On Sunday, federal officials charged Jared Lee Loughner on two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder in Saturday’s shooting rampage in Tucson, AZ that critically wounded Rep. Gabriel Giffords (D-AZ) and killed a federal judge and a Giffords staffer, among others. In the wake of the tragedy, many are wondering what motivated Loughner — whether he was a mentally-ill lone wolf vigilante or inspired by something else.
Information coming out about Loughner portrays the 22-year-old as “odd” and “isolated by his increasingly erratic behavior.” Moreover, video posts on his YouTube page give some insight into his thinking, and a few themes emerge from his writings: a twisted understanding of the U.S. Constitution; a feeling that there is a government conspiracy to control the American population; and, a belief that currency should be backed up by precious metals. For example:
— “The majority of citizens in the United States of America have never read the United States of America’s Constitution.” “Read the United States of America’s Constitution to apprehend all of the current treasonous laws.”
— “The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.”
— “No! I won’t pay debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold and silver!”
While the vast majority of the public appropriately considers these statements the deranged rantings of a madman, Glenn Beck fearmongers about these same subjects nearly every day before a large national audience that tunes into Fox News:
— “Progressives have been patient for decades, creeping their way into the system in the cover of darkness. And this is their opportunity. They’re going to deal a final death blow to the Constitution if they can.” [1/20/10]
— Health care reform “is the end of the Constitution.” [1/04/10]
— Progressivism “is the poison that’s killing our Constitution”; “We’ve got to irradiate it.” [1/21/10]
— “I do not want the government controlling my diet.” [3/10/10]
— The government is using the census to “increase slavery.” [3/09/10]
— “The government is gearing up to conduct one of the biggest scientific experiments ever and you get to be a part of it. … They’re going to study us and find ways to essentially trick us into driving crappy hybrids and I bet that’s just the beginning.” [7/30/09]
— “[Net neutrality] will control every aspect of the Internet … We are losing our country.” [5/06/10]
— “They control your life. Now, they control financial reform. Through the financial reform bill, they control every dollar and how it’s spent. They now control not only how you live and die, but they control businesses, and which one lives or dies. They control your life and your pursuit of happiness. That leaves only one out of the three in the Declaration that you still have: liberty, life, pursuit of happiness.” [7/23/10]
THE GOLD STANDARD
— “One of the highest profile targets of this bizarre regulation is the gold industry, AKA, your pathway to acquire anything of value as they filet our currency.” [7/22/10]
— “The Fed made sure that your dollar would be devalued. They’re monetizing the debt — monetizing our debt — printing more than $600 billion. Now, if we were on the gold standard and we just struck $600 million gold mine, that would be great because then — I just lost the gold coin.” [11/04/10]
— “Have the progressives grown the size of government? What was the tipping point? Well, the tipping point, really, there was one in the 1970s when we went off the gold standard and then the late 1990s when the Fed started just creating bubble after bubble after bubble because we had to continue to spend.” [10/28/10]
To be clear, there’s no evidence Loughner was a Glenn Beck watcher or that Beck bears any responsibility for Loughner’s actions. Still, these tragic events provide an opportunity to re-examine the implications of extreme conservative rhetoric. The danger is real: A person who genuinely believes that progressive governance is an organized conspiracy to destroy American liberty might feel justified in taking drastic measures in response.
Yesterday, Media Matters founder David Brock called on News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch to rein in Beck and Fox News contributor Sarah Palin. “You have the power to order them to stop using violent rhetoric, on and off of Fox’s air. If they fail to do so, it is incumbent upon you to fire them or be responsible for the climate they create and any consequences thereof,” Brock wrote.
For Beck’s part, any pleas for sanity will likely fall on deaf ears. Slate’s Dave Weigel reports that Beck responded to the tragedy in Tucson by flipping “it back and imply[ing] that the violent left needs to back down, too.” And his Fox News show yesterday, Beck spent most of the program defending himself from critics of his rhetoric. Ignoring his history of using violent rhetoric, Beck said “I don’t use it on or off the air. So I guess I’m in compliance, Media Matters.”