On Saturday morning, a gunman shot Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords while she was meeting with constituents outside a Safeway store in Tucson, Arizona, and then apparently kept on shooting, leaving six people (including a nine-year-old girl) dead and Rep. Giffords in critical condition.
While the rest of the world was wishing Gifford well, mourning the dead, and denouncing the vitriol that encourages such violence, Travis Corcoran, the president of online comics retailer Heavy Ink, put up a post on his personal blog titled "1 down, 534 to go." Corcoran was, of course, referring to the 535 members of Congress.
It is absolutely, absolutely unacceptable to shoot “indiscriminately”.
Target only politicians and their staff, and leave regular citizens alone.
The post drew swift reaction after Rich Johnston picked it up at Bleeding Cool, along with the first round of outrage on Twitter. While some of Corcoran's longtime readers gave him high fives in the comments of his blog posts, the rest of the world wasn't so sanguine, and Morning Glories creator Nick Spencer specifically asked that Heavy Ink stop carrying his work, saying, "I respect your right to an opinion, but am not personally comfortable doing business with someone who advocates violence against people they disagree with." Gail Simone Tweeted, "@tjic, you have my pity. May you grow a soul someday, because you desperately are in need of one."
Corcoran, who describes himself as an "anarcho-capitalist," confirmed in this thread on the HeavyInk forums that he is indeed the author of the post. He then followed up with a fuller explanation of his politics, including his distaste for laws and government, and why he thinks the U.S. government has overstepped the bounds of the Constitution. While he disavowed armed revolution, he defended his blog post, saying,
I don’t retract my callousness. I dislike Representatives and Senators, and I think that each and every one of them is doing grave harm to the United States, and to the freedoms of the citizens of the US.
As long as they continue to be callous by the laws they pass (and to do massive harm to real people – senior citizens, mothers, fathers, children), I reserve the right to use harsh language towards them.
Corcoran's anarchy/libertarianism isn't that extreme (he believes in limited government), but he has a reflexive dislike of authority. While he disavows violence, he also feels free to say (whether he believes it or not) that elected representatives are doing harm, and therefore it's OK to kill them. This is remarkably indiscriminate on Corcoran's part; one wonders how much he knew about Gifford before he applauded her shooting. Here's one of the comments to the post:
SHE chose to seek out and use the coercive power (force) of the state to compel others to live to a standard they did not seek for themselves.
You know who to avoid being shot by a crazy for being a congressman?
Don’t take the job!
This type of discourse isn't particularly constructive, and it's why I don't bother much with political blogs any more. (The same commenter refers to Giffords repeatedly as a "Commie." You just can't argue with people like that.) Corcoran obviously has a small group of followers who have set up an echo chamber for themselves, and they float around what they obviously think are some pretty heady theories. Until Saturday, no one was paying much attention, and by the end of the week, everyone will have moved on. Despite Spencer's request (which Corcoran is not legally bound to comply with), in six months most people will be left with a vague memory that there was something unsavory about... some guy who was an online retailer.
Most people have enough tact and human understanding not to joke about these things, but Corcoran seems to be missing those traits. It's a free country, and he is welcome to blog about them from a distance, even if what he says shocks our sensibilities.
But if that's his game, someone has already beaten him at it: The Westboro Baptist Church has announced that it will picket the funeral of the little girl who was killed. They have outdone him at his own tactic, elevating a rhetorical point above human decency.
Maybe it's time for everyone to move on.