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Sunday, 9 January 2011

Speech Acts of Violence

As Judith Butler showed us, and as the assassination attempt in Arizona reminds us, speech acts - especially political commentary in the public sphere - can be violent - and lead to more violent acts.  The sheriff in the case was quick to draw the conclusion that incendiary rhetoric was potentially to blame, and it cannot be ignored (nor has it been) that Palin's website had stamped a gun target over the district of the shot congresswoman Giffords (who is doing as well as can be expected at time of writing).  At times like these, one wants to draw comfort from the hope that good can come from evil deeds - that perhaps this massacre will dampen the powder keg, and   spoil the Tea Party.

But, as was seen recently in Pakistan, assasination of liberal and brave speakers can simply be a herald of more anarchy to come.  At stake here is, at least, this: the world is becoming increasingly intolerant of difference; fundamental positions are hardening; deafness is the new default position; and those not with us are against us.  For all the social networking hype, we are a world at war, and contra each other.  The media, Murdoch most of all, seems, in the West, to be profiting from this Babel of nasty idiocy.  It needs to be reined in.  And, if America was saner, there would be fewer guns around - note that this gunman was not shot down by a pistol-packing citizen, but "wrestled" to the ground.
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