…in a world where fragments of information come from so many sources, it often leads them to the odd place where any explanation of the world is as good as any other, where there is no conceptual rudder for judging one theory or idea against another. […] Hence, the tendency toward apathy and (after a philosophy class or two) nihilism.
Striffler seems to conclude that discussions about risk should still look at the role of political views and rhetoric, including confused and reactionary ones like Loughner’s.
It is a bit ironic that at the same time as many commentators are urging us to listen more closely to our opponents’ ideas and resist the urge to demonize them, that we are dismissing Loughner’s political views without even so much as a real discussion. What he did is horrible, but the commentary has gone too quickly from “Loughner’s actions were politically motivated” to “it had nothing to do with politics.”
George Packer also has an interesting look at the balance of violent rhetoric within American political discourse:
In fact, there is no balanceâ€”none whatsoever. Only one side has made the rhetoric of armed revolt against an oppressive tyranny the guiding spirit of its grassroots movement and its midterm campaign. Only one side routinely invokes the Second Amendment as a form of swagger and intimidation, not-so-coyly conflating rights with threats. Only one sideâ€™s activists bring guns to democratic political gatherings. Only one side has a popular national TV host who uses his platform to indoctrinate viewers in the conviction that the President is an alien, totalitarian menace to the country. Only one side fills the AM waves with rage and incendiary falsehoods. Only one side has an iconic leader, with a devoted grassroots following, who canâ€™t stop using violent imagery and dividing her countrymen into us and them, real and fake. Any sentient American knows which side that is; to argue otherwise is disingenuous.