By lex, on January 9th, 2011
Six people are dead in Tucson, and a sitting US congresswoman is in critical care after having survived an assassination attempt. This is both a personal tragedy for the families of the victims involved, and a national stain – we’re not long on political assassinations, over here. Getting rid of politicians is what the ballot box is for.
I watched enough of Jared Lee Loughner’s YouTube channel to realize that the kid was just plain nuts. Delusional. Possibly paranoid. Waiting to go off, looking for a reason. Any reason at all might do. Even none.
What are you going to do? Some people are just wired wrong. Drug abuse usually doesn’t help.
But it’s a strange sign of our toxic national discourse that this tragedy has become an additional drop of toxin to the national discourse. It’s Sarah Palin’s fault, e.g. She did it. Or those nasty Tea Baggers, with their hateful rhetoric.
I don’t deny that overheated rhetoric could cause borderline personality types from going over the edge. Like Salon‘s George Packer, I’m just not sure that’s the case here:
Judging from his Internet postings, Jared Lee Loughner is a delusional young man whose inner political landscape is a swamp of dystopian novels, left- and right-wing tracts, conspiracy theories, and contempt for his fellow human beings. He refers to the gold and silver standard; that doesn’t make Ron Paul responsible for the shootings. He is fond of “Animal Farm”; George Orwell didn’t guide the hand that pulled the automatic pistol’s trigger. Marx and Hitler produced a lot of corpses, but not the ones in Tucson.
The kid was just nuts. And he favorited a YouTube video of a US flag being burned. Which is not precisely attuned to the run of the mill Tea Party ethic.
But concede arguendo that Tea Party rhetoric pushed Loughner over the edge: What’s the remedy? Prior constraint on political speech? Um, no. That would be a violation of the First Amendment.
Concede arguendo that Loughner makes an excellent case for gun control: What’s the remedy? Federally administered personality tests? That might run into some Second Amendment challenges.
In sum, the remedies that might keep a few of us safe from the (thankfully quite rare) mentally unhinged could leave the rest of us vulnerable to empowered elites and the career criminal class, which – sadly – are all too common.
Also: Others have noted that our media betters often caution us about leaping to conclusions before the facts are all in. Such as, say: When a US Army major guns down a number of his colleagues shouting “Allah akhbar.” Because might be this had nothing to do with a Koran or faith that – strictly complied with – compels pretty much exactly that sort of behavior. We should wait until all the facts are in. A proper investigation and so on. Cold light of day.
And yet when a Democratic congresswoman suffers an assassination attempt, the media throws such caution to the wind:
“We can’t jump to conclusions,” Army Gen. George Casey said on CNN November 8. The next day, political analyst Mark Halperin urged a “transparent” investigation into the shootings “so the American people don’t jump to conclusions.” And when Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, then the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, suggested that the Ft. Hood attack was terrorism, CNN’s John Roberts was quick to intervene. “Now, President Obama has asked people to be very cautious here and to not jump to conclusions,” Roberts said to Hoekstra. “By saying that you believe this is an act of terror, are you jumping to a conclusion?”
Fast forward a little more than a year, to January 8, 2011. In Tucson, Arizona, a 22 year-old man named Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a political event, gravely wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, killing a federal judge and five others, and wounding 18. In the hours after the attack, little was known about Loughner beyond some bizarre and largely incomprehensible YouTube postings that, if anything, suggested he was mentally ill. Yet the network that had shown such caution in discussing the Ft. Hood shootings openly discussed the possibility that Loughner was inspired to violence by…Sarah Palin. Although there is no evidence that Loughner was in any way influenced by Palin, CNN was filled with speculation about the former Alaska governor.
Haters gotta hate, but you have to wonder: Had it been Sarah Palin who had been shot, would CNN blame Andrew Sullivan, who has long harbored a bizarre obsession and more than cordial antipathy of the former Alaska governor, and her fecund loins?
I sorta doubt it.
What’s happened here has nothing to do with Sarah Palin, the Tea Party or Karl Marx. A drug addled loony finally jumped the fence and, as a result, six people woke up yesterday not knowing that this would be their last day on earth. Many more are injured and face long and painful recoveries. Attempting to score political points over their bodies is not merely unseemly and vulgar.