ANALYSIS: Are Politicians Killing the Messenger(s) in the Name of Spin?

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter

Could a Wag the Dog syndrome be in play regarding the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Grifford?

Folllwing the Tucson shooting, numerous politicians have attacked far right speech as the culprit for the Arizona carnage. Once again, a symphony commands give up some free speech and gun rights in the name of a safer society.

 Holding mediums up to scrutiny following a tragic event did not start with the shooting of Arizona Rep Gabrielle Grifford. When John Hinckley   shot President Ronald Reagan , the shooter’s obsession with Jodie Foster and the movie “Taxi Driver” became a scapegoat for madness. The spread of 24/7 news channels with specific agendas has placed spin minded news reporting into the censorship vial. 

 Bobby Nelson, host of WRVC’s “Tri State Talk” and a former West Virginia  legislator, describes himself as a “strong believer in the First Amendment.” But, the Marshall University political science professor strongly refutes the designation of offensive political rhetoric as a factor in the Safeway parking lot massacre.


“ Jared Loughner [the suspect]  at least is delusional and at worse, has severe mental difficulties,” Nelson said. “Did the elevated political rhetoric play a part. It's impossible to say, but the ease with which perpetrators can obtain weapons and ammunition to commit mass murder must be addressed by our government leaders.”

George Snider, a prominent member of Huntington’s performing arts community, agrees that the government must keep its hands off the First Amendment.

 “We must never stop free speech. We must never ban books. We must never muzzle TV and Radio talking heads. Even when Sarah Palin talks of "blood libel," she takes certain risks.” 

The Huntington actor/director/writer who has developed the interactive murder mysteries at Heritage Station emphasized  that “freedom comes with a price tag” and “silencing free speech” is not the answer.  

David M. Driskell, who produces and performs Huntington shadow casts of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” fine tunes the rhetoric.

“I am not sure that politicians are using the Arizona shooting to restrict the First Amendment, but I do believe they are using the tragedy to proper political means, which I find extremely offensive.”  

Terri Ann Smith, a  political independent, animal rescuer and member of the Portsmouth (Gaseous Diffusion Plant) Site Specific Advisory Board, adamantly  narrowed the responsibility for the shooting to the individual suspect.

“This has nothing to do with political speech.  It has nothing to do with being a conservative,” Ms. Smith explained. “Jared Loughner is nuts.   [Authorities] knew he was nuts. You can’t regulate freedom based on one nut case.” For  an analogy, she referred to the casino robbery theme of the fictional  “Oceans 11.” “You don’t ban ‘Oceans 11’ because a casino gets robbed,” Smith said.

Driskell agreed that “this was a clear cut case of a mentally disturbed individual who felt the need to attempt to take the life of someone in political power, nothing more, nothing less. However, certain aspects of the mainstream media and the blogosphere did not hesitate to jump on the "this was an attack of a liberal politician; therefore, we must find some national conservative politician to throw the blame on" thus the Sarah Palin "hit list" controversy flared.”

The Huntington performer reflected that “Law enforcement, media, family, and what limited friends he had cannot provide any justified evidence that ared Lee Lougnher even had knowledge of the Sarah Palin hit list. There is no evidence to tie his shootings to that; however, the knee jerk reaction of the media is still to place the blame with Ms. Palin. It has been failed to mention that Rebecca Mansour, who works for Palin's political action committee, mentioned on the Tammy Bruce Radio Show that the image was not of a gun crosshair, but rather "it's a surveyor's symbol." The media and blogosphere have also failed to mention that in 2004 the Democratic Leadership Council Target Map had definite gun range targets superimposed over a map of the United States. 

 As for Ms. Smith, she noted similarities to the attack on speech and constitutional rights to the period following the 9/11 terrorist attacks when political movements were intend on using the tragedy to sell big government regulation and restrict freedom. The self-proclaimed political dissenter told us that in 2001 she lived in Oil County and “shut up for a few months.”  

Despite the American tradition for dissent, Ms. Smith bluntly surmises that politicians do not like criticism. They are seizing the Tucson events for new spin attacks on freedoms. She’s particularly harsh when describing Obama’s rock star “change” campaign that resulted in him contradictorily bailing out Wall Street and extending the Iraqi War.

 Having recently slipped into the fortysomething bracket, Ms. Smith explained that her harsh criticism of mainstream politics and politically correct agendas comes after a period in her 20s and 30s when she endured “screwed by the system” life events.

After embracing the impeach Bush creed of many mid-term 2006 Democratic candidates, she was disappointed when the then newly elected majority  “did a 180, sitting in the White House and taking impeachment off the table.”  Instead of apathy, she began researching individual candidates. Part of that investigation included listening to  mainstream media and listening to viewpoints from alternative media.

“I don’t vote the party, I vote for the individual,” she said.  

Following the President’s remarks about the Congresswoman opening her eyes during his visit to her room, Ms. Smith opines Obama is attempting to build political capital by spewing words of  “togetherness” and “save the country from whacked out politicians.”

In other words , Obama has lost much of the support from the young age group that rushed to cast a vote for him.

“My peer’s opinion  of President Obama’s job performance is painfully obvious,” Driskell observed. “The negative is outweighing the positive. I see a shift for sure.”

Does age have a lot to do with political thoughts?  


Snider referred  to the words of Robert F. Kennedy when reflecting on  the late Senator’s  “rely on youth” for answers.  Kennedy’s statement has nothing to do with age, however.  

“What is most important is to echo the words of Robert F. Kennedy when he said, "Our answer is to rely on youth - not a time of life, but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.

Snider continued, “Yes, the country mourns. And yes, there are those who cry out for the banning of guns, the silence of free speech, and more government control. But I don't believe that is the answer. Freedom comes with great a price tag sometimes. But what a glorious purchase it is. “

Ms. Smith  does not believe that age affects political involvement.

 “You’re either interested or you’re not. 75% of the country does not care as long as [the issue] doesn’t affect them.” 

 Driskell , whose troupe of thespians generally hit the 20 and 30 something age demographic, does not believe his peers are “extremely in tune with the political realm of the day.” However , he has overheard some political aimed “talk back” to the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” screen.

“People know what I going on. They know the score. They have their opinions.”

Considering the often perceived controversy from the “RHPS” which challenges status quo whether gender, morals, or politics, Driskell ventures “a lot of them would be considered fiscally conservative and socially liberal to moderate.”

 A small random  survey of several Marshall University students brought many “I’m too busy” or “I’m not politically active” responses, but nearly all those approached had heard of the Tucson events.

 Some students sitting at Starbucks beside the library were more open to sharing. Two of the three attributed the shootings to “a kid with a disorder who wanted to express himself” by killing.  

However, Leah Green, a graduate student, remembered  violent shootings from the past like  Columbine and Virginia Tech. “Look how many things have happened and nothing gets done.”


Ms. Green, an English and Linguistics major, favored adjusting gun regulations to tweaking speech. Noting that the drinking age has been upped from 18 to 21, she suggested “changing some  gun or ammunition purchasing regulations” which would “prevent stuff [like this] from happening more frequently than it should.”

She continued, “Everyone has a hidden agenda with their speech. A lot of people say stuff … but they can always take what they say back and apologize.  Buying a gun and shooting somebody. You can’t take that back.”  

One proposed bill would ultimately ban the sale of high-capacity magazines.

 Ashley Stinnett, a nationally syndicated columnist who lives in West Virginia, called the proposal “another example of a typical liberal knee-jerk reaction to a crisis that has, so far, not been tied to any sort of political motivation, contrary to left-wing media accusations.”  Stinnett, incidentally, produced and directed the documentary, “Our Second Amendment: A Guarantee of Freedom.”

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