Does It Matter Why He Did It?

Friday, January 14, 2011


There's been no evidence to link today’s toxic political environment with Jared Loughner’s decision to use his gun last weekend. But the question persists: what has the aggressive rhetoric — peddled by mainstream candidates and media outlets and not just militant fringe groups — done to our society? The New Yorker's George Packer says the particular motivations for Loughner’s rampage aren’t the point.

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Comments [26]

Will Hernan

My view on the matter is that you can’t blame the actions of a person on his condition
that he is thought to have had. Any thing can happen in the world and everything that does
happened can’t be blamed on a persons mind and say that they were not aware of there actions
when they obviously had the brain function to think of an idea of shooting someone. Its not like
he shoot just anyone he shoot at someone he believed to be the root of his and possibly other
peoples problems. The fact that he did something rather than nothing says that something
clicked in his mind that it might take an event like this to get a change versus just voting for
someone that possibly wouldn’t do something.

Mar. 01 2011 01:02 PM
Will Hernan

as I was saying
giving the discouraged people a means of getting a person out of the way that they didn’t like. I
agree with the reporter all the way except for the fact that Jared Loughner stilled pulled the
trigger physically and that what influenced his decision is still a mystery even though he was
called a paranoid schizophrenic and that has to me become an excuse for his actions.
I’m sure that there is probably someone out there that he did this because to them it
could come across as a symbol that people are tired of seeing some of these people in
congress and that was a way to catch every ones attention and saying “Lets’ make a change
lets do something instead of sitting around and complaining about it. Even if he did have
paranoid schizophrenia he still had to have plan out how he was going to make a statement
because he could have waited until she was on her way somewhere instead of waiting til she
made a speech.
My view on the matter is that you can’t blame the

Mar. 01 2011 12:59 PM
Will Hernan

Does It Matter and Why did He do It?
This report is about the shooting in Arizona. The report talks about how the shooting is
not the real point, but that the real point is that the shooting took place and that it made people
realize how violent the discourage have become. The report then talks about how the 19th
century was full of this sort of violence ,but that in the 20th century it became a lot less frequent.
It also stated that the last 10 to 15 years have appeared to heat up. Also, that the second
amendment has become the discourages way of saying “ If we don't get our way, we're gonna
to turn to violence.” It then compares the shooting to the treachery that happened in Israel.
The reporter to me seems to be trying to be objective but I feel that the reporter or the
person being interviewed are shifting the blame from the person to the dislike of politicians that
people are getting so frustrated or discouraged that they are using the second Amendment for

Mar. 01 2011 12:58 PM
Philip Prindeville from Portland, OR

GARFIELD: So what makes, for example, Sarah Palin’s crosshairs image of Gabrielle Giffords’ congressional district worse than what we've long been used to?

This piece was incredibly one-sided and biased.

First, it's not a foregone conclusion that Sarah Palin's imagery is any worse than the current norm. But no one even asked, "Is Sarah Palin's crosshairs imagery any worse than what we've used to?" You merely assumed it had to be, because of who she is.

Your use of examples is one-sided and cynical. You could just as easily have held up Obama's comment, "If they bring a knife, we'll bring a gun" as an example of over-the-top rhetoric. Indeed, given the command and leadership of his office, Obama should be even more careful in his choice of words than Ms. Palin.

Jan. 21 2011 12:15 AM
Philip Prindeville from Portland, OR

Interesting that the one person who actually was an ideologue from the Tucson shooting (James Eric Fuller) and who threatened violence turned out to be from the far left.

Bowl me over with a feather.

Jan. 20 2011 06:00 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

OTM can be counted on never to challenge the conventional urban-liberal wisdom. A better program would have called out the tasteless efforts of journalists and activists to exploit the tragedy for narrow political gain and challenged them head-on. Fox News may be right-wing, but it is still the only televised news source that is willing to confront people on the Left about living up to their own standards, including those of 'civility'.

Jan. 20 2011 12:54 PM
Steve Smith from Cleveland, OH

As a weekly listener to the podcast and contributor to WNYC (referencing only OTM as programs I enjoy) I must say that this was the worst segment of the program I have heard in many years.

A very sick young man killed six people with a handgun. An extremist left-wing blogger, Marcos Moulitsas, tweets 'Mission accomplished, Sarah Palin' and posts a link to her PAC's Facebook page. The left (NYTimes, CNBC, etc) then piles on, seeing what they want to see. Not a criminal, but an chance to attack Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh, etc. This time tying them to homicide.

This vulgar, opportunistic use of these tragic deaths for political purposes should have been universally rebuked by rational thinkers. Instead, OTM, and most other media outlets take it as a springboard to give a soapbox for guests such as the New Yorker's George Packer to scold the right ("these people" "they") about how those he disagrees with should craft their political speech.

The worst moment though: Bob Garfield wonders "if we realize that this is what armed tyranny against an oppressive government looks like". Oppressive government? The guy was a NUT. He shot a moderate Democrat because she didn't answer his insane question 3 years ago.

I heard quotes from Republic politicians, but none from the President. I heard about Republicans playing dress up for the 2nd amendment crowd but nothing about Dems doing the same. Or riding in tanks for that matter.

Allowing a big lie to continue without refutation in order to push an agenda is the same as accepting it as truth when your role is that of a media watchdog.

You can do better.

Jan. 19 2011 08:24 AM
Salvia Divinorum made him do it from Brooklyn

Wow OTM is way behind the curve on this one. The current fashion is to blame Salvia Divinorum for the shooting. For more on Salvia madness read NY Times article "Shooting Suspect Had Been Known to Use Potent, and Legal, Hallucinogen".

Jan. 18 2011 06:22 PM
anna from New York

"Bob should read Frank Rich’s analysis, “No One Listened to Gabrielle Gifford"#12
No, Frank didn't offer an analysis, just propaganda. Analysis doesn't omit inconvenient facts, such as that Giffords is a Jewish Democrat, her attacker has left leanings with a conspiracy bent. An analysis would probably start with an examination of influential left antisemites teaching the Protocols, for example.

Jan. 17 2011 03:28 PM
bk from san diego

i seem to be mistaken in my beliefe that this shooting was a would seem to be,instead some sick kind of national rorschack(?) test.neither 'side' can aknowlege that they may harbour 'extremists'.its all the fault of 'those other guys'.we know words and opinions didnt cause this wasnt the fault of free wasnt the fault of fox news or msnbc or free republic or daily kos..but we'll blame them anyways.the sad sorry truth is...we need to hate..all of us.we cant hate skin color or gender or religion anymore..but political views?..get your hate on.tear the 'other guy' apart.folks..we had our civil wasnt any fun.look at your neighbor..your co worker..your relative..would you be willing to kill them for their views? would you hate them for not agreeing with you? really hate? could you? now look in the mirror. do you hate (fill in the blank)?obama? palin? olbermann? beck? do you hate them..with all that word implies? be honest. if try explaining that hate to your child.go ahead..just try. before pointing that finger of blame outward..try looking inward..if you can. one last thing: when those shots rang out..people of all types fled(naturally)..but people of all types ran to the gunshots. democrats and republicans..liberals and conservatives..trying to help those who needed it.ok..i've said my bit. back to the blamefest.

Jan. 16 2011 07:23 PM
John Lloyd from Chicago

I find it interesting that many people, who consider themselves sane, when presented with psychotic delusions ascribing behavior to demonic possession, extraterrestrial abduction and mind-control brain implants, can be moved to either humor or pity, depending upon the circumstance and their disposition. Yet some of the same ostensibly sane people can take seriously the idea of Fox News and Tea Party brainwashing. This strikes me as rather ironic.

There is no demonstrably causal relationship between the "Tucson Tragedy" and the "harsh political tone" with which, according to a recent CBS News poll (, 32% of Americans say that the incident had "anything to do". Naturally, the lack of demonstrability does not preclude speculation, nor should it, necessarily. But I suggest that we exercise caution, and not jump to conclusions.

Jan. 16 2011 06:38 PM
Herman from Baltimore

Despite his poor mental health, it seems to me that Jared
Loughner WAS politically motivated. If he just had a grudge against people in general, he could have found
a bell tower to shoot down from. As it is, he went to a political rally and his first target was the politician. A
crazy as he may be, he had absorbed the hate speech which today pervades the country.

Jan. 16 2011 05:11 PM
Jan from WA

The inability of the editors, the host, and Mr. Packer to see what a buffoonish segment this was is very disheartening and it suggests yet another media outlet now genuflects to money--Mr. Soros' in this case. After hearing repeated admonitions to not jump to judgment on multiple prior similar tragedies, I would have thought this segment would have spent at least as much time addressing the intemperate political opportunism shown by multiple entities with this tragedy, most astonishingly & constitutionally inappropriately the sheriff. Mr. Soetero just cited multiple opportunities that could have been also condemned that would have given at least the segment the appearance of evenhanded sincerity. And history provided another near-fatal shooting in the context of violent rhetoric and metaphors when John Hinckley shot Reagan that could have been cited in support of asking all parties to tone it down. Instead, to my great disappointment, Mr. Packer just comes off as a ham-handed, intellectually vapid, cheaply opportunistic, insincere partisan pundit attempting to muzzle the political opposition. And sadly, being given the platform to weave his sophistry on a network whose credibility matters to me.

Jan. 16 2011 04:52 PM
Barry Soetoro

Why no mention of:

Obama about the Republican Party: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun."

Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-PA on Governor Rick Scott:

"That Scott down there that's running for governor of Florida. Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him and shoot him. Put him against the wall and shoot him."

As the wheels come off the Statist machine, it's sad watching the libs (and their sycophants in the media) loose what's left of their tiny, poisoned minds.

Jan. 16 2011 03:00 PM
Gerald Fnord from Palos Verdes, Ca.

The argument is not original with me, but it is funny to hear people loudly proclaim that what is said over the mædia cannot induce people to do things whilst being paid out of money obtained from selling _advertising_.

The term 'stochastic' is a good one: a tobacco executive bears some responsibility for increased smoking if she has spent money on advertising and marketing on the basis of an estimate that some additional number of people will smoke (or smoke more) because of the expenditure. This is true even if it is absolutely impossible to predict which will do so, just as one can say naught about the velocity of any given molecule in an adiabatically-compressed volume, but can know what the average velocity of the ensemble will be.

It is useful to assign people individual responsibility, because most of them have some sort of control over their moods and behaviours...but as that control is never absolute and total, the responsibility can't be total or absolute.

Jan. 16 2011 02:23 PM
Will Kelley

Bob Garfield seems to have undergone the national media’s screening-level-one lobotomy: if you can’t “prove” there’s a direct causal tie, then there is “no connection.” This is sheerest folly, and more evidence of the decline of On the Media.

Bob should read Frank Rich’s analysis, “No One Listened to Gabrielle Gifford.” Interview him, then see if it is still possible to sputter in righteous indignation about there being “no connection.”

By the way, “stochastic” does not just mean “random.” In a stochastic system, if you apply forces to it that will change its state then you cannot say in advance, in a deterministic way, which item in the system will first express that change of state. The particular item that changes will appear random. What you can say, though, is that enough items will change for the system overall to change its state.

In the case of assassinations such as these it means: when an atmosphere of hatred and violence is continually whipped up to a white-hot rage, and kept there for (at this point) more than 18 months with no effective cooling-off responses, then we can’t say which half crazed person will be the first one to be so suffused with the atmosphere to become the first one to lash out with a weapon. But the rhetoric of rage offers them a focus, an excuse, and just enough additional energy to pull them over the edge, so what we can say is that they will eventually start popping like kernels of corn in boiling oil.

But I don’t expect you to get a serious discussion of these issues in the national media, least of all on NPR and PBS. What you’re going to get instead is alleged journalists – now little more than part of the spin machine – stabbing themselves in the eyes over and over again, all the while saying there's nothing to see.


Jan. 16 2011 01:15 PM
geTaylor from Bklyn.,NY

Having lived with, and enjoyed the benefits of, "Security Theater" at the airport, are we really looking forward to "NonPartisan Civility Theater" at the State of the Union Address?

Jan. 16 2011 01:03 PM
Just a Thought

Thank you for examining this horrible incident from an historical perspective. Should we not consider another incident that involved innocent people, Congress and actual political influence on a tragedy?

At NBC headquarters in New York there is a glass display case by the elevators. No doubt many professional journalists have walked past that case in the last week without observing it while diligently researching conservative media sound bites and images.
Inside that glass case is an old 1970's video camera. The last cameraman to operate it would never know but what he photographed with that camera was the most infamous political scandal in US history. He tragically fell on Nov. 18, 1978 by men sent by the fanatical leftist Jim Jones. In the name of Marxism Jones then went on to take the life of not six people but over 900 people.

Jim Jones was not a 22 year old deranged and maniacal loner who was feared and hated by his peers but a charismatic political power broker who was praised and admired by high ranking Democrats and left-wing activists. His strong and friendly political connections in the Democrat Party reached from California to Washington D.C.
That is what a real political scandal with real political connections looks like. Today powerful figures in the media and politics who witnessed those terrible events up close 32 years ago are now strangely silent about it. We should keep that history in mind as the media seemingly engages in shameless partisan political conjuring creating phantom connections between dramatic words and horrible deeds out of thin air for political effect and gain. Thanks

Jan. 16 2011 11:57 AM
Eric Hamell from Philadelphia

It's factually unsound to state, as you do repeatedly, that "there's no connection" between these shootings and violent political rhetoric. All that can be factually stated is that no such connection has yet been established.

In a universe that's overwhelmingly deterministic above the level of atoms, it's absurd for Palin to say that criminal acts "begin and end" with the criminals. Certainly *something* caused Loughner's acts. Psychiatric observation may eventually illuminate what that was.

Jan. 16 2011 11:56 AM
Eyeheartfreedumb from Iowa

No one on Fox directly told JLL to kill someone, therefore you can't prove the link, but he was pulled over on his way to shooting the congress person. He could have opened fire right there, but he took his ticket and continued on. He wanted to shoot her for some reason.
Can we prove it was Fox and friends? Not directly.

The real problem to me is that if we are going to talk about reasons, then we have to look at our government's over-willingness to go to war. Someone does something the US doesn't like? Bomb them, spy on them, kill them.

To talk about his motives then we have to talk about our national penchant for killing as retaliation. The media aren't going to have that conversation.

Jan. 16 2011 11:51 AM
Toby Saunders

-this guys describes the vivid delusions & hallucinations caused by the legal drug MDPV... I hear 'experts' jumping to the schizophrenia diagnosis but these people presumably have not experience the terror of MDPV... it's sold legally, standard drug tests don't detect it, it only hit the market in 2008! Come on now, research is your friend... alcohol also causes psychosis with heavy use & we know the mass murderer in question used it, so to jump to schizophrenia is a terrible mistake.

Jan. 16 2011 11:42 AM
Toby Saunders

Actually drug-induced psychosis is a more likely culprit than paranoid schizophrenia (the genetically coded brain disease). We know the mass murderer in question was a user of hard drugs including alcohol, & there is a drug called MDPV which cause psychosis like methamphetamine does & MDPV is sold legally at gas stations around the US. It's illegal in Scandinavia & the UK (it should be decriminalised really) but the mass murderer seems to have had hard-drug induced psychosis. The claim of schizophrenia is less founded.

Jan. 16 2011 11:21 AM
Rosie from Nyack, NY

To speak in terms of "evidence" alone, to connect the rhetoric of the right as a motive for Jared Loughner choosing to attack Gabrielle Giffords, is really missing the bigger picture. The words spoken by public figures are heard by all individuals, and how could one ever prove with evidence whether or not the images of cross hairs on a map over Gifford's district, or words such as "take them out" don't echo in the subconscious of a mentally ill, criminal, or paranoid mind, perhaps fueling and directing such deranged actions?

Sarah Palin tried to dismiss herself of all responsibility when she said, "Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them...". I ask, do they really? Ultimately yes, we are all responsible for our own actions, but perhaps the language chosen should be chosen carefully enough as to hopefully not incite and negatively influence the weakest minds in our society. Nothing ever entirely stands on it's own, good or bad.

Jan. 16 2011 10:57 AM
John M Giannone from New York City

It is patently absurd to say that there is no evidence to
connect Jared Loughner's attempted assasination and murders with the climate and discourse coming from
Americans on the political and moral right. Of course there is "No evidence", if that is, we are looking for conncetions of cause and effect that model after the physical sciences. It is our failure to have established a discourse of connection is such cases as the shooting of public officials.

A beinning, on to shich we all might agree, because we all sem to agree on the simple truth 'Guns don't kill; people kill" is 'Then keep guns away from peopple." That is the simple first level logic course inference that follows from
our common belief "Guns don't kill; people kill".

Ther next item of business is to adddress the idea that the founding fathers of our country meant that we citizens
have a rhgt and (then) should be walking around with guns (just) in the event that our government-its elected officials-- get out of hand. Our proof in in the many painting our our founding fathers: did you see them ,
alla JOhn Wayne, with holsters packing guns--just in case? Carrying guns all day long is not a 'just-in-case action'. It is an all-of-the-day-action. That is the problem with guns and arms. Their all-of-the-time status is itself a creats a mentality of (their) legitimate use.

Here the focus ought to be the use of metaphore (Take those liberals out!) Were the power of expression "take out" is transfered to those with different political views.
That shift, that displacement of concepts (Donald Schon),
is intentional and therefore something for which we are responsible. It does not matter if our elected officials now run to deny our collective responsibility; the facts on the ground stand in contradiction.

And so on . . . .

JOhn M. Giannone

Jan. 16 2011 10:03 AM
William Stevens from Redford, Michigan

Kathy: What are you talking about when you use the words "Stochastic Terrorism?" I've checked to see how stochastic is defined and "random" seems to apply. In that case you're talking about random terrorism; but if so, why don't you just use the word random? Everyone knows what random means, but stochastic. I don't think so. And what does stochastic/random terrorism have to do with a with a person's political persuasion anyway?

Jan. 15 2011 10:57 PM
Kathy from Ohio

What no discussion of Stochastic Terrorism?? Treading lightly around your right-wing masters again, I see.

Jan. 15 2011 03:28 PM

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