As a media rhetoric scholar, I am fascinated with the word “rhetoric” being thrown around in the media after the Arizona shooting. (Tea party rhetoric, political rhetoric, media rhetoric, Sarah Palin’s rhetoric, etc.) The media is blaming rhetoric. The killer did not throw dictionaries at his victims–he killed them point blank with a gun, which takes more than words to convince a person to commit such a violent act.
Here are some headlines using the word rhetoric:
Liberals blast Palin and ‘rhetoric’ following AZ shooting
Gabrielle Giffords shooting reignites row over rightwing rhetoric in US
‘I hate violence’: Palin hits back as critics blame Tea Party’s ‘vitriolic rhetoric’ for Arizona shooting
Giffords Shooting in Arizona May Cool U.S. Political Rhetoric, Hurt Palin
In the aftermath of the Giffords’ shooting, a debate over heated political rhetoric
Palin: ‘Irresponsible’ To Link Arizona Shootings With Political Rhetoric
Sharron Angle Defends Her Political Rhetoric
Gabrielle Giffords shooting: Rhetoric not to blame, says the right
Looking at these headlines, and there are many more to find, the word rhetoric is to blame. Has anyone thought that the images we see nightly on television, in print ads, in movies and video games might be to blame? Are we as a society becoming too complacent when we see someone shot and killed for entertainment, but are bothered by a map with gun targets on a political website? I’m confused. Words do not kill–people do. I’m not sure what happened in the Arizona shooting, but I’m sure that rhetoric might be to blame in other areas other than politics. And, by no means am I defending Palin or any others who spew such disturbing messages. I, too, think it’s wrong to show gun targets on a political map. But, sex sells, violence sells–and if the media doesn’t “punch” up the news with more violence and sex, supposedly no one watches. As James Carey said in his book Communication as Culture–people LOVE to be a part of drama and as long as politics creates drama–the more the media will cover the topic.
Maybe we need to go back to reporting the news with out sensationalizing such tragic incidents as the Arizona shooting. Let’s concentrate on blaming the man who did the crime. I hear very little about the shooter and more about right-wing rhetoric. I feel the media is again profiting from politicians for their sensational rhetoric. I want the media to focus more on the facts than speculation and creating stories that might not be there. What I do hope is that politicians stop spewing hateful Epideictic rhetoric towards each other and start using more useful Deliberative rhetoric rather than play into the media’s sensationalistic hyperboles.