Who Caused The Tucson Massacre?

Pretty much everyone, depending on who you listen to. I mean we all know that it was this Jarred-Lee Loughman dude, but why did he do it? Was he an anarchist? A Communist? A Fascist? Clinically insane? Since no one listens to Maralyn Manson these days, we can’t blame him anymore, which has put us all in a bit of a pickle. No one can figure it out.

Well, a select  many few people do seem to think they have it have it down-pat. Here are a few of my favourite theories:

#1: Fox News did it

From New York Times columnist Paul Krugman:

I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again.

…And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: It’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Rep. Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the GOP.
And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

…Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening: The purveyors of hate have been treated with respect, even deference, by the GOP establishment. As David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, has put it, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”

So it was all a conspiracy orchestrated by the Republicans at the behest of the all-powerful Fox News. Nice one Mr “I write for one of the most respected newspapers in the world”.

Of course, most of this has been directed specifically at Fox News anchor and generally ridiculous personality Sarah Palin. There are thousands of these, but David Weigel for Slate magazine was particularly good because in response to accusations of the anti-Palin camp just jumping at an opportunity to accuse her, he says:

This strikes me as smart media strategy. Think back: Why is Palin involved in this story in the first place? In the first hours after the shooting, with the media flooding the zone but lacking real information about the crime scene, there was 1) a history of Giffords being threatened over votes and 2) video of Giffords saying she worried about the consequences of Palin’s map. Rebecca Mansour found in her “surveying symbols” interview that this was unspinnable. Indeed, it was — you cannot outspin video of a woman who has been shot worrying about threats to her life. Heading into the bunker and waiting for the media horde to find a new narrative seems like the right response.

This just seems ludicrous to me. My mind will not stretch to the point where Giffords worrying about the consequences of the map meant “some dude is gonna go into a shop and shoot me and a bunch of other people” rather than “Palin is crazy, vote Democrat for a sane America!” or something to that effect. Credibility, please!

#2: It was all Americans

Or more specifically, America’s hatred of authority. Lee Siegel from the New York Observer:

The discourse following the Tucson shootings was all the more mind-numbing because no one wanted to talk about the elephant in the room. The uncomfortable fact is that we share the same culture as Loughner. We swim in it; we bask in it. Loughner’s YouTube ravings are like a perverted reflection of ideas and sentiments that are our daily bread.

…But a mountain slide pulls  down everyone, good and evil, innocent and corrupt, in its rush to the bottom. We all dwell complacently among the same cultural assumptions. Some of those assumptions are helping to  drive society, through no conscious purpose of their own, to the bottom. The feeble-minded, like Loughner, are the first to sink.

Apparently this Nihilism is everywhere:

According to news reports, Loughner went to one of Congresswoman Giffords’ public meetings and asked her this question: “What is government if words have no meaning?” It also appears in his YouTube video. In the light of what later happened, the question chills us. Its nihilism and its unbalanced lack of basic trust are haunting. Yet they are also the stuff, not just of right-wing suspicion of government, or of radical left-wing suspicion of same, but of scores of Hollywood movies, from Taxi Driver and Three Days of the Condor, to Guilty by Suspicion and Mercury Rising, to The Sentinel and Syriana, and, well, I can’t keep up. For at least half a century, our movies, from simple to complex, have been driven by the idea that official words have no meaning and that government is either criminal or a sham.

If that strikes you as too earnest an assertion, then you are perhaps too sophisticated to draw moralizing conclusions from mere entertainment. In that case, you have probably read the standard texts of advanced American attitudes. Thus you have absorbed throughout college, like any number of Hollywood screenwriters and American tastemakers, the idea-from Nietzsche to Wittgenstein to Foucault to Derrida to Chomsky to Stanley Fish-that the words used by any type of official, political entity, like a government, are nonsense. “What is government if words have no meaning?” That could be the motto of The Daily Show.

Yup, it’s all because everyone is too suspicious of the motives of the government and the “system” and because “fighting the man” is too ingrained in what Americans think. The author, apparently, is no exception:

Yet when a member of Congress is shot along with other innocent people, Congress becomes concerned about mass  murder.… But why does concern for their own welfare suddenly make the politicians speak words with meaning, and not concern for ours, or concern for the social and economic forces that drive some  people over the edge and put us all in jeopardy?

Yeah, why does Congress only care about shootings when it hurts one of them? It’s not like they did anything about any of those other massacres that happened is it? Oh hold on, where does this logic that he is following come from? Mistrust of society, apportioning blame to authority figures…I swear I read about that somewhere…

#3: It was the NRA

This is an old favourite – particularly for people like Michael Moore, who figured he’d leave a photo of a 6-year-old girl who was killed in the Columbine massacre at Charlton Heston’s house because apparently as the head of the NRA, Heston killed her and so needs to feel guilt and public shame.

Fred Martin in the San Fransisco Chronicle:

The fundamental issue in the Arizona shooting was that a pot-smoking, chronically mentally ill person went untreated, was expelled from an educational institution with a warning to get treatment as a prerequisite for return, yet was permitted to buy a gun.

I particularly like the “pot-smoking” part. Those damn hippies! IT MUST BE THEM!

And the New York Times editorial was full of fire and brimstone:

The ludicrously thin membrane that now passes for gun control in this country almost certainly made the Tucson tragedy worse. Members of Congress are legitimately concerned about their own safety now, but they should be no less worried about the effect of their inaction on the safety of all Americans… they will need to stand up to the National Rifle Association and its allies, whose lobbying power continues to grow despite the visceral evidence that the groups have made the country a far more dangerous place. Having won a Supreme Court ruling establishing a right to keep a firearm in the home, the gun lobby is striving for new heights of lunacy, waging a campaign to legalize the possession of a gun in schools, bars, parks, offices, and churches, even by teenagers.

Dramatic hey? What was that about blaming Congress for everything?

There are definitely arguments in favour of tougher gun regulations, particularly in Arizona apparently, but if there’s one thing Timothy McVeigh and most recent terrorists show, it’s that guns are not necessary if you want to create a massacre. Home-made explosives from instructional YouTube videos will do just fine. Americans just seem to love blaming “lobbies” for everything.

So what do I think caused Mr Loughman to go over the edge? Probably video games and that rap music.

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