Rich Lowry cites the following in exonerating the far right from any influence on Jared Loughner's disturbed mind:
He became intrigued by antigovernment conspiracy theories, including that the Sept. 11 attacks were perpetrated by the government and that the country’s central banking system was enslaving its citizens. His anger would well up at the sight of President George W. Bush, or in discussing what he considered to be the nefarious designs of government.
I hate to point this out, but this doesn't seem to buttress Rich's case. 9/11 Truthers are as ubiquitous on the far right as the far left, where government conspiracy theories thrive. But to a great extent, only the far right is obsessed with the central banking system.
Notice also a shift in the goal-posts. Like Chris Caldwell, Lowry is now pretending that almost all of those who raised the issue of the political climate in Arizona in the wake of an assassination of a congresswoman - a completely logical and legitimate line of inquiry - did not state that this was a hit-job on the part of some Tea Party functionary. In fact, this general early discussion was concerned that crazy people like Loughner could latch on to violent rhetoric that sane people could more easily handle. Going back to my live-blogging, responding to a reader who diagnosed schizophrenia, I wrote:
I have no expertise in this at all, but my impression of his writings and web presence does indeed suggest to me that some mental illness is probably a key part of this. But this does not exonerate violent or excessive rhetoric from the far right or far left: it's precisely the disturbed who can seize on those kinds of statements and act on them. The danger of violent rhetoric, especially involving gun violence, is its interaction with the disturbed. That was Pelosi's message last year.
Note that this concern is premised on the notion that Loughner is mentally ill: that's what makes him particularly dangerous in that kind of rhetorically extreme climate. Note that I also raised the specter of possible far left influence as well (and took pains to present evidence that he was a lefty). So Lowry's argument, it seems to me, is with an almost entirely straw man. But even as the details emerged, I noted some strands that, as I said, gave me pause before dismissing this as entirely apolitical. The main themes that leapt out at me were those about the Fed and the currency, staples of far right paranoia. And the more we find out, the more those themes seem to resonate:
The officer, Dana Mattocks, read the letter aloud, detailing a litany of troubled and disruptive behavior, including the recent posting of an unsettling video titled “Pima Community College School Genocide/Scam Free Education Broken United States Constitution.”
A few days later, during a meeting with a school administrator, Mr. Loughner said that he had paid for his courses illegally because, “I did not pay with gold and silver” a standard position among right-wing extremist groups.
It was not just his appearance the pale shaved head and eyebrows that unnerved them. It was also the aggressive, often sexist things that he said, including asserting that women should not be allowed to hold positions of power or authority.
My italics. My point here is not that Loughner was a far right ideologue. It is that he was a paranoid, mentally ill, gun-obsessed loner who had picked up shards of far right ideology - on currency, the constitution, gender roles - that need to be recognized for what they are. It's muddled up in an addled mind and diseased soul into something unique. Ron Paul bears no more direct responsibility for this madman than Sarah Palin does. But that Loughner was affected in some small part by far right conspiracy theories seems indisputable at this point. And the massive insistence on the right that politics and political culture tells us nothing about this man's mind is not borne out by the evidence we have so far.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.