Why It Matters That Robert Lewis Dear Was Inspired By Those BS Planned Parenthood Videos
In an article in yesterday’s LA Times, noted conservatroll Jonah Goldberg posited that even if Robert Lewis Dear was inspired by the Planned Parenthood videos, that it doesn’t matter. Why? Because killers are sometimes inspired by things, like how Mark David Chapman was “inspired” by The Catcher In The Rye and then went and shot John Lennon, and James Holmes was “inspired” by The Dark Night. And you wouldn’t want to go and ban The Catcher In The Rye just because it inspired Mark David Chapman to kill John Lennon, would you?
The blame still resides with these killers. Millions of people loved “The Catcher in the Rye,” “The Dark Knight” movies and video games — and they don’t kill people because they’re sane, reasonable, people. But that misses the point. What if the killers’ actions could be blamed on those things? What if it were true that if Mark David Chapman had never read “The Catcher in the Rye,” he would never have shot Lennon? What’s the follow-through for that premise? Should we hold all speech — artistic and political — hostage to what sick or evil people might do? How would that work?
Let me stop you right there, Jonah. There is an important difference here, and that is that Catcher In The Rye and The Dark Knight were not lies specifically constructed to enrage people.
Maybe I’m a cynical person, but I don’t believe that Jonah Goldberg, or most conservative writers or politicians actually believe that Planned Parenthood was selling baby parts. I honestly don’t. I think they’re being disingenuous as hell here because they want to get people worked up. But they just want them worked up enough to get out to the voting booth, not to go and murder people and make them look bad.
If I were to go around saying that Jonah Goldberg is a serial child molester who makes lampshades out of human skin for fun and profit, and then someone took me at my word and went and murdered him in hopes of stopping his madness — I would be partially responsible. It wouldn’t be a call to action, per se, and I likely couldn’t be prosecuted in a court of law for that person believing my lies, but I would bear some of the responsibility for what happened. Because of my lies, that person could say he reasonably believed he was saving lives by taking one–precisely the logic of most anti-abortion terrorists.
This is, of course, a different thing than suggesting that J.D. Salinger was at fault for Mark David Chapman killing John Lennon. Nowhere in The Catcher In The Rye did Salinger say anything about John Lennon, or any of The Beatles for that matter. He did not suggest that killing anyone was any kind of a good plan, either. This was not an incitement to violence.
Given the fact that there is a history of violent attacks on Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics–not to mention an entire terrorist group, the Army of God, which advocates for such attacks–it is fair to assume that inflammatory rhetoric like this has the power to both incite such attacks, and to give comfort to those who think they are a reasonable course of action.