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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Okay, one more Loughner post...

First: Riverdaughter's latest is brilliant. We have allowed the right to accuse the left of politicizing the Arizona tragedy, and this must not stand:
We seem to have forgotten how ruthless and unsentimental the right can be about politicizing personal tragedies when their agenda can benefit from it. No one here should be under any illusions about what the right is capable of when it comes to turning on the histronics to 11.

If it had been a Republican legislator gunned down, the right would be on the air right now screaming for the rescission of the first amendment from the Constitution and some Republican extremist in Congress would be drafting legislation to make sure that Fox was the official news channel and the Roberts’ court would be standing by, ready to not only invoke the amendment but retroactively remove all of the speeches it finds offensive in elementary school text books. Goodbye, “I have a Dream”.
It's worse than that. The right has itself politicized Tucson -- nonstop. Remember the words of Tea Party leader Judson Phillips? "The shooter was a liberal lunatic. Emphasis on both words."

Nothing is too small or too large for the right to politicize. If it could profit by doing so, the right would not balk at politicizing a murder, a kidnapping, an earthquake, a toothache, a song by Miley Cyrus, a bad burrito from Taco Bell, that dreadful show starring Amy Poehler, or a bad paint job from Earl Schieb. When the Second Coming hits, a FOX news team will be spinning their coverage ruthlessly -- right up until the moment they are cast into the lake of eternal fire.

Second: It's true that some of Loughner's former schoolmates said that he used to be "liberal" (circa 2006). Why did they use that word? Why did they come to this conclusion? Because Jared suspected Bush of masterminding the 9/11 attacks.

This raises a further question: How would those kids even know what a liberal is? How would young people raised in Arizona's bizarre culture define the term?

Michael Parenti (I think it was Parenti) used to tell a story about perceptions of news bias. As he traveled the country, he encountered many young people who believed with jackass certainty that liberals control the media. They "knew" this because Rush Limbaugh told them it was so.

Parenti responded: "Okay, tell me who is the liberal equivalent to Limbaugh. Name a liberal commentator who has that kind of power." The kids, stuck for an answer, finally blurted out one name: "Howard Stern."

Stern (whose shtick started to bore me about halfway through his second Letterman appearance) is a YAL -- Yet Another Libertarian. He mostly supports Republican candidates, although he came to hate Bush.

This brings us right back to Loughner's callow school chums, who resorted to the term "liberal" because they had no other frame of reference. They didn't know of any other way to describe someone who did not love Dubya.

Third: Let's get back to the blame game. One Cannonfire reader has asked:
Joseph, I appreciate that you love to riff on this subject, but I'm still left wondering what the point is.

I mean, even if Loughner had been obsessed with, say, Moby Dick, to the point where he went out and harpooned a half-dozen fat white men, what would that prove aside from the obvious: that people who are insane will do insane things, occasionally even violently lethal things, and there's no telling what's going to set them off?
My answer was that guys like Loughner function as the proverbial canary in the coal mine. That response now strikes me as true but inadequate. This is simpler and better:
One needn’t be sane in order to be moti­vated by a polit­i­cal agenda.
Just so. The debate between "Loughner was a nut" and "Loughner was political" centers on a false dichotomy. Presidential assassin Charles Guiteau was an absolute toon who heard voices in his head -- but he was also a political animal who belonged to a faction of the Republican party that felt betrayed by Garfield.

Thus, whenever a winger tells you that "no evidence" links Jared to the right, we may legitimately bring up such items as this:
The Times also noted Loughner’s references to the “second Constitution,” right-wing jargon for the amendments to the Constitution adopted in the decades after the Civil War, and regarded, like the Civil War itself, as illegitimate.
One of the experts interviewed by the Times is Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors racist and neo-Nazi groups. He wrote of Loughner’s references to the US currency: “The idea that silver and gold are the only ‘constitutional’ money is widespread in the antigovernment ‘Patriot’ movement that produced so much violence in the 1990s. It’s linked to the core Patriot theory that the Federal Reserve is actually a private corporation run for the benefit of unnamed international bankers.”
Although this link goes to a Kos entry, I think that the concept of "stochastic terrorism" merits discussion:
Stochastic terrorism is the use of mass communications to stir up random lone wolves to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.

This is what occurs when Bin Laden releases a video that stirs random extremists halfway around the globe to commit a bombing or shooting.

This is also the term for what Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity, and others do. And this is what led directly and predictably to a number of cases of ideologically-motivated murder similar to the Tucson shootings.
The stochastic terrorist is the person who uses mass media to broadcast memes that incite unstable people to commit violent acts.

One or more unstable people responds to the incitement by becoming a lone wolf and committing a violent act. While their action may have been statistically predictable (e.g. "given the provocation, someone will probably do such-and-such"), the specific person and the specific act are not predictable (yet).

The stochastic terrorist then has plausible deniability: "Oh, it was just a lone nut, nobody could have predicted he would do that, and I'm not responsible for what people in my audience do."
Let us quickly note that Markos Moulitsas published one hell of lot of stochastic terror throughout 2008. Examples:
Just slit her throat, lock her in a car boot, and drive the car into river in West Virginia. Ain’t gonna let no whore screw with the man
The heinous Hillary hag with a bullseye on her forehead is reason enough to vote for Obama
And a Drive-By Won't Be Out of the Question. What goes around, comes around. The stupid fucking bitch !!
Talk About WHITE TRASH that bitch better keep looking over her shoulder.
Even though the Kossacks refuse to 'fess up to their ghastly hypocrisy, the concept of "stochastic terror" has, in my opinion, much to recommend it.

In the early months of 1922, right-wingers in beer halls throughout Germany recited a ditty which translates thus: "Death to Walther Rathenau -- the Godforsaken Jewish sow." (Rathenau was a brilliant Jewish German politician who had argued that Germany needed to respect the treaty of Versailles.) The singers of that song were stochastic terrorists. When Rathenau was killed, they were, in a sense, the true authors of the crime. The actual hit men (a handful of army officers employed by this secret group) were mere tools.

There are plenty of Loughners out there. Take the case of Jim Adkisson, the unemployed truck driver who, in 2008, shot up a church he considered overly "liberal":
"This was a symbolic killing," he wrote in a four-page manifesto. "Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate, + House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book. I'd like to kill everyone in the Mainstream Media. But I knew these people were inaccessible to me."
Inside the house, officers found "Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder" by radio talk show host Michael Savage, "Let Freedom Ring" by talk show host Sean Hannity, and "The O'Reilly Factor," by television talk show host Bill O'Reilly.
Adkisson explicitly wrote that he wanted "to encourage other like-minded people to do what I've done."
One such "like-minded person" was Byron Williams, who last year made plans to kill members of the ACLU and a progressive group called the Tides Foundation.
According to Thomason, Williams told investigators that he was disturbed because he was unable to find a job due to the poor economy.

Williams' mother, Janice Williams, said to the San Francisco Chronicle that her son was angry with "the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items."
A similar case occurred last year, when Jerry and Joe Kane -- two radical rightwingers -- killed two cops in Arkansas:
Kane and his son, by all accounts, didn't trust the U.S. Government. They didn't respect it, didn't think the laws that apply to the citizens in this country applied to them. They had particular beliefs and habits, like thinking they didn't need driver's licenses.

When those beliefs came into conflict with Officers Paudert and Evans, it was, according to hate group experts and friends of the Kanes, the perfect storm.
In April of 2009, Daniel Hayden was arrested for planning a terrorist attack in Oklahoma. Previously he had posted the following on Twitter:
Since we are already criminals in the eyes of the New World Order, and they intend to enslave us all, and to kill those of us who will NOT submit to their slavery, I say to IGNORE gun "laws" and keep your guns (AND ammo) handy. You only have three options:

1) Submit to total spectrum domination i.e. total enslavement.
2) Be rounded up and sent to a FEMA camp where you will be killed.
3) Die at the hands of the New World Order oppressors by taking as many of them with you as you can.

I recommend option number three and to keep your powder dry.
In Florida in 2009, Joshua Cartwright was killed after he had shot two Sheriff's Deputies.
An offense report filed against Cartwright the day he died outlines an angry husband who threatened his wife, kept guns and knives on hand, was "severely disturbed" that Barack Obama had been elected president, and believed the U.S. government was conspiring against him.
Also in 2009, a bomb factory was discovered in the home of Mark Campano, of Ohio.
Barbara Vachon lived next door to Campano at the Center Park Place Apartments for several years and said he was a big reason she moved.

"He was always trying to get me and another neighbor to listen to anti-government tapes and watch anti-government videos," said Vachon. "I would never watch them. He was some kind of radical, and he didn't believe in the government."
I could list a number of similar episodes. In each case, scoffers might sneer: "Oh, it's just an isolated incident."

That's what people said when Walther Rathenau was killed.
Comments:
Most excellent. This post should be required reading for anyone who wants to talk about guns & lunatics.
 
I need to stop procrastinating and finally remove my "regime change begins at home" bumper sticker. These days people are probably associating it with this sort of right wing extremism instead of an anti-war stance.

Yes, I'm one of those bumper sticker people. To be honest, that does embarrass me a little. At least I only have two.
 
From what I've read, and I've read pretty extensively, Loughner had signifiers from both sides, left and right. It's impossible for me to ignore those signifiers, such as the language you allude to, and his reading list, his comments on the war, etc, and assign blame to one side or the other. They both contributed to this toxic atmosphere.

What's really sad is that, in the midst of a bunch of childish arguing and excessive use of hyperbole on both sides, this young man could not find the rational guidance he needed.

I don't understand the tendency by both sides to try to attack each other out of existence. Where is the mature point of view? I can't find one. I look at it as we're all Americans, and there has to be a way to ratchet this shit down, for the sake of our collective survival, if nothing else.
 
Anna Belle,

Respectfully, I believe you are missing our point. Mr. Cannon and others who agree (myself included), are not trying to assign direct blame for the Tucson shooting. That shooting has merely highlighted the unacceptable and literal call to arms by the TP leaders. To condemn that is not to give a free pass to inconsiderate rhetoric from the Left. The difference, however, is that the Left's rhetoric, unlike the TP's, is not a direct call to action.

For a further exposition of this distinction, I refer you to Tom in Paine's "Liable to be Blood"

http://tominpaine.blogspot.com/2011/01/blood-libel-or-liable-to-be-blood.html

and this evening's conversation on the topic at John W Smart's blogtalk show

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/johnwsmart/2011/01/19/listen-up
 
Okay, fine. The world's gone mad. (Well, duh..)

So what're you gonna do about it?
What're you gonna do about it?
What're you gonna do about it?

All of you? What exactly are you going to DO about it? Aside from a few self-congratulatory, online circle jerks, I mean?

And Joseph, you know I respect and admire you, so please don't get all hissy on me, I'm really curious. Purty please...?
 
My personal take re Anna Belle v tamerlane.
As Anna Belle notes, Loughner seemed to employ signifiers from both the right and left. Though liberals tend to generally be less gun and violence oriented than people on the right (i.e. I think this is true in general, regardless of the exact historical circumstances). But I also think people tend to go in a more paranoid direction and resort to violence when they're feeling powerless. I think you saw somewhat more of this from the left when the Presidency and both houses of congress were under Republican control (e.g. under Bush/Cheney, truther paranoia started becoming popular in certain quarters on the left). More recently, with Democrats in control of the Presidency and both houses of Congress, there's been more of this from the right (and adding to this is the current economic climate, with Obama doing nothing effectual to ease ordinary people's hardship). Then, on top of this, there's the ascendancy of "victimization chic" that Joseph wrote about earlier.

BTW - I wouldn't equate "Liberals" with what Joseph labels "Progressives" (i.e. the contemporary "Progressives", as opposed to the historical ones). E.g. As Joseph notes, rhetoric from certain contemporary Progressives can be quite violent.

To be honest, I think there are also cognitive biases that are distorting how political partisans see each other. That's not to imply equivalence, but I do think that substantially distorted perspectives are now the norm, and that's contributing to the problems. For an earlier comment of mine (including links to articles) regarding this, see here.

Final point - the more I read about the "Sovereign Citizen Movement", the more I see it as a potentially important source of stochastic political violence.
 
Joseph is doing his part, LoL I think we need to do the same, which is raise our voices.

I've already been doing that, to personal cost.

I'm going to reread this post until I get it, then try to translate it to others.
 
Tamerlane, thanks for the respectfulness, but I'm especially not buying the TP is to blame line of reasoning. They have not been particularly violent as far as I've seen. Expressing yourself loudly at a town hall is pretty much the same thing liberals do at bars every night of the week. They did it in public forums too, when their side was out of power. They do it all day long on blogs and dominate the narrative at sites like Memeorandum.

The left has assigned the same status to the TP as they have to God, which is to say it's being used as a general fantasy-fueler and also a giant dumping ground for illegitimate complaints and hatred from the left. Neither God nor the TP mean much to me, except that they help bring perspective about just how far out of control the left has gotten, just as out of control as the right.

The problem for the left is that people like me represent the middle, and there are a lot of us declaring a pox on both houses. Arguments like the one presented here, and the ridiculously spun arguments I've seen at other leftist blogs are offensive to us in the wake of this tragedy. (FTR, so is the right's reaction after the left piled on.) I couldn't believe the first few lines of this post and wondered if Joe and I lived in the same world. Because what I saw was not the right twisting anything (which it's true they have been known to do), but a vicious and inappropriate misappropriation of the Giffords tragedy by the left in an attempt to beat up on the right for days and days on end after the shooting. It was disgusting to watch, and much credibility was lost.

Now, the reaction in recent days on the right has been pretty ugly too (but at least I can see they were pushed into a rhetorical corner). For example, I didn't appreciate the rhetoric that cynically asserted Obama was "branding" the tragedy at his speech, a point that Michelle Malkin and Riverdaughter's blog both shared, ftr.

But I am sick to death of all of the attempts, both left and right, to lay a cloud of "logic" on this using old assumptions and useless ideas for how to move forward. That's not logic as I understand it. Unfortunately, I see no one with any real audience taking a risk by looking at themselves and their side first. That would do a lot to restore some credibility, but I'm not holding my breath.
 
Tamerlane, thanks for the respectfulness, but I'm especially not buying the TP is to blame line of reasoning. They have not been particularly violent as far as I've seen. Expressing yourself loudly at a town hall is pretty much the same thing liberals do at bars every night of the week. They did it in public forums too, when their side was out of power. They do it all day long on blogs and dominate the narrative at sites like Memeorandum.

The left has assigned the same status to the TP as they have to God, which is to say it's being used as a general fantasy-fueler and also a giant dumping ground for illegitimate complaints and hatred from the left. Neither God nor the TP mean much to me, except that they help bring perspective about just how far out of control the left has gotten, just as out of control as the right.

The problem for the left is that people like me represent the middle, and there are a lot of us declaring a pox on both houses. Arguments like the one presented here, and the ridiculously spun arguments I've seen at other leftist blogs are offensive to us in the wake of this tragedy. (FTR, so is the right's reaction after the left piled on.) I couldn't believe the first few lines of this post and wondered if Joe and I lived in the same world. Because what I saw was not the right twisting anything (which it's true they have been known to do), but a vicious and inappropriate misappropriation of the Giffords tragedy by the left in an attempt to beat up on the right for days and days on end after the shooting. It was disgusting to watch, and much credibility was lost.

Now, the reaction in recent days on the right has been pretty ugly too (but at least I can see they were pushed into a rhetorical corner).

But I am sick to death of all of the attempts, both left and right, to lay a cloud of "logic" on this using old assumptions and useless ideas for how to move forward. That's not logic as I understand it. Unfortunately, I see no one with any real audience taking a risk by looking at themselves and their side first.
 
Sorry for the double post. I got an error message that said the message was too long, so I snipped a paragraph and tried again. Apparently both went through.

Affinis, I appreciate your comment. You seem to be genuinely struggling with this as well. I do note Joe's definition of what it means to be a progressive versus liberal, and confess I have been sloppy in applying the terms interchangeably. I'll try to do better, because I do actually support this distinction. I just don't think liberals are as guiltless as others do. Less guilty than others, yes, but still part of the problem.

That said, yes, progressives are every bit as violent and threatening as the right wing. For example, they are currently targeting the home of some poor developer who is involved in building a WalMart, just because they have issues with WalMart. But they are bringing threatening behavior to someone's home. That's beyond the pale.

I also agree that the crazy tends to ratchet up based on who holds power. The left made an ass of itself during the Bush years, and I include myself in that group. I had bought a line of goods without thinking it through. Having problems with the corruption of the Bush admin is one thing, but to full-out scream "fascist brownshirts!" for eight solid years was way over the top.

All that said, I'm not sure how to move this forward, myself. I'm looking for ideas that don't include "the other side is comprised of parasite-ridden assholes that you would do well to avoid." How do we let go of some of the defensiveness in order to make progress as a nation?
 
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