Quoted: Tim Wise on “Conspiracism and the Cost of Political Rage”

…[Loughner’s] acts cannot be fully divorced from the current political moment either, and specifically that part of said moment dominated by reactionary and right-wing voices, among which are included many whose speakers adhere to Tea Party thinking. It is not that Loughner is, literally, a devotee of the right or its organizational edifices. In all likelihood he is not. Rather, it is pertinent — and should not be ignored by those in the media who are trying to de-politicize his crimes — that his paranoid lunacy, the contours of which one can explore thanks to the wonders of the internet, transpired in a nation where paranoia and its peddling have become common fare. In such a place, the Jared Loughners of the world become ever-more dangerous. And it is this about which we should be rightly concerned.That said, his acts cannot be fully divorced from the current political moment either, and specifically that part of said moment dominated by reactionary and right-wing voices, among which are included many whose speakers adhere to Tea Party thinking. It is not that Loughner is, literally, a devotee of the right or its organizational edifices. In all likelihood he is not. Rather, it is pertinent — and should not be ignored by those in the media who are trying to de-politicize his crimes — that his paranoid lunacy, the contours of which one can explore thanks to the wonders of the internet, transpired in a nation where paranoia and its peddling have become common fare. In such a place, the Jared Loughners of the world become ever-more dangerous. And it is this about which we should be rightly concerned…

After all, there are many people in any society who suffer from mental illness. Many, indeed, who battle the kinds of demons that appear, from all evidence, to afflict Jared Loughner. Yet hardly any of them act upon their delusions by lashing out at political figures. Most often, when mentally ill individuals become violent, their rage is either focused on persons close by in their lives whom they feel have hurt them (family, colleagues, fellow students, a therapist, a former boss), or it is entirely random and without any seeming pattern or purpose (think Charles Whitman at the University of Texas in 1966, or Mark David Chapman shooting John Lennon). That Loughner’s derangement led him to kill a judge and attempt the same with a lawmaker is unlikely a mere coincidence. Events such as this happen at particular times for a reason. There is a reason that Tim McVeigh’s bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building happened in 1995, amid the last national bout with reactionary paranoia: a time in which the right was bubbling with theories about black UN helicopters planning midnight raids on patriotic Americans, gun grabs and a supposedly liberal president who was gearing up for the mass persecution of tax protesters and Bible-believing Christians, among others.

It is not necessary to show that Loughner is a follower of Glenn Beck, or Michael Savage, or any of a hundred or more local variants of the same. It is not, in the end, all that important whether he spent time on right-wing websites, or is (as a Department of Homeland Security memo seems to suggest) a follower of the white nationalist group, American Renaissance, or whether he believes (as some of his otherwise hard-to-decipher internet postings hint) that the Constitution is being usurped by the current government because of its reliance on paper money: a prominent meme among the far-right. What matters is that Loughner, like all of us, has been exposed day in and day out, for several years, to the unhinged and paranoiac ravings of persons who believe America is in its “end days,” and that the sky is falling, at least metaphorically — and not because of global warming, which is just one more piece of the left-wing conspiratorial plot to confiscate all wealth in the name of nature-worship — but because of the communist/socialist/fascist/Marxist/Nazi/Muslim/Kenyan/terrorist/anti-Christ who occupies the White House.

It is that daily stream of poisonous vitriol from which it is nearly impossible to escape.

Read the rest here.

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