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Two's a Trend: Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Gunned Down at Party Headquarters

09/13/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Word just came down the wire that Bill Gwatney, former state senator and current chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party, was shot multiple times in the upper torso by a lone gunman in the Democratic Party's headquarters. The assassin, one Tim Johnson, age 50, then hopped into a pickup truck and led police on a chase before being shot himself -- he later died. Gwatney is in critical condition. (UPDATE: Several hours after the shooting, Gwatney died.)

Like I said, this just happened a little while ago. Motives are still up in the air. Maybe it was a personal matter that led Johnson to stroll into Little Rock's Democratic Party headquarters and blast away. The truth will soon out. But I'm far from the only one whose immediate suspicions equated this shooting with the recent crazed spree of Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Michael Savage fan Jim Adkisson, who ambled into a left-leaning Unitarian Universalist church in July with a shotgun in his hands and a loathing in his heart. Books by the aforementioned blowhards were found in his home, and he told police that, along with chronic unemployment, his reason for killing two innocent churchgoers was the church's liberal leanings.

If that is what we have here -- and that is a very big "if" at this point -- we need to go back and revisit that reading list into which the press studiously refused to delve deeply in the aftermath of the Adkisson massacre. After Columbine, spotlight-hungry congressmen -- Joe Lieberman chief among them -- were quick to point that shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were big fans of Marilyn Manson. After Oklahoma City, much was made of the fact that Tim McVeigh had a copy of The Turner Diaries. Hell, people even dissected the fact that Mark David Chapman was carrying a copy of The Catcher in the Rye when he took out John Lennon.

And yet, when we learned of Adkisson's reading list, it simply sat there, all too fittingly like an elephant in the room. If this latest attack turns out to carry similar motives to that of Adkisson, perhaps we should start wondering whether when someone says...

"I tell people don't kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus -- living fossils -- so we will never forget what these people stood for." (Rush Limbaugh)

Or

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building." (Ann Coulter)

Or

"I'll tell you who should be tortured and killed at Guantanamo -- every filthy Democrat in the U.S. Congress." (Sean Hannity)

Or

"To fight only the al-Qaeda scum is to miss the terrorist network operating within our own borders ... Who are these traitors? Every rotten radical left-winger in this country, that's who." (Michael Savage)

... that maybe these statements have some, small effect on some small percentage of listeners. That maybe, just maybe, when Sean Hannity says that Democrats should be tortured and killed, someone might actually take him seriously. We have already decided in this country that free speech, while enjoying a broad reach, ends at yelling fire in a theater. So the only question we have to ask is whether Savage, Hannity and their ilk are yelling fire.

Is it getting hot in here?