As everyone knows, unless you’ve been living under a rock, our country had a tragic shooting in Tuscon, Arizona on Saturday. Representative Gabby Giffords and several others were shot outside a Safeway during a “Congressman on the Corner” rally. Several of those shot were killed, including a nine year girl and a federal judge.
Much of the attention has moved past the details of the shooting and gunman, Jared Loughner – to the influences and influencers behind it. The mainstream media has anointed Sarah Palin the designate evil puppet master due to her target ridden anti-healthcare bill website graphic. That and the vitriolic rhetoric that has become ubiquitous over the last two years have the Republican guard (excuse the pun, but I had to) spinning … physically and publicly.
Now I’m no Sarah Palin fan. In fact, I believe her ascendancy to the political front has “dumbed down” public discourse to level not seen in decades – since probably the McCarthy witch hunt. But that doesn’t mean I think she to responsible for this atrocity. But I don’t think she’s blameless either.
When someone rises to a level where they have followers – by definition they have people who follow them. With this, comes power and often wealth (however you define it). But with this wealth and power also comes responsibility. I suppose you can lead your herd blindly over the edge of a cliff, and it’ll ultimately be the fault of the lemmings, one can’t discount the responsibility of the influence.
Too often we only focus on the perks of power and influence, without looking at the ramification of possessing them. In a “Perfect World,” if our leaders misused their givings we would just walk away, letting them spew their idioms to the wind, within only the earshot of the delusional. But the last time I checked, the “Perfect World” was still way off on the horizon.
As humans we seem to gravitate towards answers to the unknown. Where we find these answers is where the issue lies. Too often we become products of our environment. And our environment includes the people and messages they relay, often over and over ad nauseam. Continued exposure to these messages, in fact any message that is continually repeated, will result in acceptance. After all … isn’t this what the advertising industry is built on?
We could all hope that we could sit back and under informed circumstances come to rational decisions that will appropriately govern our actions. But again, this is not the “Perfect World.” And in the meantime, those with the followers, those with the messages … the messages our followers take as gospel – must be responsible.
While the message of this post is directed towards the events of Saturday … I think we should extrapolate, and make it ours. If you’re reading this you probably have a group of followers. Whether they friend you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter or just come to the parties you throw in your living room – they listen to what you say. You may not be Sarah Palin, but you still have followers. And some of these followers may act on what you say… or what they perceive you say.
I’m sure Palin had no idea her callous ranting, verbally and graphically, would result in actions like Saturday – and I’m not saying it did, that doesn’t make it any better. All we can do is learn from our mistakes – all of us.
Before we post or Tweet of even jump up on our soapbox in front of our children or friends … let’s think about its effects and not take for granted the influence we may have over the people who listen to us.
Because with an audience, with influence, must come responsibility. For the actions that result from our influence are really just an extension of our own. And are you willing to live with the consequences.
If you’re on Twitter please follow me … there’s cool stuff happening over there too @clayforsberg.