Open Thread: The Shooting in Arizona

By Latoya Peterson

So the United States has had its first act of politically motivated terrorist activity in 2011.

On Saturday, Jared Lee Loughner fired into a crowd of people gathered in support of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, killing six and wounding fourteen. Giffords, who was shot in the head, is in critical condition, despite the heroic actions of her intern.

The incident has drawn fire from progressives, who note that Sarah Palin specifically called out Gifford’s district as one in her sights. The link between the two is tenuous though, more indicative of an increasing tide of rage and hostility from the more extreme segments of American society. Law enforcement is looking into links with Loughtner and anti-Semitic/white supremacist organizations.

Sarah Jaffe, over at Champagne Candy, has an interesting take on fear, helplessness, political speech, racism, and gun violence:

You don’t target a politician for nonpolitical reasons (unless, I suppose, you’re a domestic abuser, but even then I think it’s possible to argue that there are links). You don’t go on a shooting spree in public without wanting the public to notice. These attacks are meant to be spectacle. They are meant to attract an audience, rather like school shootings.

In other words: they are acts of terrorism. They are not quiet murders in the dark. No one snuck into Gabrielle Giffords’ house in the middle of the night and dumped her body somewhere it couldn’t be found. This man (and possibly his helpers) targeted a political actor at a political event.