Jared Lee Loughner’s Politics

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This will be a brief post and I hope it will be the last one I write about Jared Lee Loughner. In the New York Times this morning, David Brooks deplored the widespread speculation about Loughner’s politics in view of the fact that he “may be suffering from a mental illness like schizophrenia” and is clearly “locked in a world far removed from politics as we normally understand it.”

Brooks may be smug and disingenuous in his ostensible even-handedness, but I like him; I think he’s a genuinely thoughtful person, even if he does end up on the wrong side of almost every issue he engages. In the interest of civility, I will refrain from trashing him. But really–since when do “insanity” and “politics” occupy mutually exclusive spheres? First, as Josh Marshall observed on the Keith Olbermann show Sunday night, crazy people are the most vulnerable to the kinds of incitements–crosshairs and the like–that Giffords herself deplored.

Second, I spend an awful lot of time reading far right wing literature, and I can attest to the fact that a) Loughner’s allusions to hard currency and gold and the Constitution and so on suggest that he was exposed to some of it, and b) Many of the people who write that literature are stark raving mad themselves.

What’s truly scary about the Tea Party is that it borrows so many of its New World Order tropes from Protocols of the Order of Zion-type extremism of the sort that has historically been disseminated from the John Birch Society, the Liberty Lobby, Christian Identity churches, and neo-Nazi outfits like William Luther Pierce’s National Alliance–groups whose rhetoric was virulently racist and unambiguously eliminationist, and whose foundational ideology is based on clinically paranoid premises. No, I’m not calling Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck neo-Nazis–but their playbooks are filled with many of their old tricks.

Yes, it’s a ridiculous waste of time to parse Loughner’s politics for clues as to whether he’s a creature of the left or the right. But that doesn’t mean that politics had nothing to do with what happened either. What matters isn’t what’s going on in Loughner’s twisted brain, but what’s out there in plain daylight for anyone with eyes to see–on Fox News, at Tea Party rallies, and, for fairness’s sake, in the occasional nasty pseudonymous post at Daily Kos.

PS This afternoon Andrew Sullivan aggregated a bunch of particularly egregious (but hardly atypical) examples of these kinds of “incivilities”. “Note,” he says, “That these are not fringe characters. Reynolds has a hugely popular blog, Erickson is cited constantly as a key GOP activist, Bauer is a lieutenant governor of a state and Roger Ailes all but runs the Republican party and its media mouthpiece, Fox News. All of them dehumanize their opponents – animals or Nazis – and the undercurrent of the threat of violence is always there.”

5 thoughts on “Jared Lee Loughner’s Politics

  1. Like Grace Lile said.

    You note the importance of paying attention to the scary, real things going on outside the (mentally ill) assassin’s head in plain daylight. I would add to your list: interpretations of the second amendment to the constitution that allow anyone, no matter how insane, to buy guns designed to inflict massacres.

  2. What is so very sad to me is that for months now (actually stretching back into mid last year) I’ve been meaning to write a post about why the rhetoric of Beck and the conservative movement in general matters, but have not been able to keep pace with events like this.

    1. You might not have written the exact post you wanted to, but so much of what you’ve written has been to this very point. You’ve clarified my thinking enormously.

  3. Arthur,
    These conspiracy theories that used to be confined to the extreme Right are not only common among Tea Partiers but throughout the end times prophecy-consumed sector of the Religious Right. I’ve written on this several times lately at http://www.Talk2action.org including a two-part series on the persecution complex of many of Palin’s supporters:
    http://www.talk2action.org/story/2011/1/13/14015/8393
    and a recent two-part series on the blending of end times prophecy with virulent conspiracy theories:
    http://www.talk2action.org/story/2010/12/8/153719/789

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