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Sunday, January 09, 2011

Jared Loughner and the Culture of Irresponsibility

There has not been a single act of Muslim violence in the last two years that the media was willing to identify as motivated by Islam. Each and every time they had to be dragged kicking and screaming, past their cover stories, through groundless claims that the attackers were motivated by psychological problems, bullying, imaginary medical conditions or financial problems-- to some adjunct of the truth. And at the same time over the last two years, each prominent act of violence by non-Muslims was followed by an attempt to identify the attacker or attackers with mainstream Republicans in a cynical attempt to demonize and criminalize the political opposition.

When Joseph Stack crashed his plane into an IRS building because he was angry over a longstanding element of the tax code that he felt discriminated against his employment category, the call went up that Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck were to blame. But Stack's suicide note actually expressed a preference for Communism over Capitalism. Not exactly an idea you would pick up as a Dittohead. Similarly Jared Loughner, who shot a conservative judge and a liberal congresswoman, was identified as more liberal by those who knew him and the worldview on his social media graph was a crazy blend of incompatible ideas and conspiracy theories.

There is certainly far more evidence that Loughner is mentally ill, than that Major Hassan is mentally ill. But the media nevertheless insisted on claiming that Hassan was mentally ill, despite a complete lack of evidence for the claim, and on claiming that Jared Loughner was influenced by Sarah Palin... despite a complete lack of evidence for that claim either. And with that misrepresentation the media once again crosses the line between what is so, and what it would like to be so. That liking cannot be placed at the door of tabloid sensationalism, if that were the case then the media would have billed Hassan as a terrorist conspirator, not as the victim of some imaginary airborne version of PTSD. This is not about sensationalism, but a political smear campaign aimed at delegitimizing the very notion of political opposition.

Back in November, Democratic strategist Mark Penn suggested that Obama needs another Oklahoma City bombing to reconnect with the electorate. And now the media is trying to give him one. The bizarre attempt to exploit the murder of a conservative judge and the attempted murder of a liberal congresswoman by a man whom everyone that knew him considered unstable and potentially dangerous-- as a way to score political points hits a low that we haven't seen since the Paul Wellstone funeral. And on some current version of Jornolist, the conclave of hacks is mourning that Giffords will pull through and deny Obama a shot at turning her funeral into another political circus.

In the 20th century, two American presidents were murdered by left-wing radicals. It's a subject that the left doesn't like to talk much about, for obvious reasons. First there was Lee Harvey Oswald, a radical socialist who defected to the Soviet Union, attempted to defect to Cuba and repeatedly offered to participate in revolutionary Communist plots. If you've ever wondered why the media encourages so many of the JFK conspiracy theories, it's because the conspiracy theory is the cover-up. Oswald was a radical leftist, and movies like Oliver Stone's JFK divert the blame from the leftist literature he battened on, to the Cubans, the CIA and other right wing bogeymen. But the ugly truth has always been that Camelot was brought down not by the right, but by the left.

But long before that, there were the anarchist terrorists who detonated a bomb on Wall Street not far from the future location of the World Trade Center, carried out a nationwide wave of violence against elected officials and murdered President McKinley are remembered today only as "innocent victims" of an overzealous law enforcement crackdown. The Haymarket terrorists actually had their memorial listed as a national landmark, thanks to Mayor Daley and the Clinton Administration. While the statue of one of the police officers murdered by the "Haymarket Martyrs" has been banished to the Chicago Police Department.

The left has almost entirely erased the memory of the victims of anarchist terrorism from the books, and replaced it with tales of the suffering of the terrorists. Just as they transformed the blacklisted Hollywood Communists into heroes and erased the millions of dead at Stalin's hand from the history books. And just as they have been trying their hardest to turn the Islamic terrorists held at Gitmo into the real victims, while erasing the thousands they murdered from the history books. The dead are dismissed with the argument, that far more die in traffic accidents each year, But the handful of terrorists at Gitmo are not dismissed as casually as the thousands of dead. Because the lives of the perpetrators are somehow worth more than their victims.

But this really isn't about the left. Neither side has an exclusive monopoly on violence, though political violence has a much broader swath of sympathy on the left, than it does on the right. A Neo-Nazi terrorist could never have advanced into the mainstream the way Bill Ayers has. David Duke remains marginal and despised, but Al Sharpton has an all access pass to the White House. Even though Duke was probably responsible for less murders than Sharpton. While the media gnaws Haley Barbour over a positive comment about the CCC, Obama got a free pass on participating in a march organized by notorious Nation of Islam hatemonger, Louis Farrakhan.

And this isn't just about what happens to the national dialogue when the media serves as a mouthpiece for one political party. It's also about a culture of irresponsibility that thinks collectively, rather than individually. After the Columbine shootings, the prolonged debate over its causes ignored the simple fact that these were the acts of two individuals-- not those of a culture or of a peer group. Violence of this kind is as old as humanity itself. And all the gun laws and zero tolerance regulations that have turned schools into prisons where an aspirin pill or a toy soldier are expulsion offenses-- will change that. The need to assign collective social motives to killers is a sign that the individual has been lost.

Violence that does not occur within the context of a group is the act of an individual. He may be influenced by what he sees or reads, but the influence does not change who he is. Despite all the assassins who packed copies of Catcher in the Rye, we haven't purged the book from the library shelves. Because we recognize that the mere act of reading J.D. Salinger's vastly overrated scrawl of teenage emotions does not magically transform one into a killer. Literature may influence us, but it does not take away who we are. It does not control us. Its influence is still our choice. And not all the books, movies and other entertainment paraphernalia can change who we are. Only we can do that.

The leftist reading of violence has all too often reduced individuals to members of a class, a race (which is another form of class) or ideology-- rather than seeing them as individuals. The right's reading of violence has also been far too concerned with influences, rather than outcomes. But someone like Jared Loughner defies such easy answers and solutions. His politics were not rational. They were not part of a worldview that easily fits into the right of the left. And there are millions more like him. People who believe that we are ruled by secret lizard overlords, by the Rockerfellers or the Rothschilds, by secret conspiracies of men that date back to the 19th century, by alien beings from other worlds, or by the Masons, or by all of the above. But conspiracy theories are not in and of themselves engines of violence, they are rejections of all normative authority and dogma.

Loughner made a point of mocking G-d, assaulting government and degrading human values. But these were symptoms, not causes. Signal flares of hate and pain bubbling underneath. What caused that hate and pain to bubble up like toxic gasses in a mine is a question for mental health professionals, not for us. And the answer doesn't really matter. Because Loughner was an individual. His demons may have been neurological or psychological, washed down with doses of self-medication from drugs and alcohol. But those too are not proper answers. Because of all the billions of human beings on earth, there were and are plenty more individuals with the same problems and the same doses in their system who go about their troubled lives without killing anyone. The answer lies not in Loughner's neurological wiring or even his beliefs. It lies in him. In the choices he made, in reacting to what he felt and in doing what he did.

We are neither angels nor apes. We are human beings. That means we are just rational enough to be able to choose, but not quite rational enough to choose wisely as often as we should. Collectivist views of humanity all too often treat individuals like boxes of gears whose turning determines who and what we are. Whether the models are economic, biological or educational-- when we reduce people to wind up toys, then we abandon the greatest gift we have, that of choice. Jared Loughner was not a wind up toy, whom some combination of political influences turned into a ticking time bomb. He was and is a person. A murderer. And to call him a murderer, while denying his individuality and his capacity for choice, is to render the term meaningless. To take the sting out of it and leave it a washed out thing lying bleached in the sun.

We are the sum total of our choices. That collision of our thoughts into deeds. The culture of irresponsibility does its best to occlude that choice-making machinery, to bury it in the shadow of socioeconomic and political grandstanding. And the media, acting as the prime vector of the culture of irresponsibility, turns murderers into pawns into sociological and political morality plays, dumbed down at a level that displays their contempt for their own audience. And so we hear that one killer was the product of childhood abuse, another of economic frustrations, another of outrageous political rhetoric. Wind up toys, not men. Puppets in a collectivist production of Punch and Judy, where Judy is always to blame and Punch always has an excuse.

Violence does exist in organized forms. In the framework of ideologies, such as Islam or the SDS or the SS or countless other examples throughout history. But those too are choices made by individuals to join up or to go along for their own reasons. Such organizations may occlude and suppress the choice-making machinery, but it is still there. It is always there. Loughner however was not the product of any ideology, but of his own demons. And his fatal choice allowed those demons to define who he was and what his impact on the world will be. Yet it is the culture of irresponsibility that nurtures those demons in its own way, by denying responsibility and individualism, it reduces men to machines of class, race and outrage. And long after the shots rang out in Arizona, the media propagators of that Culture of Irresponsibility are hard at work washing away the individual and replacing him with a narrative. Their narrative. And that political exploitation of his murders makes them into camp followers robbing the spirits of the dead for the vilification of the living and leaves them as collaborators in Loughner's crime.

29 comments:

No Apology said...

I knew SK would catch the "It's time to stop the madness" blathering of one Arizona Sheriff Clarence W Dupnick, who was holding interviews even before they stopped the bleeding of Congresswoman Giffords.

And yes, the New York Times did run the usual "A Sheriff Who's Ready To Express His Opinions" hack piece. When I saw that first interview he gave, I knew two things: one, that Daniel would see it for what it was, and also tie it together for us , and the other thing I knew was that the NYT would write the crap article praising the good sheriff. In fact, I could have probably written the Times's piece myself, so predictable it was.

Thanks again for clarity, SK.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

clarity is easy to provide when faced with this kind of mud throwing

mindRider said...

In the entire Dutch press report not ONE article about the assassination attempt mentioned the congresswoman's Jewish heritage! A few did link the murderer to Palin's crosshair map & Tea party.

HermitLion said...

Daniel,

I'm really glad you chose to tackle this event while it was still hot, as the mainstream news in Israel have been spinning it to their will. A lot of people here don't follow American politics (for example, few I've spoken to have a clue what the Tea Party, which Ynet claimed Loughner was associated with, is even about), and have no tools to discern the truth.

Therefore, I'm doing my best to spread the links to this article wherever I can.

Edgar Davidson said...

You will be interested to know that the UK media has been saturated with innuendos claiming the Tea Party and Sarah Palin are to blame for these murders.

noboat1 said...

Loughner is only 22, still too young I believe to be motivated by political ideologies of the day. He believed the government was "using grammer to control our minds". He's a "nutjob" plain and simple, and the left's attempt to turn this into a "political rhetoric" and "gun control" issue is laughable. Sarah Palin didn't do this, Glen Beck didn't do this, and Rush Limbaugh didn't do this, a mentally ill man who was suspended from college and denied entry into the US Army because of his irrational behavior did this. His name is Jarod Lee Loughner.

Edgar Davidson said...

Further to my post about the UK media, depressingly there is a prominent article in the Jerusalem Post headlined "Analysis: Vitriolic rhetoric cited after Giffords shooting" with a picture of Sarah Palin pushing the same garbage:

http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=202836

Alan Levine said...

Daniel –

Having been greatly saddened, as we all are, by the events in Arizona, I read your article with interest when a link was sent my way. For what is worth, I’ve bothered to write a response:

Palin puts what she herself called a ‘bulls-eye’ over the Congresswoman Giffords’ district and now she and her apologists want to break the connection? Or deny it ever existed? Such a coarse symbol with obvious violent overtones does not equate with J.D. Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ as you suggest. Symbols like that are far more obvious and suggestive than a work of literature – good or not – both to the sane and insane.

You decry our culture of irresponsibility. On that I agree wholeheartedly. But I’d apply the condemnation more broadly. It’s not an either or choice on responsibility as regards Loughner and whomever influenced him.

Yes! The Russian propagandists who forged ‘The Elders of the Protocols of Zion’ ARE responsible for how Hitler used it, or its affect on an unstable Timothy McVeigh. That does not mean Hitler and McVeigh are absolved. Yes! Of course the Islamic radical imams ARE responsible for their incites to violence even if their followers are intellectually stunted and emotionally unstable. This does not mean the suicide bombers are absolved. The mentally ill are the best instruments through which manipulators can effect political violence without getting their hands dirty.

While we can agree that Loughner is mentally ill, I disagree that how political discourse influences the weakest, most feeble minded in our society is a question solely within the purview of psychological professionals. It is a question we all must come to grips with because such sad, dangerous individuals do walk among us. They hear the same political babble, see the same violent images, and are subjected to the same overload of information we all have to contend with, yet are far less capable of analyzing it rationally.

But I am most concerned by your labeling those who see the connection between violent imagery in political discourse (for example, the now infamous 'bulls-eye') and the Arizona tragedy “collaborators in Loughner's crime.” While I appreciate political argument, and flairs of rhetoric, this is akin to mere marketing, public relations, and propaganda.

No, of course Palin didn’t want murder or an assassination. But she played with fire and others got burned. I don’t argue with her or anyone’s right to free speech and to manipulate the images of revolution and bloodshed for political purposes. But you can’t claim only the good that results from your efforts to influence the political landscape and disavow the bad.

Again, I agree with your condemnation of the Culture of Irresponsibility in which we’re drowning. Freedom must be tempered with Responsibility. We are our brother’s keeper not only in the particulars, but in general. You drop a rock in a pond, you can claim you didn’t make the ripples. But you did.

Sincerely,

Alan Levine

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

What connection exactly?

Politicians placed on target lists in campaigns is not a new thing. The left wing site Daily Kos placed Gifford as a target as well.

You're creating an entire narrative with no basis in fact spun out of political convenience alone. If you have evidence that the killer incorporated Palin's views and acted on them, the way that the Nazis did the Protocols, then feel free to present them. But otherwise you're making false accusations.

The danger does not come from political speech, but those who seek to use pretexts like this to suppress it.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't he described as a "lefty pothead" by some of his fellow students? What influence does Mr. Levine see there of Tea Party? Can it be that the pot growers and sellers are behind? Or maybe the stores who sell "The manifesto" which he read and loved? Steven Plaut said it the best: "The Rabin-ization" of this attempted murder, and he is not even a right wing.

HermitLion said...

Anonymous,

There is a literal Rabin-ization going on, as certain Jews have already compared between the two cases, even though Rabin was specifically targeted, and Gifford is still alive - not to mention far from being a suitable, high-ranking target for a political assassination.
How come everybody ignores the dead conservative judge? Is it because he's evil and obviously deserved to be murdered, or because it's impossible for a madman to kill someone that Liberals dislike, therefore he and the rest of the victims were never there?

Carey Rowland said...

I appreciate your predictably insightful take on this situation, Daniel, and I agree with your points about personal responsibility.
I don't thinkthe shooter's motives (if you can call them such in a insane mind) were directly influenced by Sarah's crosshairs.
Nevertheless, the impetuous lady from Alaska should take a lesson from her vicious lefty accusers: her level of responsibility in public communication must be of a higher order than that of most folks; the crosshairs trick is shown to be, after the fact, an ill-chosen image. In using it, she has unwittingly contributed to the culture of irresponsibility, because the malleable contortion of a deranged mind knows no right or left, but is watching desperately for a trigger from any source. It is precisely because of loonies like Jared Loughner that Sarah and other public personnae should be more careful.

Melissa said...

I'm most troubled by the way that the left has defined the direction of the argument. They accuse Sarah Palin and the Right of unduly influencing the weak willed and deranged with "hate speech", and on cue, much of the defensive Conservative world protests that this guy was not a Palin fan, and probably didn't even listen to Rush Limbaugh. But that implies an acceptance of the "culture of responsibility". What happens when an assassin claims he WAS insired by the Rush Limbaugh show, or a tweet by Palin?

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Carey, I don't know that any level of responsibility is enough to stay on top of a lynch mob. Remember that when Limbaugh wanted to buy into an NFL team, false comments were manufactured and reported. Ditto for Palin during the campaign.

Melissa, good point. I'm actually going to be addressing that in an article tomorrow evening.

2sloe said...

Daniel,
just in case you missed out:
Tonight (Mon. Jan.10) on FOX, Dick Morris quoted some of (what I recognized as *definitely) YOUR blog statements... but he mistakenly used an incorrect last name for you -(said something like "I read some very interesting statements by a guy who writes a blog, I think it's Daniel Greenberg") then he quoted you regarding the media handling of muslim murderers/criminals vs any others.
I had a mouthful of dinner at the time,, nearly choked on him getting your name wrong.
I blurted out to hubby "HEYyy, he's quoting THE KNISH! It's GreenFIELD, Dick Morris, Daniel GreenFIELD! not greenBERG!, oh my gosh, at least get his name right when you quote him."
Hubby lifted his eyebrows with slight smile.

Seriously, DG, it is far past time for you to at least get your name correctly known! I mean, hey: DICK MORRIS IS READING YOU, quoting, and obviously intrigued by your truthful insights.

Well, even if he didn't get you exactly right, it was a very pleasant surprise to hear your words floating out of cable tv space into our living room.

I am still ducking my head in here to read. Had to back off a bit, as your articles are too good & it really 'gets to me' pretty deeply at times..

I have no idea how you manage to remain such a well kept secret in the mainstream, but I suppose it's not all bad when Dick Morris gets your name half right.
;-)

All my best to you & yours. Keep up the faithful work.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

At least he got the green part in there. But that is pretty neat. Any idea on what show it was or what time?

I remain a well kept secret by wearing a blue turban.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

it shows up on his blog and the name is right

http://www.dickmorris.com/blog/there-are-no-politics-in-murder/

Paul said...

The weird thing about Oswald is not that the "left" propped him up as an innocent victim of a conspiracy, but that the "right" was so quiet about his background as a communist and a defector. You would think that Oswald's background and the fact that he had assassinated a president might have been the foundations of a relentless storm of accusations and political advances based on what could only have been a conspiracy with its roots in the Soviet Union itself.

But nobody spoke up. Not even the fringe right had anything to say about it. The best they could muster were feeble denouncements against accusations that there was a conspiracy associated with the assassination. Not only that but JFK came to be associated more and more with the "left". If the assassination were a left wing conspiracy -- "liberals", say -- why would they assassinate one of their own?

Organized crime had JFK assassinated just as organized crime put JFK in. Oswald was nowhere near a rifle when JFK was shot. And we are seeing this kind of power in organized crime again. Look at all the "medical marijuana" dispensaries. Look at what is going on in Mexico and see the increasing influence of Mexicans on both the left and the right.

The one thing that assassins exhibit here in the US that they all have in common is that they are irresponsible. They don't think very hard and are more interested in a show than they are consequences. Oswald didn't assassinate JFK, but the chemistry was there and anyone could have seen that. Oswald was what he said he was, a patsy.

Loughner is a derelict. I think Griffith bears some responsibility in this incident by carelessly exposing herself, a high elected official, in the name of keeping in touch with the public, also known as public relations.

Presidents don't ride around in open top limosines any more either.

HermitLion said...

Hip Hip Hooray for Daniel getting quoted by Dick Morris!

2sloe said...

Daniel,
yes, he did get the "Green" part in there. Fox guests are tightly limited as to allocated time. Morris was real focused on articulating the quote well & staying on point. Your name was obviously being retrieved by memory, thus he prefaced it with "I think.." which didn't seem to match his preference for specificity.

I'm pretty sure it aired during the Hannity 7-8pm (pacific) time slot.

Good deal, your locating it on Morris's blog, and that the name is correct there.

I imagine your blue turban serves a purpose, but perhaps it could be ditched, at times, in favor of 3 Senior body guards. After all, there were 3 of them (1 granny & 2 grandpas. lol), plus 1 younger man, who disarmed and subdued the shooter.

Quite the mental picture: a 74 yr old man grabbing the shooters' left arm & shoving him forward on the ground in a choke-hold, whilst another man he described as "every bit as old as I am" twisted the right arm and kneed his back into the ground... a 61 yr-old woman getting the bullet clips away from him so he couldn't reload, then sitting on his ankles to keep his legs pinned down.

I'm feeling much better about being on AARP's auto-mailing list today.

;-)

Grammy Blick said...

Thank you for stating facts we do not take the time to research, for putting into words the concepts we think only in the abstract, for writing plainly -- and for being noticed! It is appreciated.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Good. Not so sure I can find the video. Only a Morris appearance on O'Reilly comes up. But the article is better anyway.

People power is more reliable than police power anyway. With police power what we got is Kitty Genovese

Keli Ata said...

Congratulations on having your brilliant writing getting the recognition it (YOU) deserve. Though I must say it doesn't surprise me:)

Keli Ata said...

I am ashamed to admit that I haven't given the tragedy in Arizona too much thought. One reason is that the media, at least the Jewish media and many blogs, have focued primarily on whether Giffords was really Jewish.

Many people find that significant. Jew or gentile it was a horrible tragedy.

Another reason, with the exception of your bog much of the media seem focued on Sarah Palin for somehow provoking the attack. The rationale behind this appears ridiculous. The whole controversy reminds me of something I read a while back when a fake copy of a book supposedly written by the "real" Jack the Ripper was discovered about a decade ago.

It was a sham, a con artist trying to dupe the public into thinking a man named Jack Maybrick was the ripper. In this book, Maybrick is quoted as saying that his cheating wife instilled so much anger towards women that he took his anger out by killing women.

At the end of the book the ripper claims, "This is what happens to a gentle man." An FBI profiler argued that nothing would motivate an average, gentle man to turn into a serial killer.

Bad and long analogy but it the media and the whole controvery over Palin seems as insane as the arguement made about the claims of this proven fake Jack the Ripper.

2sloe said...

Daniel,
I'm not sure which fox show Morris appeared on, it might've aired before 7pm. I wasn't even watching the tv. Only hearing him say your exact words caught my attention.
Stating your last name slightly incorrect on the air may have been a deflective kindness, his article being accurate. He gave enough identity on tv to trace you as the author, but not enough for you to become villified.
The following day I read sharp criticism online about his opinion.

I disagree that the article is "better anyway"!: It was a few moments of Media Heaven, to so unexpectedly hear your exact words floating into the room FROM TV.
:-]

If you keep hiding out, it's only a matter of time until people start quoting the phantom author who has never actually been spotted in real life.

Here's a prod: There are basic principles about teaching and learning. Even the Lord did not stop at having Words written for people, but instructed that things be read out loud. This is needed to more thoroughly learn, providing that one has ears.
~Selah~
I'm just saying, you could consider adding a more thorough-sensory format to what you do. The internet has many options.
You wouldn't have to do every article.
Keep the turban. It probably does throw people off.

Don't count on my forgetting to nag you every once in a while about this.

(PS, I have a friend who is losing their sight. You could speak on video, with just that turban photo appearing, but at least people could hear the articles.)

Be Blessed.
The End.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

K.A. It's a tragedy either way, but shootings have happened before. Worse ones too.

And yes too many people try to make sense of evil.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

2sloe,

I could try to record an article, but people seem to do podcasts less these days and it's much more time consuming than typing one up.

2sloe said...

Daniel, of course you'd type & blog as usual.
To upload reading some out loud, is very time consuming?
Perhaps there is a more efficient means than what you know.
Sometimes you are funny.
Techies are the latest great invention.
I have 2 friends who could set you up to do this with the least amount of effort on your part. I'm in the wilderness out here, and you live in New York. That is "techie central", by comparison.

I guess your written articles will have to suffice, for quite a while.
;-)
unless you want me to loan you a 21 yr-old kid who can do anything....

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Thank you for the offer, it's not the technical side so much. Recording just requires a microphone, and then using whatever embeds audiofiles on a blog...

they would go into the friday roundup I suppose, as the blog does a daily article format

but speaking itself is more time consuming than writing

if I just had to read these sentences out loud, it would take me much longer than typing them

scale that up to a 4 page article and it's serious time expended

and I'm not sure how many people are really that interested. I may try to do an article one of these days though

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