Okay... Mojo is going to pull the (figurative) pin on of this grenade and take one for the team here.
To start: Jared Lee Loughner is clearly an insane young man. What he did, I believe, was not the product of a cogent ideology or an act of clear political inspiration or rebellion, either left or right.
Immediately in the aftermath, however, there was a bit of a rush to ascribe motive to the shooting, which I believe was a natural reaction given the scope of the killings and the apparently intended primary victim.
Although in the first hours, there was as much "he's a deranged libtard" emmanating from the sphincter of right wing blogistan as from any other sources trying to ascribe motive to the shooter.
In the days that followed, attempts to link the shooting to violent right wing bloviation that passes for discourse in their bullpen came under fire, once it became clear that Loughner was simply crazy. Howls of victimization rent the skies as conservative activists bemoaned the American left's hatred of all that is good and decent.
Alas, is there no depths to which we cranky liberals will not sink? How could we fall so low as to try to find fault with conservatives and blame their rhetoric for this tragedy?
Let me explain. It was a simple mistake:
Here are some examples of conservative political discourse from the past six months or so:
September 13, 2010— Police stop Richard Scott McLeod, 48, for a traffic violation in Webberville, Michigan, and upon searching his vehicle, discover bumper stickers quoting Adolf Hitler, a picture of President Barack Obama, a loaded handgun, a bullet-proof vest, and bomb-making materials. McLeod is arrested and charged with illegally carrying a concealed weapon and unlawful possession of body armor. McLeod tells officers that he is a member of the Michigan Militia. The group denies any relationship with McLeod
September 16, 2010—Patricia Stoneking, the President of the Kansas State Rifle Association, tells Fox News, "People need to arm themselves, We have the right to put limits on our government, and that's what [the Second Amendment] does." Explaining why America's Founding Fathers drafted the amendment, she says, "They knew government could become tyrannical. We have the right to defend ourselves from a rogue government."
September 30, 2010—Kevin Terrell, a self-described "colonel" who founded a group of "freedom fighters" in Kentucky, predicts war with "the jackbooted thugs" of Washington within a year. Referring to the arrest of Hutaree militia members earlier in the year, Terrell says, "There was a lot of citizens out there in the bushes, locked and loaded. It's only due to miracles I do not understand that civil war did not break out right there."
September 30, 2010—Steve Kendley, a deputy sheriff running for sheriff in Lake County, Montana, threatens "a violent conflict" with federal agents if "they are doing something I believe is unconstitutional."
October 15, 2010—Conservative radio show host Glenn Beck lays out a hypothetical scenario on the air where the government is considering taking his children because he refused to have them receive a mandatory flu vaccine. Beck tells his audience that his response to the government would be "Meet Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson."
October 21, 2010—Pastor Stephen Broden, the Republican candidate for U.S. Representative in Texas' 30th Congressional District, tells WFAA-TV in Dallas that the violent overthrow of the government is an "option" that remains "on the table." "Our nation was founded on violence," states Broden. "I don't think that we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms."
November 2, 2010—On Election Night, supporters of Republican congressional candidate Nick Popaditch shout down and physically confront Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) and his staff as they exit Golden Hall in San Diego following the announcment of Filner's victory in the race. "You're a damn liar. You should be ashamed of yourself," Popaditch tells Filner, leading the mob. Other Popaditch supporters yell "You're a scumbag!" "Jew!" and "Don't tread on me, Bob!" Another Popaditch supporter punches a Filner campaign staffer in the face.
November 3, 2010—James Patock, 66, of Pima County, Arizona, is arrested on the National Mall in the District of Columbia after law enforcement authorities find a .223 caliber rifle, a .243 caliber rifle barrel, a .22 caliber rifle, a .357 caliber pistol, several boxes of ammunition, and propane tanks wired to four car batteries in his truck and trailer. Patock former neighbor in Arizona reported that, "He hated the president. He hated everything. He said if he got a chance he would shoot the president."
November 4, 2010—Fox News host Bill O'Reilly fantasizes about killing a Washington Post reporter while on the air, saying, "Does sharia law say we can behead Dana Milbank?" O'Reilly also tells co-host Megyn Kelly, "I think you and I should go and beat him up."
November 9, 2010—U.S. Representative-Elect Allen West of Florida's 22nd Congressional District hires conservative radio talk show host Joyce Kaufman as his Chief of Staff. On July 3, Kaufman told a crowd of Tea Party supporters, “I am convinced that the most important thing the Founding Fathers did to ensure me my First Amendments rights was they gave me a Second Amendment. And if ballots don’t work, bullets will."
November 9, 2010—Concealed handgun permit holder George Thomas Lee, 69, of Walhalla, South Carolina, is arrested on the town's main street for disseminating and promoting obscenity by bearing signs "laden with expletives and taking aim at U.S. foreign policy, President Barack Obama, blacks in general, Jews and the nation of Israel." Officers also seize literature from Lee that details "the most expedient means of killing law enforcement officers."
November 10, 2010—Public schools in Broward County, Florida, go into lockdown after an email threat is received by WFTL 850 AM. The email is sent to conservative radio host Joyce Kaufman in response to remarks she made at a Tea Party event in July ("If ballots don't work, bullets will"). The email expresses support for her view of the Second Amendment and says that to further "their cause...something big will happen at a government building in Broward County, maybe a post office maybe even a school." A phone call is then received at the station, allegedly from the emailer's wife, warning that he is preparing to go to a Pembroke Pines school and open fire.
November 23, 2010—Larry Pratt, the Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, writes an editorial in The Register Citizen in which he calls for state and county sheriffs to organize large, armed "posses" as "a check on the unconstitutional exercise of federal power."
November 29, 2010—U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, circulates a PowerPoint presentation to his colleagues in which he compares the Obama administration to the Nazi regime in Germany and likens himself to Gen. George Patton, bragging, "Put anything in my scope and I will shoot it."
January 6, 2011—John Troy Davis, 44, is arrested after threatening to set fire to the office of Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and shoot members of his staff. The threat comes when Davis calls Bennet's office to complain about his Social Security benefits, telling a staffer that he is schizophrenic and "may go to terrorism." "I'm just going to come down there and shoot you all," he declares. Davis is charged with assault on a federal employee.
January 8, 2011 (same day as Giffords shooting, ed.)—Fearing violence from tea party activists, Arizona Legislative District 20 Republican Chairman Anthony Miller, Secretary Sophia Johnson, First Vice Chairman Roger Dickinson, and former district spokesman Jeff Kolb resign from their positions. "I don't want to take a bullet for anyone," says Miller, who cites verbal attacks and threatening blog posts from tea party members upset with the fact that he is a former campaign worker for U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Miller also reports an incident in which a detractor made his hand into the shape of a gun and pointed it at him.
January 12, 2011—Charles Turner Habermann, 32, is arrested and charged with threatening a federal official after leaving a series of disturbing voicemails for U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) on December 9, 2010. Habermann, enraged by comments that McDermott made opposing tax cuts for the rich, says, "Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, or George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, if any of them had ever met Jim McDermott they would all blow his brains out. They'd shoot him in the head. They'd kill him, because he's a piece of disgusting garbage." Habermann tells McDermott's staff, "You let that [expletive] scumbag know, that if he ever [expletive] with my money, ever the [expletive] again, I'll [expletive] kill him, okay. I'll round them up, I'll kill them, I'll kill his friends, I'll kill his family, I will kill everybody he [expletive] knows."
January 12, 2011—After a report by the Columbia Free Times, Palmetto State Armory removes an advertisement from its website for a personalized assault rifle accessory. “Palmetto State Armory would like to honor our esteemed congressman Joe Wilson with the release of our new ‘You Lie’ AR-15 lower receiver,” the ad reads. A picture of Wilson holding a rifle and standing in the company's gun shop appears on the same webpage. The ad refers to an incident in September 2009 when Wilson disrupted a speech by President Barack Obama in the U.S. Capitol and claimed that impending health care reform legislation would not provide coverage for undocumented immigrants.
I remember when I went to a Tea Party deal in San Diego in the weeks before the election to get a sense of what their gripes were and try to make some "sense of it all." One of the people I ran into there was a guy carrying a sign and distributing literature about "Agenda 21," the United Nations plan to do away with between one-third and two-thirds of the world's population and institute a New World Order of Oligarchical control and slavery over the remaining lumpenproles who will labor away for the riches and glories of their Bilderberger/Illuminati overlords.
Yeah, he was probably the nuttiest guy at the rally, but not by that much...
So you can see how we liberals might have been tempted to jump to conclusions -- however incorrect they turned out to be -- in the wake of the Tuscon shooting.
And in case any of the conservative readers of the wire are wondering, this is kind of shit we've been complaining about for the past few years, and even in the wake of the Tuscon shootings, we see no attempt from the Tea Party activists, the movement conservatives or those who count themselves among their various allies to distance themselves from this species of political activity.
So frankly, when I am watching breaking news that a Democratic Congresswoman from Arizona, who won a heated race a couple of months ago, had her office vandalized by opponents of health care reform and had violent threatening emails and phone calls directred against her and her staff for her opposition to Arizona's ridiculous anti-immigration law, you tell me Mr. Wizard... what first impressions do you think I am going to have.
And the immediate and vehement reaction from conservative gasbags at all levels trying to paint Loughner as a "deranged liberal" indicates to me that they were thinking the very same thing: "Oh God, this guy is one of us..." Talk about whistling past the freekin' graveyard.