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.