Sorry, Right-wing Talkers. Loughner's Rampage Was A Clear Act Of Political Terrorism Directed At A Liberal 'Government' Target

January 2011: A 22-year-old gunman named Jared Lee Loughner with a long grudge against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and a paranoid hatred of the government walks into a public Giffords event and shoots her in the head, then keeps firing, killing six people and wounding 14 more. Gifford miraculously survives.

Folks on the right are feeling quite confident that their tracks leading up to last weekend's tragedy in Arizona have all been covered, now that the Village has reached a consensus that, because Jared Loughner was probably mentally ill (and at a bare minimum profoundly unstable), his killing rampage couldn't possibly have been politically motivated.

The running line is that liberals who dared point out that vicious right-wing rhetoric directed at people like Giffords played a role in this "jumped to conclusions" before "the evidence was in". We think they may want to look in the mirror -- because as the evidence comes in, it's looking more and more like those liberals were right all along.

Like the crew of right-wing wankers who populate Fox's Journal Editorial Report, led by Paul Gigot and Dan Henninger, as well as the execrable James Taranto and Dorothy Rabinowitz:

GIGOT: Let's give an example of this. I want to read an excerpt from Monday's editorial of "The New York Times." "It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman's act to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge." Dan, your response.

HENNINGER: My response is that it has not only produced the vast majority of the anger that did that, it has produced the vast majority of anger that defeated them in the November elections, OK.

GIGOT: But it's not violent, Dan.

HENNINGER: Look, what Jared Loughner did has nothing to do with what we're talking about. Everybody agrees. But we're talking about it.

GIGOT: Right.

Actually, as we explained to Jennifer Rubin, not only is it violent, the violence is well documented, as has been the role of right-wing extremist rhetoric in inspiring the violence. We document 19 cases of extremist domestic-terror violence just in the past two and a half years; this does not even begin to take into account the litany of criminal violent threats against liberals in the past year.

Gigot also elucidated their core insight with which the entire panel was in agreement, since it seems to be received wisdom among the Beltway Villagers now:

GIGOT: Is this going to hurt the people on the left who walked out on this limb? Because there's really no evidence that Loughner was motivated by anything political.

Then there was the crew at Fox News Watch, particularly host Jon Scott, who was similarly certain that Loughner's rampage was "not political":

I hate to break it to these folks, but there is indeed an abundance of evidence that not only was Loughner's rampage a political act, it was an act of domestic terrorism committed by someone who had been unhinged by far-right conspiracy theories.

Let's review just the facts we already had in hand, even before this weekend:

-- Loughner self-identifies as a terrorist. (See the videos he left behind; in our version, the page in which he identifies himself as a "terrorist" is at the 1:00 mark).

-- He also clearly has adopted two strands of right-wing conspiracism: He believes that American currency is "phony" because it no longer is on the gold standard, and he believes Alex Jones-esque conspiracy theories about "mind control." The SPLC's Mark Potok has more on this.

-- He had developed an unhealthy fixation on Giffords, but his hatred of her was largely political in nature and not personal.

-- There was a powerful campaign of demonization directed at Giffords throughout the 2010 campaign, including but hardly limited to Sarah Palin's attack ads -- much of it featuring rhetoric condoning the idea of targeting Giffords with guns.

-- Giffords was a mainstream moderate Democrat -- a classic target of hatred from the conspiracist right, which despises real liberals but reserves its special venom for centrist Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

If you have any doubt that this was an act of terrorism -- and is thus inherently political -- just consider one of the basic criteria of the definition of the word: Were people -- not just the public generally, but the target group as well -- terrorized by the act? Clearly the answer is yes: Democrats in Arizona, who already feel on edge, are clearly feeling terrorized now.

It cannot be emphasized enough that the target of a political act is a powerful indicator of the perpetrator's intent. Terrorists always intend to send a message with their acts, and the message is conveyed in the persons who are are targeted and become victims of their violence. There's no doubt that Jared Loughner sent a message with these killings: The lives of government-coddling Democrats and their enablers are forfeit.

And if there was any doubt that Loughner was unhinged by right-wing conspiracism, there was the report on Wednesday's Good Morning America:

One of Loughner's friends, a fellow named Zach Osler, says that the internet movie Zeitgeist “poured gasoline on his fire” and had “a profound impact on Jared Loughner's mindset and how he views the world that he lives in.”

We've written a lot about how Alex Jones' crackpot views, his connection to Ron Paul and his John Bircherite conspiracy theory websites and radio program are mainstreaming many of the most extreme beliefs in Conservativeland. (The ADL has a complete dossier in Jones.)

Michelle Goldberg explains in her piece, "Zeitgeist, the documentary that may have shaped Jared Loughners worldview""

We now know a little bit more about the matrix of ideas that helped inspire Jared Loughner’s murderous rampage on Saturday. According to a friend of his interviewed on Good Morning America on Wednesday, the conspiracy documentary Zeitgeist “poured gasoline on his fire” and had “a profound impact on Jared Loughner's mindset and how he views the world that he lives in.” He was also, according to his friend’s father, influenced by the documentary Loose Change, a classic of the 9/11 Truth movement. This does not mean that either of these movies is responsible for making Loughner do what he did, but it does show how his madness was shaped by a broader climate of paranoia, and offers a clue as to why he targeted Gabrielle Giffords.

Indeed, as we said a couple of days ago:

What most of us said from the start is that it was undeniable that the killings took place in a charged atmosphere in which all kinds of violent rhetoric had created an environment in which nearly everyone present on the ground felt something like this was inevitable -- because it creates permission for violent acts, and fuels the irrationality that makes violence possible. Sarah Palin's "target map" was only the most obvious example. So, for that matter, was that "target shoot" fundraiser by her Tea Partying opponent.

... But in the end, Loughner's motive matters less than the realities that people like Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik are well acquainted with already.

Dupnik had all the evidence he needed to make the kinds of remarks he made about the political and social environment in Arizona -- one that has gotten so virulently ugly that Democrats and liberals in Arizona increasingly are fearful for their physical well-being and are reluctant to self-identify as liberals. (Will Bunch had a terrific piece at Media Matters recently on this very subject; as someone with family and friends in Arizona, I can personally attest to this reality.)

Unlike Bill O'Reilly or Megyn Kelly or Monica Crowley, Dupnik actually lives in Arizona, and does know whereof he speaks. Moreover, there is abundant evidence about the vicious eliminationist hatred, some of it officially sanctioned by the GOP and Tea Parties, that was directed at Giffords personally.

I think this Danziger cartoon neatly sums the situation up:

DanzigerCartoon.JPG

(Digby has more.)

About David Neiwert

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