When critics blamed pro-life partisans for the death of George Tiller, there at least was a coherent connection between the pundits' anti-abortion rhetoric and the assassin's target. Say what you will about Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, but neither is known for railing against the Holocaust museum. If Beck, to borrow Rich's mixed metaphor, is cheering on a kettle, it isn't the kettle that produced James von Brunn.
We've heard ample warnings about extremist paranoia in the months since Barack Obama became president, and we're sure to hear many more throughout his term. But we've heard almost nothing about the paranoia of the political center. When mainstream commentators treat a small group of unconnected crimes as a grand, malevolent movement, they unwittingly echo the very conspiracy theories they denounce. Both brands of connect-the-dots fantasy reflect the tellers' anxieties much more than any order actually emerging in the world.
When such a story is directed at those who oppose the politicians in power, it has an additional effect. The list of dangerous forces that need to be marginalized inevitably expands to include peaceful, legitimate critics.