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By Professor Steven Yates
January 30, 2011

As everyone surely knows, last Saturday morning (January 8) a deranged young man named Jared Lee Loughner, 22, opened fire in front of a Safeway in Tucson, Ariz. killing six people and wounding 14 others.

Among the dead are a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl. Among the wounded was the apparent target of the attack, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who had just been elected to her third term and was doing what members of Congress should be doing, meeting publicly with her constituents. At the time of this writing she is in intensive care with a severe brain injury, her long-term prognosis uncertain. We can only pray and hope for her recovery.

Within hours, it had started: pseudo pundits racing to their word processors to deliver sermons about how the toxic political atmosphere in the country was responsible for this tragedy. You would almost think Sarah Palin, or Rush Limbaugh, or the Tea Party movement, had bought this kid his gun and sent him to shoot Giffords.

For example, Paul Krugman writes (in a Sunday New York Times column predictably entitled “Climate of Hate”): “When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen? Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.”

Seriously, does Krugman really believe the “right-wing” response to Bill Clinton’s election precipitated the bombing of the Murrah federal building? What planet is he on, and how is he able to remain at the once-prestigious New York Times having evidenced such poor reasoning abilities. Note how quickly Krugman moves from the dramatic non sequitur about Oklahoma City to the conclusion he wants: somehow, Republicans’ loss of the White House in 2008 coupled with “right-wing extremism” made this happen!

Clarence Dupnik, Sheriff of Pima County, in charge of the investigation, weighed in with a similar rambling diatribe about vitriol and guns quoted approvingly by Krugman: “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.” In an interview on, one of the most popular mouthpieces for leftism on the Web, the Sheriff elaborated: “Well, I think that when the rhetoric about hatred, about mistrust of government, about paranoia of how government operates, and to try to inflame the public on a daily basis, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, has impact on people, especially who are unbalanced personalities to begin with.” He went on to call Arizona “the tombstone of the United States of America” because Arizona state law allows citizens not declared mentally incompetent to carry concealed weapons in public without a permit.

One pundit after another has picked up on these remarks. Naturally, we are seeing calls for more anti-gun legislation under the strange assumption that more laws will prevent criminals and the deranged from obtaining guns. Attention has focused specifically on Sarah Palin’s infamous “crosshairs” chart (now removed from her website) targeting Congresswoman Gifford for defeat along with 19 other House Democrats because they voted for the health care bill.

Never let a good tragedy go to waste!

Isn’t it time for some truth? It is true that the political climate in the U.S. today is nasty and vitriolic. But whenever a leftist says the vitriol started in November 2008 when Barack Obama was elected President, he or she is simply lying (their being uninformed is not credible).

Has anyone noticed the vitriol directed at President Bush? Leftist pundits often blame Bush—in typically simpleminded fashion—for the economic meltdown of 2008. They continue to pound Sarah Palin mercilessly. Yet it is also a lie that only “right-wingers” hate, or display extremism. Michelle Malkin posted a column January 10 documenting leftist attacks in what she called, in a good counterpoint to Krugman, “the progressive climate of hate.” (Note: leftists no longer like to be called leftists, a word with a lot of obvious negative baggage. They prefer progressive, though I have yet to meet a progressive who could state what he thinks progressives are progressing toward except for one undergraduate who once told me with rare candor, “the end of the capitalist system.”)

Malkin drew attention to a portrait of a gun pointed at Sarah Palin’s head—since pulled from the site where it originally appeared but cached. Had this image depicted a politician on the left, the howls from mainstream media would have been audible from coast to coast. Yet I hadn’t seen it until Malkin linked to it. Leftists get passes when it comes to these things. The same is true for “Abort Palin” bumperstickers Malkin also reproduces, as well as an image of a fist connecting with Palin’s jaw. Were Palin anything other than a conservative woman, radical feminists would be livid, proving again how deceitful they are. Malkin is just getting warmed up. Her column provides a video link to Madonna declaring (of Palin) “I will kick her a##,” an attack by Sandra Bernhard, one of those “comediennes” whose sordid attempts at humor leave you wanting to take a bath — one of her acts includes a joke about Palin being gang raped — and several other exhibitions of leftist hate.

Rush Limbaugh is invariably a target. Sheriff Dupnik stated, “The kind of rhetoric that flows from people like Rush Limbaugh … uses partial information, sometimes wrong information, attacks people, angers them against government, angers them against elected officials, and that kind of behavior in my opinion is not without consequences, and I think he’s irresponsible.” This despite absence of any evidence Loughner listened to Limbaugh, who has understandably complained bitterly of how he gets dragged into these events and blamed. I recall how his talk radio program was accused back in 1995 of having created the “political climate” that led to the Oklahoma City bombing. I also recall during his hospitalization for a possible heart problem roughly a year ago some of the vile rhetoric that filled the leftist blogosphere and leftist-dominated online forums. One hate-filled nutcake in my area wrote anonymously on a forum of how he hoped for Limbaugh’s death so he could “s___ on his grave.”

Need we say more about leftist hypocrisy?

There was plenty of evidence that something was wrong with this kid mentally. He had disrupted classes at Pima Community College with strange, incoherent remarks. Faculty members were alarmed by his erratic behavior. Fellow students were afraid of him—in a manner recalling the fear exhibited by fellow students of Virginia Tech mass murderer Seung-Hui Cho who killed 32 people back in 2007 before committing suicide. College officials finally expelled him until he passed a psychiatric examination. Apparently he never passed (or never took the exam), because he never re-enrolled. He tried to join the military, but was rejected.

He’d posted strange, rambling messages on YouTube. I read one of them. I couldn’t make head nor tail of it. Much of it exhibited typical government school lack of grammar and coherence. He’d also posted a video of someone—probably himself—wearing a plastic garbage bag and setting fire to an American flag, all to the manic beats of an infamous heavy metal song (I use that term loosely) entitled “Bodies,” the refrain of which consists of let the bodies hit the floor shouted over and over again.

The problem here: there is nothing to link the political climate in this country to Jared Lee Loughner’s actions on January 9. Nothing links him to any political group. All we have is evidence of alienation and severe mental illness. We have his reading list; it includes authors ranging from Marx and Engels (The Communist Manifesto) to Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf)—but these can be found in many intelligent people’s libraries. The list includes George Orwell’s 1984 and works by Lewis Carroll. He appears not to have believed in God (he was a fan of the anti-Christian film Zeitgeist), but that, too, hardly makes someone a killer. There is nothing to suggest the kid subscribed to any coherent ideology—and although some of his Internet ravings indicate distrust of the U.S. government, this, too proves nothing. While some would like to see distrust of our government as a sign of mental illness, it is not, any more than was distrust of the British government a sign of mental illness among America’s colonists of the 1770s.

Loughner appears to have had it in for Congresswoman Giffords, at least since their paths first crossed at an event in 2007. He’d asked her something she found unintelligible. She brushed him off. This, I should note, long predates Palin’s “crosshairs” chart. Amidst Loughner’s possessions were notes indicating premeditation: “I planned ahead,” “assassination” and “Giffords.” His grudge appears to have been personal, and that is the bottom line. He had made a number of threats—which were never pursued. One wonders: where was the Sheriff when this kid made threats against a public official? He had come to the attention of the police before, having been once arrested for drug possession.


One can hardly help but feel terrible for Loughner’s parents, with whom he was living as he was unemployed. They issued a statement through a neighbor on January 11. They are devastated; his mother may be hospitalized by the time this appears. But questions remain: how could this couple not have noticed that something was terribly amiss with their only child? He had a sort of shrine with a skull in it set up in the back yard. He disappeared for days at a time. And finally: how was he able to afford a gun (the alleged murder weapon cost around $500)?

And: what psychotropic drugs had/has he been using? Big Pharma probably doesn’t want the answer to that one to come out, given the clear associations between some of its products and violent, psychotic behavior. Seung-Hui Cho is an example of someone who had been on psychotropic drugs whose behavior became increasingly unnerving until it erupted in an orgy of violence. The same can be said of the two Columbine students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who murdered 13 people and injured 21 more before taking their own lives. It strikes me that this sad case is about mental illness and its causes, and the willingness or ability of adults to recognize it for what it is and take action, and not about “vitriolic rhetoric” at all.

I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or any other on-the-air mouthpieces of conservatism. Those familiar with my philosophy know I don’t consider George W. Bush to have been a great president—he got us into two unwinnable wars and signed some truly abominable legislation. Nor am I a Sarah Palin supporter; I cannot see her as a desirable Republican candidate in 2012. To my mind she, too, is too close to neocons who love expansionist government and unnecessary foreign wars. Some will disagree with me here. But these are points we can discuss with civility. No matter how much I may disagree with someone, I cannot find it in me to want her hit in the face or gang-raped. That appears to me to be where “progressive” vitriol has brought this country as we start 2011.

I’m waiting for some pseudo pundit to describe this tragedy as a “teaching moment.” There is a “teaching moment” to be found here, but it’s not the one in the “progressive” playbook. Leftists would turn this event into another club to swing at whoever believes differently than they do. Rush Limbaugh has a point. He accused them of using this incident as part of their ongoing effort to silence critics: “Make no mistake about it,” he said. “What this is about is shutting down any and all political opposition and eventually criminalizing it.”

I don’t doubt this. Those of us who work alongside leftists, as I do in academia, or who have encountered them online, soon learn—sometimes the hard way—that we can’t trust them. I have seen them disrupt campus speeches and even academic meetings. These people are very authoritarian. Many seem chronically angry. Some seem never to have grown up. They routinely confuse reality with their beliefs about it. They have no patience with the give and take that comes with adult conversation about current events. One whacko cyberstalked me back in summer 2007 after I expressed politically unpopular views online until I contacted the moderator of the site where he was posting and threatened a libel suit. Of the leftists I have observed, sometimes first hand, I have no trouble imagining them instituting the next Inquisition if the opportunity came along.

Leftists, whether in media, politics, or law enforcement, need to be seen as opportunists and hypocrites when they link a tragic event like this to “right wing extremism” (God, how they love that phrase!) or to “vitriolic rhetoric” on talk radio. They themselves have been engaging in fighting words against both former President Bush and Sarah Palin, for better or for worse a former vice-presidential candidate, for the past three years.

It is true that we’ve heard inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric from rightist groups. Over the past couple of years we have seen attacks on President Obama and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that were uncalled for. All of us should recognize that the First Amendment is not a closed, out-of-context absolute. But this does not just mean conservatives; it means leftists as well! The latter, if they have an ounce of integrity or intellectual honesty, will stop pretending to themselves and to the world that their blaming Sarah Palin’s and Rush Limbaugh’s influence for the actions of a mentally deranged killer is any less irresponsible. To his credit, President Obama has exercised leadership by not playing this blame game. But what the left overall is doing with this tragedy is an insult to the memories of those killed and an immoral use, as if they were political footballs, of those severely injured such as Congresswoman Giffords.

What makes all this so frustrating: those with real power are probably laughing their heads off at the war of words between “left” and “right.” The real superelite powers that be—in the upper echelons of the globalist financial community (including the upper echelons of the Federal Reserve), of the American tendrils of the British Fabian Society, and of the global corporations of the New International Economic Order, have no compelling interest in such disputes beyond their capacity to divide the common people of a nation, so that the people are more easily brought to heel. After all, if we are looking suspiciously at one another, we will not look at them. If we turn on one another, they can step in and restore order!

I should end this article by noting that there are sensible people who would probably describe themselves as “left of center” who are as concerned as I am about the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer persons and organizations—who also see us as moving ever closer to what is euphemistically called “global governance.” Example: the authors on this site. I wish more “left of center” folks wouldn’t go crackers over the fact that the Rush Limbaughs and Sarah Palins of this world are allowed to live and breathe, and instead would focus their energy on the prevailing problem of our time: our accelerating move away from anything resembling liberty and respect for persons, and towards a plutocratic techno-feudalism in which the wealthiest few will rule the permanently cash-strapped many—with a small “middle class” of bureaucrats and lawyers bought and paid for by the techno-feudalists (probably living behind the walls of gated communities).

No, ladies and gentlemen, our most pressing problem is not “left” versus “right.” It is not about whether Republicans or Democrats control Congress / the White House. Let us recall the most revealing political quotation of the twentieth century:

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“The chief problem of American political life for a long time has been how to make the two Congressional parties more national and international. The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can 'throw the rascals out' at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy.... [E]ither party in office becomes in time corrupt, tired, unenterprising, and vigorless. Then it should be possible to replace it, every four years if necessary, by the other party, which will be none of those things but will still pursue, with a new vigor, approximately the same basic policies.” -Carroll Quigley, Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World In Our Time, pp. 1247-48.

� 2011 Steven Yates - All Rights Reserved

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Steven Yates has a doctorate in philosophy and has taught the subject at a number of Southeastern colleges and universities. He is the author of two books: Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (1994) and Worldviews: Christian Theism versus Modern Materialism (2005). His articles and reviews have appeared in refereed philosophy journals such as Inquiry, Metaphilosophy, Reason Papers, and Public Affairs Quarterly, as well as on a number of sites on the Web. He also writes regular columns for a conservative weekly, The Times Examiner. He lives in Greenville, South Carolina with two spoiled cats, Bo and Misty

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Within hours, it had started: pseudo pundits racing to their word processors to deliver sermons about how the toxic political atmosphere in the country was responsible for this tragedy.