What gets you about what happened in San Bernardino is the shattering sameness of it. Once and not so long ago such atrocities, whatever their cause, whether the work of schizophrenics or jihadists, constituted a signal and exceptional moment. Now they’re more like this week’s shooting. We are not becoming blasé but increasingly inured. And, of course, armed up.Yes, and I'm trying to recall which political party did more to ensure that as many Americans as possible are "armed up." Thinking, thinking....
You can see a coarsening in how we respond and react on social media. No one feels ashamed to exploit the tragedy for political purposes even while it is happening.And by "No one feels ashamed" she means "No liberal feels ashamed." Both sides do it, but, to Noonan, one side really does it, and it's not her side.
We are all free to say what we think, and must be, for without this freedom we will no longer be America. More on that below.Except that, according to Noonan, some must be freer than others to say what they think. More on that below.
... as the story broke Wednesday afternoon, and while it was still going on, there were accusations and bitter words flung all over the Internet. The weirdest argument came almost immediately. A person named Chris Murphy, who is a U.S. senator representing Connecticut, sent out what struck me as the most manipulative message of recent political history.Yes, Murphy's tweet was "the most manipulative message of recent political history." More manipulative than, say, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
The background is that Republican presidential contestants responded online to the shootings with the only helpful thing you can say -- or do, frankly, from faraway -- when a story like this occurs. “Praying for the victims, their families & the San Bernardino first responders,” said Jeb Bush. Mike Huckabee said he was “praying.” John Kasich: “My thoughts & prayers go out to those impacted.”These people are running for president. That means they have the attention of the press, and therefore of the nation. Some of them are sitting governors or members of Congress. They have influence. So prayers aren't "the only helpful thing" they can offer. How about offering some actual solutions?
This managed to enrage the progressive left. You can take your prayers and stuff ’em. The answer and the only answer to this tragedy is gun control, and if you’re not for it you’re not allowed to be part of the conversation.Noonan is now endorsing the Sarah Palin Theory of the First Amendment, which states that if a conservative's feelings are hurt by someone else's speech, then that speech is depriving the conservative of First Amendment rights. Because the First Amendment says you have freedom of speech, but only if it's not mean to right-wingers, doesn't it?
“Please shut up and slink away,” tweeted a reporter.Gene Weingarten wrote that. He's a Washington Post columnist, not a reporter. And he has no means of enforcing this demand, as he well knows. Therefore, there is no compulsion or coercion behind it. He's expressing exasperation -- as any rational person reading his words can tell.
But he hurt conservatives' feelings, so they're crying, "Help, help, I'm being repressed." The dead in San Bernardino haven't been buried yet, but, to Noonan, they're not the real victims. Conservatives with hurt feelings are.
Another: “Your thoughts and prayers don’t mean a damn thing.” A reporter at the Huffington Post damned public officials’ “useless thoughts and prayers.” Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos: “How many dead people did those thoughts and prayers bring back to the life?”Not one of these messages is even rhetorically coercive. And yet it's exquisitely pleasurable for righties to believe they're being silenced.
But wait -- what happened to "the most manipulative message of recent political history"?
... Then the U.S. senator, Chris Murphy, came forward rather menacingly. “Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing -- again.”"Rather menacingly"? What ability does Senator Murphy have to compel this behavior? He's hoping to arouse pangs of conscience -- nothing more.
Obviously it didn't work. Obviously all it did was to make conservatives even more self-righteous, and more certain of their own moral superiority.
... All this immediately won a name: “prayer shaming.”Yes, that's true. What's followed from the right doesn't have a name, but I'll give it one: shame shaming. It more effective than the prayer shaming, because the right has a bigger gang than the left.
Here’s an odd thing. If you really are for some new gun-control measure, if you are serious about it, you just might wait a while, until the blood has cooled, for instance....And when is that? We have more than one mass shooting a day in this country. When does the blood ever have time to cool?
You might offer information, argument, points of persuasion. Successful politics involves pulling people together. You don’t use a tragedy to shame and silence those who don’t see it your way; that only hardens sides.Um, Peggy? On guns, your side couldn't possibly be more hardened. It has told us for decades that it will never compromise. Not 1 percent. Not 0.1 percent. Not 0.00001 percent. There is no possibility of persuasion. So we tried something else, because somebody has to do something about gun violence in America, and you people obviously won't.
... I suspect part of the problem is that a number of the progressive finger-pointers do not really know what a prayer is. Maybe no one ever told them. But prayer is a very active endeavor -- it takes time, energy, concentration. You have to stop everything and ask God to hear you.Yes -- which is why we thought the alleged prayers of professional politicians seemed phony.
... What actually is irritating about politicians saying they’re sending thoughts and prayers is the suspicion you sometimes have that they’re not, actually, thinking or praying.GEE, PEGGY, YA THINK?
... A connected point, it seems to me, is that Americans are growing weary of being told what they can and cannot publicly say, proclaim and think. We all know what’s going on at the colleges, with the mad little Marats and Robespierres who are telling students and administrators what they are and are not allowed to say or do.And your response, Peggy, is to tell liberals that we aren't allowed to criticize you. Who's the Marat wannabe here?
... Why doesn’t some thoughtful candidate on the Republican side address the issue of shaming and silencing? Why doesn’t someone give a deep and complete speech on what the First Amendment means, how it must be protected, how we pay a daily price for it in terms of anger, hurt, misunderstandings and crudity, but it’s worth it. Why doesn’t someone note that you fight bad speech with better speech, you don’t try to tape up the mouths of an entire country.But Peggy, aren't you hoping to tape up the mouths of half of the country, the half that hurt your faux-devout friends' feelings?
And you know what's curiously absent from this column? Any mention of the dead and wounded in San Bernardino. Fourteen people died, twenty-one were wounded -- but hey, my friends were briefly put on the defensive by tweeters and journalists! That's the real story here!
I really believe Noonan is angrier at Senator Murphy's tweet than she is as the murderers. I really believe she thinks insults to conservatives are a greater threat to America than thousands of zealots and psychopaths with AR-15s.