Monday, January 10, 2011

Was the Tucson shooting a product of the Tea Party?

The scene of the Tucson shooting. (SearchNet Media)

In the days since the shooting in Tucson, leftists have rushed to denounce the murders as the result of radical right-wing rhetoric.  Specifically, left-wing bloggers on cited a “veteran Democratic operative” who called for the administration to “deftly pin this on the tea partiers” before the facts were in. Similar clams were made after the attack on the IRS building in Texas and the Times Square car bombing.

Much of the “evidence” of Tea Party involvement seems to stem from the fact that Sarah Palin used a gun sight graphic to place Rep. Giffords’ seat in the crosshairs in the last election.  This is notwithstanding the fact that a left-wing group also put Ms. Giffords on a target list because she was a moderate member of the Blue Dog Coalition.  Mr. Loughner was also allegedly angry with the government, but the Wall Street Journal reports that his anger was directed at government attempts to control grammar.

In an in-depth article on Mr. Loughner’s background, the Journal paints a picture of a deeply troubled young man who life began coming apart at the seams after a tenth grade breakup with his girlfriend.  He had a history of drug use, vandalism, and sitting in unlocked parked cars.  A teacher at Pima Community College said that Loughlin was strange and disruptive, but never seemed threatening enough to notify police.  The school asked Loughner to take a mental health evaluation, at which point he dropped out.  His favorite books (as he listed online) included Mein Kampf, the Communist Manifesto, Animal Farm, and Brave New World.

Loughner seems to have had a fixation on words and grammar.  His connection with Giffords went back at least three years when he asked her the question, “What is government if words have no meaning?"

Later, around November 2010, he started posting video blogs.  In one, he ranted, “"I can't trust the current government.  The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling the grammar."  In the videos, he also railed against the Constitution and talked about terrorism.

Loughner’s friends state that he did not seem particularly interested in politics, preferring to spend his time practicing saxophone with his high school band or playing video games.  At least one acquaintance did say that he was dissatisfied with the Bush Administration. 

In total, Jared Loughner was a troubled man with a muddled view of life and politics.  At this point, no one can say why he did what he did, but there is little or no evidence that his actions were the result of a Tea Party call to arms.  Anyone who claims that they have a window into Jared Loughner’s troubled mind places their own credibility at risk.

This doesn’t mean, however, that people on both sides of the political spectrum don’t need to be more cautious with their rhetoric.  In my view, the left is more heated in most circumstance.  For instance, President Obama recently accused Republicans of holding the country hostage.  Reps. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and John Garamendi (D-CA) are only two of the Democrats who accused Republicans of wanting to kill people by opposing their health care reform law.  Accusations of Tea Party racism are as numerous as they are unfounded.  Republicans are not innocent though.  In this column I have debunked numerous false claims by conservatives.  Most recently, I addressed a video that claimed Obamacare would establish a secret police force.

If both sides tone down their rhetoric, not only will the country breathe easier, it will help both sides be able to find the common ground that is going to be needed for compromise.

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