Sunday, January 30, 2011


I've said repeatedly that I don't believe Jared Loughner's murderous focus on Gabby Giffords was inspired by right-wing rhetoric -- the guy's delusional and seems far more interested in fringe ideas than left-right politics. I was sure I was going to have a different reaction to this story:

California man arrested with explosives outside Dearborn Islamic center

An ex-Army veteran from California who is accused of driving to Metro Detroit's largest mosque with a trunk full of explosives is behind bars after being charged with making a terrorist threat.

Roger Stockham, 63, is charged with one count of a false report or threat of terrorism and one count of explosives-possession of bombs with unlawful intent after Dearborn police arrested him Monday outside the Islamic Center of America, one the largest mosques in North America....

A guy traveled all the way from California to attack a mosque in the city that right-wingers sneeringly refer to as "Dearbornistan," and which they claim is an epicenter of sharia law? It seemed rather likely that the would-be bomber would turn out to be a right-leaner.

But this story turns out to be not that simple either. In 1979, AP reported that a 32-year-old California man named Roger Stockham was under arrest after seizing his son and making an unsuccessful attempt to hijack a plane and fly it to Iran.

Mr. Stockham was described in that 1979 article as a "Moslem convert."

In 1985, the FBI issued an arrest warrant for 38-year-old Roger Stockham on charges that he planted a pipe bomb at Nevada's Reno-Cannon International Airport. The L.A. Times reported:

Stockham has been treated several times for mental illness. In 1981, he escaped from Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, but was captured by police and reincarcerated. In July, 1982, a Santa Barbara Superior Court judge ordered Stockham released on probation after a deputy district attorney said he should be freed because "he hasn't done anything crazy lately."

Stockham first made news in 1977, when he held a psychiatrist hostage in a Century City office building, using two bombs and a pistol. After more than four hours, he released the psychiatrist unharmed and surrendered to police.

In 2002, a 55-year-old Vermont man named Roger Stockham was arrested after allegedly threatening to set off a bomb near a VA clinic at Fort Ethan Allen. Two years later, Stockham, having been charged with multiple bomb threats against VA facilities and other targets, was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

So I guess we're dealing with another profoundly mentally ill person.

But I wonder if this guy's belief system has changed since 1979, when he was described as a Muslim. On his MySpace page, under "Who I'd like to meet," he writes, "Immanuel Swedenborg." Swedenborg (whose first name was Emanuel) was a Christian mystic and theologian. Also appearing on the MySpace page: the word "noumenon," possibly a reference to the philosophy of Immanuel Kant.

It's possible that a guy who's not all there might develop an interest in mysticism and philosophy in general.

He might also pick up messages from the media -- perhaps right-wing messages. I don't know. But I'm withholding judgment, given the complexity of the guy's story.

Oh, and the right-wing blogger Jammie Wearing Fool finds the name Roger Stockham among the signers of a pro-Bradley Manning online petition. Same guy? I'm not sure.

Maybe his worldview is a mix of libertarian, right-wing, and paranoid -- an Alex Jones sort of stew. Or the story could be more complicated than that. But, given this guy's past, I'm not going to rush to blame wingnut demagogues. And I really want to know why the guy stayed free or so long.

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