Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Tucson Massacre: Facts and Fantasies

I'll name no names but the guilty and unavoidable.

A week ago Saturday, a Democrat federal congresswoman and a Republican federal judge went to a shopping center in Tucson to meet-and-greet the voters. Each brought an aide/secretary. Neither of them brought bodyguards. Neither of them asked for any police presence.

While they were talking, a lunatic named Jarod Loughner stepped out of the crowd, drew his recently-purchased 9-millimeter Glock pistol and fired point-blank at the congresswoman, striking her in the head. He then shot the judge, both aides, and another 16 people -- including a 9-year-old girl and her mother -- killing 6 altogether.

Loughner's gun held an extended 30-round magazine, but only 28 rounds actually fired. When he stopped to change magazines, an older (61) woman grabbed his left arm and wrenched the fresh magazine from his hand. Simultaneously, an older (74) man grabbed his right arm and wrestled him for the pistol. A middle-aged woman picked up a folding metal chair and hit him in the back of the head. A young EMT, who had heard the shooting, came running out of the nearby store drawing his own pistol, but when he saw the other civilians wrestling with Loughner he holstered his gun, tackled Loughner and brought him down. The four civilians tied up Loughner and phoned for the police and an ambulance, who arrived within 5 minutes.

Before the fired cartridges were cool on the ground the reporters were busy on their cell-phones, transmitting rumors which they reported as if they were facts. Because Loughner had fired 28 shots rapidly and hit 20 people -- in a packed crowd -- they claimed that the assailant had to be ex-military, just back from Iraq/Afghanistan. Because he shot the Democrat first, he had to be a member of the Tea Party, taking instruction from Sarah Palin, inspired by Rush Limbaugh, etc. Because he used a Glock with an extended magazine, he had to be a "gun nut". From there they sailed off into editorials about the "Right-wing threat" and the need for gun-control and the importance of stopping Sarah Palin's possible campaign for president.

Then some real investigators began uncovering the facts. Loughner had never been in the military, nor within a thousand miles of Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, he had tried to join the military and been rejected -- by the army, in wartime, for mental instability.

Loughner had attended a local community college but had been thrown out for erratic and threatening behavior. The school had obtained a court injunction which barred him from the campus until such time as a psychiatrist should certify him "no longer a threat to others".

His politics, as shown by his personal library, blog and written notes, were neither Right nor Left but incoherent. His writings took on an anti-government slant after he'd been rejected by the army.

A neighbor -- a middle-aged woman who worked late shift -- told a reporter that three or four times she had come home from work at night to find Loughner lurking in her driveway. When she asked what he was doing there, he would always run away without answering.

Far from being a "gun nut", Loughner owned no other pistols. He had bought that Glock only a few days before, at a perfectly legal gun-store. When the dealer, as required by law, phoned the police to ask about his prospective buyer's possible record, the police -- even knowing about the injunction from the college, if not the behavior with the neighbor -- replied that Loughner had none. The dealer then innocently sold him the Glock, with its extended magazines and ammunition.

There was no record that Loughner had ever contacted the Tea Party, attended a rally, or even read their website. His only connection to Sarah Palin was a page he stole from her website, which "targeted" various congressional seats and the current holders thereof -- including the congresswoman he shot. There's no evidence that he ever so much as listened to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, or anyone else.

The media's reaction to these facts was not to retract their previous claims but only to back off, in their editorials, from their previous rants. They no longer called for arresting Palin, taking Beck or Limbaugh off the air or stumping for new gun-control laws; now they blamed the political right-wing -- including the Republican party -- for "toxid rhetoric" and "hate speech" which they claimed "inspired" and "instigated" Loughner's rampage. When Obama came to town to speak at the public memorial for the victims of the shooting, he duly repeated that.

The irony is that the so-called political Left, even while blaming the Right for "inflammatory rhetoric", used considerable "hate speech" itself -- and certainly has used as much in the recent past. As a local reporter noted: "Were your environmentalist fanatic friends responsible for the actions of the Unabomber? They complained about 'corporate criminals raping the land'. Isn't that inflammatory rhetoric? What about comedian George Wallace who was mad that former vice-president Cheney 'shot a lawyer and didn't finish the job'? ...Julia Roberts said that 'Republican' could be found between 'reptile' and 'repulsive' in the dictionary... The former liberal darling Cindy Sheehan claims Dick Cheney was responsible for 9/11. Rachel Maddows calls former president Bush a 'war criminal'. A British filmmaker made a movie depicting his assassination, and made a hero of his murderer [and] Liberals fell all over themselves defending his 'freedom of speech'. If someone tries to kill Mr. Bush, will you blame left-wing ideologues for the attack?"

The unspoken factor in all the name-calling is that the Democrats and the media are hoping to use this event to destroy Palin's political career -- and the Tea Party with her. Palin, who isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, has called herself a "leader of the Tea Party" -- and the media, and both Big Two political parties, believe her.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The Tea Party has no "leaders". It has no identification cards, no membership list, no officers and no structure but a string of local chapters. It's a totally decentralized movement, with its chapters -- defined by congressional district -- connected by nothing but communications and common cause. On one hand this is a weakness, because it allows any ambitious nut to claim he's a member, or even a "leader", and go around spouting any ideas he wants to under that label, thus dirtying the movement's name. On the other hand this is a strength, because no government can destroy the whole movement by going after any individual or group of individuals. It's the difference between herding one buffalo and herding 20 cats.

Palin's only real connection to the Tea Party is that she, like a lot of other hopeful politicians, came to a couple of TP rallies and made a typical vote-stumping speech, and the audience politely applauded. Cheered by the cheers, Palin came back for more -- and the audience politely applauded again. That was all it took for Palin to think herself -- and claim to gullible others -- that she was the TP's "choice", it's "leader", "spokesman", and a lot of other fantasies. In fact, the TP has never "endorsed" Palin for anything -- because it can't; its decentralized structure keeps it from endorsing any candidate as a whole. From what I've seen of my local chapter, the members can't decide on any one candidate as a group. The individual members argue merrily, on their forum, over the merits of this Libertarian vs. that Independent or the other Republican or possibly even some weird Democrat -- but the group endorses nobody.

Nonetheless, the TP let Palin go right on with her silly claims -- for a very clever reason; the TP is using Palin as a red herring. They're letting Palin make her claims, hint that she'll run for president, terrify the Democrats, worry the Republicans and draw the flak from the media. Yes, let both parties and all the media go haring after Palin, concentrating their machinations on her, putting an end to her political aspirations if they can, while the TP goes on quietly supporting the one candidate that about 90% of them can agree on: Ron Paul. While everybody howls after Palin, the Big Two parties and the media overlook Ron Paul steadily working, as chairman of the House Finance Committee, on his policies of auditing the Federal Reserve, stopping the deficit and backing up US currency with solid goods again -- perhaps not gold or silver, but certainly with federal property, of which there is a lot.

And meanwhile, in their dedication to overthrowing Palin, the media have overlooked the real causes of the Tucson massacre. Loughner was a certifiable lunatic, and the police knew it, and they did nothing. It's true that an adult can't be forced into psychiatric evaluation until he does something that at least gets him arrested, but the police did have plenty of opportunities to do just that. When the neighbor reported his lurkings in her driveway, they could have gone after him under the Stalking laws. When he went to buy that gun, they should have damn-well informed the gun-dealer that this guy had an injunction against him with a warning for dangerous mental instability -- and technically they could have arrested him then for trying to buy a firearm illegally. Once arrested, he could have been evaluated. Any remotely-competent psychiatrist would have recognized him for a lunatic and sent him off to the state funny-farm -- thus preventing the massacre. If the Tucson police were too overworked to do this themselves, they could have called on the county sheriff's office for help. They didn't, and their incompetence -- not anybody's politics -- led to the slaughter.

You won't see any mention of this in the mainstream media because, frankly, they're incompetent too.


Anonymous said...

Oh, well said, well said! The analogy I'd have used for "leader of the Tea Party" would be "leader of SF fans" because the TP, like SF fandom, doesn't have "leaders" as such. We have influential fans, and BNFs, but they have no power whatsoever to make the rest of us do one d@mn thing. Both the TP and fandom are actual examples of functioning anarchies.

Ori Pomerantz said...

I think you nailed it, Palin makes a great lightening rod. She's everything (il)liberals love to hate.

Anonymous said...

I've never understood the blind hatred that Sarah Palin seems to arouse on the left side of the aisle. During the election, they were on her like pit bulls on a toddler for things that they insisted be ignored in the case of the Messiah.

Anonymous said...

Is he even crazy, or was he just tripping on salvia divinorum. He was also a heavy pot user. They could have caught him because of his illegal drug use. But that would mean admitting that we can't effectively regulate drugs, let alone guns.

If we can't keep crazy people from getting illegal drugs, how are we supposed to keep them from getting guns?

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Raven. Oh yes, as I've been saying for years, SF fandom is a functioning anarchy -- and nobody seems to have noticed. The Democrats and the media hate Palin because she's a well-advertized woman redneck (not just GOP, but a redneck), and they're afraid she really will run for pres. Of course, everyone can see that she's not the sharpest tool on the rack and would be a disaster as president. The majority of Americans certainly aren't going to vote for her, but the Democrats and the media really believe that they would. This reveals what the Dems and the media really think of the intelligence of the average citizen. I have to wonder what the media and the Dems will do when they bring Palin down, to their satisfaction, and find that the TP is still alive and well and active. They'll probably scramble around looking for another TP "leader" to go after.

Hi, Dora. Yes, Loughner was certifiable, not just high. His neighbors, fellow students and teachers attest that he's been crazy, and getting steadily crazier, for the past couple years. If he'd been doing a lot of drugs during that time, he would have been clumsy enough at it to get caught, whereupon the cops could have locked him up for possession if they didn't give him a psych evaluation and send him off to the nearest funny-farm. No, the real cause of this tragedy is police incompetence in not catching a dangerous lunatic before he did serious harm.

--Leslie <;)))><

Mark Horning said...

No, the real cause of this tragedy is police incompetence in not catching a dangerous lunatic before he did serious harm.

Les, it may not be incompetence, it may be simple corruption. Apparently Laughner was related to someone in the Sheriff's dept.

Anonymous said...

According to Jean Lamb, his mother worked for the County Commissioner's office. When I told her of your analysis of the police failure, that's what she answered me.

And the fact is, we really don't have a working system in place to deal with flaming loonies before they snap. At least, here in Albuquerque we don't. OTH, if you have a disturbed relative, here in Albuquerque you call the police if you want that person shot dead. Though people still do it and howl in surprise afterwards.

Oh, it was fairly obvious the minute facts about his writings came out that you were dealing with a paranoid schizophrenic.

I so like the way Obama called for calm and reason - in the form and style of a mainstream Protestant sermon such as one can hear every Sunday. Whatever one thinks of such sermons, it's one that is very reassuring to large numbers of people. Even I, a pagan, can see the effectiveness of it.

Fred C said...

Leslie, I must disagree with you. Laughner had no criminal record and his purchasing a weapon was legal. It is a slippery slope to confine someone before they commit a crime. Should I be able to say 'My neighbor is nuts' and have him commited? I don't think so. Bizarre behavior is acceptable until it turns violent.

Perhaps an open carry law, so that many more people would have been armed? Although most people at a gun range seem to find it challenging to hit the paper, let alone the 10 ring. I would hate to standing near a target....

I'm afraid incidents like this are the price of what freedom we have left.

Aya Katz said...

Leslie, you did an excellent job here of describing what really happened.

I certainly hope Ron Paul is the one who is eventually chosen, but it's true that more people are focused on Palin, and not just her detractors.

Fred has a good point. Until someone actually acts out his insane fantasies, there is no way to confine him without violating his rights.

One of the things we who love freedom should be willing to accept is the unpleasant fact that tragedies like this are a price we should be willing to pay in order to keep our freedom. They are like natural disasters: nobody but hurricane, the tornado or the lunatic is to blame.

Anonymous said...

By the way - one of the posters on the Fourth Turning forums - someone who refers to everyone mildly to the left of him as "loony left" or "way-far-out left" - cherry-picked Loughner's writings to prove that he was moved by left-wing sentiments. So it's not just one side that's making political hay out of this. In fact, as I understand (and this IS second-hand information) - certain commentators on talk radio and live TV are actually pushing the "Loughner was a leftie" line.

I think anyone making political hay out of this shooting, on either side of the fence, has no shame.

Anonymous said...

Who will keep insane people from killing crowds of people if government can't/won't?

You will.
We all will.