When I first wrote of how we use words to shape political debate, I was trying to point to the more subtle impact that language has on how we engage issues. I was not trying to assert that words could inspire anyone to acts of violence, though they certainly can.
It is quite likely that the lunatic from Tucson at the center of the debate over extreme political speech might have just as easily targeted any politician, but we're so busy trying to divert or assign blame that we can't look at the bigger picture.
Anyone can make the case that rhetoric inspires violence. The evidence is pretty clear. The issue for me is that the discourse has gotten to the point where we have dehumanized those with whom we disagree. Left or right doesn't matter anymore. When we characterize someone as a baby killer, a Nazi, a communist, fascist or traitor, we make it permissible to make them no more valuable than their politics. To silence the idea, we justify silencing the person.