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Spreading the blame a little farther - Input Junkie
January 10th, 2011
07:37 pm

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Spreading the blame a little farther
Last I heard, there's nothing solid tying Loughner to the more violent right-wing rhetoric. It may have affected him, but if so, it doesn't show up strongly in his writing.

The one relatively good thing in the situation is that he's still alive, so we've got a better chance of learning about his influences.

There's a wide insurrectionist streak in the American right, but what's unusual[1] is that Loughner didn't stop with killing a politician or a politician and a judge. He went after a crowd of people who weren't in the government, and I can't think of any other American examples of assassination combined with mass murder.

This is terrorism, and I think he was influenced merely because terrorists have moved the Overton Window-- the range of what's thinkable. [2] Killing random people is how you say you're serious.

If this is true, there's no obvious solution. I'm hoping that terrorism will fade out eventually, and expecting that no one will be quite sure why.

[1] I think I'm right about this-- if not, I'm sure you'll tell me.

[2] OK, it's a slight extension of the idea of the Overton Window.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/459141.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:bemused_leftist
Date:January 11th, 2011 01:01 am (UTC)
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Just to nitpick.... He may not have known this person was a judge.
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From:milimod
Date:January 11th, 2011 01:36 am (UTC)
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As much as I'd love, any day of the week, to see Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck grow up and shut up until they can say something constructive, I don't honestly believe that Loughner's actions would have been much different without their contributions. I believe Loughner has been headed in that direction for many years and there were simply no checks or balances working to counter him. I don't even think it was his "dysfunctional family," as they have been promptly described in the media. I think it was classic organic psychosis -- chemical imbalance, whatever you want to call it. It was inside of Loughner, eating away at his cognition like acid, and events conspired to bring him to that shopping center with a gun on Saturday morning. In a better world than what we have at the moment, he'd be confined to a facility where he could be diagnosed, treated and kept from hurting himself or others. He may get diagnosed; he'll be shut away probably for the rest of his life if he doesn't get the death penalty and therefore will no longer be a danger to the general populace. But his life as he's known it is now over. The toxic political discourse may quiet down a bit -- we can only hope -- but there will still always be people who cannot think rationally and will mistake innocent people for the "demons" that haunt them. I'm 100% in favor of gun control, but never forget the epidemic of stabbings that we've seen in China this year. At least 21 have been killed and over 90 injured by knives, hammers and cleavers. There have been crazy people as long as there have been people. The world we live in is doing little or nothing to alleviate this problem.
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From:trinker
Date:January 11th, 2011 01:36 am (UTC)
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The quotes I've seen say that he was deeply suspicious of government, and if you combine that with the Tea Party rhetoric that government is bad, and liberals are pro-repressive government, and liberals are traitors to the American way of life, then you end up with an endpoint of "so anyone who is at a liberal political gathering is an enemy of real Americans". Add that to his thwarted desire to join the Army (presumably to be a hero by killing enemies of real Americans), and you get Loughner killing as many people as he can manage at a Democratic politician's gathering.
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From:womzilla
Date:January 11th, 2011 01:56 am (UTC)
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There's a report of him acting out in one of his college classes (last year?) at a female student who read a poem out loud about having an abortion; IIRC, he called her a "terrorist".
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From:whswhs
Date:January 11th, 2011 01:43 am (UTC)
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There's a wide insurrectionist streak in the American left, too. I was in college in the late 1960s and early 1970s; I remember everything from merely disruptive protests to SCUM and the Weather Underground and the killing of Malcolm X by members of the Nation of Islam.

So far as this particular killer has any traceable political outlook, it seems to have been more leftist, at least a few years ago and according to the young woman who knew him then. But I think the more obvious explanation is that he was not even a political terrorist, but a psychotic; any ideological content in his beliefs was picked up at random. No political movement or faction is immune to paranoid hangers-on.
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From:bemused_leftist
Date:January 11th, 2011 01:56 am (UTC)
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Do we have evidence that he was even a hanger-on to either major faction? Giffords' opponent, Kelly, said they had never heard of him.
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From:lilairen
Date:January 11th, 2011 01:48 am (UTC)
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This post is interesting as a set of rhetorical influences. (Linked from a locked post, or I'd link you to the discussion there.)
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From:whswhs
Date:January 11th, 2011 07:28 am (UTC)
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It's kind of weird to see a reading list that includes We the Living, 1984, The Communist Manifesto, and My Struggle being listed as evidence of an individual vs. the state mentality (Orwell was a Trotskyite and a lifelong leftist after all) or of a generalized "smash the state" attitude (about the furthest thing imaginable from what Hitler advocated). In fact I could hardly think of any four works that have less in common ideologically.
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From:jim_p
Date:January 11th, 2011 04:45 am (UTC)
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I admit that I am not a psychological professional, but my father-in-law was and we had many fascinating conversations on the subject. Based on the descriptions I've heard from his friends and classmates and the disjointedness of his writings, I'd have to say that he's a full-blown schizophrenic. Early 20s is about the time that the condition comes into full bloom... someone might be mostly-normal but a bit "odd" during childhood and adolescence, then in the 20s the fuse finally blows and they're living in their own reality which has nothing to do with ours.

In other words, don't try to come up with any "rationale" for what he did... there isn't any.
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From:trinker
Date:January 11th, 2011 06:11 am (UTC)
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Even schizophrenics have some logical-to-them rationale, pieced together from their personal experience.
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From:dichroic
Date:January 11th, 2011 08:28 am (UTC)
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Interesting; I think you're right. I can think of a number of cases of assassination and a number of cases of murder en masse(1) but none before this where they're combined.

(1) I used that term to distinguish what this guy did, or say the shooter in the bell tower at UT, from the more usual kind of mass murderer who kills masses one at a time.
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From:bemused_leftist
Date:January 11th, 2011 09:36 am (UTC)
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Very good.
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From:richardthinks
Date:January 11th, 2011 12:56 pm (UTC)
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I do think you're stretching of the Overton Window idea, in that I don't believe it shows a change in the goalposts of the thinkable. I doubt anybody imagines Loughner's action to be valid political discourse, but everyone could already imagine it before it happened.

Moreover, I'm surprised that nobody seems to be able to come up with an assassination/mass murder in US history; there are so many in other countries, from the attempt to kill Louis Philippe with an "infernal device" to the use of bombs at public rallies to kill Rajiv Gandhi. I worked on a game design proposal in 1994 that involved a plot toward a mass murder/assassination attempt against a US president (it was a 24 type thing avant l'heure, in that brief window when computer games were "about" things), and I guess it's been done many times in other media. So I don't think there was even a "it couldn't happen here" kind of coccoon to be broken through.

I doubt terrorism will fade out: in one form or another it's been with us for a long time and it's highly effective in certain ways. I think we can expect reporting of terrorism to go out of fashion slowly in the US as people forget the Bush agenda, but then when acts of terrorism show up they'll just be labeled "anomalous," as they were back in the 90s.
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From:nancylebov
Date:January 11th, 2011 01:05 pm (UTC)
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I meant that the publicity about terrorism changed Loughner's Overton window, not the general public's.
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From:landley
Date:January 11th, 2011 01:06 pm (UTC)
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I blogged about moving the Overton Window a few months back:

http://landley.net/notes-2010.html#04-07-2010
http://landley.net/notes-2010.html#11-09-2010
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