"There is a need for some reflection here: What is too far now? What was too far when Oklahoma City happened is accepted now. There's been a desensitizing. These town halls and cable TV and talk radio, everybody's trying to outdo each other."
Those were the words of an unnamed Republican senator after America's latest shooting rampage, this one a political assassination attempt in Tucson, Ariz. How sad -- and telling - -that the lawmaker refused to attach his or her name to such an important truism.
But as I show in my new newspaper column out today, that is the larger story of the slaughter's aftermath. As conservative pundits spent the week insisting that their violent political rhetoric is somehow unrelated to political violence; as Sarah "Don't Retreat, Reload" Palin scrubbed her website of rifle-sight graphics targeting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords; as right-wing radio hosts sanitized the Tucson shooter as a "lone gunman" rather than a "terrorist" -- in the midst of all this obfuscation, few public figures found the courage to acknowledge truths that so desperately need to be aired.
One of those truths is that media can set societal norms and, thus, can help create conditions for violence -- whether a mass murder in Tucson, an IRS bombing in Austin or any other future massacre. Another less obvious truth is that the new media economy encourages ever more violent vitriol because that's now become the most reliable way to build a following and, thus, generate profit.
As I show in the rest of this newspaper column, this market dynamic influences the media world, including the talk radio industry that I work in. I draw on my own personal experience in that industry as the host of the drive-time show on KKZN-AM760 here in Colorado.
Read the whole column here - and check out this new piece in Denver's Westword magazine about how we announced a big change to our show this morning to try to walk the talk after the horrific events in Tucson.
Follow David Sirota on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidsirota