The charge: The Tucsonmassacre is a consequence ofthe "climate ofhate" created by Sarah Palin, the TeaParty, Glenn Beck, Obamacare opponentsand sundry other liberal betes noires.
The verdict: Rarely in Americanpolitical discourse has there been a charge so reckless, so scurrilous and sounsupported by evidence.
As killers go, JaredLoughner is not reticent. Yetamong all his writings, postings, videos and other ravings - and in all thetestimony from all the people who knew him - there is not a single reference toany of these supposed accessories to murder.
Not only is there no evidencethat Loughner was impelled to violence by any of those upon whom PaulKrugman, KeithOlbermann, the New York Times,the Tucson sheriff and other rabid partisans are fixated. There is no evidencethat he was responding to anything,political or otherwise, outside of his own head.
A climate of hate? This man livedwithin his very own private climate. "His thoughts were unrelated to anythingin our world," said the teacher of Loughner's philosophy class at PimaCommunity College. "He was very disconnected from reality," saidclassmate Lydian Ali. "You know how it is when you talk to someonewho's mentally ill and they're just not there?" saidneighbor Jason Johnson. "It was like he was in his own world."
His ravings, said one high schoolclassmate, were interspersed with "unnerving, long stupors ofsilence" during which he would "stare fixedly at his buddies," reportedthe Wall Street Journal. His own writings are confused, incoherent,punctuated with private numerology and inscrutable taxonomy. He warns ofgovernment brainwashing and thought control through "grammar." He wasobsessed with "conscious dreaming," a fairly good synonym forhallucinations.
This is not political behavior.These are the signs of a clinical thought disorder - ideas disconnected fromeach other, incoherent, delusional, detached from reality.
These are all the hallmarks of aparanoid schizophrenic. And a dangerous one. A classmate found him soterrifyingly mentally disturbed that, she e-mailed friends and family, sheexpected to find his picture on TV after his perpetrating a mass murder. Thiswas no idle speculation: In class "Isit by the door with my purse handy" so that she could get out fastwhen the shooting began.
Furthermore, the availableevidence dates Loughner's fixation on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to at least 2007,when he attended a town hall of hers and felt slighted by her response. In2007, no one had heard of Sarah Palin. Glenn Beck was still toiling on HeadlineNews. There was no Tea Party or health-care reform. The only climate of hatewas the pervasive post-Iraq campaign of vilification of George W. Bush, nicelycaptured by a New Republic editor who had begun an article thus: "I hatePresident George W. Bush. There, I said it."
Finally, the charge that themetaphors used by Palin and others were inciting violence is ridiculous.Everyone uses warlike metaphors in describing politics. WhenBarack Obama said at a 2008fundraiser in Philadelphia, "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bringa gun," he was hardly inciting violence.
Why? Because fighting and warfareare the most routine of political metaphors. And for obvious reasons. Historicallyspeaking, all democratic politics is a sublimation of the ancient route topower - military conquest. That's why the language persists. That's why we saywithout any self-consciousness such things as "battleground states"or "targeting" opponents. Indeed, the very word for an electoralcontest - "campaign" - is an appropriation from warfare.
When profiles of Obama's firstchief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, noted that he once sent a dead fish to a pollsterwho displeased him, a characteristically subtle statement carrying more than awhiff of malice and murder, it was considered a charming example of excessive -and creative - political enthusiasm. When Senate candidate Joe Manchindispensed with metaphor and simply fired a bullet through thecap-and-trade bill - whileintoning, "I'll take dead aim at [it]" - he was hardly assailed withcomplaints about violations of civil discourse or invitations to murder.
Did Manchin push Loughner overthe top? Did Emanuel's little Mafia imitation create a climate for politicalviolence? The very questions are absurd - unless you're the New York Times andyou substitute the name Sarah Palin.
The origins of Loughner'sdelusions are clear: mental illness. What are the origins of Krugman's?