It’s the context, stupid

Debates about violence often turn into debates about individual agency vs structure.  Broadly speaking, the right favour individual responsibility, the left analysing the social.

So do many women die killed by male partners because those men are “feral,” to coin a Michael-Laws-hate-phrase?

Did the September 11th tragedy originate in US foreign policy? 

Even verbal violence is subject to the “one bad apple” vs “something rotten in the orchard” discussion, as Hone Harawira will recognise.

The recent Arizona killing spree in the US is no exception.  The left have drawn attention to how hate-filled and partisan American politics have become.  Since the murders, Sarah Palin’s Facebook page has been deluged with criticism, much of which has been immediately deleted.  Not the comment about the 9 year old killed though:

“It’s ok. Christina Taylor Green was probably going to end up a left wing bleeding heart liberal anyway. Hey, as ‘they’ say, what would you do if you had the chance to kill Hitler as a kid? Exactly.”

Of course I’m coming down in favour of structure when it comes to violence committed by humans, nearly every time.  Individual people choose to do violence, but not in contexts of their choosing.  Guardian super journo Gary Younge, as usual, makes a neat argument:

The connection between this rhetoric and Saturday’s events are not causal but contextual. The shooter was not likely to be acting under direct instructions but in an atmosphere that made such an attack more likely rather than less. Whatever his motives, this was a targetted act of domestic political violence, and that scenario was not only predictable but widely predicted.

Time to go to attempted context changing work. 

RIP Christina Taylor Green and the other most recent victims of US partisan politics.


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