Ever since the tragedy of Saturday’s shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, my Facebook feed seemed to explode with links from Gawker, The New Republic, and other left-leaning publications – all touting the same thing: the Palin crosshairs, Glenn Beck’s gold rants; I’m sure one of my digi-friends even dug up some infantile monologue about 1989 patriotism, orated by Sean Hannity. The sudden trend was part of what appeared to me to be a weak argument: that Jared Loughner and the Tea Party’s extremist ideologues had a common connection. Yet, in the 72 hours since the shooting, all we still seem to know is this: Jared Loughner is a psychopath, and Sarah Palin is still a crass idiot.
But that’s really about it.
Over the next few weeks, this shooting is going to put the Tea Party under a fierce amount of scrutiny. In a perfect world, I would hope it’ll put an end to a gimmicky political movement that was hatched by a conservative think tank, capitalized on by money-hungry talking heads, and bought into by thousands of angry and easily exploited Americans. Hell, if Glenn Beck is somehow forced to give the annual $13 million he earns in book sales back to his readers, I’ll call that “even”. At best though, when it comes time to have an adult conversation about how vitriolic the media has become in the name of selling a story, I doubt anybody’s going to man/woman up to take the blame. What we’re most likely to get is a half-hearted apology from someone (CNN, maybe MSNBC, definitely not FOX News) about how emotions got the best of everyone, and American journalists were only trying to deliver a story that mattered. But here’s the thing: the only thing that mattered 3 days ago was a sub-plot that wasn’t even 10% factual. But it sure did make things interesting.
To me, there’s no question that all of the vague anti-establishment ramblings of the Tea Party is both self-righteous and dangerous. One positive note that I think will come of this new dialogue is a realization of how niche a “candidate Palin” would be to Boehner’s Republican Party. But ultimately, let’s not forget that the media these days is interested in market share first, news second. Sure, there are a few choice journalists out there unafraid to get confrontational, but they also won’t be quick to forget who signs their checks. Sometimes, it’s best to think of continuous media consumption the same way Nancy Reagan wanted us to think of alcoholism in the ‘80s – “Be Smart, Don’t Start”.