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Shooting Rampage in Tucson Threatens Livelihood of Disharmony Trio

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There’s a prescient passage in a remarkable book by journalist Will Bunch which has a remarkable title: The Backlash. Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama, a book that came out last summer. The passage in question goes like this:

“For all the people who wonder whether this increasingly not-so-pent-up rage in America could make an impact on actual government policy or question how the coiled energy of the Tea Parties and the 9-12ers and the Oath Keepers and the gun freaks and those militias out in the wilderness might shape the lives of us all, there is one thing you can say to any of the remaining skeptics:

“Let them come to Arizona.”

Yes indeed. The proverbial chickens have come home to Arizona to roost, and the consequences will determine a great deal about American life in the next couple of years.

There are some things that we can’t predict in all this, and something we can predict.

We can predict that Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin will exert their considerable abilities to explain what happened as the actions of a crazed gunman who acted alone. In doing so they will be acting in a now well-established American tradition that goes back at least to the Warren Commission, and plays well in our intensely individualistic society. All this is quite predictable, and is about as interesting as saying that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west.

What is unpredictable and therefore interesting is how Limbaugh’s, Beck’s, and Palin’s efforts at maintaining the status quo after Tucson will play out in American society. It is at crisis moments like this we can understand clearly some things that were not so clear before, and one of those things we can now understand is what Limbaugh, Beck, and Palin do. What Limbaugh does on radio, what Beck does on television, and what Palin does in public appearances is to promote disharmony in American society; so I call them The Disharmony Trio.

The Disharmony Trio have been able to get so rich so fast (Limbaugh is said to be worth about $300 millions) because they were able to promote disharmony within a bubble of relative security that made it possible for them to credibly claim that they were just exercising their First Amendments rights. Tucson broke that bubble.

So the question is, will they be able to make the lone gunman theory credible enough to maintain the disharmony from which they profit so handsomely? This is a dicey one because of the victims. If Congresswoman Giffords had been the only victim, it wouldn’t have been so difficult for them. The implicit subtext would have been that as a Democrat, a woman, and—worst of all—a Jew, she had it coming. To be sure, the Disharmony Trio wouldn’t have said this in public, but their followers would have said it among themselves, and on the Internet.

What complicates the matter for the Disharmony Trio is the death of the nine-year-old girl, a symbol of innocence if there ever was one. Even the most devoted conspiracy theorists, those who believe that Obama is the Anti-Christ, and so forth, will find it difficult to say—or even think—that she had it coming.

And, speaking of conspiracy theory, Bunch’s wonderful book The Backlash makes it clear that the followers of the Disharmony Trio believe in all kinds of things. Most obviously, they believe that Obama was born in Kenya; many of them also believe that he’s a socialist, that he’s preparing internment camps for them (“It happened to the Japanese; it could happen again”), and so forth. So the question is, won’t these people—the Tea Partiers and others like them—who perceive all public events in terms of conspiracy theory find it difficult to believe the lone gunman theory? Might they not tend to think that Tucson is part of a conspiracy? (The shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and the others will come to be called “Tucson,” as the shooting at the Branch Davidian compound came to be called “Waco.”) One can imagine a scenario in which people promote the idea that Tucson was part of Obama’s conspiracy to discredit the Far Right, for example. If the Disharmony Trio advocate the lone gunman theory, it will then put them at odds with those who believe this theory. This is an unpredictable matter, and therefore quite an interesting one.

We do have one indication of the dilemma that Tucson poses for the Far Right in general, and for the Disharmony Trio in particular. Soon after the shooting, Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona, made a brief public statement that may give an intimation of the future, or at least part of it. Let us recall that it was Brewer who signed the now infamous anti-immigration law that caused many organizations to cancel their planned conventions in Arizona. In her statement, Brewer said the predictable things, that it was a tragedy, and so forth. But the point is that she looked shaken, with tears in her eyes, and I don’t think she’s a good enough actress to fake it. If Jan Brewer, of all people, was really shaken by the attack on Congresswoman Giffords because she grasped the real-world consequences in spilled blood of the things she and others on the Far Right have been saying for years, then the livelihood of the Disharmony Trio really is threatened.

The thing is, the Disharmony Trio makes its living by sowing the seeds of discord, and any movement toward unity threatens its livelihood. If death and suffering tend to unite us, as with the death of John Lennon (which television commentators have been citing as a precedent), then Limbaugh, Beck, and Palin have a problem. Since they can do what they do if and only if people believe that America is always and eternally split into liberals and conservatives, they will surely be disturbed by reports that all the members of Congress—both conservatives and liberals—are concerned about their safety, are reassessing their security measures, and so forth.

It now appears that the Tucson story has legs, as they say in show business.
Congresswoman Giffords and the others will be in the hospital for a long time, and then there will be the funerals for the dead, and so forth. The longer this story lasts, the more calls there will be for people to “tone down the rhetoric,” and thus the more problematic the long-term enterprise of the Disharmony Trio will become.

Finally, there’s the question that people often ask about the Disharmony Trio: “Do Limbaugh, Beck, and Palin sincerely believe what they say?” For my part, I believe that they do sincerely believe what they say, and here’s why. It is easy to believe what you say when what you say makes you rich and famous without requiring you to work very hard.

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About jcurtis

  • The SarahPac was hard at work yesterday cranking out its public relations mop job insisting, among other things, that the cross hairs on the target map came from the US Geological Survey.

    This article is thought provoking,Drj. Unfortunately, tragedies build audience and your trio will be beneficiaries. Thoughtful people who find your trio distasteful will just dial them out. Their followers will wrap themselves in the flag and the 1st Amendment and try to blame the liberals for the Tucson murders, since such is the way of the trio’s audience.

    Chances are that their ratings will spike and generate more revenue. Had the victims been Mexican, Muslim or Safeway shoppers, the story would have already been footnoted. If the trio fear for their own well being, it will be their public relations people doing their pitiful little jobs, keeping their employer millionaires in the public eye, which is pretty sore right now.

    The Arizona PR people are really busy, you can bet.

  • Clavos

    The problem with publicly making predictions of future events beyond one’s direct control is that, unless the forecaster is an expert in the field in which he/she is predicting the future, such pronouncements have a nasty way of coming back to bite one in the dérriere.

    Absent much in the way of supporting evidence in this article, I’m inclined to be doubtful that the likes of Rush Limbaugh (highest paid radio host in history, with the largest audience ever) and Glenn Beck, second only to O’Reilly in TV audience share, will be brought down by an incident that will disappear from the minds of the American public within weeks, if not days.

    The author presents zero evidence supporting his assertion that the bulk of the TEA party supporters and Limbaugh/Beck followers are conspiracy theorists; he simply tells us that one Will Bunch, a (groan) journalist says they are in a book he wrote recently and we are expected to accept that remarkable observation as gospel without a scrap of discernible supporting evidence other than some purported assertions in Mr. Bunch’s book.

    Somehow, we are expected to believe that the fact that one of the victims of Loughner’s rampage was a nine year old girl, is incontrovertible proof that Loughner was not acting alone. Again, no evidence — not even well thought out theorizing, simply a flat unsupported statement that the child’s death proves he couldn’t have acted alone. This idea isn’t even logical, much less cogent.

    Next, we are preposterously told that the tears in Arizona governor Jan Brewer’s eyes as she announced that the tragic shooting had taken place were proof that she (Brewer) was “…really shaken by the attack on Congresswoman Giffords because she grasped the real-world consequences in spilled blood of the things she and others on the Far Right have been saying for years…”


    All this from tears in the governor’s eyes? Tears that are perfectly natural under the circumstances in which they appeared? Tears that easily could be for the well-being of a fallen colleague, not to mention the death of the little girl as well as the death of John Roll, a federal judge from her state?

    Later in the article we are treated to the speculations of, of all people, television journalists (!!) harking back to the assassination of John Lennon and postulating that Lennon’s death united the whole country in its grief, and that perhaps this incident will provide the same result. Now I’m old enough to remember not only the Lennon murder, but even the world before the Beatles, and I don’t recall any massive unification of the American populace as a result of Lennon’s death. That he was mourned is a given, especially by Beatles fans, but there was nothing about his death which would have driven a unification of the entire country. In fairness, we should note once more that this idea comes from TV commentators, not experts.

    I rather think that the positions of Limbaugh, Beck and Palin are secure for the foreseeable future.

  • PulSamsara

    Understanding the ill conceived conventional wisdom that 1) there is no right or wrong 2) that all blame must be split down the middle and equally divided – just like in Kindergarten. 3) that after a tragedy – all past ills must be artificially forgotten – Kumbaya time ! – “can’t we all just get along?”

    Understanding all of this – and having watched the hate filled rhetoric spew for years now – It’s easy to say:

    The Tea Party has blood all over their hands.

    Wash all you like – it’s still there.

    And I won’t suspend all intelligence and entertain your notion that YOUR BOY was a Gold Standard, End the Fed, End Fed-Med, bring down the government & kill Democratic Leaders ‘Liberal’ – because that’s RUBBISH.

    The blood is on YOUR hands.

  • jcurtis

    Dear Clavos,
    I get the impression that the article that I wrote and the article that you read were/are two different things.
    I didn’t say that the Disharmony Trio will be “brought down,” by Tucson, and I don’t believe it.
    What I did say is this…
    Only very naive people believe that the Disharmony Trio are just concerned citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. A benefit of a crisis like Tucson for the rest of us is that it clarifies the true situation, which is that…
    Only very naive people fail to understand that the Disharmony Trio have a vested interest in sowing disharmony. It’s what they do. To the extent that Tucson brings the country together, to the extent that a consensus emerges that it’s time to “tone down the rhetoric,” which even John King on CNN, has urged, it will work to the financial disadvantage of the Disharmony Trio.
    Only very naive people fail to understand that this is America, and money talks in America.

  • Clavos

    I get the impression that the article that I wrote and the article that you read were/are two different things.

    As you can see by the quoted excerpts from your article which I used in my comment, it was definitely your article I read. If you think my comment indicates that I read some other piece, then perhaps you should have taken greater pains in writing your article so as to eliminate any possibility of misinterpretation on the part of your readers. Perhaps you meant to say something other than what you wrote, but if you did, it’s not evident in your text.

    As I said in my previous comment, you made a lot of claims in this piece, most of which are nothing more than that: unsubstantiated claims, with little to support them.

    I agree with you that the individuals you talk about have a vested interest in exploiting disharmony. They do, and that’s a major reason why they have so many followers; disharmony is rampant in the land, primarily because so many are dissatisfied with the government and its money wasting and continual attempts to seize ever greater power over the citizens’ lives (a classic liberal goal — building dependency in order to abrogate power). Those same citizens realize as well that many (if not most) of the elected officials in the federal government are far more interested in improving their personal positions than they are in serving the people who elected them, all of which dissatisfactions (or disharmonies, if you will) account for why the voters booted so many elected officials two months ago.

    As you said, “money talks in America.” The taxpayers know they are the source of all the government’s money and they’re tired of its misuse and misappropriation by those who are in the final analysis, their employees.

    Those who conceived of and implemented the TEA party movement understand all this very well, and the 2010 election results are proof of their prescience.

  • “Only very naive people believe that the Disharmony Trio are just concerned citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. A benefit of a crisis like Tucson for the rest of us is that it clarifies the true situation, which is that…”

    Well, JCurtis, the problem with your proposition is that the class of people who belong to the very naive is quite substantial in America. Which, BTW, sort of invalidates your remaining claim. “The rest of us” didn’t need Tuscan to learn what Rush and company are all about.

  • jcurtis

    Say what?

  • Dan

    It looks as if the disgraceful, behavior of lefties to attempt to establish blame on honorable dispensers of truth like Rush Limbaugh, are backfiring.

    A CBS poll shows that a substantial majority aren’t buying what the ghouls are selling. Especially as the facts continue to demonstrate that the psychopath was anything but a right wing tea party type.

    Too bad. Liberal loons will just have to go back to pretending tea partiers are violent.

  • honorable dispensers of truth like Rush Limbaugh

    Yes, sure.

    In much the same way that Lenin was a philanthropic champion of the poor…

  • But no, I don’t think Angle, Palin, Limbaugh and that crowd are to blame. This little nugget can be laid squarely at the door of that ripe little seam of American culture which sees guns as the solution to every problem.

    Palin and co are airheads for buying into and playing up to it, but that’s all.

  • Pablo

    While I usually disagree with clavos both on his naive politics, and his abrasive style, I wholeheartedly agree with his comment number 2 above.

    The author of this article is so atypical of those on the so called left that are trying to make political hay out of a tragic event. There is thus far no evidence to support any claim of this tragic event in Tucson being anything other than a whacko coming out of the woodwork. None, zero, nada, zilch. The fact that Loughner put up some idiotic youtube videos talking about coins and the unconstitutionality of his school notwithstanding.

    However what is interesting politically about this event is not Lochner but those that are using this tragedy for their own political agendas. I am particularly referring to the author and such disinformation outlets such as the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center), Democracy Now, and other co-opted controlled opposition outlets and gatekeepers of the New World Order.

    In point of FACT Loughner belonge to the same small synagogue as the congresswomen that is in the hospital (the congresswoman being someone that I admire politically), a fact that seems to be conveniently ommitted by the MSM.

    Another conveniently absent factual report omitted is that numerous friends and former friends of Loughner described him as a liberal; linked reference below.

    For the record I cant stand Limbaugh, Palin or Angle but what I find even more repugnant, if that is indeed possible, is how those in the MSM and of a so called liberal ilk are attempting to politicize a sensless act of murder and mayhem.

    Shame on the author for this despicable piece of trash.

    Loughner… Confirmed Leftist by Friend on Twitter

  • Ruvy

    Loughner, Jewish? Belonging to the same “reform” synagogue as Giffords? I looked it up on the internet and found a number of references to this as well. Wow!! Live and learn! I haven’t read the exact fact pattern of the shooting released by the police, but if this is true, then Giffords might have recognized him and not suspected him of any evil motives. If this is where the evidence leads, then this is where it leads.

    As to the article, it seems to me that the author is more jealous of the riches that guys like Palin and Beck have than anything else. Maybe he and I should do talk radio – I’ll be the right-wing crazy settler from Israel and J. Curtis can be the leftish “reasonable American”. I could get by on $150 million (half of Beck’s fortune). It would pay my rent, at least!

  • Ruvy

    Pablo, this e-mail came to me today….

    Trying to blame the shooting by making the shooter “Jewish”!!!!!!!!
    David Duke is behind it with others using the alias “James Buchanan:

    At 4:07 PM -0500 1/11/11, jf wrote:
    No, she isn’t. And I looked and saw that the neo nazi groups are purposely
    posting it through an alias “James Buchanan”.

    Totman isn’t a Jewish name – it is an English one. Jan 11, 2011 … Public records show that Loughner’s mother’s maiden name is Amy Joanne Totman, and that she married … (As Ron points out to me, Totman is an old English name .)

    Neo-nazis trying to muddy the waters sounds more credible to me than Loghner being Jewish….

  • Pablo


    Thanks for the clarification.

  • Pablo

    I relied on the Loughner jewish post from Mother Jones magazine, since they are not anti-semitic I gave the reference credence, my mistake.

  • Baronius

    I don’t think that Curtis has a good grasp on the subject of his article. Are there conservatives who wouldn’t mind it if a Jewish Democrat got killed? I imagine there are, but they’re far less than 1% of Limbaugh’s audience. Maybe a greater percentage of NPR listeners would shrug off a report about the death of a hard-right Knesset member. By equating Limbaugh with the crazies, Curtis sees a whole lot of mad men.

    I also suspect that the same misunderstanding lies beneath the author’s interpretation of Brewer’s reaction. He can’t picture a right-winger feeling sad at the shooting of a political opponent, so he figures that Brewer’s sadness reflects a change of heart. I wonder how much exposure the author has had to Limbaugh.

  • Clavos

    I don’t think that Curtis has a good grasp on the subject of his article.

    Neither do I — as I said in comments 2 &5.

  • Baronius

    Well, I can’t always post “I agree with Clavos”. That’d be boring.

  • Clavos


  • Not only that. He’s doing a piss-poor job when faced with even the slightest criticism.

    Must be the Ph.D from Columbia he so proudly wears on his lapel.

  • Baronius

    Clavos – I don’t remember the entire country uniting in grief over John Lennon’s death, either. I think it recharged people of a certain generation, but to their elders it just brought back unpleasant memories of hippies.

  • Clavos

    Exactly, Bar.