Giffords and Palin: the ideological content of causality

Following the shooting of Democrat congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the media is savouring a “toxic battle” between “leftwingers” and the right over whether or not Palin is to blame for inciting Giffords attacker and fostering “right-wing extremism”.

Defending herself, Palin has commented: “Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle.”

Actually, both sides of the argument have a lot in common: both try to drastically reduce causality.  Not only are both sides wrong, but both responses are deeply ideological.

As the “liberal” press are also content to acknowledge, there will necessarily be many factors contributing to the situation in which a gunman attempted to assassinate a democratic congresswoman, and then continued to shoot indiscriminately into the crowd killing six more. Before us we do not have all of the “facts”; nor do we have a profile of “psychological” details. These, no doubt, will come out by and by in the process of the investigation, in the courts and in the press. We can, however, begin to construct a different picture, one which will not feature in the bourgeois account.

Let us remember that we live in a system that is based on the alienation and exploitation of the individual. This system is geared to serve a financial and power elite, to the detriment of the majority and society as a whole. That this incident occured during a moment of political and economic crisis, in which it is apparent to us that we do not have political agency and that society is geared against us, is no coincidence. In this moment the general trends are intensified. The promise of freedom and democracy appears to us a cruel hoax when our homes are being repossessed, our places of work shut down, our schools and communities sabotaged by austerity, and our futures darkened.

Further, in this oppressive system, which has for so long been dominated by capital and by partriarchy, there is no longer such a thing as community, support, family or friendship. Perhaps this exists in some form still in those groups that place themselves in opposition to this system; certainly it exists nowhere else, except as a lingering memory. All of these things are prohibited by the rigidly enforced law of competition.

Palin attributes this outburst of violence to a free, self-determining and responsible adult. She neglects that we live in a sytem that robs us of our agency and insists we remain children. Her opponents insist that this outburst was the result of “violent rhetoric”, yet neglect the everyday violence of living and dying in this world where we are made to live miserable jobs and work miserable lives. They also forget that OBAMA was elected as the messianic hope of a better and more free way of life, and yet has done nothing but oversee the continuation of the status quo. Indeed, he was instrumental in managing this crisis in such a way as to benefit power whilst deepening the misery of the vast majority, and plunging many into outright dispair as they witnessed the government sponsored vandalism of their lives.

This is just a sketch, a skeleton, an outline. Fill in the details yourself. But let us note: such acts of monstrous criminality do not stand on their own. Nor do they begin and end with the criminals who commit them.  Despite  our desperate attempts to contain the implications immanent in such events, these implications reach out to grip us, collectively, by the throats.


~ by Wit on January 12, 2011.

One Response to “Giffords and Palin: the ideological content of causality”

  1. I never thought of it that way, well put!

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