Daily Archives: January 9, 2011

The Day after the Attack on Congresswoman Giffords: Pointing the Finger of Blame without Evidence and Raising the Extremist Language to a New Level

Aftermath of the attack on Congresswoman Giffords: What Next?

A day after he shot and wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, killed Judge John Roll and 5 others and wounded 11 more innocent people the motives and beliefs of Jared Lee Loughner are still clouded in mystery and subject to conjecture.  Those on the political left have blamed the influence of the Tea Party movement and those on the far right conservative web are saying that Loughner was a liberal. There are also reports that he could be affiliated in some way with the White Supremacist anti-Government group American Renaissance. At this point we still don’t know much but we can begin to look at probabilities based on the limited amount of evidence at hand.

The hard right exemplified by the people at World Net Daily, News Max and News Busters are claiming that Loughner is a “liberal” or “fascinated by liberal political thought.” They base this on the statement made on Twitter by a woman that claims to have known him in High School but has not seen him in years, 2007 to be exact.  Hardly what I would call a truly knowledgeable source but all of these sites are taking her statements at face value.  That is very poor journalism at best and pure partisan propaganda at worst. I lean to the latter because all of these “news” sites have one goal in mind and that is to defeat and demonize liberals.  They have made the claims without even questioning the source. They don’t ask why someone that hasn’t seen Loughner in four years would be marketing this story to the media.  What is her background, how well did she know him and what are her political affiliations? They also ignore others that know him who thought that he was a “normal kid” and were shocked by what he had done.  The uncritical approach of these sources has now spread across the “conservative” blogosphere like wildfire and my bet is when it is disproved as I think that it will be that none of these news sites or bloggers will retract their words.

The left claims that the Tea Party influence has to be a factor.  While we don’t know if Loughner had any connection with the Tea Party movement he echoes some Tea Party themes in his web postings. Personally I doubt if Loughner was a member of the Tea Party but I cannot rule it out but my gut tells me otherwise.  That being said Loughner’s posts on his My Space and You Tube pages echo common themes of the Tea Party as well as groups which are much more violent than the Tea Party is.  Look at his themes and tell me if they are what one would traditionally equate with liberalism:

Distrust of current government: This is a common theme of the party which is out of power and has recently more often associated with the political right and in particular the Tea Party movement which often decries Republican moderates as much as they do Democrat liberals. Likewise far right extremists groups echo that sentiment but in much more conspiratorial ways.  There are liberal groups that also espouse this but they tend not to be as numerous or loud as those on the right.

Return to the Gold Standard and a New Currency: His posts ramble but he seems pretty clear that he does not approve of the Federal Reserve or government control of currency and supports currency backed by gold and silver. This is not a tenant of liberalism but often is found in parts of the political right.

Complaints of Illiteracy: One of the hallmark themes of some right wing commentators such as the very incendiary Michael Savage is “borders, language, culture.” Loughner in particular was a critic of the lack of literacy of Americans in general but even more pointedly those in the congressional district in which he lives. Once again this is a subject, especially in relation to immigrants and the use of English that is more a theme of conservatives than it is liberals.

Vague References to the Constitution and Unconstitutionality of Federal Laws: In his internet posts Loughner makes a number of references to the Constitution, such as how most Americans have never read it and that we do not need to “accept Federalist laws” and to “read the United States of America’s Constitution to apprehend all of the current treasonous laws.” This is a common theme of the far right which believes that many laws are unconstitutional.

Government Mind Control: This is something not from either the political right or left but from the realm of anti-government conspiracy theorists.

Unbelief in God and Religion: The manner in which he states this is similar to those on the nihilistic fringe of anti-government White Supremacist groups.

There is also the fact that Congresswoman Giffords has never been the target of the left but has been the frequent target of the Tea Party and others on the right and that it would be illogical for a Democrat or leftist to kill one of their own, even a moderate that is not associated with the far left of the Democratic Party who recently voted against Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House.

My belief is that Loughner is a severely mentally disturbed individual who has been influenced at various times by different ideologies from the right and left with more of the radical right wing though being present now. I do not know what further investigation will prove or rule out.  I doubt if he was part of any larger conspiracy but a thorough investigation will probably show some connection with White Supremacist or racist extremist groups with some Tea Party ideological influence but no formal connection to the Tea Party.

Right now as I am patient to point out it is wrong to blame his actions on any group at this point, too little is known and I believe that those on the right that are calling Loughner a Democrat and liberal will have egg on their face at the end of the day.

The authorities have now determined that Loughner acted alone and that he planned the attack in advance ruling out a person of interest.

In the end the reaction, especially that from extremes, especially the right in this case will continue to stoke the fires of intolerance and hatred and likely sow the seeds of even more attacks on political leaders, judges and other government officials and even potentially members of the media.  As much as I hope and pray that this attack will help end such inflammatory language in politics and violent acts I think that they will continue. The extremists have too much invested to back down and as the reaction on the blogosphere demonstrates there is little concern with what actually occurred in Tucson and the lives lost or shattered but rather a continued escalation of extreme rhetoric which in my belief will only lead to greater violence and bloodshed.

Where this ends I can’t be sure, but history points to a tyranny being established by the most extreme and organized elements in the debate.  We can be sure that it will not be a more civil discourse and return to moderation. That would be a defeat for the extremists which they will not allow to happen.  I expect more physical confrontations at political rallies with roughnecks and bullies using physical violence and intimidation against their opponents. Likewise I expect the heated vitriol to become more so and calls to violent action to increase with corresponding increases in political violence.  We are not far removed from street battles between extremists and death squads which target the opposition or anyone for that matter that deviates from the party line.  I am not optimistic because I know human nature and history.

God help us.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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The Shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and the Reality of “Weimar” America

The Assailant: Jared Lee Loughner from his My Space Page

I think that the United States of America has become Weimar Germany before my eyes. We have a very divided and polarized electorate which in each of the last several years bouncing the majority party in Congress out almost every two years. Both major parties have proclaimed their opponents dead and claimed that they had a long term lock on congress only to see that disappear in the next election cycle. Presidents go from massive approval ratings to massive disapproval ratings almost overnight and the constant cry seems to be “throw the bums out.” While this is going on both major parties have cultivated a poisonous political culture which has resulted in the furthest extremes controlling each party while claiming to represent the mainstream. Radio and television commentators, pundits and talk show hosts play to the extremist mentality castigating anyone that deviates from their ideological norm and calling for radical if not violent action to achieve those ends.  Sarah Palin used gun sight crosshairs to “target” Congressmen who voted for Health Care Reform for defeat on her PAC website and others have used the language of violent revolution and bloodshed to further inflame already disgruntled and angry electorate.   During the recent election campaign thugs from both sides used violence and intimidation against their opponent’s rallies and campaign headquarters.

The Target: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords with Speaker of the House John Boehner on Monday

Over the past year I have been writing about the poisonous political environment in the United States and the threat to liberty that it poses. I have specifically written about those that threaten violence and use violent imagery to convey their ideology or political goals.  Today we have seen were such talk leads. We still know little about the assassin Jared Lee Loughner a 22 year old loner with some rather odd beliefs. However from what we have seen on his You Tube and My Space pages it is clear that he was certainly troubled. We don’t know enough yet to do more than speculate about what he actually believes and what led him to shoot Congresswoman Giffords, kill 6 others including Federal Judge John Roll, one of Giffords’ staffers and a 9 year old girl and would 11 others.

Assassinated while stopping to say hello after Mass: Judge John Roll

We also now are learning that there is a second suspect who is a according to the Pima County Sherriff a white man in his 50s who allegedly accompanied Loughner to the grocery store where he launched his attack. Reports this evening indicate that Loughner is not talking so there will certainly be more to this story.  It will be interesting and enlightening and potentially frightening to see where the trail leads and what influenced Loughner to attempt to kill Congresswoman Giffords and kill or wound so many more.

Some are already speculating about Loughner’s motivation s and political leanings.  Far right columnists are already trying with very little evidence that Loughner is a left wing extremist.  Aaron Klein of World Net Daily asserts this in a claim based solely on the recollections of a high school classmate who has not seen him for years. Many in the media and on the left posit that he is  a right wing extremist based on his postings about the distrust of the current government, vague references to the Constitution and his support for returning to the Gold Standard.  It is also possible that he is simply a violent man influenced by a wide variety of sources and passions. The fact that he lists Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto as two of his favorite books give the latter some credence as well.

However I would garner from the limited amount of information that Loughner is very unstable.  Like many such people it is entirely plausible that he has swung from one pendulum of radicalism to another. While he may have leaned left in High School it is also very possible that he lurched to the right, influenced by the vitriol of some on the far political right based on the subjects mentioned on his You Tube and My Space pages as I have already noted. I think that may well be what happened. Of course I could be very wrong about this and if so I will own it, but if we look at history there are many cases of mentally unstable people that shift from one extreme to another in relatively short periods of time who turn to violence.  If we add to the picture the fact that after Giffords voted for the Health Care Bill her office was vandalized and was the frequent location of loud and angry protests by members of Arizona’s Tea Party and that at one rally a gun was dropped by an anti-Giffords protestor.

I really think that with things as they are with the violent rhetoric and extreme vitriol that have become a part of everyday political discourse with politicians such as Michelle Bachmann saying things like “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous….having a revolution every now and then is a good thing.” Representative Steve King ranted “Let’s beat that other side to a pulp! Let’s take them out. Let’s chase them down.” Talk show hosts have often made even more extreme statements and while these may energize ratings as well as further whip the angry base to come out to rallies and vote.  Some on the left have engaged in similar talk.  Admittedly even the most passionate and angry members of the extreme right or left are not violent people by nature. However there are people, usually on the fringe of such groups that are emotionally unstable and prone to violence that will interpret such language in very literal ways.

Unfortunately we do not yet know what went on in the mind of Jared Loughner’s mind before he went on his killing spee, but I fear that it will not be the last political violence that we see in the coming days and years.  With both sides so invested in demonizing the other it will be hard for them to back down. Rhetoric will certainly remain inflamed as will the passions of the electorate in the new electoral season with the approaching 2012 Presidential Campaign on the horizon.  I fully expect things to get worse and for more people to be killed or injured by violent acts of extremists because rational debate is a thing of the past in our country. We are not far from political groups forming their own armed “security” details for “protection” of their party’s elected officials or candidates, much like those of the Nazis and Communists in Weimar Germany.  We have already seen some of this in the past couple of years but the worst is yet to come. There will be no backing down by either side though for a moment or two in the wake of this attack some cooler heads will prevail until in the coming weeks the ideologues raise the heated rhetoric to new heights.

The sad thing is that Congresswoman Giffords was a moderate and as I have said before moderates are an endangered species. I have been threatened with physical harm by some extremists who have left comments on this website and I have no political power. I found a lot of common ground with Congresswoman Giffords and had I lived in her district I certainly would have voted for her. She was a strong supporter of the military and our military families, she was for immigration reform and married to a Naval Officer serving as an Astronaut, but to the hard core right she was a traitor because she voted for the Health Care bill.  That is why Sarah Palin’s PAC had a gun sight crosshair with her name on it.  I’m sure they did not actually mean for someone to shoot her or any of the other 19 targets congressmen and women but their words and symbols has meaning and some will take such gestures seriously. Congresswoman Giffords said during the recent election campaign: “For example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action.” Unfortunately Gabrielle Giffords was right about that.

I pray like so many others that she Congresswoman Giffords will live and that somehow despite the grievous nature of her wound that she will recover.  If she dies, as Judge Roll already has her death will be mourned by many of her colleagues, constituents and Americans who believe that political extremism has gone too far. However, you can mark my words that there will be some in the coming weeks who will seek to discredit her or Judge Roll and justify what was done to them regardless of Loughner’s motivation or connections be they from the right or left and some from the right are already doing this on posts to various news site articles. We have reached the abyss and I pray that we don’t throw ourselves into it. God help us all.

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under History, philosophy, Political Commentary