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Killing the political messenger in the name of spin

By Staff | Jan 26, 2011

Could a “Wag the Dog” syndrome be in play regarding the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords?

Following the recent shooting of 19 people in Tucson, Arizona, numerous politicians have attacked far right speech as the culprit for the Arizona carnage. Once again, a symphony commands that people give up some free speech and gun rights in the name of a safer society.

Holding mediums up to scrutiny following a tragic event did not start with the shooting of Arizona Rep Gabrielle Giffords. When John Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981, the shooter’s obsession with Jodie Foster and the movie “Taxi Driver” became a scapegoat for madness. The spread of 24/7 news channels with specific agendas has placed spin-minded news reporting into the censorship vial.

Bobby Nelson, host of WRVC’s “Tri State Talk” and a former West Virginia legislator, describes himself as a “strong believer in the First Amendment.” But, the Marshall University political science professor strongly refutes the designation of offensive political rhetoric as a factor in the Safeway parking lot massacre.

“Jared Loughner (the suspect) at least is delusional and, at worst, has severe mental difficulties,” Nelson said. “Did the elevated political rhetoric play a part? It’s impossible to say, but the ease with which perpetrators can obtain weapons and ammunition to commit mass murder must be addressed by our government leaders.”

George Snider, a prominent member of Huntington’s performing arts community, agrees that the government must keep its hands off the First Amendment.

“We must never stop free speech. We must never ban books. We must never muzzle TV and radio talking heads. Even when Sarah Palin talks of ‘blood libel,’ she takes certain risks.”

The Huntington actor/director/writer emphasized that “freedom comes with a price tag” and “silencing free speech” is not the answer.

Terri Ann Smith, a political independent, animal rescuer and member of the Portsmouth (Gaseous Diffusion Plant) Site Specific Advisory Board, adamantly narrowed the responsibility for the shooting to the individual suspect.

“This has nothing to do with political speech. It has nothing to do with being a conservative,” Smith explained. “Jared Loughner is nuts. (Authorities) knew he was nuts. You can’t regulate freedom based on one nut case.”

For an analogy, she referred to the casino robbery theme of the fictional film, “Oceans Eleven.”

“You don’t ban ‘Oceans Eleven’ because a casino gets robbed,” Smith said.

Often outspoken at criticizing government, she compared the Arizona shootings to the months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks when political waters were intent on using the tragedy as a device to restrict freedom and sell big government regulation concepts. “I lived in Oil Country (then) and shut up for a few months,” she said.

Having recently slipped into the forty-something bracket, Smith explained that her criticism of mainstream politics and politically correct agendas comes after a period in her 20s and 30s when she endured “screwed by the system” life events.

After embracing the “Impeach Bush” creed of many mid-term 2006 Democratic candidates, she was disappointed when the then newly elected majority “did a 180, sitting in the White House and taking impeachment off the table.”

Instead of apathy, she began researching individual candidates. Part of that investigation included listening to mainstream media and listening to viewpoints from alternative media.

“I don’t vote the party, I vote for the individual,” she said.

Despite the American tradition for dissent, Smith bluntly surmises that politicians do not like criticism and that they are seizing the Tucson events for new spin attacks on freedoms.

She criticizes Obama’s rock star “change” campaign that resulted in him “contradictorily bailing out Wall Street and extending the Iraqi War”.

Following the President’s remarks about Congresswoman Giffords opening her eyes during his visit to her room, Smith opines Obama is attempting to build political capital by spewing words of “togetherness” and “save the country from whacked out politicians.”


Snider referred to the words of Robert F. Kennedy when reflecting on the late Senator’s desire to “rely on youth” for answers. Kennedy’s statement has nothing to do with age, however.

“What is most important is to echo the words of Robert F. Kennedy when he said, ‘Our answer is to rely on youth – not a time of life, but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.'”

Snider continued, “Yes, the country mourns. And yes, there are those who cry out for the banning of guns, the silence of free speech, and more government control. But I don’t believe that is the answer. Freedom comes with great a price tag sometimes. But what a glorious purchase it is.”

Smith does not believe that age affects political involvement.

“You’re either interested or you’re not. 75 percent of the country does not care as long as (the issue) doesn’t affect them.” As for age, “I don’t think it makes a difference,” she said.

A brief random survey of several Marshall University students brought many “I’m too busy” or “I’m not politically active” responses, but nearly all those approached had heard of the Tucson events.

Some students sitting at Starbucks beside the library were more open to sharing. Two of the three attributed the shootings to “a kid with a disorder who wanted to express himself” by killing.

However, Leah Green, a graduate student, remembered such violent past shootings as Columbine and Virginia Tech. “Look how many things have happened and nothing gets done.”

Green, an English and Linguistics major, favored adjusting gun regulations to tweaking speech. Noting that the drinking age has been upped from 18 to 21, she suggested “changing some type of gun or ammunition purchasing regulations” which would “prevent stuff (like this) from happening more frequently than it should.”

She continued, “Everyone has a hidden agenda with their speech. A lot of people say stuff … but they can always take what they say back and apologize. Buying a gun and shooting somebody. You can’t take that back.”