AFTER THE ARIZONA SHOOTING, GRAPPLING WITH POLITICAL OPPORTUNISM AND THE MEDIA BLAMESTORM
I’ve now listened to three full days analysis of the tragedy in Arizona which left six people dead, 14 more injured including Rep. Gabriella Giffords who’s still fighting for her life. The 72-hour blamestorm seems almost as crazy as the events of Saturday, drowning out just about everything reasonable citizens should really be debating. But instead of looking at gun laws that allow an unstable student to buy an automatic weapon in 15 minutes or less, we’re talking about who besides the shooter has blood on their hands.
Paul Krugman, for one, wrote in the Sunday New York Times that the toxic rhetoric from the right is to blame. He specifically named Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly among those who stoke the anger. Krugman connects the dots from a 2009 Homeland Security report that warned of a rise in right wing extremism to a 300% rise in threats against members of Congress. He writes that many threats were made by those mentally disturbed, and then offers this premise: that something in America is whipping up a great number of them to act out their illness with violence.
Paul! The Nobel committee is calling. They want their prize back. Your argument doesn’t even factor in, uh, the impact of the economy on mental health.
And what about all those folks who want to lay the blame at Sarah Palin’s feet. Personally, I hate her website post that had crosshairs on a map of Democratic candidates. But Jared Lee Loughner, it turns out, is an independent who hadn’t voted since 2008.
The blamestorm was first ignited shortly after the shootings when the sheriff of Pima County, Clarence Dupnik, called the level of hatred spewed “outrageous.” I can’t agree more and I’ll have a lot more to say on that in future blogs. But days later, there he is, also blaming Rush Limbaugh who he says, “angers them against government, angers them against elected officials,” adding, ”that kind of behavior in my opinion is not without consequences.”
“Them” refers to those who are mentally unstable. But is their any proof Loughner is a Limbaugh fan or that he has ever listened to his broadcasts? Well, maybe the sheriff has more information than we do.
Up next? Bullied at school? A Jewish mother? The abuse excuse? Or as the Church Lady would say, “Sa-tan?”
How about this prediction: Jared Lee Loughner, however disgusting and unforgivable his actions, is a tragic soul suffering from untreated mental illness, most likely involving schizophrenia. Could he appear any sicker in his photos and in his writings.
THEY ALL KNEW
Many of Loughner’s classmates were terrified of him. Some professors were frightened, as well. Professor Ben McGahee has told of Loughner’s random outbursts, his red flushed face, his creepy “laughing to himself.” Fellow students were disturbed by his clenched fists, his classroom scribbling across a math quiz, “mayhem fest.”
There were at least five reported incidents at Pima Community College before Loughner was thrown out and told he needed a clean bill of mental health to return. Did anyone there even try to get him an evaluation or any kind of help?
As was the case in the rampage killings of Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood, Columbine and more: so many people knew. About now, I’d yell “Hey, Mom, where were you?” if I didn’t know there is no way to compel your adult child to seek help other than having him committed to a mental hospital for a week or so.
Yes, I’m all for toning down the rhetoric in politics, but mental illness, spree killings and political assassinations have been around a lot longer than Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. Blaming fiery rhetoric for the tragedy in Arizona is as ridiculous as trying to hold Marilyn Manson’s music responsible for Columbine, or Ozzy Osbourne for responsible for a teenage fan’s suicide.
Can we ever know what will incite or trigger violence? In 1856, a southern congressman beat a northern senator within an inch of his life just two days after he’d delivered an anti-slavery speech his attacker said insulted his state and his relatives.
The first spree shooter of modern times was Charles Whitman, a former Marine who in 1966 killed 16 people and wounded 32 others on and around the campus of University of Texas in Austin where he was a student. He was killed by law enforcement during the rampage. The following day, an autopsy showed Whitman had aglioblastoma, a brain tumor that is highly invasive.
Why did Whitman kill all those people, including his wife and mother? Was it his court-martial in the Marines? His abusive father? His parents divorce? Amphetamine abuse? Or was it that brain tumor? He suffered all of the above.
There are dozens of other examples but in the end, even a child knows it is simply a fool’s game to try a pin the tail on the donkey , especially while wearing blindfolds.