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Jared Loughner: Politically Independent (of Reality) Murderer

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 12:00 PM

While we have learned more about Jared Loughner, the emerging picture still has giant gaps in it. Among other things, we really don't know where this guy fits into the spectrum of political belief.

Of course, this doesn't stop the partisan hacksphere from filling those gaps in with what they'd like to see there.

One thing we do have evidence of is that he was a left winger...in high school. I haven't seen any clear evidence that he's been active with any left wing groups, or even that his views have stayed that way, over the last few years. Right wing bloggers and tweeters are all aflutter pointing out that he listed one of his favorite books as The Communist Manifesto, as if you must be a lefty to enjoy it.

One of my favorite books is Ayn Rand's Anthem, so does that make me a libertarian?

Of course not. But for some really extreme ideological purists, even Plato's Republic, which describes an ideal governmental system that makes communism seem downright lax in its control over peoples' lives, is not worthy of praise because it doesn't tow the ideological line. Some of these people go to great lengths to avoid even coming into contact with those who disagree with them, making it easier to dehumanize their opponents and think of them as enemies, rather than fellow Americans who happen to disagree with them politically.

Moving on to the other side of the coin...as much as those on the left would have it be otherwise, there has been no evidence of this guy having anything to do with the Tea Party. Those who are pushing this meme have filled in the gaps of our knowledge with their own stereotypical assumptions. They're ignoring conflicting reports, like his videos of flag burning, and tunneling in on things like his libertarian-esque video railing against modern monetary policy.

If I were a centrist version of those who are pushing the above nonsense, I'd probably be looking for ways to explain away the fact that the guy is a registered independent. There is a cheeky tweet making the rounds on twitter that makes light of this false conundrum, jokingly asking whether No Labels should now be blamed for this, like Sarah Palin and company have been by the netroots mob.

The sentiment there is right on the money. Its absurd that any single attribute of a murderer should stain a whole segment who share that attribute with them. Had he been a registered member of a party it would have made no more sense to condemn that party because of his actions than it would have to condem all agnostics because of Timothy McVeigh's act of domestic terrorism.

As much as I despise the influence some partisan talking heads have on our politics, it is unfair to judge their words based on how a clearly disturbed man may or may not have been influenced by them as he plotted homicide. That it is in no way clear that he fits into any faction makes it even more perplexing that so many people are going to such great lengths to do just that.

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Comments [9]

Brownell from Manhattan

Regarding the "causation" of the Tucson massacre, the important thing for me was not Jared Loughner's particular take on politics, but what kind of motive he acted on, and where the resulting hysteria has come from. The killer's writings (from what I could see) were bits of this and that, with a reading list across all spectra. However, without being hysterical, let's admit that there were recurring political themes in his incoherent rants, namely hatred of government, violent rhetoric, an anti-abortion fixation, lack of empathy for "others" and a vision of freedom that omitted individual expression as a "freedom." Plus the pictures of his gun. Now, does it seem crazy to associate these themes, no matter how insanely expressed, as close to current themes on the far right?

Also, I'm not sure what can conclusively be called political or not political. How do we know that the killer's motives were political, or not? Mass murders seem usually to be a matter of a disgruntled employee shooting up a former workplace, or a lone-wolf student opening fire at schoolmates. It's fair to call those events apolitical, but an unstable constituent who has slight-but-hostile acquaintance with his Congresswoman, who refers to her specifically in planning his massacre, who approaches her in public and fires point-blank at her face?? That could very reasonably be conjectured as a political act - possibly, but not something to be rejected out of hand.

Next, who were the hysterical screamers? I followed most of the cable TV stuff, particularly MSNBC, NPR and CNN. The cross-hairs graphic and quote from Rep. Giffords about violent rhetoric having consequences were repeated A LOT, almost continuously - but not hysterically. Plus it happens to be true that frequent references to guns and killing can have consequences on what Pres. Clinton called the hinged and the unhinged. Specifically, I never heard one person, not even Keith Olberman, state that violent rhetoric from right-wing politicos CAUSED any particular act of violence, just that irresponsible speech can have unforeseen effects.

So compare that with the tone and coherence of the right-wing deniers. THAT is what can safely be called hysteria.

No, dears, the "left" is not persecuting the true conservative Americans. It's just another example of culture warriors fanning the flames to keep their base feeling angry and put upon. Only this time they were demeaning a genuinely important and troubling event with their vitriol.

Jan. 20 2011 11:34 AM
Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

Well said Nick.

Jan. 11 2011 10:05 PM
Nick from Jersey

Solomon, good take on the issue. I have to say that when these events happen, it really upsets me, especially when a 9 year old girl is killed. At first, yesterday actually, I was really pointing my finger and getting red in the face with the Glen Beck's, Palins, and O Reilly types of the world. If you really think about it though, you can't blame them. As much as I want to be able to totally discredit them, and laugh at their absymal demise, I can't do it yet. Unfortunately, these guys have every right to say whatever they want however they want. Unless they specifically order someone to assassinate or murder a politician or any other person they are not guilty of a crime and therefore should not be held responsible. It reminds me of blaming musicians for suicide, or video games for urban violence. That doesn't work! And the argument that the far-right, albeit wrong and useless, are responsible for this GG and the others getting shot unfortunately doesn't work either. I do agree though that Palin and/or Beck should say something at least remotely sympathetic, to show that they aren't Demon Spores from Hell.

Jan. 11 2011 08:25 PM
Rob W from Levittown, NY

I agree with the anti-gun sentiment. Of course, i don't think any civilians should be trusted with weapons outside of hunting facilities, and when they leave those facilities they should be required to leave their guns behind.

Speaking as a mental patient, the books he chose to read could be an indication of who he thought he was supposed to be linked to. I have had paranoid psychotic thoughts that i was hitler sent to restart life as a youngster, not that i had murderous tendencies only that i was sent to start over and try life again as kind of a punishment, some kind of bizarre science experiment with life and the core of what makes a person a person. I could've been led to read, or claim to have read a lot of things, whether or not i understood them or truly cared about them. I once claimed to have done a lot of drugs too, as an example, but i've only touched marijuana once and i honestly couldn't figure out how to breathe it in so i gave up quickly.

The people who claim the constitution gives us a right to guns should question why slavery was left out of the reading of the constitution despite it being in the document when they read it in congress last week. Obviously some things in the original document changed over time, and that should not only include slavery but should also include the right to 'bear arms'.

Jan. 11 2011 07:11 PM
Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

@artista - I'm not ideological, since I don't have a system of belief (which is what an ideology is), but I'm just as opinionated as anyone else and I'm not saying or implying that I'm not, much less that I'm somehow "above" ideology. I just happen not to agree with any of them.

I really do love the whole false equivilency thing that the left is so fond of. For one, I didn't say you're the same... I pointed out something they did that I didn't like, and then something similar that you did that I didn't like. Secondly... do you REALLY think that an argument that boils down to "THEY'RE CRAZIER THAN US!!!" is going to cause people who think both sides are wrong to come to you?!? I think the left is more wrong on some things, and the right is more wrong on others, and my experience working with folks on both sides has shown just as many nuts in both camps (and plenty in the center too by the way).

@Jack Johnson - You may be right. Will be interesting to see how exactly he got that particular gun, those clips, etc... the biggest silver lining may come in the form of looking at how to develop a system that would make it possible for psychological professionals to flag people exhibiting dangerous psychological behavior (which this guy had) being put on lists where they can't buy guns.

Jan. 11 2011 03:52 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Well, I think one fact is undeniable.

If George Bush and the GOP had not let the Assault Weapons and High Capacity Magazine ban expire in 2004, the shooter would have had to stop and reload at 15 shots rather than 30. The VA Tech shooter would have done less damage, too. If we can't amend the Constitution to control handgun ownership, we can at least cut down on the carnage.

Jan. 11 2011 02:47 PM
Joe Gould from NYC

The media, particularly the shock jocks on radio, which have been pinpointed for their incendiary and harsh language, deny any responsibility for the tragedy in Tucson. They claim that they had no role in it. They claim that Mr. Loughner is mentally ill and did not act with a political purpose.

If the right-wing jingoists are correct, just whom do they think they are persuading with their rant? If not those with singularly less than admirable analytical skills, to what audience do they think their caustic demagoguery appeals?

Jan. 11 2011 02:14 PM
artista

PS
referring to the HACKSPHERE does you no credit.
it's a schoolyard tactic at best.

Jan. 11 2011 01:38 PM
artista from brooklyn

I am afraid your understanding of ideology and political climate is blinkered at best. You imagine that you are above ideology— you seem unable to recognize that what you espouse is as fully ideological as any other position. Calling people hacks & pretending that "left" and "right" bloggers, spokespersons, etc., are comparable and thus equally deserving of a pox is not only silly and intellectually barren, it is a favorite position of the media, including the ever-triangulating Matt Bai, to avoid having to do any serious thinking or putting oneself on the line. I'll go with Krugman on this issue, and the caller the other day who talked about the period preceding the assassination of Rabin in Israel.
I'm afraid you have added absolutely nothing to a consideration on how rhetorical climates form a universe of delusions for the delusion-prone—do you think psychotics in every country form delusions with the same content? The exigent language of eliminationism comes solely from powerful & publicly supoprted figures on the Right.
Loughner's adoption of fringe delusions does not "stain" their ideologies or favorite books so much as it "stains" those rhetorical excesses.

Jan. 11 2011 01:30 PM

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