RIP Chief Judge John Roll

District of Arizona Chief Judge John Roll was among the victims of the horrific Arizona shootings over the weekend.

I'm saddened and depressed over all the lives lost in this senseless tragedy.

The motives behind the shooting are not yet known, though some cautionary lessons are starting to emerge.

We know there are mentally unstable people in the world, some of whom are prone to violence.

We also know there are politicians and pundits who employ violent rhetoric to scare people, to cause fear, to create uncertainty, in order to obtain, maintain, or increase their political or economic power.

Indeed, before being killed on Saturday, Judge Roll was himself the victim of this violent rhetoric:
In February, when U.S. District Judge John Roll presided over a $32 million civil-rights lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against an Arizona rancher, the Marshals Service was anticipating the fallout.

When Roll ruled the case could go forward, Gonzales said talk-radio shows cranked up the controversy and spurred audiences into making threats.

In one afternoon, Roll logged more than 200 phone calls. Callers threatened the judge and his family. They posted personal information about Roll online.

"They said, 'We should kill him. He should be dead,' " Gonzales said.

Roll, who is the chief federal judge in Arizona, said both he and his wife were given a protection detail for about a month.

"It was unnerving and invasive. . . . By its nature it has to be," Roll said, adding that they were encouraged to live their lives as normally as possible. "It was handled very professionally by the Marshals Service."

At the end of the month, Roll said four key men had been identified as threat makers.

The Marshals Service left to him the decision to press charges but recommended against it. Roll said he had no qualms about following their advice.

The recommendation was based on the intent of those making the threats.

"I have a very strong belief that there is nothing wrong with criticizing a judicial decision," he said. "But when it comes to threats, that is an entirely different matter."
That's not to suggest the Judge was targeted; it appears tragically to have been unrelated.

Still, I've been disappointed in the MSM's reflexive "both sides do it" calculus in the wake of the shootings.

There have indeed been left-wing excesses over the last decade, but they just are not precisely equal.

Matt Bai blames both sides; Dave Frum thinks pot is to blame; Ross Douthat predictably blames everyone (and therefore no one).


We went over this false equivalence back in October when discussing the Jon Stewart rally.  Sorry but I don't hear prominent liberals threatening to use their "First Amendment remedies" if the government doesn't go back to the gold standard.

And for gosh sakes, let's stop Rachel Maddow from buying another gun!

And which talk show hosts fanned the furor over Judge Rolle's illegal immigrant decision in the first place?

All I know is if this was a school shooting, the girl who put up the cross-hairs map (and then tried to erase the entire Internet) would have at least been taken in for questioning.

Or consider if a prominent Muslim cleric put 20 politicians on a map with cross-hairs surveyor's symbols and one got shot, would that cleric later be on Facebook erasing his posts and piously lamenting the tragedy?

It's also silly to pretend this was not a political act -- at minimum it was an avowed attempted assassination of a POLITICIAN by an unhinged man who had strong if inchoate political views.

The Pima County Sheriff hit it on the head; compare this law enforcement officer to the guy in Maricopa County who stops brownies to check their "papers" and forces prisoners to wear pink underwear. 

George Packer makes an excellent point -- words like "socialist," "communist," "tyranny" and the like have deep historical resonance in America.

In fact, for most of the 20th Century we were prepared to (and did in fact) take up arms and fight to the death against Communism and the Red Menace.

Thus these words by their very nature are violent dogwhistles because they arrive embedded with the cultural and historical baggage of war, armed conflict, and bloody national self-defense.

Time for another rally, Jon.


  1. Also among the victims was former Cubs and Phillies' manager Dallas Green's granddaughter.

  2. It'd be nice if the GOP released Obama's judicial nominees as a tribute to the judge.

  3. So correct, liberals never say hateful, horrible things about their political opponents. Except for blaming conservatives for the actions of murderous lunatics, of course.

  4. not blame, part of the problem, deal with it instead of hiding from it

  5. thank you SFL for so eloquently stating what I was thinking as I watched Morning Joe on MSNBC this morning - they kept saying this tragedy is not attributable to either side of the political spectrum, but rather just to a lunatic who got a gun - OH COME ON GIVE ME A BREAK - there is hateful vitriolic rhetoric out there (Angle's Second Amendment Remedies and Palin placing politicians with opposing views in the crosshairs making them targets) it was totally predictable - that sometime, and somewhere, some nutjob would take their vile suggestions into his own crazy, maniacal hands to do their bidding - this is an unimaginable tragedy - civil discourse is a thing of the past - how sad

  6. Any political goal achieved by violence can not and will not produce anything resembling a decent government.

  7. Generic Fox News AnalystJanuary 10, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    But without hateful rhetoric, what will we talk about 24/7?

  8. Hey Shoot the Lawyers the mere fact that the child had some connection to a sports person/famous person is unimportant. SHE WAS A CHILD and SHE WAS SOMEONE'S DAUGHTER AND GRAND DAUGHTER. that is what matters.

  9. Um, Godwhacker? Would that include, say, the American Revolutionary War, an eight-year exercise in violence, with about 100,000 casualties, to achieve a political goal?

    Just saying.

    Generalizations can be kind of tricky.

  10. Where's that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let's not make a false pretense of balance: it's coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It's hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be "armed and dangerous" without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

    And there's a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you'll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won't hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O'Reilly, and you will.

    Of course, the likes of Mr. Beck and Mr. O'Reilly are responding to popular demand.... But even if hate is what many want to hear, that doesn't excuse those who pander to that desire. They should be shunned by all decent people.

  11. Er, the guy was an obvious nutjob, therefore conservative talking heads are to blame?

  12. Let's take a stroll down memory lane:

    And again:

  13. swlip closes his eyes and sees ponies everywhere!

  14. Giffords went on TV complaining about how violent right wing rhetoric was a problem.

    swlip says everything is A ok.

    Who should we believe?

  15. Dose Michelle Malkin know that the xenophobes who's arses she licks daily think she's a gook?

  16. @ 4:37

    Every comment has a context, and I think it fair to infer that the context of my remark was "21st century domestic politics." But the Revolutionary War was NOT a war of violence, at least not on our part. It was a war of self-defense, throwing out a foreign government and replacing it with an indigenousness one. Self defense is not violence.

    Neither could it be said that the Revolutionary War produced a government that I am particularly proud of, nor can it be said that I'm particularly proud of our government today.

    And swlip - ah my favorite living embodiment of the puss that flows forth from the cancer at the heart of the body American. You have read so much rewritten history that you can no longer tell truth from fiction. Better that you should give us a thesis on "Triangular Trade" and then tell us all some of those heartwarming stories about all the slaves who proudly fought for their white masters. Please to tell us how JFK was a trader, and that the Cuban Missile Crisis was all about a well-hung man named Carlos.

    If Sean Hannity said your ass was your mouth, you'd have steak in your pants. Heal it brother, heal it.

  17. "I don't regret setting bombs; I feel we didn't do enough."

    -- Bill Ayers (Obama's friend and political mentor), quoted in the NY Times, 2001

  18. "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building ... after everyone had left the building except the editors and the reporters."

  19. "Don't retreat, reload."

  20. "God DAMN America!"

    -- Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who was obviously responsible for 9/11.

  21. “I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out — is this wrong?"

  22. Got anything from **THIS** century swlip, or are you just going to run around in a spasm like a homophobe caught with a dick in your mouth?

  23. "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun."

    -- Barack Obama, June 14, 2008.

  24. swlip, Obama is a neocon, not a liberal. Next.

  25. What about random Dailykos commentors?

  26. God forbid we compare religious extremists here in America with those in other countries. That is so inflammatory.

  27. You can't make this stuff up. Rep. Paul Kanjorski has an op-ed piece in today's New York Times about the need for civility in political discourse. Why is this ironic? Because last fall, Kanjorski was quoted saying:

    "Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him [Rick Scott, the Republican candidate for Florida governor] and shoot him. Put him against the wall and shoot him. He stole billions of dollars from the United States government and he's running for governor of Florida."

    But hey, he has a (D) next to his name, and that's good enough for the Times.

  28. For every one of these you can find on the left, you can find 50 more on the right. The left, by its nature (peace, nonviolence, gun control) is inherently less violent. Occasional gaffs, poorly chosen words, and random stupidity can explain those on the left. But when you get into the daily grind of demonization and bloodthirsty hyperbole that comes from the right -- that shit is intentional and they fucking know it.

    That's why they are in a tizzy pissing their pants right now.

  29. SFL - What, you don't believe the others? What's your standard?

    GW - I recommend a brandy, followed by a glass of warm milk. Nitey-nite.

  30. swlip, I acknowledged in my original post numerous excesses on the left in terms of over-the-top rhetoric over the past decade.

    But they do not stand in perfect and exact equipoise at present -- in scale, prominence, or repetition, when it comes to the violent imagery we've been seeing since The Great Kenyan came to power.

  31. "What Mr. Loughner knows is that he has the full support of a major political party in this country. He's sitting there in jail; he knows what's going on. He knows that a Democrat [sic] Party -- the Democrat [sic] Party -- is attempting to find anybody but him to blame.

    "He knows if he plays his cards right that he's just a 'victim.' He's the latest in a never ending parade of victims brought about by the 'unfairness of America.' The 'bigotry, racism, homophobia' of America. The 'mean-spiritedness of America.' [...]

    "That smiling mugshot -- this guy clearly understands he's getting all the attention, and he understands he's got a political party doing everything it can, plus a local sheriff doing everything they can to make sure he's not convicted of murder."

  32. SFL - I really expect more intellectual honesty from you. Have you truly forgotten all of the violent images and slogans, the hangings in effigy, the burnings in effigy, and assassination fantasies that the Left spewed up during the Bush administration? I again offer this link:

    And let's not forget the real incidents of real violence: SEIU thugs beating up conservative demonstrators, throwing rocks and bricks at McCain's campaign bus, etc. International Answer thugs attacking bystanders and counter-demonstrators. Just follow the Malkin link, but I guess that you won't.

    What's been the equivalent under Obama, other than a few random cranks?

  33. This whole exercise is silly, and it only began because liberals were only too happy to rush to the conclusion that a certifiable crank was animated by conservative politicians and pundits. But let's not let reality get in the way of a convenient meme.

  34. the tea party movement is all about love, peace, music and flowers

  35. Ok, enough with this, we've said our piece (peace?).

    Speaking of intellectual honesty,have you seen this kid's reading list?

    Animal Farm, Brave New World, The Wizard Of OZ, Aesop Fables, The Odyssey, Alice Adventures Into Wonderland, Fahrenheit 451, Peter Pan, To Kill A Mockingbird, We The Living, Phantom Toll Booth, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Pulp,Through The Looking Glass, The Communist Manifesto, Siddhartha, The Old Man And The Sea, Gulliver's Travels, Mein Kampf, The Republic, and Meno.

  36. swlip,

    I recommend castration, followed by the acknowledgement that it was no big loss anyway.

  37. Definition of Palin zombie:

    1. Never used "blood libel" in discussing AZ shooting before.

    2. Having received divine instruction of Sarah Palin, now repeats "blood libel" as a mantra.

    3. Wants to kill Julian Assange, calls him a murderer even though to do so is in fact "blood libel."

  38. The primary problem with the political discourse of the right in today's America isn't that it incites violence per se. It's that it implants and reinforces paranoid fears about the government and conservatism's domestic adversaries.

    Much of the culture and thinking of the American right - the mainstream as well as the fringe - has descended into paranoid suppositions about the government, the Democrats and the president. This is not to say that the left wing doesn't have a paranoid fringe, too. But by every available measure, it's the right where conspiracy theories have exploded.

    A fabricated specter of impending governmental totalitarianism haunts the right's dreams. One month after Barack Obama was inaugurated as president, Beck hosted a show that gamed out how militias in Southern and Western states might rise up against an oppressive government. The number of self-proclaimed right-wing militias tripled - from 42 to 127, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center - in 2009 (and that doesn't count those that are entirely underground).

    As much of the right sees it, the government is planning to incarcerate its enemies (see Beck and Erickson, above), socialize the economy and take away everyone's guns. At the fringe, we have figures like Larry Pratt, executive director of the Gun Owners of America, who told a rally in Washington last April that, "We're in a war. The other side knows they are at war, because they started it. They are coming for our freedom, for our money, for our kids, for our property. They are coming for everything because they are a bunch of socialists."

    But the imputation of lurking totalitarianism, alien ideologies, and subversion of liberties to liberals and moderates has become the default rhetoric of the right. Never mind that Obama is a Marxist, a Kenyan and an advocate of sharia law. Consider the plight of poor Fred Upton, the Republican congressman just installed as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, over considerable right-wing opposition. According to Beck, Upton is "all socialist," while Rush Limbaugh calls him the personification of "nannyism" and "statism." Upton's crime is that he supports more energy-efficient light bulbs. How that puts him in a league with Marx, Engels and Nanny McPhee, I will leave to subtler minds.


Post a Comment