Facts Are Stubborn Things (Though Some People Beg to Differ)

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 9, 2011

A picture is developing of Jared Lee Loughner, the suspect allegedly responsible for yesterday’s calamity. That picture is dramatically at odds with the Left’s claims that Loughner was some kind of representative for the center-right, naturally predisposed to killing Democrats once the likes of Sarah Palin said something mildly controversial.

Loughner’s YouTube page is found here, and it shows signs of a seriously disturbed mind. “How to Mind Controller” certainly bears no relationship to any document or televised program that is a favorite of the center-right:

Neither, of course, does this:

You can go ahead and watch the rest of the videos for yourself, assuming that you have the stomach to do so (I won’t blame you if you don’t). Nothing found within them has any serious relationship with anything found in, say, Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative. I imagine that someone will bring up the bit about not needing to accept “federalist laws,” and harp (anew) on Loughner’s fascination with the gold and silver standards, but then, Loughner also expresses a fondness for The Communist Manifesto, which doesn’t exactly fit nicely into the claim that Loughner was/is the Chairman-in-waiting of the Republican National Committee.

Ben Smith actually put things rather well:

Jared Lee Loughner’s YouTube and MySpace pages don’t offer much evidence that he was drinking from the main streams of American politics. The obsession with the gold standard and the hostility to the federal government resonate with the far right, the burned American flag with the left, but the discussion of mind control and grammar sound more like mental illness than politics.

As the novelist Walter Kirn wrote today, Loughner seems in a line of disturbed lone gunmen, whose political views typically don’t explain much: “Stoned. Lonely. Excitable. Half-literate. Politically incoherent. On the the thin side. These lone gunmen are one brain sharing bodies,” he wrote. “[T]he shooter is an [A]merican, not a political, type.”

Much of what we know from Loughner comes from the Twitter feed of one Caitie Parker, who knew him. Professor Jim Lindgren excerpts Parker’s most revealing tweets about the suspect (all emphasis provided by Professor Lindgren):

• Saying Jared Laughner was the gunman. Really hoping that’s not the same guy I went to HS with, really good friend. Freaking out right now!!! about 1 hour ago via Twitter for iPhone
• Official I went to high school & college, & was in a band w/ the gunman. I can’t even fathom this right now.about 1 hour ago via Twitter for iPhone
• I went to high school, college, & was in a band with the gunman. This tragedy has just turned to horrific. 43 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone in reply to antderosa
• I can. That is him. 39 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone in reply to antderosa
• He was a political radical & met Giffords once before in ’07, asked her a question & he told me she was “stupid & unintelligent” 37 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone in reply to antderosa
• he was a pot head & into rock like Hendrix,The Doors, Anti-Flag. I haven’t seen him in person since ’07 in a sign language class 35 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone in reply to antderosa
• As I knew him he was left wing, quite liberal. & oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy33 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone
• he had a lot of friends until he got alcohol poisoning in ’06, & dropped out of school. Mainly loner very philosophical. 29 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone in reply to antderosa
• more left. I haven’t seen him since ’07 though. He became very reclusive. 27 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone in reply to noboa
• I haven’t seen him since ’07. Then, he was left wing25 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone in reply to lakarune
• it’s loughner just checked my year book. less than 20 seconds ago via Twitter for iPhone in reply to antderosa
• This is a circus. Good Morning America just called me. less than 5 seconds ago via Twitter for iPhone

See also this report. Of course, it would be wrong to latch on to Parker’s tweets, declare Loughner a liberal per her description of him, and then start blaming the Left for yesterday’s calamity. As Professor Lindgren writes, “whatever Loughner’s politics, his probable mental state and mental problems are likely to be both the proximate and the ultimate cause of his actions, not any political orientation he might have.” But it is worth noting that if we chose to exercise the curious ethics of the demagogues on the Left, we would dispense with Professor Lindgren’s warning, and wave the bloody shirt to make the Left look bad.

More on Loughner’s disturbed mental state here:

In a video containing slides and written comments on YouTube, Loughner raved against Pima Community College where he was a student from the summer 2005 through September 2010, when he was suspended for violating the school’s code of conduct.

Roy Flores, chancellor at Pima Community College for eight years, said Loughner had five contacts with Pima Community College police for classroom and library disruptions at two campuses. Flores did not have details about the conduct.

In a written statement released to The Arizona Republic, Flores reported that on Sept.29, Pima College police discovered the YouTube video, which Loughner made at the Northwest Campus. In the video, he says the college is “illegal according to the U.S. Constitution and other claims.”

On the evening Pima Community College suspended Loughner, two Pima officers delivered the letter of suspension to Loughner at his and his parent’s home, where they spoke with him and family, the statement reported.

Loughner and his parents met with Northwest Campus administrators Oct. 4 last year. During the meeting, Loughner indicated he would withdraw from the college. A follow-up letter was sent to him Oct. 7, telling him that he must obtain a mental health clearance from a professional saying that his presence at Pima college would not present a danger to himself or others.

Loughner had no further contact with the college.

On both the MySpace and YouTube web pages, Loughner mentions his concern over literacy rates and the fact that few people speak English. He also talks about his distrust of the government and suggests that anyone can call anyone a terrorist.

“I can’t trust the current government because of fabrications,” Loughner wrote in a YouTube slide presentation. “The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.”

One is sure that some on the Left will latch onto the anti-government rants, and state confidently that they clearly must have been caused by watching the videotape of Ronald Reagan’s first Inaugural, but sane people will understand that just about all of Loughner’s political “thoughts” are, in fact, the ravings of a diseased brain, and have nothing whatsoever to do with the political platform of any party or movement.

More:

Neighbors said they were shocked by the shooting. They described Loughner as a loner and outcast with a tendency to dress in all-black “goth-type clothes.”

Grant Wiens, 22, attended Mountain View High School in Tucson with him and then Pima Community College. He brought out his 2006 yearbook with suspect’s photo.

Wiens described him as “kind of an interesting character” who kept to himself. Wiens said he hadn’t conversed with Loughner much, but that he seemed opinionated. He said he was surprised and saddened that Loughner may be implicated in the shooting.

Although Loughner rails against the government, he claims on YouTube that at one time he was a recruit with the United States Army.

Loughner wrote that while he was at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Phoenix, where military applicants are screened for eligibility, he was given a “mini Bible” before being tested.

“I didn’t write a belief on my Army application and the recruiter wrote on the application: None,” Loughner wrote.

Although Loughner makes much about the inability of residents to speak English, there is no direct discussion about immigration.

“The majority of people who reside in District 8 are illiterate — hilarious,” Loughner wrote in another YouTube slide. “I don’t control your English grammar structure.”

Yeah, this is the guy who supposedly had “future Republican Senator” written all over him.

More:

A former classmate of Loughner at Pima Community College said he was “obviously very disturbed.”

“He disrupted class frequently with nonsensical outbursts,” said Lynda Sorenson, who took a math class with Loughner last summer at Pima Community College’s Northwest campus.

Sorenson doesn’t recall if he ever made any threats or uttered political statements but he was very disruptive, she said. He was asked to leave the pre-algebra class several times and eventually was barred from class, said Sorenson, a Tucson resident.

Another Pima classmate, Lydian Ali, said Loughner would frequently laugh aloud to himself during the advanced-poetry class they attended. Only about 16 people were in the class, so Loughner’s behavior stood out, Ali said.

“It almost seemed like he was on his own planet, because his comments would have nothing to do with what we were talking about,” Ali said.

[. . .]

The online accounts also contain bizarre discussions of a new currency and literacy, as well as threatening and despairing messages.

“WOW! I’m glad i didn’t kill myself. I’ll see you on National T.v.! This is foreshadow …. why doesn’t anyone talk to me?..” he posted on MySpace Dec. 14.

On Dec. 13, he wrote: “I don’t feel good: I’m ready to kill a police officer! I can say it.”

In a posting on YouTube, Loughner wrote repeatedly about a new currency.

“I’m thinking of creating a new currency,” he wrote. “Therefore, I’m thinking of a design for my new coins size, shape, color, material, and image to start a new money system.”

[. . .]

In another YouTube message, Loughner said: “I know who’s listening: Government Officials, and the People. Nearly all the people, who don’t know this accurate information of a new currency, aren’t aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn’t have happen.”

“In conclusion, my ambition – is for informing literate dreamers about a new currency; in a few days, you know I’m conscience dreaming! Thank you!”

In a YouTube video dated Dec. 15, titled “Introduction: Jared Loughner” the accused gunman describes himself as a U.S. military recruit who had applied to join the Army. The Army, however, said it rejected Lougher as a recruit in 2008.

In the video, Loughner makes a rambling mention of “MEPS in Phoenix” a reference to the Military Entrance Processing Station in the state capital that all Arizona recruits from every branch of service pass through before leaving for basic training.

“Every United States military recruit at MEPS in Phoenix is receiving one mini bible before the tests,” it said. “Jared Loughner is a United States military recruit at MEPS in Phoenix. Therefore, Jared Loughner is receiving one mini bible before the tests.

Still more:

In one extended Internet posting, Mr. Loughner suggested that the government was trying to trick him, or take advantage of him, although he never explained exactly what caused these concerns.

He also prepared a video that he called “My Final Thoughts: Jared Lee Loughner!”

“All humans are in need of sleep. Jared Loughner is a human. Hence, Jared Loughner is in need of sleep,” he wrote. He also briefly discusses terrorism.

“If I define terrorist then a terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon. I define terrorist,” he wrote. “If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is ad hominem. You call me a terrorist.”

As recently as Saturday, he posted a message on his Myspace account hinting that he was going away.

“Goodbye,” he wrote at about 5 a.m. Saturday. “Dear friends . . . Please don’t be mad at me.”

One trusts that it is becoming increasingly clear that tying Jared Lee Loughner to the mainstream center-right movement is about as stupid an activity as one can contemplate.

But since some are unwilling to accept that Jared Lee Loughner isn’t the second coming of of Jon Kyl, we have Howard Kurtz to try to set the benighted straight. Regarding Sarah Palin’s now-famous map:

Let’s be honest: Journalists often use military terminology in describing campaigns. We talk about the air war, the bombshells, targeting politicians, knocking them off, candidates returning fire or being out of ammunition. So we shouldn’t act shocked when politicians do the same thing. Obviously, Palin should have used dots or asterisks on her map. But does anyone seriously believe she was trying to incite violence?

[. . .]

This isn’t about a nearly year-old Sarah Palin map; it’s about a lone nutjob who doesn’t value human life. It would be nice if we briefly put aside partisan differences and came together with sympathy and support for Gabby Giffords and the other victims, rather than opening rhetorical fire ourselves.

It is worth emphasizing Kurtz’s point that “[j]ournalists often use military terminology in describing campaigns.” Consider the journalistic samples collected here:

I presume that the media now ought to be condemned for bringing violent imagery into the political discourse. Of course, doing so would be monumentally silly, but doing so would comply fully with the demands that the demagogues of the Left are making of center-right figures who inexplicably find themselves blamed for the ravings and actions of a mentally sick individual.

Jared Lee Loughner is not, never was, and should not ever be anyone’s idea of a representative for the center-right. The actions he allegedly took have nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with any material put out by Sarah Palin, nothing to do with discourse over the Second Amendment. They have everything to do with the fact that something has horribly twisted his mind, and has apparently caused him to take actions that have brought about death, injury, and utter heartbreak.

But even now, even after all of this information has come out, there remains a desire on the part of demagogues on the port side to politicize the calamity, and to use death and injury to try to marginalize the mainstream center-right movement. Facts don’t matter to these people. Truth doesn’t matter to these people. The only thing that does matter is the attainment of political advantage.

Thus, we had yesterday’s indecency, courtesy of Paul KrugmanBrad DeLong, and Andrew Sullivan. Thus, we had people causing Joseph Welch to do backflips in his grave. And even in the aftermath, many of the very same people are still engaging in some of the most mendacious commentary imaginable–backed up with a little help from their friends, as the song goes.

The so-called “Reality-Based Community” once again proves itself anything but, thanks to Mark Kleiman, who has no evidence whatsoever that rhetoric from conservatives is responsible for the shootings, but is happy to ignore such inconvenient truths. Actual reality-based commentary in response can be found here, but one is confident that Kleiman will ignore the admonition–however well-placed it is–and continue to make an utter mockery out of his site’s motto. One would expect more from a public policy professor at a premier educational institution, but when Kleiman is involved, one is likely to be disappointed on a regular basis.

Speaking of state university professors in California, Brad DeLong continues to prove that there is no bottom to dumb, or to degeneracy, as he tries desperately to maintain the fiction that prominent Republican politicians caused the shootings. Of course, it goes without saying that DeLong never took the time to condemn the violent rhetoric from the Left discussed in this post, this post (in what parallel universe, after all, would DeLong dispute any partisan rhetoric emanating from the pixels of Paul Krugman; would that Peter were so loyal to Jesus, instead of denying Jesus three times), or this post. I’d have thought that at some point, the stench of hypocrisy can get so overwhelming, that it can even cause bloggers as partisan and hackish as DeLong to pull back from engaging in demagoguery. I guess I’m wrong.

Here is Markos Moulitsas’s Twitter feed. Here is his website, and here again is a reference to Moulitsas’s history with the language of political violence. Res ipsa loquitur, as they say. Nothing found anywhere that has anything to do with the actual facts of this case.

Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan strains and stretches, and continues to pretend that the incendiary rhetoric is confined to the Right; previous links of mine, referenced in this post, demolish that pretense, but we know that Sullivan won’t be honest enough to admit as much.

You know, I hate to say it about as much as I am sure Joshua Treviño hated to tweet it. But he’s right; it indeed is “[i]mpossible to escape the realization that much of the leftist commentariat actually wants a right-wing terror movement in America.” If you think that’s too harsh a statement, well, you probably haven’t checked this link (via Brian Faughnan). Or this one. Or even this one:

The references to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 echoed in other ways. That horror, which killed 168 people including many children, helped then-President Bill Clinton stigmatize extreme anti-government rhetoric and re-energize his presidency at a time when Newt Gingrich and conservative Republicans were riding high in Congress.

One veteran Democratic operative, who blames overheated rhetoric for the shooting, said President Barack Obama should carefully but forcefully do what his predecessor did.

“They need to deftly pin this on the tea partiers,” said the Democrat. “Just like the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people.”

The political glee practically jumps off the page, doesn’t it.

Writing this very, very, very long blog post was, quite frankly, the last thing I wanted to do today. Yesterday’s calamity was depressing enough in terms of lives lost, people injured, and the attendant national traumatization without considering the issue of the political fallout that was shoehorned into the national discussion by demagogues who are always willing to trade common decency for a chance at more votes at the ballot box. But while a lie will get halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put on its shoes, eventually, one must lace up and combat the mendacity. As such, I would hope that more people take on the Krugmans, Kleins, DeLongs, Moulitsases, Kleimans, and Sullivans of the world. Because these people have no interest in improving our political discourse. They only want power for their side of the partisan divide, and they are willing to employ any falsehood to get it.

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