Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jared Loughner

Loughner’s Conspiracy-Theory Obsession

Byron York has a fascinating analysis of Jared Loughner’s obsession with the conspiracy-theory-themed Internet movie Zeitgeist, which friends say the accused shooter watched continually.

The movie is apparently made up of three parts. The first “debunks” organized religion, which is allegedly used as mind-control for the masses. The second claims that the Sept. 11 attacks were staged, in order to create an excuse to wage “constant global warfare.” And the third part alleges that greedy bankers were behind the Sept. 11 attacks:

The third and final part of the documentary is titled “Don’t Mind the Men Behind the Curtain.” Those men are central bankers and currency manipulators, the “invisible government” that controls our lives.

In the early 20th century, according to “Zeitgeist,” “ruthless banking interests” held a secret meeting to create the Federal Reserve system. The goal, beyond enriching themselves, was to debase American currency and reduce the United States to the “slavery” of ever-increasing debt. Anyone who has even sampled kooky speculations about the Fed will recognize this as very old stuff, repackaged with amateurish digital effects.

This is, indeed, repackaged old stuff. The same paranoid ramblings that have been found in anti-Semitic “New World Order” conspiracy theories for over a century.

And while you’d guess that a film like this would be popular only with the fringes of society, it actually seems to have made inroads as a political movement with some fairly mainstream progressives. The “Zeitgeist Movement,” which was created in 2007 and marketed as a progressive “sustainable living” campaign, had reportedly garnered over 300,000 registered followers as of last March. At the time, Travis Walter Donovan, the associate green editor of the Huffington Post, wrote a laudatory article about the movement that made it sound positively utopian.

According to Donovan, the Zeitgeist Movement promotes a “resource-based economy,” which means that “the world’s resources would be considered as the equal inheritance of all the world’s peoples, and would be managed as efficiently and carefully as possible through focusing on the technological potential of sustainable development.”

Donovan concluded his article with this glowing paragraph:

The members of The Zeitgeist Movement seem to face an intimidating wall of those who decree their goals as unattainable. But with 250 international chapters forming in just one year and the membership count rapidly growing, it’s undeniable that many easily identify with the message. The evidence shows that our current system is leading us on a collision course; our present model of society cannot sustain itself. While some deny this, others ignore it, and there are those who still try to profit off of it. The Zeitgeist Movement highlights that there are individuals who believe in a sustainable future where humanity is not united by religious or political ideology, but by the scientific method, venerated as the savior that can develop a system of human equality, thriving from the cooperation and balance of technology and nature.

So, basically, it’s socialism with a couple of “green” words thrown in. And also that New World Order stuff. Sounds like a safe combination to me.

And since this subject has been so hotly politicized, I just want to add that I’m not accusing the Zeitgeist Movement, progressives, the Huffington Post, or any other group of having any sort of influence on the shooting. Despite the misguided and troubling politics of Zeitgeist, it’s clear that the movement is not one that preaches violence, so it would be unfair and erroneous to blame it for the attack.

Byron York has a fascinating analysis of Jared Loughner’s obsession with the conspiracy-theory-themed Internet movie Zeitgeist, which friends say the accused shooter watched continually.

The movie is apparently made up of three parts. The first “debunks” organized religion, which is allegedly used as mind-control for the masses. The second claims that the Sept. 11 attacks were staged, in order to create an excuse to wage “constant global warfare.” And the third part alleges that greedy bankers were behind the Sept. 11 attacks:

The third and final part of the documentary is titled “Don’t Mind the Men Behind the Curtain.” Those men are central bankers and currency manipulators, the “invisible government” that controls our lives.

In the early 20th century, according to “Zeitgeist,” “ruthless banking interests” held a secret meeting to create the Federal Reserve system. The goal, beyond enriching themselves, was to debase American currency and reduce the United States to the “slavery” of ever-increasing debt. Anyone who has even sampled kooky speculations about the Fed will recognize this as very old stuff, repackaged with amateurish digital effects.

This is, indeed, repackaged old stuff. The same paranoid ramblings that have been found in anti-Semitic “New World Order” conspiracy theories for over a century.

And while you’d guess that a film like this would be popular only with the fringes of society, it actually seems to have made inroads as a political movement with some fairly mainstream progressives. The “Zeitgeist Movement,” which was created in 2007 and marketed as a progressive “sustainable living” campaign, had reportedly garnered over 300,000 registered followers as of last March. At the time, Travis Walter Donovan, the associate green editor of the Huffington Post, wrote a laudatory article about the movement that made it sound positively utopian.

According to Donovan, the Zeitgeist Movement promotes a “resource-based economy,” which means that “the world’s resources would be considered as the equal inheritance of all the world’s peoples, and would be managed as efficiently and carefully as possible through focusing on the technological potential of sustainable development.”

Donovan concluded his article with this glowing paragraph:

The members of The Zeitgeist Movement seem to face an intimidating wall of those who decree their goals as unattainable. But with 250 international chapters forming in just one year and the membership count rapidly growing, it’s undeniable that many easily identify with the message. The evidence shows that our current system is leading us on a collision course; our present model of society cannot sustain itself. While some deny this, others ignore it, and there are those who still try to profit off of it. The Zeitgeist Movement highlights that there are individuals who believe in a sustainable future where humanity is not united by religious or political ideology, but by the scientific method, venerated as the savior that can develop a system of human equality, thriving from the cooperation and balance of technology and nature.

So, basically, it’s socialism with a couple of “green” words thrown in. And also that New World Order stuff. Sounds like a safe combination to me.

And since this subject has been so hotly politicized, I just want to add that I’m not accusing the Zeitgeist Movement, progressives, the Huffington Post, or any other group of having any sort of influence on the shooting. Despite the misguided and troubling politics of Zeitgeist, it’s clear that the movement is not one that preaches violence, so it would be unfair and erroneous to blame it for the attack.

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Is Loughner Insane or Evil?

Over at Politico, Roger Simon has written a thought-provoking column about the descriptions of Jared Loughner in the media. News outlets have rushed to label Loughner as “insane” — but whatever happened to “evil”?

From Politico:

We know that anybody who guns down innocent people or sticks dead bodies under his house or eats them has got to be crazy, for pity’s sake.

And we believe that because we do not want to believe, as our ancestors believed, in evil. Evil is even more frightening than madness. Madness can be treated. All we need is early intervention and clinics and more resources devoted to the problem.

Simon argues that evil has “been medicalized into insanity. But only up to a certain point. There seems to be a correlation between the number of people you kill and whether you are called insane or evil.”

Loughner allegedly kills six and is insane.

Adolf Hitler kills more than 6 million, and he is evil. The same is true for Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung. We don’t say they needed the intervention of community health clinics; we say they were the ultimate examples of evil on Earth because they murdered tens of millions of people.

Is the difference just numbers, however? You kill a certain number of people and you are nuts, but you cross the line and kill more and you are evil? Is that how it really works?

Or, in our modern times, are we embarrassed by the term “evil”? To some, it seems too primitive or too religious or both.

And we would much rather believe that all sick people can be cured by medical intervention.

Because that is a lot less scary than believing that evil walks among us.

I agree that there is a cultural squeamishness about using the term “evil.” Society has become infused with a notion of moral relativity, and “evil” is a moralistic word with religious connotations that seem archaic.

The concept of evil is most distasteful to the political left. President George W. Bush was excoriated for using the phrase “axis of evil” and framing the global war on terror as a fight between good and evil. President Obama has notably shied away from using that type of rhetoric to describe our enemies.

Obviously there are people whose minds are so deranged that they commit heinous acts without realizing they are doing something wrong (think Norman Bates’s character in the movie Psycho). But there is a difference between Bates and a murderer like Ted Bundy, who understood that his actions were unconscionable and tried to cover them up. Bundy may have been crazy, but he was also evil — it’s definitely possible to be both, and the two are often found together.

The question of whether Loughner is insane or evil will be decided in a court of law. But, as Simon notes, it’s interesting that many media outlets have already made up their mind.

Over at Politico, Roger Simon has written a thought-provoking column about the descriptions of Jared Loughner in the media. News outlets have rushed to label Loughner as “insane” — but whatever happened to “evil”?

From Politico:

We know that anybody who guns down innocent people or sticks dead bodies under his house or eats them has got to be crazy, for pity’s sake.

And we believe that because we do not want to believe, as our ancestors believed, in evil. Evil is even more frightening than madness. Madness can be treated. All we need is early intervention and clinics and more resources devoted to the problem.

Simon argues that evil has “been medicalized into insanity. But only up to a certain point. There seems to be a correlation between the number of people you kill and whether you are called insane or evil.”

Loughner allegedly kills six and is insane.

Adolf Hitler kills more than 6 million, and he is evil. The same is true for Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung. We don’t say they needed the intervention of community health clinics; we say they were the ultimate examples of evil on Earth because they murdered tens of millions of people.

Is the difference just numbers, however? You kill a certain number of people and you are nuts, but you cross the line and kill more and you are evil? Is that how it really works?

Or, in our modern times, are we embarrassed by the term “evil”? To some, it seems too primitive or too religious or both.

And we would much rather believe that all sick people can be cured by medical intervention.

Because that is a lot less scary than believing that evil walks among us.

I agree that there is a cultural squeamishness about using the term “evil.” Society has become infused with a notion of moral relativity, and “evil” is a moralistic word with religious connotations that seem archaic.

The concept of evil is most distasteful to the political left. President George W. Bush was excoriated for using the phrase “axis of evil” and framing the global war on terror as a fight between good and evil. President Obama has notably shied away from using that type of rhetoric to describe our enemies.

Obviously there are people whose minds are so deranged that they commit heinous acts without realizing they are doing something wrong (think Norman Bates’s character in the movie Psycho). But there is a difference between Bates and a murderer like Ted Bundy, who understood that his actions were unconscionable and tried to cover them up. Bundy may have been crazy, but he was also evil — it’s definitely possible to be both, and the two are often found together.

The question of whether Loughner is insane or evil will be decided in a court of law. But, as Simon notes, it’s interesting that many media outlets have already made up their mind.

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RE: The Unraveling of Seymour Hersh

Following up on Pete Wehner’s item about Sy Hersh: it’s hardly news that Hersh has, to put it mildly, a peculiar view of the world. Back in 2005, in this Los Angeles Times column, I wrote that Hersh is

the journalistic equivalent of Oliver Stone: a hard-left zealot who subscribes to the old counterculture conceit that a deep, dark conspiracy is running the U.S. government. In the 1960s the boogeyman was the “military-industrial complex.” Now it’s the “neoconservatives.” “They overran the bureaucracy, they overran the Congress, they overran the press, and they overran the military!” Hersh ranted at UC Berkeley on Oct. 8, 2004.

Hersh doesn’t make any bones about his bias. “Bush scares the hell out of me,” he said. He told a group in Washington, “I’m a better American than 99% of the guys in the White House,” who are “nuts” and “ideologues.” In another speech he called Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft “demented.” Hersh has also compared what happened at Abu Ghraib with Nazi Germany. (Were American MPs gassing inmates?) He has claimed that since 2001 a “secret unit” of the U.S. government “has been disappearing people just like the Brazilians and Argentinians did.” And in his lectures he has spread the legend of how a U.S. Army platoon was supposedly ordered to execute 30 Iraqis guarding a granary.

Similar nuttiness comes pouring out every time Hersh opens his mouth in public. His most recent speech, as Pete noted, was in Doha, where he made the rather imaginative charges that the Knights of Malta and Opus Dei run the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and that Vice President Cheney had a plan to “change mosques into cathedrals” in Iraq. For wisdom like that, you normally have to turn to the likes of Jared Loughner. Not that Hersh is about to spray anyone with gunfire. What he does instead is spray venomous accusations around.

That, I suppose, is his prerogative. But what on earth is a supposedly reputable magazine like the New Yorker (to which I am, I admit, a subscriber) doing keeping him on its payroll? Shouldn’t Hersh’s rantings be limited to blogs and Twitter, where he would have plenty of company among the conspiracy crowd?

Following up on Pete Wehner’s item about Sy Hersh: it’s hardly news that Hersh has, to put it mildly, a peculiar view of the world. Back in 2005, in this Los Angeles Times column, I wrote that Hersh is

the journalistic equivalent of Oliver Stone: a hard-left zealot who subscribes to the old counterculture conceit that a deep, dark conspiracy is running the U.S. government. In the 1960s the boogeyman was the “military-industrial complex.” Now it’s the “neoconservatives.” “They overran the bureaucracy, they overran the Congress, they overran the press, and they overran the military!” Hersh ranted at UC Berkeley on Oct. 8, 2004.

Hersh doesn’t make any bones about his bias. “Bush scares the hell out of me,” he said. He told a group in Washington, “I’m a better American than 99% of the guys in the White House,” who are “nuts” and “ideologues.” In another speech he called Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft “demented.” Hersh has also compared what happened at Abu Ghraib with Nazi Germany. (Were American MPs gassing inmates?) He has claimed that since 2001 a “secret unit” of the U.S. government “has been disappearing people just like the Brazilians and Argentinians did.” And in his lectures he has spread the legend of how a U.S. Army platoon was supposedly ordered to execute 30 Iraqis guarding a granary.

Similar nuttiness comes pouring out every time Hersh opens his mouth in public. His most recent speech, as Pete noted, was in Doha, where he made the rather imaginative charges that the Knights of Malta and Opus Dei run the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and that Vice President Cheney had a plan to “change mosques into cathedrals” in Iraq. For wisdom like that, you normally have to turn to the likes of Jared Loughner. Not that Hersh is about to spray anyone with gunfire. What he does instead is spray venomous accusations around.

That, I suppose, is his prerogative. But what on earth is a supposedly reputable magazine like the New Yorker (to which I am, I admit, a subscriber) doing keeping him on its payroll? Shouldn’t Hersh’s rantings be limited to blogs and Twitter, where he would have plenty of company among the conspiracy crowd?

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Was It Time or Bias that Caused the Media to Slant the Story?

Since Daniel Okrent left the post, the men who have served as the public editor of the New York Times haven’t caused much trouble for the journalists they are supposed to be monitoring. That has certainly been true of Arthur Brisbane, the latest to sit in that seat. However, when confronted with a colossal case of journalistic malpractice, even a Brisbane can’t ignore it. Thus, Brisbane was forced to address the fact that, like much of the mainstream media, the Times‘s coverage of the Arizona tragedy led with and assumed that the shooting was the result of conservative incitement, which would lead to serious political repercussions.

Unfortunately, Brisbane’s analysis of the Times coverage ignores the real problems while focusing on the one element that journalists have always had to deal with: time. Brisbane seems to think that the Times’s initial report that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was dead was terrible. It was an error but one that was an understandable result of a chaotic situation. Brisbane is more forgiving of the bigger mistake: “The Times’s day-one coverage in some of its Sunday print editions included a strong focus on the political climate in Arizona and the nation. For some readers — and I share this view to an extent — placing the violence in the broader political context was problematic.”

While he rightly deplores the instinctive decision of both reporters and editors to “frame” the Arizona shooting as an event that was a direct result of conservative dissent against the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress, Brisbane still thinks there “were some good reasons to steer the coverage in this direction.” But the only “good reason” he cites is the assumption that any violence directed at a politician must be the result of the fact that a lot of people disagree with her policies.

Brisbane acknowledges that a better focus of the Times coverage would have been one that highlighted the fact that the shooter was mentally ill. Yet he blames the false assumptions that caused the newspaper to “frame” all its coverage around a false belief that this was a political event for which conservatives must pay on the lack of time. But that is no excuse. Journalists never have enough time. But that’s no reason to take an event and shoehorn it into a fabricated story line that is based on the delegitimization of those who espouse political views that the Times opposes. Read More

Since Daniel Okrent left the post, the men who have served as the public editor of the New York Times haven’t caused much trouble for the journalists they are supposed to be monitoring. That has certainly been true of Arthur Brisbane, the latest to sit in that seat. However, when confronted with a colossal case of journalistic malpractice, even a Brisbane can’t ignore it. Thus, Brisbane was forced to address the fact that, like much of the mainstream media, the Times‘s coverage of the Arizona tragedy led with and assumed that the shooting was the result of conservative incitement, which would lead to serious political repercussions.

Unfortunately, Brisbane’s analysis of the Times coverage ignores the real problems while focusing on the one element that journalists have always had to deal with: time. Brisbane seems to think that the Times’s initial report that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was dead was terrible. It was an error but one that was an understandable result of a chaotic situation. Brisbane is more forgiving of the bigger mistake: “The Times’s day-one coverage in some of its Sunday print editions included a strong focus on the political climate in Arizona and the nation. For some readers — and I share this view to an extent — placing the violence in the broader political context was problematic.”

While he rightly deplores the instinctive decision of both reporters and editors to “frame” the Arizona shooting as an event that was a direct result of conservative dissent against the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress, Brisbane still thinks there “were some good reasons to steer the coverage in this direction.” But the only “good reason” he cites is the assumption that any violence directed at a politician must be the result of the fact that a lot of people disagree with her policies.

Brisbane acknowledges that a better focus of the Times coverage would have been one that highlighted the fact that the shooter was mentally ill. Yet he blames the false assumptions that caused the newspaper to “frame” all its coverage around a false belief that this was a political event for which conservatives must pay on the lack of time. But that is no excuse. Journalists never have enough time. But that’s no reason to take an event and shoehorn it into a fabricated story line that is based on the delegitimization of those who espouse political views that the Times opposes.

It wasn’t time that caused the editors at the Times and other broadcast media to falsely accuse conservatives of inciting the shooter; it was their own very obvious political bias. Like the pundits who write on the paper’s op-ed page who have continued to link the crime to politics, even after President Obama urged his followers to stop doing so, the paper’s news editors live in a world where conservative opinions simply aren’t legitimate. Indeed, on the same page where Brisbane’s apologia for the paper appears was a column by Frank Rich that again sought to falsely link Palin to the shooting. Rich spoke of the widespread public anger against the Obama administration’s policies as a violent “insurrection” that threatens the rule of law rather than a grassroots movement that led to an overwhelming Republican victory at the polls last November. Like so many other liberals, Rich thinks it doesn’t matter than Jared Loughner was insane. As far as he is concerned, those who oppose the Democrats are still responsible, even though Rich has produced as much “hate” of President Bush and the Republicans as even the most rabid conservative talk-radio hosts have of Obama.

It is noteworthy that Brisbane even bothered to notice how badly his newspaper got the story wrong. But until he addresses the political bias that was the primary cause of that error, accountability at the Times is still not in the cards.

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The Civility Non Sequitur

A week’s worth of talk about civility is very nice. We should be more civil toward each other. There’s little more depressing in life than the incivility of much public discourse. But if you take five seconds to think about it, what happened in Tucson had nothing whatever to do with unmannerly misbehavior. Quite the opposite: the morning’s events gave ample evidence of humankind’s ability to hear the immediate call to greatness, as in Daniel Hernandez’s heroic salvation of Gabrielle Giffords’s life and how Dorwan Stoddard gave his life to shield his wife, Mavanelle, from Jared Loughner’s spray of bullet fire.

Thus, as we continue to gather more evidence of Loughner’s schizophrenia, the continuing rhetorical calls for the need for “civility” are now turning into nothing less than cover. They’re a dodge, a means by which those responsible for the slanderous accusation that somehow the Tea Party and Sarah Palin and the right were responsible for the massacre have been excused for hurling their grievously unjust charge. For, you see, they were only calling for a “new tone,” for “civility,” and who could be against those?

A week’s worth of talk about civility is very nice. We should be more civil toward each other. There’s little more depressing in life than the incivility of much public discourse. But if you take five seconds to think about it, what happened in Tucson had nothing whatever to do with unmannerly misbehavior. Quite the opposite: the morning’s events gave ample evidence of humankind’s ability to hear the immediate call to greatness, as in Daniel Hernandez’s heroic salvation of Gabrielle Giffords’s life and how Dorwan Stoddard gave his life to shield his wife, Mavanelle, from Jared Loughner’s spray of bullet fire.

Thus, as we continue to gather more evidence of Loughner’s schizophrenia, the continuing rhetorical calls for the need for “civility” are now turning into nothing less than cover. They’re a dodge, a means by which those responsible for the slanderous accusation that somehow the Tea Party and Sarah Palin and the right were responsible for the massacre have been excused for hurling their grievously unjust charge. For, you see, they were only calling for a “new tone,” for “civility,” and who could be against those?

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Of Loughner and Philip K. Dick and Me

A few days ago, I speculated that, based on some things said about him by high-school friends, Jared Loughner was more likely to have been influenced by the world view of the brilliant but schizophrenic science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick than he would have been by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. For this observation, a writer at the Atlantic said my theory was one of the five strangest suggested about Loughner, along with David Frum’s speculation that marijuana might have had something to do with his behavior.

Well, shut my mouth. Except that, in a long Washington Post story about Loughner’s descent into fantasy, there appears this passage:

Loughner’s favorite writer was Philip K. Dick, whose science-fiction tales travel a mystical path in which omnipotent governments and businesses are the bad guys and the average man is often lost in an identity-shattering swirl of paranoia, schizophrenia and questions about whether the universe and the individual are real or part of some vast conspiracy.

The point I was making is not that readers of Philip K. Dick, of whom there are many millions, are going to go out and shoot people. It’s that people who live in a disordered reality would be especially susceptible to a portrait of the world that suggests disordered realities are real and actual realities are false. That this notion seemed less plausible to many than that Loughner was driven to a murder spree by talk radio says a great deal about the reality distortions that grabbed hold of the minds of eager liberals over the past six days.

A few days ago, I speculated that, based on some things said about him by high-school friends, Jared Loughner was more likely to have been influenced by the world view of the brilliant but schizophrenic science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick than he would have been by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. For this observation, a writer at the Atlantic said my theory was one of the five strangest suggested about Loughner, along with David Frum’s speculation that marijuana might have had something to do with his behavior.

Well, shut my mouth. Except that, in a long Washington Post story about Loughner’s descent into fantasy, there appears this passage:

Loughner’s favorite writer was Philip K. Dick, whose science-fiction tales travel a mystical path in which omnipotent governments and businesses are the bad guys and the average man is often lost in an identity-shattering swirl of paranoia, schizophrenia and questions about whether the universe and the individual are real or part of some vast conspiracy.

The point I was making is not that readers of Philip K. Dick, of whom there are many millions, are going to go out and shoot people. It’s that people who live in a disordered reality would be especially susceptible to a portrait of the world that suggests disordered realities are real and actual realities are false. That this notion seemed less plausible to many than that Loughner was driven to a murder spree by talk radio says a great deal about the reality distortions that grabbed hold of the minds of eager liberals over the past six days.

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What Loughner’s Mental State Will Mean for His Trial

As more information trickles out to the media about the private life of Jared Loughner, it’s become apparent how severely unhinged and divorced from reality he was. Charles Krauthammer, a certified psychiatrist, noted yesterday that Loughner fits the textbook description of a paranoid schizophrenic, and he wasn’t the first commentator to reach that conclusion.

But what exactly will Loughner’s mental state mean for his trial? And how much of a chance is there that he’ll get a reduced sentence or not-guilty verdict by reason of insanity?

After John Hinkley was acquitted of shooting President Reagan by reason of insanity, it’s become much more difficult to mount that type of defense. At the Daily Caller, Alexis Levinson sheds some light on the three-step process:

First, “you have to have a mental disease or defect—you have to qualify,” [attorney Robert Delahunt Jr.] explained. This is not as simple as it seems, he said, because someone “can be mentally ill and it’s not a disease or defect as diagnosed by experts.” Or, there could be disagreement between experts. There “can be something wrong with this guy, can have an anxiety disorder, one expert will say it is a mental defect, one expert will say it isn’t.” …

If a defendant can get past this first hurdle, the second thing is to prove that the mental defect was relevant to the action — that “it was a big deal in his decision-making; it was a significant influence; it was the predominant impulse governing his behavior, shaping his decisions,” Delahunt said, as opposed being just a “distraction.” …

[Third], it is important to note that the defense need only prove that the defendant was either unable to “conform” to societal standards, or that he or she was unable to “appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her actions.” One or the other is sufficient to raise the issue of insanity.

Attorneys Levinson spoke to noted that it’s extremely difficult to prove that a client meets all three requirements. These types of pleas are also problematic because they can imply an admission of guilt.

Of course, admitting guilt may not be a huge risk for Loughner’s defense team. Attorneys who spoke to the Washington Post said that his culpability is probably not going to be much of a question during the trial:

“Guilt is not the issue here. Everyone saw him do it; he was stopped there. There’s just no question,” said Jonathan Shapiro, a Fairfax County death penalty expert who defended Washington area sniper John Allen Muhammad. “The issue is his mental state, and the sole goal is to avoid the death penalty.”

And since the facts of the case aren’t widely disputed, it’s much more likely that Loughner’s defense team will use his mental illness in order to get a reduced sentence. Loughner’s attorney, Judy Clarke — who opposes capital punishment — is known for helping her mass-murdering clients avoid the death penalty. According to the Post, Clarke will be sure to dig into the obscure details of her client’s life in an attempt to prove he was suffering from an extensive mental illness when he opened fire on the crowded political event. So get used to hearing about Loughner’s bizarre behavior once the trial gets underway.

As more information trickles out to the media about the private life of Jared Loughner, it’s become apparent how severely unhinged and divorced from reality he was. Charles Krauthammer, a certified psychiatrist, noted yesterday that Loughner fits the textbook description of a paranoid schizophrenic, and he wasn’t the first commentator to reach that conclusion.

But what exactly will Loughner’s mental state mean for his trial? And how much of a chance is there that he’ll get a reduced sentence or not-guilty verdict by reason of insanity?

After John Hinkley was acquitted of shooting President Reagan by reason of insanity, it’s become much more difficult to mount that type of defense. At the Daily Caller, Alexis Levinson sheds some light on the three-step process:

First, “you have to have a mental disease or defect—you have to qualify,” [attorney Robert Delahunt Jr.] explained. This is not as simple as it seems, he said, because someone “can be mentally ill and it’s not a disease or defect as diagnosed by experts.” Or, there could be disagreement between experts. There “can be something wrong with this guy, can have an anxiety disorder, one expert will say it is a mental defect, one expert will say it isn’t.” …

If a defendant can get past this first hurdle, the second thing is to prove that the mental defect was relevant to the action — that “it was a big deal in his decision-making; it was a significant influence; it was the predominant impulse governing his behavior, shaping his decisions,” Delahunt said, as opposed being just a “distraction.” …

[Third], it is important to note that the defense need only prove that the defendant was either unable to “conform” to societal standards, or that he or she was unable to “appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her actions.” One or the other is sufficient to raise the issue of insanity.

Attorneys Levinson spoke to noted that it’s extremely difficult to prove that a client meets all three requirements. These types of pleas are also problematic because they can imply an admission of guilt.

Of course, admitting guilt may not be a huge risk for Loughner’s defense team. Attorneys who spoke to the Washington Post said that his culpability is probably not going to be much of a question during the trial:

“Guilt is not the issue here. Everyone saw him do it; he was stopped there. There’s just no question,” said Jonathan Shapiro, a Fairfax County death penalty expert who defended Washington area sniper John Allen Muhammad. “The issue is his mental state, and the sole goal is to avoid the death penalty.”

And since the facts of the case aren’t widely disputed, it’s much more likely that Loughner’s defense team will use his mental illness in order to get a reduced sentence. Loughner’s attorney, Judy Clarke — who opposes capital punishment — is known for helping her mass-murdering clients avoid the death penalty. According to the Post, Clarke will be sure to dig into the obscure details of her client’s life in an attempt to prove he was suffering from an extensive mental illness when he opened fire on the crowded political event. So get used to hearing about Loughner’s bizarre behavior once the trial gets underway.

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Morning Commentary

The U.S. Department of State may drop Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism as a bargaining chip to push the Sudanese government to recognize the south’s independence: “’Should the referendum be carried out successfully and the results are recognized by the government, President Obama would indicate his intention to begin the process of removing them,’ Princeton Lyman, the lead US negotiator with Sudan, told AFP.”

Time magazine reports that Hilary Clinton had to persuade Gulf Arab leaders not to ease Iranian sanctions on Sunday, after Israel’s outgoing Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, predicted that Iran wouldn’t acquire a nuclear weapon until 2015.

Reason’s Mike Moynihan describes the origins of the term “eliminationism,” which appears to be the left’s new catchphrase after the Arizona shooting: “For a media so obsessed with the pernicious effects of radical political speech, it’s odd that no one has asked the anti-‘eliminationist’ pundits to define their terms. As I pointed out on this website last year, the word ‘eliminationism’ is a recent coinage, a word employed by writer Daniel Jonah Goldhagen to describe the particularly virulent strain of anti-Semitism that gripped Germany in the years leading up to the Holocaust.”

Newsweek wonders whether Arizona shooter Jared Loughner could have been involuntarily committed to a mental-health facility before he went on his murderous rampage last weekend. And interestingly, Arizona is apparently one of the states where it’s easiest to force someone into psychological counseling without his consent.

American Jewish groups have outlined their new legislative goals for the Republican-led Congress. One of their main focuses is on funding for Israel, which may be moved out of foreign spending in order to protect it from budget cuts: “Some leading Republicans, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the new chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, say Congress could separate funding for Israel from overall foreign spending, allowing conservatives to maintain current levels for Israel while slashing foreign spending for countries they don’t see as friendly or programs they oppose.”

Don’t tell Iran, but the Elder of Zion blog appears to have obtained some sort of booklet exposing the identities of key Mossad agents.

The U.S. Department of State may drop Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism as a bargaining chip to push the Sudanese government to recognize the south’s independence: “’Should the referendum be carried out successfully and the results are recognized by the government, President Obama would indicate his intention to begin the process of removing them,’ Princeton Lyman, the lead US negotiator with Sudan, told AFP.”

Time magazine reports that Hilary Clinton had to persuade Gulf Arab leaders not to ease Iranian sanctions on Sunday, after Israel’s outgoing Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, predicted that Iran wouldn’t acquire a nuclear weapon until 2015.

Reason’s Mike Moynihan describes the origins of the term “eliminationism,” which appears to be the left’s new catchphrase after the Arizona shooting: “For a media so obsessed with the pernicious effects of radical political speech, it’s odd that no one has asked the anti-‘eliminationist’ pundits to define their terms. As I pointed out on this website last year, the word ‘eliminationism’ is a recent coinage, a word employed by writer Daniel Jonah Goldhagen to describe the particularly virulent strain of anti-Semitism that gripped Germany in the years leading up to the Holocaust.”

Newsweek wonders whether Arizona shooter Jared Loughner could have been involuntarily committed to a mental-health facility before he went on his murderous rampage last weekend. And interestingly, Arizona is apparently one of the states where it’s easiest to force someone into psychological counseling without his consent.

American Jewish groups have outlined their new legislative goals for the Republican-led Congress. One of their main focuses is on funding for Israel, which may be moved out of foreign spending in order to protect it from budget cuts: “Some leading Republicans, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the new chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, say Congress could separate funding for Israel from overall foreign spending, allowing conservatives to maintain current levels for Israel while slashing foreign spending for countries they don’t see as friendly or programs they oppose.”

Don’t tell Iran, but the Elder of Zion blog appears to have obtained some sort of booklet exposing the identities of key Mossad agents.

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LIVE BLOG: What the Speech Means

At the very least, the speech brought the massacre and its aftermath back to the central point made in the wake of all national tragedies and collective sorrows: Let us dedicate ourselves to the improvement of ourselves, our community, and humankind so that the wound suffered might be given retroactive meaning beside the senseless nihilism of the event itself. It is, perhaps, utopian. But there’s no question it offers comfort, and gives us an image other than Jared Loughner’s terrifying face to focus on.

At the very least, the speech brought the massacre and its aftermath back to the central point made in the wake of all national tragedies and collective sorrows: Let us dedicate ourselves to the improvement of ourselves, our community, and humankind so that the wound suffered might be given retroactive meaning beside the senseless nihilism of the event itself. It is, perhaps, utopian. But there’s no question it offers comfort, and gives us an image other than Jared Loughner’s terrifying face to focus on.

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Hillary’s Loughner Analysis Gets Even Worse

Politico reports on some surreal comments offered by Hillary Clinton in an interview earlier today with CNN:

Jared Loughner is an extremist because he carried out the Arizona shootings while acting on his “political views,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview with CNN while continuing her trip in the Middle East today.

“Based on what I know, this is a criminal defendant who was in some ways motivated by his own political views, who had a particular animus toward the congresswoman,” Clinton said. “And I think when you cross the line from expressing opinions that are of conflicting differences in our political   environment into taking action that’s violent action, that’s a hallmark of extremism, whether it comes from the right, the left, from Al Qaeda, from anarchists, whoever it is. That is a form of extremism.”

Several things are stunning here. First and most obvious, she’s wrong. Loughner is of course the best-known certifiably apolitical American  living today. At least he’s the only one about whom headlines declare:HE DID NOT WATCH TV. HE DISLIKED THE NEWS. HE DIDN’T LISTEN TO POLITICAL RADIO.

Second, since Secretary Clinton already tested out this erroneous analysis on Monday in a town-hall meeting in Abu Dhabi, one can responsibly infer that no member of the administration has gotten her up to speed in the two days since. What kind of systemic disrepair must the Obama administration — or at least the secretary of state’s office — be in to let this happen? Unless Barack Obama makes similarly absurd claims in his speech tonight, the administration’s message discipline is in shambles.

Third, perhaps she is up to speed but is pushing a false narrative in pursuit of a misguided diplomatic strategy. It is one thing to have facts wrong; but it’s still another for the secretary of state to invent an equivalence between organized global jihad and the actions of a mentally ill lone American murderer. It is grotesque to capitalize on the deliberate distortion of this massacre by implying that America is as susceptible to extremism as any country in the Middle East. It is also extremely dangerous. It broadcasts a willful ignorance and a lack of resolve.

No matter what, we are now forced to entertain great doubts about Secretary Clinton’s seriousness on terrorism. Even this far into Obama’s term, some serious foreign-policy thinkers were harboring a vague hope that Hillary Clinton provided a kind of anchor, keeping the naïve administration connected to hard-nosed reality. But her comments on Monday and today paint a picture of a key American official frightfully adrift.

Politico reports on some surreal comments offered by Hillary Clinton in an interview earlier today with CNN:

Jared Loughner is an extremist because he carried out the Arizona shootings while acting on his “political views,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview with CNN while continuing her trip in the Middle East today.

“Based on what I know, this is a criminal defendant who was in some ways motivated by his own political views, who had a particular animus toward the congresswoman,” Clinton said. “And I think when you cross the line from expressing opinions that are of conflicting differences in our political   environment into taking action that’s violent action, that’s a hallmark of extremism, whether it comes from the right, the left, from Al Qaeda, from anarchists, whoever it is. That is a form of extremism.”

Several things are stunning here. First and most obvious, she’s wrong. Loughner is of course the best-known certifiably apolitical American  living today. At least he’s the only one about whom headlines declare:HE DID NOT WATCH TV. HE DISLIKED THE NEWS. HE DIDN’T LISTEN TO POLITICAL RADIO.

Second, since Secretary Clinton already tested out this erroneous analysis on Monday in a town-hall meeting in Abu Dhabi, one can responsibly infer that no member of the administration has gotten her up to speed in the two days since. What kind of systemic disrepair must the Obama administration — or at least the secretary of state’s office — be in to let this happen? Unless Barack Obama makes similarly absurd claims in his speech tonight, the administration’s message discipline is in shambles.

Third, perhaps she is up to speed but is pushing a false narrative in pursuit of a misguided diplomatic strategy. It is one thing to have facts wrong; but it’s still another for the secretary of state to invent an equivalence between organized global jihad and the actions of a mentally ill lone American murderer. It is grotesque to capitalize on the deliberate distortion of this massacre by implying that America is as susceptible to extremism as any country in the Middle East. It is also extremely dangerous. It broadcasts a willful ignorance and a lack of resolve.

No matter what, we are now forced to entertain great doubts about Secretary Clinton’s seriousness on terrorism. Even this far into Obama’s term, some serious foreign-policy thinkers were harboring a vague hope that Hillary Clinton provided a kind of anchor, keeping the naïve administration connected to hard-nosed reality. But her comments on Monday and today paint a picture of a key American official frightfully adrift.

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Morning Commentary

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from his former Mossad chief’s assessment that Iran won’t acquire a nuclear weapon before 2015: “‘I think that intelligence estimates are exactly that, estimates,’ Netanyahu said. ‘They range from best case to worst case possibilities, and there is a range there, there is room for differing assessments.’”

With the Russian and Belarusian governments cracking down on opposition leaders, the U.S. needs to figure out what steps to take now that the reset strategy has failed: “[The Carnegie Moscow Center’s Lilia] Shevtsova said the similar authoritarian direction the two countries are pursuing calls for the United States and Europe to create a coordinated policy for dealing with repressive regimes, one that could be developed for Belarus and fine-tuned for Russia.”

More information has surfaced about the strange online life of Arizona shooter Jared Loughner. A UFO website has told reporters that he frequented its Web forum, where his strange messages apparently confused the other posters: “His postings, they said, revealed ‘someone who clearly has many questions for which answers have been elusive if not outright impossible to obtain. And despite the best efforts by many of our members, it seemed there were no answers to be found here for which he was satisfied.’”

Now that the initial shock over the Arizona shooting has waned, here comes the inevitable debate over gun control: “’This case is fundamentally about a mentally ill drug abuser who had access to guns and shouldn’t have,’ [New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg said at a news conference Tuesday with members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.”

Robert Verbruggen explains why stricter gun-control laws would probably not have prevented Loughner from carrying out his attack last weekend: “If someone intends to assassinate a public official, he’s already planning to break a few laws; there is absolutely no reason to believe that one more law — a law that will presumably mete out less punishment than do laws against murder — will affect his calculations. And given how easy it is to conceal a handgun until one’s target is in sight, there’s little hope that this law will help security or police officers disarm assassins before they commence shooting.”

The four-minute video that perfectly encapsulates the hypocrisy of the anti-violent-rhetoric crowd: “Sadly, it’s never war-mongers like Palin and Beck that get shot.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from his former Mossad chief’s assessment that Iran won’t acquire a nuclear weapon before 2015: “‘I think that intelligence estimates are exactly that, estimates,’ Netanyahu said. ‘They range from best case to worst case possibilities, and there is a range there, there is room for differing assessments.’”

With the Russian and Belarusian governments cracking down on opposition leaders, the U.S. needs to figure out what steps to take now that the reset strategy has failed: “[The Carnegie Moscow Center’s Lilia] Shevtsova said the similar authoritarian direction the two countries are pursuing calls for the United States and Europe to create a coordinated policy for dealing with repressive regimes, one that could be developed for Belarus and fine-tuned for Russia.”

More information has surfaced about the strange online life of Arizona shooter Jared Loughner. A UFO website has told reporters that he frequented its Web forum, where his strange messages apparently confused the other posters: “His postings, they said, revealed ‘someone who clearly has many questions for which answers have been elusive if not outright impossible to obtain. And despite the best efforts by many of our members, it seemed there were no answers to be found here for which he was satisfied.’”

Now that the initial shock over the Arizona shooting has waned, here comes the inevitable debate over gun control: “’This case is fundamentally about a mentally ill drug abuser who had access to guns and shouldn’t have,’ [New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg said at a news conference Tuesday with members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.”

Robert Verbruggen explains why stricter gun-control laws would probably not have prevented Loughner from carrying out his attack last weekend: “If someone intends to assassinate a public official, he’s already planning to break a few laws; there is absolutely no reason to believe that one more law — a law that will presumably mete out less punishment than do laws against murder — will affect his calculations. And given how easy it is to conceal a handgun until one’s target is in sight, there’s little hope that this law will help security or police officers disarm assassins before they commence shooting.”

The four-minute video that perfectly encapsulates the hypocrisy of the anti-violent-rhetoric crowd: “Sadly, it’s never war-mongers like Palin and Beck that get shot.”

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Civil Libertarians and the Arizona Shooting

Via the Daily Caller, Jake Tapper makes an interesting point. He wonders whether civil-libertarian groups may have made it more difficult for authorities to intervene against lunatics like Jared Loughner before they commit acts of violence:

“One thing that an older family member of mine said to me, as I mentioned earlier to you, is it used to be a lot easier to get people like this locked up,” Tapper said. “And then civil libertarians got active and became much more difficult to do so. I’m talking decades ago and that’s something that I want to read more about and learn more about, because that does sound interesting.”

Tapper argued that in the very least society needed to find a way to keep people like Loughner from owning a lethal weapon.

“I mean if this guy was literally terrifying his classmates at the community college, they thought, they described him as a serial killer, they thought he was unhinged, he was asked to not come back — that seems to me that society needs to figure out a way, to A – prevent people like that from getting lethal weapons, and B — maybe even go so far as to remove them from the street. That is a subject for debate, just as legitimately as the political rhetoric we hear.”

The normal reaction to these violent incidents is to wonder how such a dangerous individual slipped by unnoticed by the rest of society. In this case, Loughner obviously didn’t — several of his fellow students and professors feared he would shoot up his community college. One of his classmates said she sat near the door in case he opened fire on the class. Another professor remembered being wary about turning around to write on the board in case Loughner pulled out a gun when his back was turned.

Both the community college and the local police reportedly received multiple complaints about Loughner’s behavior. And yet it doesn’t seem like much action was taken to intervene. He was even able to purchase a gun.

So is Tapper’s idea about preemptive intervention worth investigating?

Brett Joshpe, an attorney who has worked on behalf of the American Center for Law and Justice, told me that Tapper “has a legitimate point that our criminal justice system is pretty reactive. It’s not good at dealing with threats before they materialize.”

But he also noted that there aren’t many public-policy steps we can take to prevent tragedies like the one in Arizona from occurring, and the idea that civil libertarians contributed to it is unrealistic.

“Every once in a while, something like this happens. You’re never going to completely eliminate it,” he said. “It’s hard to create a public-policy response when you’re talking about very isolated deranged people whose thinking process is not logical, and there’s not necessarily a direct cause and effect.”

Via the Daily Caller, Jake Tapper makes an interesting point. He wonders whether civil-libertarian groups may have made it more difficult for authorities to intervene against lunatics like Jared Loughner before they commit acts of violence:

“One thing that an older family member of mine said to me, as I mentioned earlier to you, is it used to be a lot easier to get people like this locked up,” Tapper said. “And then civil libertarians got active and became much more difficult to do so. I’m talking decades ago and that’s something that I want to read more about and learn more about, because that does sound interesting.”

Tapper argued that in the very least society needed to find a way to keep people like Loughner from owning a lethal weapon.

“I mean if this guy was literally terrifying his classmates at the community college, they thought, they described him as a serial killer, they thought he was unhinged, he was asked to not come back — that seems to me that society needs to figure out a way, to A – prevent people like that from getting lethal weapons, and B — maybe even go so far as to remove them from the street. That is a subject for debate, just as legitimately as the political rhetoric we hear.”

The normal reaction to these violent incidents is to wonder how such a dangerous individual slipped by unnoticed by the rest of society. In this case, Loughner obviously didn’t — several of his fellow students and professors feared he would shoot up his community college. One of his classmates said she sat near the door in case he opened fire on the class. Another professor remembered being wary about turning around to write on the board in case Loughner pulled out a gun when his back was turned.

Both the community college and the local police reportedly received multiple complaints about Loughner’s behavior. And yet it doesn’t seem like much action was taken to intervene. He was even able to purchase a gun.

So is Tapper’s idea about preemptive intervention worth investigating?

Brett Joshpe, an attorney who has worked on behalf of the American Center for Law and Justice, told me that Tapper “has a legitimate point that our criminal justice system is pretty reactive. It’s not good at dealing with threats before they materialize.”

But he also noted that there aren’t many public-policy steps we can take to prevent tragedies like the one in Arizona from occurring, and the idea that civil libertarians contributed to it is unrealistic.

“Every once in a while, something like this happens. You’re never going to completely eliminate it,” he said. “It’s hard to create a public-policy response when you’re talking about very isolated deranged people whose thinking process is not logical, and there’s not necessarily a direct cause and effect.”

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The Folks Aren’t Buying It

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air summarizes a CBS poll taken to discern Americans’ sentiments on what caused Jared Loughner’s rampage in Tucson. The poll revealed that 57 percent of respondents think the attack had nothing to do with politics. Even among Democrats, the poll found 49 percent agreeing that Loughner’s motives were non-political. Independents saw Loughner as a non-political actor by a margin of 56 to 33 percent.

This result resonates with my anecdotal observations. Since Saturday, I have not met or heard from a single acquaintance who thought Loughner might have acted from political motives, either left-wing or right-wing. People have even gone out of their way to bring it up. The evidence of Loughner’s mental perturbation is too clear — and the information power of the Internet too readily available — for the people to be swayed in great numbers by a concocted, largely counterfactual narrative.

But I am interested in these poll results on another level as well. Like other CONTENTIONS contributors, I’ve been troubled and saddened by the performance of the usual suspects in the old-media punditry and the Democratic Party. Writing about it has hardly seemed worth the time: it would be like shooting fish in a barrel, and others are doing it much better anyway. But because the worlds of media punditry and politics are prominent features of my own mental landscape, I can’t help giving attention to the rhetorical — and ethical — enormities being perpetrated. Feeling the need to deconstruct them item by item is probably common to most political writers.

I wonder, however, if we are taking the mainstream media’s cringe-worthy performance harder than the rest of America is. The results of the CBS poll give off an air of pragmatic, angst-free rejection of the tea-parties-made-him-do-it narrative. The narrative is reaching anyone who consumes news, but there’s no evidence that it is taking hold. Poll respondents concurred with the “political” assessment of Jared Loughner’s attack in the exact proportion perennially occupied by the left’s committed “base” — i.e., 32 percent of total respondents and 42 percent of Democrats. This suggests that the overheated narrative being stoked by irresponsible media pundits might be satisfying to the converted, but it’s not changing any minds at all.

John Steele Gordon pointed out yesterday that in the age of the Internet, those who try disingenuously to alter or misrepresent the public record will be caught out. That has certainly been a factor in the left’s meltdown following the Loughner incident. I think another factor is simply that the people know unseemly histrionics when they see them, and are naturally put off.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air summarizes a CBS poll taken to discern Americans’ sentiments on what caused Jared Loughner’s rampage in Tucson. The poll revealed that 57 percent of respondents think the attack had nothing to do with politics. Even among Democrats, the poll found 49 percent agreeing that Loughner’s motives were non-political. Independents saw Loughner as a non-political actor by a margin of 56 to 33 percent.

This result resonates with my anecdotal observations. Since Saturday, I have not met or heard from a single acquaintance who thought Loughner might have acted from political motives, either left-wing or right-wing. People have even gone out of their way to bring it up. The evidence of Loughner’s mental perturbation is too clear — and the information power of the Internet too readily available — for the people to be swayed in great numbers by a concocted, largely counterfactual narrative.

But I am interested in these poll results on another level as well. Like other CONTENTIONS contributors, I’ve been troubled and saddened by the performance of the usual suspects in the old-media punditry and the Democratic Party. Writing about it has hardly seemed worth the time: it would be like shooting fish in a barrel, and others are doing it much better anyway. But because the worlds of media punditry and politics are prominent features of my own mental landscape, I can’t help giving attention to the rhetorical — and ethical — enormities being perpetrated. Feeling the need to deconstruct them item by item is probably common to most political writers.

I wonder, however, if we are taking the mainstream media’s cringe-worthy performance harder than the rest of America is. The results of the CBS poll give off an air of pragmatic, angst-free rejection of the tea-parties-made-him-do-it narrative. The narrative is reaching anyone who consumes news, but there’s no evidence that it is taking hold. Poll respondents concurred with the “political” assessment of Jared Loughner’s attack in the exact proportion perennially occupied by the left’s committed “base” — i.e., 32 percent of total respondents and 42 percent of Democrats. This suggests that the overheated narrative being stoked by irresponsible media pundits might be satisfying to the converted, but it’s not changing any minds at all.

John Steele Gordon pointed out yesterday that in the age of the Internet, those who try disingenuously to alter or misrepresent the public record will be caught out. That has certainly been a factor in the left’s meltdown following the Loughner incident. I think another factor is simply that the people know unseemly histrionics when they see them, and are naturally put off.

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Loughner, McVeigh, and Ted Kaczynski

Over at the Daily Beast, the suddenly hawkish Peter Beinart is incensed that nobody else has the guts to call Arizona gunman Jared Loughner a terrorist. According to Beinart, there’s only one logical explanation for this — Americans are unaware that white people can be terrorists too:

Had the shooters’ name been Abdul Mohammed, you’d be hearing the familiar drumbeat about the need for profiling and the pathologies of Islam. But since his name was Jared Lee Loughner, he gets called “mentally unstable”; the word “terrorist” rarely comes up. When are we going to acknowledge that good old-fashioned white Americans are every bit as capable of killing civilians for a political cause as people with brown skin who pray to Allah?

I’m curious about whom Beinart is accusing of not acknowledging that white people can be terrorists. It certainly couldn’t be the conservatives — you could barely turn on Fox News during the 2008 election without hearing the phrase “unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers.” And it’s clearly not the left, which seems to constantly live in fear that right-wing anti-government terrorists are on the verge of taking over the Republican Party.

Still, Beinart needlessly goes on to inform readers (just in case we weren’t aware) about the history of Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh. Yes, Beinart, we all realize that these two white men are terrorists — the media brings it up only every single time an Islamist terror attack occurs in this country.

But it seems that he isn’t the only person struggling to twist the Arizona tragedy into a denouncement of America’s racial attitudes. At the Huffington Post, Charles D. Ellison makes a similar argument, claiming that Loughner’s skin color has prevented people from calling him a terrorist:

When a “crazy” white guy with a gun, wound up on polarized talking points and manifestos, indiscriminately kills innocent Americans in broad daylight, it takes several days in the aftermath before the larger public will even accept a hint of premeditation. Typically, the collective American psyche will initially trivialize the event by calling the perpetrator “deranged” or “mentally unstable.” The social response script is fashioned to fake us into a false sense of security. It’s isolated, they say. Just one crazed nut with a gun.

It’s worth noting that the left vehemently attacked any suggestion that the Ford Hood shooter was a terrorist in the days after the incident, even though there was a great deal of evidence that Nidal Hasan was motivated by radical Islam. But even that’s besides the point. The reason Jared Loughner hasn’t been called a terrorist has nothing to do with his skin color — it’s because there isn’t enough evidence at this point to conclude that his actions were (a) politically motivated and (b) meant to intimidate or coerce for a political purpose. Not all acts of violence, no matter how horrific, meet the definition of terrorism.

Of course, the left can’t grasp that, since it views the entire issue of terrorism in terms of race. To them, any type of crackdown on terrorism is seen as a concerted effort to target all Muslims, not just Islamic radicals. And, in that respect, in seems like they’re the ones who should probably stop focusing so much on skin color.

Over at the Daily Beast, the suddenly hawkish Peter Beinart is incensed that nobody else has the guts to call Arizona gunman Jared Loughner a terrorist. According to Beinart, there’s only one logical explanation for this — Americans are unaware that white people can be terrorists too:

Had the shooters’ name been Abdul Mohammed, you’d be hearing the familiar drumbeat about the need for profiling and the pathologies of Islam. But since his name was Jared Lee Loughner, he gets called “mentally unstable”; the word “terrorist” rarely comes up. When are we going to acknowledge that good old-fashioned white Americans are every bit as capable of killing civilians for a political cause as people with brown skin who pray to Allah?

I’m curious about whom Beinart is accusing of not acknowledging that white people can be terrorists. It certainly couldn’t be the conservatives — you could barely turn on Fox News during the 2008 election without hearing the phrase “unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers.” And it’s clearly not the left, which seems to constantly live in fear that right-wing anti-government terrorists are on the verge of taking over the Republican Party.

Still, Beinart needlessly goes on to inform readers (just in case we weren’t aware) about the history of Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh. Yes, Beinart, we all realize that these two white men are terrorists — the media brings it up only every single time an Islamist terror attack occurs in this country.

But it seems that he isn’t the only person struggling to twist the Arizona tragedy into a denouncement of America’s racial attitudes. At the Huffington Post, Charles D. Ellison makes a similar argument, claiming that Loughner’s skin color has prevented people from calling him a terrorist:

When a “crazy” white guy with a gun, wound up on polarized talking points and manifestos, indiscriminately kills innocent Americans in broad daylight, it takes several days in the aftermath before the larger public will even accept a hint of premeditation. Typically, the collective American psyche will initially trivialize the event by calling the perpetrator “deranged” or “mentally unstable.” The social response script is fashioned to fake us into a false sense of security. It’s isolated, they say. Just one crazed nut with a gun.

It’s worth noting that the left vehemently attacked any suggestion that the Ford Hood shooter was a terrorist in the days after the incident, even though there was a great deal of evidence that Nidal Hasan was motivated by radical Islam. But even that’s besides the point. The reason Jared Loughner hasn’t been called a terrorist has nothing to do with his skin color — it’s because there isn’t enough evidence at this point to conclude that his actions were (a) politically motivated and (b) meant to intimidate or coerce for a political purpose. Not all acts of violence, no matter how horrific, meet the definition of terrorism.

Of course, the left can’t grasp that, since it views the entire issue of terrorism in terms of race. To them, any type of crackdown on terrorism is seen as a concerted effort to target all Muslims, not just Islamic radicals. And, in that respect, in seems like they’re the ones who should probably stop focusing so much on skin color.

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Silence Is Preferable to Speculation as to Loughner’s Motives

Megyn Kelly of Fox News skillfully interviews Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik about the motivation of the suspect, Jared Loughner, in the assassination attempt of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six others.

Mr. Dupnik, a Democrat, puts the massacre in the context of “vitriol” in public discourse. He takes barely concealed shots at conservatives and the GOP. Yet when asked if there’s any evidence that Loughner was influenced or inspired by such “vitriol” coming from television or talk radio, Dupnik is forced to concede he has none. It turns out it’s simply idle speculation on his part. And, I would add, it is wholly inappropriate speculation. A sheriff involved in an investigation should not act as if he’s trying out for a job as a host on MSNBC.

All in all it’s a rather troubling, and slightly buffoonish, performance by the Pima County Sheriff.

Megyn Kelly of Fox News skillfully interviews Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik about the motivation of the suspect, Jared Loughner, in the assassination attempt of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six others.

Mr. Dupnik, a Democrat, puts the massacre in the context of “vitriol” in public discourse. He takes barely concealed shots at conservatives and the GOP. Yet when asked if there’s any evidence that Loughner was influenced or inspired by such “vitriol” coming from television or talk radio, Dupnik is forced to concede he has none. It turns out it’s simply idle speculation on his part. And, I would add, it is wholly inappropriate speculation. A sheriff involved in an investigation should not act as if he’s trying out for a job as a host on MSNBC.

All in all it’s a rather troubling, and slightly buffoonish, performance by the Pima County Sheriff.

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The Cynicism and Intellectual Corruption of the Left

You would have to be living on another planet not to be aware of the effort by some on the left and in the media to blame conservatives for creating a “climate of hate” that encouraged a suspect, Jared Loughner, of attempting the political assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, which resulted in the death of six people and the wounding of 13 others.

This crusade is being led by the New York Times, whose front-page story on Sunday said this:

While the exact motivations of the suspect in the shootings remained unclear, an Internet site tied to the man, Jared Lee Loughner, contained antigovernment ramblings. And regardless of what led to the episode, it quickly focused attention on the degree to which inflammatory language, threats and implicit instigations to violence have become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture.

Note these seven words: “regardless of what led to the episode.”

These words matter, because there is no evidence that we know of that “inflammatory language” that has “become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture” drove Loughner to pull the trigger. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the man accused of the massacre, Mr. Loughner, has a twisted, disturbed, and violent mind. That is almost certainly why he committed his malevolent act. Listening to WABC in the afternoon had nothing to do with it.

Yet this doesn’t appear to matter much at all to those on the left. They are determined to draw some deeper meaning — and some political advantage — from this tragedy. They want to libel conservatism. As Jonathan noted on Sunday, George Packer of the New Yorker, in a post revealingly titled “It Doesn’t Matter Why He Did It,” described Loughner as “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.” But Packer goes on to write this:

the tragedy wouldn’t change this basic fact: for the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents. Not just arguing against their opponents, but doing everything possible to turn them into enemies of the country and cast them out beyond the pale. Instead of “soft on defense,” one routinely hears the words “treason” and “traitor.” The President isn’t a big-government liberal—he’s a socialist who wants to impose tyranny. He’s also, according to a minority of Republicans, including elected officials, an impostor.

This borders on being a non sequitur because, even if you allow for Packer’s tendentious and one-sided version of events (he willfully ignores liberals who routinely demonize those on the right), what conservatives said in the past two years doesn’t appear to have any bearing on what Loughner is accused of doing. Yet Packer admits this is, for him, beside the point. “The massacre in Tucson is, in a sense, irrelevant to the important point,” according to Packer. “Whatever drove Jared Lee Loughner, America’s political frequencies are full of violent static.” Read More

You would have to be living on another planet not to be aware of the effort by some on the left and in the media to blame conservatives for creating a “climate of hate” that encouraged a suspect, Jared Loughner, of attempting the political assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, which resulted in the death of six people and the wounding of 13 others.

This crusade is being led by the New York Times, whose front-page story on Sunday said this:

While the exact motivations of the suspect in the shootings remained unclear, an Internet site tied to the man, Jared Lee Loughner, contained antigovernment ramblings. And regardless of what led to the episode, it quickly focused attention on the degree to which inflammatory language, threats and implicit instigations to violence have become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture.

Note these seven words: “regardless of what led to the episode.”

These words matter, because there is no evidence that we know of that “inflammatory language” that has “become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture” drove Loughner to pull the trigger. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the man accused of the massacre, Mr. Loughner, has a twisted, disturbed, and violent mind. That is almost certainly why he committed his malevolent act. Listening to WABC in the afternoon had nothing to do with it.

Yet this doesn’t appear to matter much at all to those on the left. They are determined to draw some deeper meaning — and some political advantage — from this tragedy. They want to libel conservatism. As Jonathan noted on Sunday, George Packer of the New Yorker, in a post revealingly titled “It Doesn’t Matter Why He Did It,” described Loughner as “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.” But Packer goes on to write this:

the tragedy wouldn’t change this basic fact: for the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents. Not just arguing against their opponents, but doing everything possible to turn them into enemies of the country and cast them out beyond the pale. Instead of “soft on defense,” one routinely hears the words “treason” and “traitor.” The President isn’t a big-government liberal—he’s a socialist who wants to impose tyranny. He’s also, according to a minority of Republicans, including elected officials, an impostor.

This borders on being a non sequitur because, even if you allow for Packer’s tendentious and one-sided version of events (he willfully ignores liberals who routinely demonize those on the right), what conservatives said in the past two years doesn’t appear to have any bearing on what Loughner is accused of doing. Yet Packer admits this is, for him, beside the point. “The massacre in Tucson is, in a sense, irrelevant to the important point,” according to Packer. “Whatever drove Jared Lee Loughner, America’s political frequencies are full of violent static.”

Think about the formulation for a moment: “The massacre in Tucson is, in a sense, irrelevant to the important point.” The important point isn’t the dead or the wounded; it’s Fox News, Sarah Palin, and conservative talk radio. Blaming conservatives, you see, is the storyline Packer, the New York Times, and scores of other liberal commentators have settled on. They have decided on their narrative; inconvenient facts — also known as reality — cannot get in the way of their crusade.

This is all very postmodern, a simplistic version of deconstructionism. What is on display is a cast of mind in which facts and reality are secondary to storylines and narratives. The aim is not truth; it is to advance The Cause. It is also about cynical exploitation. As one veteran Democratic operative told Politico, the Obama White House needs to “deftly pin this on the tea partiers” just as “the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people” in 1995.

It is all quite sick, really. Not a few liberals are attempting to use a human tragedy to advance an ideological agenda. They are using dead and broken bodies as political pawns. The blood was still flowing from the gunshot wounds of slain and wounded people in Tucson as liberals began an extraordinary and instantaneous smear campaign. It will end up making our political discourse even more angry and toxic.

I was naïve enough to be surprised at what has unfolded in the last 48 hours. The cynicism and intellectual corruption on the left is deeper than I imagined.

Lesson learned.

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RE: Hillary Clinton and the Art of Getting It Exactly Wrong

The Muslim world may have rampant beheadings, daily assassinations, and violent mobs every time an offensive political cartoon is printed in a Nordic newspaper. But, according to Hilary Clinton, the recent shooting in Arizona proves that the United States has just as much of a problem with radical extremism as Islamic countries:

During her Gulf tour, Clinton paused to reflect on Saturday’s tragedy, which took the lives of six people and injured another 14, including US Republican Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head at point-blank range.

“Look, we have extremists in my country. A wonderful, incredibly brave young woman congress member, Congresswoman Giffords, was just shot in our country,” she said in comments obtained by Fox News Channel.

“We have the same kinds of problems. So rather than standing off from each other, we should work to try to prevent the extremists anywhere from being able to commit violence.”

Sure, we help them solve their epidemic of Islamic radicalism, and they help us solve our problem with a single 22-year-old mentally ill lone gunman. Sounds like a fair trade.

Clinton’s comparison is obviously absurd, as Abe pointed out. For one, Muslim extremists are motivated by a distorted form of political Islam. At the moment, there is little evidence that Jared Loughner was motivated by anything other than his own extreme mental illness. In fact, most of the information released so far has painted a portrait of a deeply disturbed, unbalanced young man who could potentially have been a risk to anyone. Former classmates and professors told reporters that they feared Loughner would one day come to school with a gun.

And while the U.S. has obviously had problems with non-Islamic terrorism in the past, it seems way too soon to begin comparing Loughner to a Timothy McVeigh or a Ted Kaczynski. The terms “extremist” and “terrorist” have very specific meanings and should be used carefully. Unless authorities discover a political motive for the Arizona shooting — something more than a couple of nonsensical and deranged scribblings about the gold standard or conscious dreams — any comparisons between Loughner and terrorism should be avoided.

The Muslim world may have rampant beheadings, daily assassinations, and violent mobs every time an offensive political cartoon is printed in a Nordic newspaper. But, according to Hilary Clinton, the recent shooting in Arizona proves that the United States has just as much of a problem with radical extremism as Islamic countries:

During her Gulf tour, Clinton paused to reflect on Saturday’s tragedy, which took the lives of six people and injured another 14, including US Republican Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head at point-blank range.

“Look, we have extremists in my country. A wonderful, incredibly brave young woman congress member, Congresswoman Giffords, was just shot in our country,” she said in comments obtained by Fox News Channel.

“We have the same kinds of problems. So rather than standing off from each other, we should work to try to prevent the extremists anywhere from being able to commit violence.”

Sure, we help them solve their epidemic of Islamic radicalism, and they help us solve our problem with a single 22-year-old mentally ill lone gunman. Sounds like a fair trade.

Clinton’s comparison is obviously absurd, as Abe pointed out. For one, Muslim extremists are motivated by a distorted form of political Islam. At the moment, there is little evidence that Jared Loughner was motivated by anything other than his own extreme mental illness. In fact, most of the information released so far has painted a portrait of a deeply disturbed, unbalanced young man who could potentially have been a risk to anyone. Former classmates and professors told reporters that they feared Loughner would one day come to school with a gun.

And while the U.S. has obviously had problems with non-Islamic terrorism in the past, it seems way too soon to begin comparing Loughner to a Timothy McVeigh or a Ted Kaczynski. The terms “extremist” and “terrorist” have very specific meanings and should be used carefully. Unless authorities discover a political motive for the Arizona shooting — something more than a couple of nonsensical and deranged scribblings about the gold standard or conscious dreams — any comparisons between Loughner and terrorism should be avoided.

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Loughner

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.

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.

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Left Shamelessly Seeks to Exploit Arizona Tragedy

The shooting in Arizona is the sort of thing that obligates all sides in political debates to call a timeout. Right now our collective prayers are with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her family as she struggles for life, as well as with the families of those who were murdered in this senseless evil attack. But acting in the spirit of Rahm Emanuel’s belief that a crisis shouldn’t go to waste, some on the left are determined to exploit this tragedy to advance their own partisan interests.

One example is a post by the New Yorker’s George Packer, who writes today that “It doesn’t matter why he did it.” The “he” is the alleged Arizona murderer Jared Loughner, a mentally unstable creature who thinks that the government is imposing “mind control” on the public via “grammar.”

Packer concedes that Loughner is not an advocate of any coherent ideology or movement that has any real link to anything that is part of contemporary political debates, including the Tea Party activists. But to him that is irrelevant, because conservative activists and pundits have spent the last two years criticizing President Obama and his policies, making violence inevitable.

It is true that a few people on the margins have indulged in rhetoric that can be termed attempts at the “delegitimization” of Obama, including those who have irrationally focused on myths about the president’s birthplace and religion. But on the left it has become a piece of conventional wisdom that all conservatives are somehow guilty of rhetoric that crosses the bounds of decency. Indeed, so sensitive are Packer and those who think like him that even the public reading of the Constitution this past week by members of Congress (an exercise that included Rep. Giffords, who proudly read the First Amendment) is “an assault on the legitimacy of the Democratic Administration and Congress.”

Speaking in the same spirit, the National Jewish Democratic Council asserted: “It is fair to say — in today’s political climate, and given today’s political rhetoric — that many have contributed to the building levels of vitriol in our political discourse that have surely contributed to the atmosphere in which this event transpired.”

Both Packer’s post and the NJDC statement reflect the liberal talking point of the last two years that has sought to maintain the pretense that the Tea Party and other fervent critics of Obama were nothing more than hate-filled nut cases rather than merely citizens who were asserting their constitutional right of dissent. But as the election in November proved, the Tea Party turned out in many respects to be more representative of mainstream America than the media and other elites who branded them as extremists.

It is true that the political debate in this country over the last two years has been heated, with President Obama and congressional Democrats being subjected to some particularly tough rhetoric. But the level of nastiness directed at Obama was no greater than the vicious attacks that had been leveled at President Bush, who along with Dick Cheney and other administration figures was regularly vilified not only by demonstrators but also by mainstream liberal politicians. Indeed, Packer acts as though left-wing talk-show hosts like Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, who repeatedly seek to delegitimize Republicans and conservatives, didn’t exist. And it is not as if Republicans receive no threats; some, like Rep. Eric Cantor, the new House majority leader, have also been subjected to this sort of indecent behavior.

Despite all this, Packer and the NJDC are determined to use the tragedy in Arizona to resurrect this failed effort to besmirch conservatives and other Obama critics as violent haters. There is, after all, a precedent for this sort of thing. In 1995, President Clinton used the Oklahoma City bombing to strike back at his critics, including radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, even though Limbaugh and others critical of Clinton had nothing to do with the lunatics who perpetrated that crime.

Calls for civil debate are always appropriate, but those who wish to use this terrible crime to attempt to silence their opponents or to stifle legitimate public debate or activism are the ones who are crossing the bounds of decency today.

The shooting in Arizona is the sort of thing that obligates all sides in political debates to call a timeout. Right now our collective prayers are with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her family as she struggles for life, as well as with the families of those who were murdered in this senseless evil attack. But acting in the spirit of Rahm Emanuel’s belief that a crisis shouldn’t go to waste, some on the left are determined to exploit this tragedy to advance their own partisan interests.

One example is a post by the New Yorker’s George Packer, who writes today that “It doesn’t matter why he did it.” The “he” is the alleged Arizona murderer Jared Loughner, a mentally unstable creature who thinks that the government is imposing “mind control” on the public via “grammar.”

Packer concedes that Loughner is not an advocate of any coherent ideology or movement that has any real link to anything that is part of contemporary political debates, including the Tea Party activists. But to him that is irrelevant, because conservative activists and pundits have spent the last two years criticizing President Obama and his policies, making violence inevitable.

It is true that a few people on the margins have indulged in rhetoric that can be termed attempts at the “delegitimization” of Obama, including those who have irrationally focused on myths about the president’s birthplace and religion. But on the left it has become a piece of conventional wisdom that all conservatives are somehow guilty of rhetoric that crosses the bounds of decency. Indeed, so sensitive are Packer and those who think like him that even the public reading of the Constitution this past week by members of Congress (an exercise that included Rep. Giffords, who proudly read the First Amendment) is “an assault on the legitimacy of the Democratic Administration and Congress.”

Speaking in the same spirit, the National Jewish Democratic Council asserted: “It is fair to say — in today’s political climate, and given today’s political rhetoric — that many have contributed to the building levels of vitriol in our political discourse that have surely contributed to the atmosphere in which this event transpired.”

Both Packer’s post and the NJDC statement reflect the liberal talking point of the last two years that has sought to maintain the pretense that the Tea Party and other fervent critics of Obama were nothing more than hate-filled nut cases rather than merely citizens who were asserting their constitutional right of dissent. But as the election in November proved, the Tea Party turned out in many respects to be more representative of mainstream America than the media and other elites who branded them as extremists.

It is true that the political debate in this country over the last two years has been heated, with President Obama and congressional Democrats being subjected to some particularly tough rhetoric. But the level of nastiness directed at Obama was no greater than the vicious attacks that had been leveled at President Bush, who along with Dick Cheney and other administration figures was regularly vilified not only by demonstrators but also by mainstream liberal politicians. Indeed, Packer acts as though left-wing talk-show hosts like Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, who repeatedly seek to delegitimize Republicans and conservatives, didn’t exist. And it is not as if Republicans receive no threats; some, like Rep. Eric Cantor, the new House majority leader, have also been subjected to this sort of indecent behavior.

Despite all this, Packer and the NJDC are determined to use the tragedy in Arizona to resurrect this failed effort to besmirch conservatives and other Obama critics as violent haters. There is, after all, a precedent for this sort of thing. In 1995, President Clinton used the Oklahoma City bombing to strike back at his critics, including radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, even though Limbaugh and others critical of Clinton had nothing to do with the lunatics who perpetrated that crime.

Calls for civil debate are always appropriate, but those who wish to use this terrible crime to attempt to silence their opponents or to stifle legitimate public debate or activism are the ones who are crossing the bounds of decency today.

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Morning Commentary

On a trip to China this weekend, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that the country’s military capabilities are more advanced than previously thought: “China’s investment in new ballistic missiles designed to destroy naval vessels, as well as its pursuit of a stealth fighter, has raised concern in the Pentagon that China’s military is seeking the capability to destroy U.S. warships and aircraft operating off China’s coast.”

Former classmates of Jared Loughner, the alleged shooter of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, paint a picture of a very disturbed individual who was disruptive in class, posted nonsensical and rambling messages online, and was obsessed with trying to manipulate his own dreams: “Loughner’s online accounts contain some political comments but are dominated by bizarre discussions of his desire to establish a new currency and his disdain for what he considered the public’s low literacy rates. He also wrote threatening and despairing messages.”

From what little we know about the alleged shooter, it doesn’t appear that the motive was political, Ben Smith writes: “Jared Lee Loughner’s YouTube and MySpace pages don’t offer much evidence that he was drinking from the main streams of American politics. The obsession with the gold standard and the hostility to the federal government resonate with the far right, the burned American flag with the left, but the discussion of mind control and grammar sound more like mental illness than politics.”

And if left-wingers want to blame Sarah Palin’s supposed “heated rhetoric” for the Arizona shooting, then they should blame journalists as well, writes Howard Kurtz: “Let’s be honest: Journalists often use military terminology in describing campaigns. We talk about the air war, the bombshells, targeting politicians, knocking them off, candidates returning fire or being out of ammunition. So we shouldn’t act shocked when politicians do the same thing. Obviously, Palin should have used dots or asterisks on her map. But does anyone seriously believe she was trying to incite violence?”

Fanatics may have silenced Salmaan Taseer, but his assassination was not the death knell for Pakistani liberalism, writes his son Shehrbano Taseer in the New York Times: “It may sound odd, but I can’t imagine my father dying in any other way. Everything he had, he invested in Pakistan, giving livelihoods to tens of thousands, improving the economy. My father believed in our country’s potential. He lived and died for Pakistan. To honor his memory, those who share that belief in Pakistan’s future must not stay silent about injustice. We must never be afraid of our enemies. We must never let them win.”

Who are the real hijackers of Islam — the radicals or the moderates? Jonah Goldberg writes that Taseer’s assassination makes it abundantly clear that extremists, not peaceful Muslims, make up the majority of the Islamic world: “For years we’ve been hearing about how the peaceful religion of Islam has been hijacked by extremists. What if it’s the other way around? Worse, what if the peaceful hijackers are losing their bid to take over the religion? That certainly seems to be the case in Pakistan.”

On a trip to China this weekend, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that the country’s military capabilities are more advanced than previously thought: “China’s investment in new ballistic missiles designed to destroy naval vessels, as well as its pursuit of a stealth fighter, has raised concern in the Pentagon that China’s military is seeking the capability to destroy U.S. warships and aircraft operating off China’s coast.”

Former classmates of Jared Loughner, the alleged shooter of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, paint a picture of a very disturbed individual who was disruptive in class, posted nonsensical and rambling messages online, and was obsessed with trying to manipulate his own dreams: “Loughner’s online accounts contain some political comments but are dominated by bizarre discussions of his desire to establish a new currency and his disdain for what he considered the public’s low literacy rates. He also wrote threatening and despairing messages.”

From what little we know about the alleged shooter, it doesn’t appear that the motive was political, Ben Smith writes: “Jared Lee Loughner’s YouTube and MySpace pages don’t offer much evidence that he was drinking from the main streams of American politics. The obsession with the gold standard and the hostility to the federal government resonate with the far right, the burned American flag with the left, but the discussion of mind control and grammar sound more like mental illness than politics.”

And if left-wingers want to blame Sarah Palin’s supposed “heated rhetoric” for the Arizona shooting, then they should blame journalists as well, writes Howard Kurtz: “Let’s be honest: Journalists often use military terminology in describing campaigns. We talk about the air war, the bombshells, targeting politicians, knocking them off, candidates returning fire or being out of ammunition. So we shouldn’t act shocked when politicians do the same thing. Obviously, Palin should have used dots or asterisks on her map. But does anyone seriously believe she was trying to incite violence?”

Fanatics may have silenced Salmaan Taseer, but his assassination was not the death knell for Pakistani liberalism, writes his son Shehrbano Taseer in the New York Times: “It may sound odd, but I can’t imagine my father dying in any other way. Everything he had, he invested in Pakistan, giving livelihoods to tens of thousands, improving the economy. My father believed in our country’s potential. He lived and died for Pakistan. To honor his memory, those who share that belief in Pakistan’s future must not stay silent about injustice. We must never be afraid of our enemies. We must never let them win.”

Who are the real hijackers of Islam — the radicals or the moderates? Jonah Goldberg writes that Taseer’s assassination makes it abundantly clear that extremists, not peaceful Muslims, make up the majority of the Islamic world: “For years we’ve been hearing about how the peaceful religion of Islam has been hijacked by extremists. What if it’s the other way around? Worse, what if the peaceful hijackers are losing their bid to take over the religion? That certainly seems to be the case in Pakistan.”

Read Less




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