And so the story appears to grow more and more murky and complicated. A high-school friend tells Mother Jones that Loughner’s mother is/was Jewish; he acted in ways that terrified people in his immediate vicinity in the months before the shootings; he had obsessions with grammar and lucid dreaming and the notion that the world around us is an illusion.
He may, in other words, have found his intellectual solace not in political ideology of any sort but rather in the false-reality fantasies of writers like Philip K. Dick, who all but invented a science-fiction genre about how the powerful have the rest of us living in a dream world in which we are manipulated. The most commercially popular version of this worldview is The Matrix, the 1999 film with Keanu Reeves as a computer hacker who discovers that he and all of humanity are actually trapped in a gigantic machine in which they are serving as energy sources for other machines.
The Dick view was, it turns out, quite literally out of the brain of a paranoid schizophrenic, as biographies of the writer himself reveal. But given that tens of millions have read Dick’s work and probably hundreds of millions of people have seen The Matrix and its sequels, not one frame of The Matrix nor one word in Dick’s hand can be blamed for the fact that they may have deepened one singular individual’s madness. As was true Saturday and as is true today, the villain is not “violent rhetoric” but the diseased and evil brain of Jared Loughner.
I offer some more perspective in today’s New York Post:
His apprehension means we will eventually have a definitive explanation for this act — that it won’t be left to ideologically interested parties to stitch together a politically convenient explanation from a diary entry, a MySpace page, a YouTube video…. Alas, that fact is insufficient or unsatisfying for the chattering classes. Our compulsive hunger always to know first, speak first and decide first has only been amplified by the fact that we can now all participate instantly in a virtual version of a national cocktail-party conversation on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. We must say something, even when we know nothing.