Perhaps the only thing left to be said about the Jan. 9 shootings in Tucson is that so much of the early speculation now appears to have been reckless, groundless and wrong.

The strength of the 24/7 TV news networks has always been their ability to quickly focus resources on a breaking national story. That works well when they have a tornado, snowstorm, hurricane or flood to cover.

But in some cases, like the Tucson shootings, the facts available simply could not fill the time allotted, even when they were repeatedly endless. The audience suddenly had a huge appetite for news, and the networks only had factual crumbs to offer.

When that happens, reporters begin interviewing other reporters. One TV reporter suddenly assumes the role of expert, while the other asks him or her questions, opening the door to all sorts of speculation.

And the big question was simple: Why? Why would this young man attack a crowd of people?

Unfortunately, the big answer to that question simply was not available. But that didn’t stop the media from speculating.

In this case, attention quickly focused on the climate of hate speech in politics, namely the things said by Republicans and tea party candidates during the last election campaign.

Sarah Palin in particular found herself in the media cross hairs for a map  showing gun sights targeting various congressional races, including the seat held by one of the victims, Gabrielle Giffords.

The obvious implication was that the assassin either was, or may have been, motivated by Palin’s map.

Ten days later, we know quite a bit more about Jared Loughner than we did in the hours and days following the shooting.

His friends have been quizzed by reporters, and his website and blog postings have been thoroughly analyzed.

In all of that, there is nothing linking Sarah Palin or, for that matter, political hate speech, to the crime.

What emerges instead is a picture of an angry, incoherent loner who thought the government was trying to control us through the rules of grammar. In short, a person disconnected from reality, living in a hallucinatory world.

Palin responded several days after the shooting in her own defense with an eight-minute video calling the accusations a “blood libel,” most likely echoing a headline in the Wall Street Journal that used the same words.

In both references her meaning was clear — she felt she had been falsely accused of having blood on her hands.

Instead of focusing on the possible truth of that statement, media attention turned instead to an obscure historical slur involving Jews.

So, Palin went from motivating a killer to supposedly attacking Jews, completely bypassing the point that she seemed to be correct that there was apparently no connection between her map and Jared Loughner.

Perhaps as the investigation moves forward, more information will come to light. Perhaps it will even involve Sarah Palin.

Until then, the lesson for politicians seems to be to tone down the rhetoric, which they seem to be doing.

It is unlikely the media has drawn its lesson from the crisis, to resist speculating in the midst of a crisis.

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