The more we learn about Jared Loughner, the more it becomes clear he was driven by inner demons that had little or no connection to talk radio or toxic rhetoric or any of the other political provocations insinuated by the left, which last week raised the temperature in its peculiar little hothouse to a ridiculous degree.
It began almost within minutes of the Tucson massacre. Even before the identity of the alleged shooter was known, various commentators were blathering about Sarah Palin, the map showing crosshairs over Democratic congressional districts, incendiary rhetoric, talk radio.
But by midweek, the whole thing was unraveling. A school friend of Loughner told ABC News that Loughner wasn’t influenced by talk radio or politics generally and didn’t even watch TV: “He disliked the news. He didn’t listen to political radio. He didn’t take sides. He wasn’t on the left. He wasn’t on the right.”
“Does anyone have aggression 24/7?” Loughner asked in an online gamers chat room. These postings, reported by The Wall Street Journal, reveal a lonely, erratic individual frustrated by his inability to find a job and angry at female rejection.
“I bet your hungry,” he wrote in one entry. “Because I know how to cut a body open and eat you for more then a week. ;-)” Another: “Would you hit a Handy Cap Child/Adult?”
There is no evidence that any of the storms in this man’s mind — his obsessions with currency, the government, grammar, the educational system — had much of anything to do with politics.
I suspect that a lot of people who engaged in last week’s national festival of the great knee-jerk are feeling a bit exposed right now. The most obvious would be New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who wrote in a piece titled “Climate of Hate” that even though the Tucson shooter “appears” to have mental problems, that doesn’t mean the incident had nothing to do with politics.
“Let’s not make a false pretense of balance,” Krugman intoned, “(the toxic rhetoric) is coming overwhelmingly from the right.”
By all means, let’s have no “pretense of balance” — a line that makes you laugh out loud. For anyone interested in a catalog of “eliminationist rhetoric” from the left, Michelle Malkin has a fascinating compilation, complete with photos of “Kill Bush” T-shirts and posters showing the former president beheaded.
The vitriol aimed at Palin in this catalog is unbelievable. I’m not exactly one of Palin’s fans, but the reaction she generates is truly amazing. Just search for “The progressive ‘climate of hate’: An illustrated primer.”
Many seem to assume that our discourse is more poisoned today than at any time in our history, but it ain’t so. My college years came during the Vietnam War, a period far more turbulent than our own.
You’d pick up the paper in the morning and read how the ROTC office had been bombed or the school had been shut down by protests. Every day you heard how the U.S. government was criminal, Presidents Johnson and Nixon were baby-killers, the good guys in the war were the Vietnamese communists and the only way forward was violent revolution.
By then, the media were firmly against the war and the coverage reflected the judgment that defeat was inevitable. Funny, I don’t remember the “tone” of the national debate becoming an issue in itself.
Well, no. The war was unpopular and the media narrative was winning politically. Complaining about the nastiness of one’s opponents is what you do when you’re losing.
There were a few on the left who didn’t buy into last week’s hysteria, the most notable being President Obama, who explicitly denied that a lack of civility caused the tragedy: “ it did not,” he said, adding that: “Bad things happen, and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.”
And a tip of the hat to Jonathan Chait of The New Republic, who once wrote a piece that began, “I hate President George W. Bush.” In regard to Tucson, Chait wrote: “Conservatives are furious that the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords is being pinned on them. Their indignation is justified.”
A CBS poll found that 57 percent of respondents don’t believe the Tucson rampage should be attributed to the nation’s heated political rhetoric. I’d say a lot of people on the left, who pretend to care so very deeply about our fragile lost civility — and suggest that any remedy lay solely with those boorish conservatives — have just been unmasked.