It's a false choice, as many are now saying, and as Krugman explains today:

It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.

I keep thinking about the case of Seattle hatchet murderer Michael LaRosa, whom I wrote about recently.

He's been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, as many think Loughner to be. He's in his 20s, just like Loughner. He's now charged with murder, just like Loughner.

If there had been loud voices in the culture that merged with, or even endorsed, LaRosa's paranoid delusions (he believed that people were secretly trying to poison him and give him diseases), and if those loud voices in the culture also encouraged violence as a way of dealing with those types of delusions (by speaking of, say, a "hatchet solution" for disease spreaders), then would we not consider that irresponsible, or even dangerous?

This is not to say that freedom of speech should be curtailed so as not to accidentally (or purposefully) set off a mentally unstable person somewhere. It is simply to say that those who speak with louder voices, and from positions of power and authority, have a greater responsibility for considering the impact of their words.

There's an anecdote in a recent Matt Taibbi piece on Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner that makes this point well—and has been making the rounds as a result:

Another Ohio Democrat, Steve Driehaus, clashed repeatedly with Boehner before losing his seat in the midterm elections. After Boehner suggested that by voting for Obamacare, Driehaus "may be a dead man" and "can't go home to the west side of Cincinnati" because "the Catholics will run him out of town," Driehaus began receiving death threats, and a right-wing website published directions to his house. Driehaus says he approached Boehner on the floor and confronted him.

"I didn't think it was funny at all," Driehaus says. "I've got three little kids and a wife. I said to him, 'John, this is bullshit, and way out of bounds. For you to say something like that is wildly irresponsible.'"

Driehaus is quick to point out that he doesn't think Boehner meant to urge anyone to violence. "But it's not about what he intended — it's about how the least rational person in my district takes it. We run into some crazy people in this line of work."

Driehaus says Boehner was "taken aback" when confronted on the floor, but never actually said he was sorry: "He said something along the lines of, 'You know that's not what I meant.' But he didn't apologize."