Essentially live-blogging this story for four days has been a little surreal. An event occurs and within minutes we are assimilating information as it comes in. The truth arrives in empirical waves, and the blogospheric-online conversation rides each one. More people seem to be engaged in this dialogue than ever before and the result is like both watching and inhabiting a collective mind and gut digest various, successive chunks of news, views and fact.

The conflation of mental illness and political assassination is inherently explosive. It's been clear from the very beginning that the murderer is mentally disturbed; it's also clear to me that when the victim herself has warned in advance of the risk of extreme rhetoric directed against her, that the political context matters.

I have to say that Jake Weisberg really helps bring this complex truth home here. Money quote:

To call [Loughner's] crime an attempted assassination is to acknowledge that it appears to have had a political and not merely a personal context. That context wasn't Islamic radicalism, Puerto Rican independence, or anarcho-syndicalism. It was the anti-government, pro-gun, xenophobic populism that flourishes in the dry and angry climate of Arizona. Extremist shouters didn't program Loughner, in some mechanistic way, to shoot Gabrielle Giffords. But the Tea Party movement did make it appreciably more likely that a disturbed person like Loughner would react, would be able to react, and would not be prevented from reacting, in the crazy way he did.

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