The shooting spree that left six dead and fourteen wounded in Arizona on Saturday was a horrible tragedy involving a very unstable young man. It’s clear that twenty-two year old Jared Loughner, who was allegedly attempting to assassinate Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords, has been deeply disturbed for a long time. As Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik observed: “there is reason to believe he has a mental issue.” Yet, Dupnik and a number of media outlets were not content to stop there. Surely there must be a way to blame conservatives and “right-wing rhetoric” for the tragedy, right? We’ve seen this kind of knee-jerk reaction from the Left before, of course. Like other attempts to make political hay out of tragedy, this one is equally doomed to failure and does little but embarrass the rabble-rousers.
Let’s begin with Jared Lee Loughner’s view of the world, as posted in his YouTube videos. Consider a sampling of his pronouncements:
• “This video is my introduction to you! My favorite activity is conscience dreaming; the greatest inspiration for my political business information.”
• “I can’t trust the current government because of the ratifications: the government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar. No! I won’t pay debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold and silver! No! I won’t trust in god!”
• “I know who’s listening: Government Officials, and the People. Nearly all the people, who don’t know this accurate information of a new currency, aren’t aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn’t have happen.”
• “Hello, I know you’re illiterate! This is the greatest protest for exposure into a wrongful act. The school is breaking the constitution. If you watch the video then you’ll understand. The teachers are taking advantage of you in the first and Fifth Amendment. The United States Constitution, which is the law, can be broken at this school.”
These are not examples of right-wing rhetoric, nor of left-wing rhetoric. These are the paranoid, delusional ravings of a young man who lists both Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto among his favorite books. Yet, that didn’t stop Sherriff Dupnik from claiming that Loughner was motivated by an “atmosphere” that is created when “one party is trying to do something to make this country a better country and the other party is trying to block them.” The Lookout implied that Giffords’ Republican opponent, retired Marine Jesse Kelly, was to blame, because Kelly held a campaign rally last June called “Get on Target for Victory” during which attendees could fire a fully automatic M-16 with the candidate.
Over at the San Francisco Chronicle, “Zennie62” laid the shooting squarely at the feet of the Left’s favorite whipping-girl: Sarah Palin. Apparently Palin’s “don’t retreat, reload” tweet and the fact that the former Alaska governor illustrated targeted district’s using cross-hairs was all that was needed to push Loughner over the edge. “With this, Palin can kiss any Presidential dreams goodbye,” Zennie62 declared, apparently unaware that Democrats have used bull’s-eyes to show battleground districts for years. Even one of the women who helped disarm Loughner blamed the shooting on Republican “job killing bills,” a truly remarkable statement when one considers that Democrats have been in complete control of the federal government for two years.
All of these ludicrous claims are nothing more than the Left trying to exploit a tragedy in order to fulfill their ultimate ambition: to force those annoying voices on the right to shut the hell up. If it can’t be done by reviving the “Fairness Doctrine,” or if “Net Neutrality” doesn’t work, then a violent tragedy is the next best thing. Obviously, this deluded soul was led astray by crazy, right-wing rhetoric. The Left cannot abide conservative or libertarians to begin with, and if someone happens to express such ideas with a bit of passion – which is to say that they express their ideas effectively – progressives seem to lose their minds. Every metaphor, and even the slightest use of hyperbole, becomes monumentally important in their eyes, evidence of the sinister, violent agenda that they are certain bubbles just beneath the surface among Americans who take comfort in God and firearms.
Yet, the fact is that the Left employs the same kind of rhetoric and hyperbole all of the time. It was Barack Obama himself who declared unrestricted war on Republicans, proclaiming that: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun!” The inflammatory “Bushitler” smear was a staple on the Left throughout George W. Bush’s presidency. As Hillbuzz revealed, the Daily Kos recently featured a number of posts that were very critical of Giffords, a Blue Dog Democrat who leans far toward the middle. Giffords’ failure to support Nancy Pelosi for minority leader was viewed as a betrayal by the Kos crowd, leading to repeated use of the word “dead” in relation to Giffords in the 48 hours leading up to the shooting. The critical comments were posted in response to a piece entitled “My CongressWOMAN voted against Nancy Pelosi! And is now DEAD to me!” published on January 6 at the Daily Kos. (The Daily Kos has since “disappeared” the thread, but Hillbuzz has the screen grabs).
Is this thread evidence that the Daily Kos is at fault in the Giffords shooting? Of course not, but blaming Markos Moulitsas for Loughner’s deranged mind makes about as much sense as blaming Sarah Palin. Political discussions are always heated and they always involve heady rhetoric. If anything, American political discourse is more respectful today than it has been since George Washington was president. That doesn’t mean that both sides don’t employ fiery rhetoric in order to appeal to passions and emotions. Both sides do it and we all know it. But any student of history could tell you that today’s political debates are downright gentlemanly compared to those in the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century. The problem now is the same as it has always been: politicians are targets for disenfranchised, delusional crazy people because politicians are public figures. Disenfranchised, delusional crazy people just want to hit back at somebody they believe is “in charge.”
There has been exactly one high-profile political assassination in American history that was influenced by a political party. But for the heated rhetoric and extreme actions championed by a group of Southern Democrats in the middle of the nineteenth century, it’s unlikely that John Wilkes Booth would have been moved to kill the sixteenth president of the United States. With that exception, American political assassins have pretty much met the same profile: loners and losers who blame everything bad that’s happened to them on somebody else and who believe that causing this one high-profile death will change everything. From Charles Guiteau to Lee Harvey Oswald to John Hinkley and beyond, assassins and would-be assassins in this country are always the same sorts of persons. Jared Loughner doesn’t appear to be any different than all the rest. Attempting to pin a political agenda onto his actions is foolish and disingenuous. It’s fear-mongering of the worst kind and both parties – as well as Loughner’s victims – deserve much better.
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