I haven’t decided what I think about the shootings yet. I know what I feel, but not what I think.
In reviewing the information that is available, though, I’d like to include Judge John M. Roll’s past experience with threats, because I think it’s instructive.
Judge Roll was appointed by the first President George Bush in 1991
That should make his experience sufficiently bipartisan, I would think, so we can take that off that table.
Judge Roll was no stranger to the risks of public service. He and his wife were provided protection by the Federal Marshals Service in 2009 in connection with a case in which a group of Mexicans sued an Arizona rancher for $32 million.
“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.”
When Roll ruled the case could go forward, [U.S. Marshal David Gonzales] said talk-radio shows cranked up the controversy and spurred audiences into making threats. I n 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.
The Federal Marshall Service drew a direct connection between talk radio rhetoric and the death threats to the late Judge Roll, and it had nothing to do with partisanship.
You’ll note the Federal Marshall Service believed audiences were “spurred into making threats”. No mention of the mental health of the four individuals who made the threats, or the “intent” of the talk radio jocks.
It happens. In fact, it happened to the judge who was murdered yesterday, in 2009.
Irresponsible and inflammatory political rhetoric can lead to death threats. We already know that. Is it really such a stretch to think irresponsible and inflammatory political rhetoric can lead to death?
The point we have been trying to make for the last couple of years is that Republicans need to stop whipping up crazy people with violent political rhetoric. This is really not a hard concept to follow. There are crazy people out there. Stop egging them on.
So, I can accept John’s premise, based on Judge Roll’s past experience alone, and go from there.
Further, I think it’s fair to ask why conservative leaders and others didn’t take what we already know about the connection between rhetoric and threats into account before they acted so irresponsibly, and why they felt they could arrogantly and recklessly put someone else at any increased risk for political gain. Death threats should have been enough for responsible, decent people to change their behavior. They weren’t. That’s about the definition of “irresponsible”, don’t you think?