Arizona Shootings Spark Debate About Role Of Political Rhetoric

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Arizona shootings spark debate about role of political rhetoricAlthough the motives of Jared Lee Loughner — the suspected shooter in this past weekend's massacre in Arizona — are still unclear, many politicians are placing some of the blame on the heated rhetoric used by elected officials and pundits.

Loughner has been charged with murder and attempted murder following a Jan. 8 shooting spree at a shopping plaza in Tucson, Ariz. Federal judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina Green were among six people killed, while 13 others — including Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) — were wounded. According to media reports, Loughner has a history of expressing a radical distaste for the Federal government, and many who knew him said that he was a social outcast.

The deadly shootings have spawned a debate over the role of political rhetoric in the 21st century. Some officials have asked that politicians, as well as television and radio commentators, tone down their vitriolic language. Tea Party favorite and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has fielded criticism for images used on her website that placed crosshairs on specific congressional districts, such as Giffords'.

While some pundits have placed the onus on venomous political debate, several commentators have warned that it's dangerous to link specific politicians or organizations to a crime committed by an unstable individual.

"We've got to be careful here that we don't use this as a censoring moment, or use this as a Democrats-beating-up-on-Republicans [moment], or using it as an opportunity to humiliate anybody who's affiliated with the Tea Party movement," Douglas Brinkley, a historian, told FOX News. "There are definitely times when you have fallout from politics, but we don't want to lose the central point here: that this is a deranged person, that there's nobody serious in the Republican Party that would want to see such a heinous event happen." 

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