It didn't take long for political activists and media members to start blaming each other for the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Actually, the media in general are largely responsible for such shootings. By the media in general I mean everyone from the New York Times and MSNBC to Fox News.
Both Republican and Democratic commentators have a tendency to use excessive rhetoric, but the Arizona shooter doesn't seem to have been concerned with regular political issues or be involved with either political party. The media impact on his behavior involves the way the media operate in general.
Unfortunately. the easiest way to get the "15 minutes of fame" Andy Warhol talked about is to go out and shoot up some place. Some killers of public figures get more than just 15 minutes of fame.
We still remember John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald long after the presidential assassinations that made them famous. James Earl Ray who killed Dr. Martin Luther King and Sirhan Sirhan who killed Robert F. Kennedy are still remembered by many. Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme became famous even though her shot missed President Jerry Ford. Revolutionary War traitor Benedict Arnold's name became another word for traitor.
Someone who shoots a public figure is guaranteed similar short term publicity as soon as the police release his or her name. Such shooters today have an advantage over those of an earlier age because they can leave information about themselves on the web which the media will report as they did as soon as they found it on Saturday. The ability to publicize themselves on the web may encourage would be shooters to act.
The Arizona shooter doesn't appear to have acted because of strong political opposition to the victim as was the case with John Wilkes Booth and Sirhan Sirhan. About the only significant cause the shooter supports is the efforts of atheists and others who want to eliminate "In God We Trust" from currency. .
The shooter's behavior is more consistent with that of John Hinckley, Jr who shot President Ronald Reagan to gain the attention of Jodie Foster. However, some information released about the Arizona shooter indicates he may have been planning a variation of "suicide by cop" in which he would go out in "a blaze of glory". He seems to have hoped that the shooting of Giffords would cause someone to shoot him or perhaps he planned to kill himself as many of those who engage in multiple shootings do..
There has also been a suggestion that he had been stalking Giffords which could indicate a sexual aspect to the shooting. He may have decided to attack Giffords because she was a woman or possibly, considering that his life was going nowhere, because she was a prominent woman. If so the case could be comparable to the killing of "My Sister Sam" costar Rebecca Lucile Schaeffer .
In this context he may not have been affected by political debates on tv news, but he might have been affected by the way some in the media treat politically active women particularly unsuccessful Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell and former Governor Sarah Palin. The trashing of them in the media might have encouraged him to develop negative feelings against a local woman politician who was more accessible.
You might notice that I have omitted something from this post. I'll explain that omission with a statement Paul Harvey often made about someone who had done something bad to get in the media: "He would like for me to mention his name."