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.
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.
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.