A HORRIBLE MOMENT, AND THE BLOGOSPHERE IS MAKING IT WORSE
I've been away from computers since yesterday morning and I learned about the Arizona massacre from the Sunday print New York Times. At that point I really didn't want to get online, because I knew what was coming, and I was exactly right: the shooter is mostly crazy and, though clearly influenced by angry right-wing rhetoric, in a political gray area. Our side is essentially treating this as a pure political assassination attempt, while the right is cherry-picking what we know about the shooter (ignore the fondness for Rand, play up the fondness for Marx) to brand the shooter a lefty.
MSNBC has the best rundown I've read so far of the shooter's thoughts -- and "thoughts" may be too nice a word for this mess of incoherence. It's clear that Jared Lee Loughner was influenced by recent right-wing rants on immigration and currency ("No! I won't pay debt with a currency that's not backed by gold and silver!"). It's also clear that he's a garden-variety schizophrenic. The one regrettable aspect of the MSNBC story is the headline: "Profile of suspect Jared Loughner: 'I can't trust the current government.'" You read this and you think: wingnut. But here's that statement in context, from his one of his online rants:
In conclusion, reading the second United States Constitution, I can't trust the government because of the ratifications: The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.
There's so much like this:
If B.C.E. years are unable to start then A.D.E. years are unable to begin.
B.C.E. years are unable to start.
Thus, A.D.E. years are unable to begin.
If I teach a mentally capable 8 year old for 20 consecutive minutes to replace an alphabet letter with a new letter and pronounciation then the mentally capable 8 year old writes and pronounces the new letter and pronunciation that's replacing an alphabet letter in 20 consecutive minutes.
I teach a mentally capable 8 year old for 20 consecutive minutes to replace an alphabet letter with a new letter and pronounciation.
Thus, the mentally capable 8 year old writes and pronounces the new letter and pronunciation that's replacing an alphabet letter in 20 consecutive minutes.
Every human who's mentally capable is always able to be treasurer of their new currency.
Andrew Sullivan received an e-mail from a reader who's a psychologist with 20 years' experience; the reader says Loughner has "delusions of persecution" and a "thought disorder," and is probably a paranoid schizophrenic. Me, I'm just a layman, but I've lived for years in a city in which -- less so now, but certainly in the '70s and '80s -- people with such disorders roamed the streets freely, often posting photocopied incoherent rants just like this, full of cosmic theories, insane number-crunching and leaps of "logic" that read more like poetry -- Gerard Manley Hopkins, say -- than anything resembling sense. I've pulled down and read a number of those over the years. I've had co-workers who went off the rails in this way, one of whom sent letters much like this to her ex-colleagues after her institutionalization. I don't need a degree to say that this guy is severely impaired by mental illness, and that that's the salient point here.
It would be nice if we lived in a society where people who are losing their mental coherence got the help they needed. It would be nice if we lived in a society where it was extremely hard for people like this to buy guns. It would be nice if we had a better scientific understanding of how vulnerable minds like Loughner's respond when the culture's political rhetoric turns violent and angry.
But right-wingers would probably denounce the funding of any scientific study of the latter as "pork." They'd never tolerate any tightening of guns laws, even to limit sales to people like this. And they'd probably resent any money diverted out of the realm of pure capitalism, in any way, to improve the lot of the mentally ill.
That's what's got me angry about the right at this moment. Not the acts of a man who's primarily just deranged.