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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

No Retraction Necessary!

I have a good friend who has pleaded with me to consider retracting my article yesterday about the Giffords shooting based on stories on Fox news and an interview by and an interview by Rush Limbaugh of a high school buddy of Jared Loughner suggesting that Loughner was a political. I respect my friends opinions and concerns.  But the Limbaugh interview seems almost to contradict itself and the person was a friend a few years ago. 

Here is some of what I said in response: Regarding the young man having no politics. People who read & studied  his blog suggested otherwise--the talk about monetary systems and the grammar talk that has been traced back to a extreme right wing blogger as the inspiration source. (This included the Sheriff who studied what happened before he made his statement)  And the flag burning indicates someone either on the far right or far left making a statement.  That is not an apolitical act.  His "best friend" from high school may not know much about him now, 4 years later.  He wasn't mentally ill in high school either. Of course he is deranged, but if he didn't have politics he would not have chosen a political target. In fact most mentally ill people I have known have politics almost to the same degree that non-mentally ill people do.  Some are apolitical, some a little political and some very political.  In fact schizophrenic men, which is what he seems to be,   often have highly intelligent and cogent politics, when they are being delusional. They are on average, of higher intelligence that the general populace.  For some reason that often doesn't carry to the woman, who are effected differently by the illness. 

The kind of killer he is is someone who sees himself as a loser and is seeking to do something big, to impress someone, to seem important. Oswald was trying to impress extreme anti-Kennedy people on the right & left. Shiran Shiran was mentally ill but also trying to please radical Palestinians.  John Wilkes Booth was just outright seeking revenge, although he had a non-psychotic  mental illness. Those who tried to kill Reagan were trying to please there puppet master.   Kings killer was trying to impress southern racists. In short there is almost always a certain amount of politics in political killings.  They seldom want to kill just anyone or just any famous figure.  The guys who kill presidents do not kill John Lennons. 

This guy had developed a history with Congresswoman Gifford's and was targeting her --a history that started before her Tea Party rival suggested she should be shot if she wins.  This guy was trying to please the Tea Party.  And judging by Sarah Palin's statement about the connection being a "blood libel" ie a libel you have e right to respond violently to, he did indeed in a certain sense impress her.  She should have responded with an unequivocal call for calm  and a change of political tone, rather than another inflammatory statement.  She is responding the way the early Nazi Party did when they were accused to political polarization --with more polarization.  And because the German body politic did not repudiate what they heard, they got the government they deserved. Except that no one really deserves that kind of government. 

Besides, even if at the trial it turns out that all that I have construed is misconstrued, I still think that the Tea Party has spoken dangerously and anti-democratically.  Not just the violence, but things like calling for the abolition of the direct election of Senators. And calling for states to arrest people for carrying out a federal law they happen to disagree with.  This is the kind of agitation that lead to a civil war 150 years ago.

So in the meantime I intend to use this as a 'teaching moment' to alert people to just how dangerous certain things are.   I don't have a problem with enthusiastic rhetoric, etc.  But when you start calling for violence that is different.  Especially when you start calling for killing specific people.  Revolutionary rhetoric even has a certain place.  But calling for a second amendment solution to your opponent winning is, intentionality or not, calling for an assassination.    And while I doubt at the trial he will burst out and say I did this to please Palin, I believe it will come out that it's not just mental illness at work.  And if it comes out otherwise I am certain it will never come out that violent extremist language is really acceptable after all.  I am absolutely certain the young man will not get up in the courtroom & say I had my doubts about doing this because of Sarah Palin's calls for peace. 

Then I got into the second amendment question: Another matter is that he could not have killed and wounded 18 people if he had not had access to an automatic weapon.  If nothing else, the second amendment running commentary stands in the way to reasonable and moderate gun control.  It's like saying you have a right to drive and should be able to run over a politician you don't agree with, so therefore no need for a drivers licence since that would restrict your right to kill people with you car.   Well I do want to restrict peoples "right" to kill people.  That is a sort of right without any responsibility. 

My friend,  rightfully responded  that I was reasonable but did not  agree with the drivers license analogy.  He suggested I could argue for gun control to be based and limited by the right of self-protection.

That caused me to reshape part of what I had said about gun use and respond:
No, I ,mean that when people carry the second amendment thing so far that it has the effect of letting people who are thinking these sorts of things get high powered weapons --automatic guns or sniper rifles, etc that is analogous.  I guess I got to rhetorical myself on that, and didn't take my time to development my argument. I know that advocating unlimited second amendment rights doesn't presuppose what people will do with the weapons, but it does overlook what some people might be thinking.  Of course it's not a simple as I pledge not to assassinate anyone or commit mass murder in return for my gun licence.  But  the process needs to screen out certain people the same way driving tests screen out certain people. 
 And yes gun carriage should demonstrably be for self protection, with hunting or reasonable gun collecting being harmless augments to that right.  I'm not sure it's always that effective for self protection--the guys who stopped our shooter in this instance were unarmed while sometimes store clerks going for the gun get themselves shot--but at least if you can discern legitimate self protection uses for a gun in order to licence it's use, and train people for that purpose you reduce the rash use of guns.  You weed out people with criminal history, with certain reasonable exceptions.  And the same on psychiatric history.  (it's funny I was living with mentally ill guys at the time of the Columbine massacre --one of them was so upset he called up a gun dealer & yelled at him.  It offended his pacifistic sentiments that they were selling guns at a time like that.)  
And maybe make people take a test for gun use rules  like the drivers written test, that points to restraint in use.    Also the sales of automatic weapons should be somewhat restricted both to keep gangs & crazies from getting them, and because if you are using the weapon for self defense rather than hunting or collecting you are more likely  hit unintended targets with a automatic weapon than with a regular rifle or handgun.  These are just a few ideas to make it safer without taking away a right.  
By the way, I think that the right to self defense is not a second amendment right, because that is the right of the people collectively.  A well regulated militia.  It's the right of the people, for instance, to impose order through a national guards.   But the ninth amendment suggests that all traditional rights are protected by the constitution. So if we have a right to self defense, gun ownership is one way to achieve it.  Now you can create situations were everyone is disarmed.  Wyatt Earp did that in Dodge & Tombstone by getting everyone to hang up the guns. At least he did after he shot it out with the Clantons. The Clantons clearly wanted to do something more than self defense, something for which fisticuffs were in effective.  But you could argue that not every situation is amenable to that degree of law enforcement. 


  1. A political target does not necessarily imply political motives. All indications thus far is that the shooter was merely deranged. You also seem to ignore several types of mental illness and assume that this particular shooter was unable of acting on his own.

  2. A political target does not in itself prove political motive. What I have done here is give several examples of the primary motive for political killing by mentally ill people. That is to compensate for a sense of being a big loser or failure by doing an act to impress others. That is why atmospherics are crucial. If our young man attacked Giffordsa it is because he thought he would become important, a hero to somebody, just a certainly as John Wilkes Booth thought he would be a hero to the South. I did not say he didn't act on his own. Unless the conspiracy theorists are right, most of the examples I gave were of lone killers, but the motives were tied to others, with some mental defect none the less.