Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) was shot point blank during a constituent meeting at a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Arizona today. 40 year-old Giffords is Arizona’s first Jewish Congresswomen, and reports have been unclear as to whether she has expired, or is still undergoing surgery. This is a national tragedy and unprecedented as there has only been one member of Congress killed in the line of duty, Rep. Leo Ryan during the Jonestown mass-suicide and massacre in 1978.
As the details emerge from what was clearly a horrific scene in Tucson with many wounded, some interesting aspects regarding her most recent political opponent have surfaced.
Jane Hamsher, of FireDogLake blog wrote:
Giffords’ 2010 Congressional opponent Jesse Kelly held a June 12 gun event that was billed as follows on the Pima County Republican website:
“Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office, Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly”
Like some other staunch tea party activists (Sarah Palin put a bulls-eye “logo” right on Giffords during the 2010 campaign), candidate Kelly utilized colorful political metaphors, like, “Get on Target…remove Gabrielle Giffords…shoot a fully automatic M16” — many cognitive linguists will tell you that connecting these words with the emotional intent to defeat, ruin, or destroy a political opponent can result in effectively communicating a violent call to arms.
As Drew Westen explains in his seminal work, “The Political Brain”,
“…when data clashed with desire, the political brain would somehow “reason” its way to the desired conclusions…Our hunch was that what passes for reasoning in politics is more often rationalization, motivated by efforts to reason to emotionally satisfying conclusions.”
In other words, people will morph, mangle, and manipulate sound data or facts right in front of their eyes, in order to reach the emotional high of “being right”.
With a fervor whipped up in a particular borderline individual, they might just as well transform candidate Jesse Kelly’s “M16 target shooting” message into something far more macabre.
This is why it is absolutely essential for candidates, elected officials, corporate officers — anyone in positions of leadership — to be absolutely resolute in communicating responsibly, and not playing upon the potentially fragile emotions of certain people in their audience.
My prayers are with Gabrielle, her NASA astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, and the rest of her family and friends.