The designation LD-50, short for Lethal Dose for 50% of the population, comes from the intersection of poison and statistics. On any intentional poison, the LD-50 dose will be listed. The famed physician Paracelsus was quoted as saying that nothing is lethal except for dosage, and so we can be killed by anything if we take too much. A woman died last year drinking too much water without going to the bathroom as part of a radio publicity stunt. This is very rare for most people, but babies can die if too much water is in their formula. Among adults, runners after long races have become deathly ill by drinking too much water. Electrolyte drinks like Gatorade are much safer in these situations.
I bring this up with pictures of Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Michael Savage included because of the church shooting in Knoxville, Tennessee last weekend. The shooter, a 58 year old mechanical engineer who was long unemployed and running out of food stamps, shot up a Unitarian church to which his ex-wife belonged because he blamed his problems and all the problems of America on liberals, and where would he find more liberals all in one place in Knoxville than a Unitarian church? Police searching his home found the writings of Hannity, who included liberals as one of the evils in his book Deliver Us From Evil, Savage, who has called liberalism a mental disorder, and O'Reilly, the deluded self-described "moderate" who regularly compares liberal organizations to the Nazis and the Klan.
Let me say here that listening to these people does not make someone crazy by itself, but accepting hatred as entertainment does make people act more aggressively. I think the vast majority of angry people who listen to Sean, Bill and Michael on a regular basis are perfectly happy to go home and beat the wife and kids to take out their aggression, or possibly abuse an elder in their care. But going on a rampage is a very rare thing statistically, and the case in Knoxville is very different from most gun related massacres.
Firstly, the Knoxville shooter is very old for a gun rampager. Most men who do this are much younger, and gun rampages are a male act almost exclusively. There have been female serial killers, but I can't remember any female gun rampagers.
Secondly, most gun rampages are acts of direct revenge on people the shooter blames for his misfortunes, however misguided that sense of fault may be. While loss of employment is a common trigger for these kinds of acts, usually it is very recent unemployment and the target is the former workplace.
So a man 58 years old opens fire on a crowd of strangers because they are liberals, and he gets his ideas from people who get to broadcast that liberals are insane or evil or political thugs every day to millions of people, a throng so accustomed to swimming in this sewage they can't even smell it anymore. It is the particular mental and moral weakness of the radio commentators that they speak always of responsibility, but are completely incapable of taking responsibility for anything they might do that causes harm to anyone else. A recent example of this is O'Reilly getting an apology from Scott McLellan on his show, but refusing to apologize in kind to McLellan for calling him a liar and an idiot. For them, an apology is not an act of contrition. It is a loss of face and the act of the powerless, which they never allow themselves to be.
Getting the blabbers to listen to reason is nearly impossible. Getting their sponsors to listen is somewhat easier. Asking a soap company how many churchgoers do they want to see dead or hospitalized so that company can continue to hold market share is a question decision makers will take seriously. I don't believe this kind of poison can be scrubbed from the marketplace completely; it sells too well, which is true of a lot of products that don't help anybody. But until someone sees there is a price to pay for complicity in this sort of action, these sorts of acts will be repeated. Sponsors are the ones most easily hit and hit in the pocketbook, the place where they will feel it most, and that pain can be transferred to the creeps on the radio, who might actually have to think before they speak from time to time. This would be a great benefit to us and the republic in which we live.
For other takes on this tragedy, read the posts from my blog buddies at Monkey Muck, Jess Wondrun and Chez Namastenancy.