpability lies with the Palins and Becks of this world - the charlatans that make a living riling up the gullible masses to serve their agenda. Taibbi's readers are more likely to be arguing about the merits of democratic socialism than shooting up politicians and children in shopping malls. However, the liberal media is certainly guilty of stoking the flames - myself included. Bashing right wing idiots is fun, and posts on the idiocy of Sarah Palin etc certainly increases traffic to my blog.
I guess there is some shared responsibility in the media, and as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert tried to remind us with their 'March to Restore Sanity', it's about time everyone grew up a bit.