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The Arizona Shooting: An FAQ

1. Whose fault is this?

Good question! Allow me to respond:

And also, right now, it looks like it is the fault of the alleged shooter — against whom there is, can I tell you, just a LOT of evidence — Jared Loughner.

2. But that guy was crazy, right? I mean, his YouTube videos make no sense. And also, he shot people! You shoot people, you have GOT to be crazy.

No, you don’t. There are several entire groups of people trained to shoot other people, in specific circumstances, and lots of them even have to pass psych screenings before they get the job. We call them “the police” and “soldiers.” Pulling the trigger on a gun is a very simple action that can be performed by anyone, regardless of his or her mental health or even his or her mental state.

Now, deciding when to pull the trigger of a gun: That’s more complicated. So let’s discuss murder. Because you would be surprised, what influences someone’s ability or willingness to murder another person. I was looking this up, for a piece, a while ago, and murder (at least in New York) goes up during the summer. Do you know why? More people are drunk. And the heat irritates them. And that’s really it: The police say that, basically, people are outside at barbecues, or just hanging out, and they’re having some frosty beers because of the heat, and they get enough frosty beers in them, and they start beefing, and then because everybody’s pre-irritated and not thinking clearly due to frosty beers, it doesn’t stay a purely verbal beef. Somebody gets murdered. Murder also happens more often (again, this is New York) around the holidays. Because people are unhappy, and stressed out, and (again) they get drunk more often. There are a ton of things that make murder more likely! People are more likely to commit murder if they happen to be dudes! People are more likely to be murdered if they happen to be dudes! Women are more likely to get murdered if they’re pregnant, apparently! Murder is weird!

You know what doesn’t really influence someone’s ability or willingness to murder another person, though? Having schizophrenia, which is what they’re saying Jared Loughner probably has. It actually, totally does not raise the stakes in any real way. Some schizophrenics do kill people, but they are a fraction of the many, many, many totally non-schizophrenic people who commit murder or otherwise shoot people in this world. And as Jill at Feministe points out, even schizophrenics who do shoot people are influenced by things outside of being schizophrenic, including what they hear from the culture around them.

So, to sum up: Lots of people with severe mental illnesses never shoot anyone. Lots of people without severe mental illnesses do shoot people, for lots of reasons. “Because he’s crazy” actually doesn’t make sense or change the conversation in any real way.

2. Ah, but I am quite confident that Jared Loughner was crazy! For, you see, I have known A Mentally Ill Person.

I see. Did that person murder you?

3. Uh… no????

Okay then. For a second, I was worried that you were a mystical typing ghost. So, let’s move on.

4. But, okay. Jared Loughner definitely bears some responsibility, right? I mean, no-one put the gun in his hand or forced him to pull the trigger. But people are dead,  and people are hurt, and it really looks like Jared Loughner shot them. And he was definitely not in the right frame of mind when he did it. We can all agree on that.

Sure can!

5. So why blame the Tea Party for Jared Loughner?

Because, no matter what frame of mind he was in, he was demonstrably influenced by some right-wing rhetoric. “Federalist laws” were mentioned in one of his YouTube videos. Also, “a currency backed by gold,” which is (a) straight from Ayn Rand, who he apparently read and liked — We the Living is among his favorite books, though that’s as scattered and weird as any “favorites” list, and especially any weird dude’s “favorites” list, and it includes Ayn Rand next to The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf and then just straight-up Peter Pan, because even murderers cannot resist some childlike whimsy — and (b) in line with Tea Party rhetoric.

Actually, to go back to that “favorite books” list, what it demonstrates most clearly is not that Jared Loughner is mentally ill, but that Jared Loughner is stupid. The things he likes are not just varied, but in direct opposition to each other — Ayn Rand and Marxism, Hitler and Harper Lee.  Or, for that matter, The Communist Manifesto and noted anti-Communist manifesto Animal Farm. (Well, obviously, Orwell’s message was more nuanced than that. But when they sit you down and tell you to read it in school, it is The Book Where Communism’s Bad, and if we assume that Loughner read this with the same level of insight that he read everything else, he probably didn’t have a terribly nuanced perspective on Orwell’s various condemnations and parallels.) He didn’t understand any text fully enough to see that, if he “liked” one, he should note its direct contradictions of the other text. He was stupid enough to think he agreed with all of them. And he showed the decisive stupid-dude tendency to list only “great” or “classic” books: He doesn’t read for fun, this guy, he doesn’t have taste per se, he reads to convince you that he’s smart and that he reads Great Books, but the books he reads are only the books that even non-readers know about. There aren’t many contemporary authors, even trendy ones; there’s nothing even slightly obscure. The only surprise is that he didn’t include War and Peace. Or Shakespeare. (For example: If he’s really interested in linguistics and grammar as social structure and the meaning of words, where’s Derrida? That’s not even hard to find out about, really. Derrida is super-famous, and you don’t even have to understand it to say that you’re into it.) Scanning a “favorites” list to get a sense of whether you want to know somebody is a much-derided but instinctive skill of my generation. And anyone who’s ever met a date through Facebook or OKCupid or whatever can verify: These are all classic hallmarks that someone is extremely damn stupid.

So here’s this guy. He’s stupid. He fancies himself a revolutionary of some kind. Ayn Rand and The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf are all vaguely understandable, by a stupid dude, as endorsing violence in order to re-shape society. He clearly wants to be perceived as important, in terms of this very vague revolution, and in general terms. He doesn’t like “control.” He doesn’t like “the government.” And which popular movement, in his time and place, is advocating less government, opposition of the current government, and even violent gun-based overthrow of the government?

The Tea Party.

6. But they didn’t mean it! They didn’t mean he should get out a gun and shoot politicians! And Sarah Palin’s aide said those were surveyors’ marks, on that map!

That was after she herself called them “bullseyes.”

And Sarah Palin’s rhetoric is not alone in this. “Lock and load,” “reload,” the bullseyes: Those were some pretty clear endorsements of guns, right there. But we also have “Second Amendment remedies,” from Sharron Angle. And we have Giffords’ opponent, rallying opposition against her with an event in which people were encouraged to shoot guns at a target.

The Tea Party has been operating on some very gun-focused rhetoric from the first; I have only seen one or two marches, in New York City, but in Ohio, I got to see the signs on people’s lawns. I come from a very small, chummy, politically diverse (by Ohio standards; meaning, everyone is slightly right-of-center or just right on the center), Norman-Rockwell-normal neighborhood in Ohio. And I saw at least a dozen signs on the lawns. And a STARTLINGLY high number of these were — aside from the hilarious one that was just a painting of a bald eagle weeping over a gravestone that read “R.I.P. The Constitution” next to a malevolent-looking Obama — signs quoting the Second Amendment, or saying something about how, when governments became oppressive, people had to start or join militias.

But, yeah. I’ll actually buy, for the record, that Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, and Giffords’ opponent were shocked when they found out someone had used their rhetoric to actually shoot and kill a whole lot of people, not least Gabby Giffords, who is still alive as of this current moment, but who did get shot at point-blank range in the head. I’ll buy that they didn’t actually want those people to die.

Which is why we need to place some special emphasis on the fact that Jared Loughner was stupid. Because it is a large part of why they had every reason to see this coming.

7. “Saw this coming?”

Uh, yeah buddy. For one, Gabby Giffords had been subject to large-scale harassment, in terms of phone calls and e-mails; someone had smashed her office window; she had received multiple death threats. All of this action was directly affiliated with the Tea Party. Giffords was very public about the fact that this was happening; she even went on TV to talk about it, aside from whatever she may have done privately. Everybody had every reason to know this was happening. And nobody stopped it. Nobody condemned it; the language did not change. So, for one, we knew that this woman was being targeted for some scary, scary violence, by a lot of people, already. That’s reason one that they had every reason to see this coming.

[ED: I mean, just to re-iterate: There was a culture in which violence against this one specific woman was not only incited, not only acted out, not only talked about, but actually threatened against her, and to some extent -- the harassment, the smashing of the window -- acted upon. And this was permitted and encouraged. And we want to talk about whether the fact that one person actually decided to commit an act of violence against her miiiiiight have poteeennnnntially been influenced by this, and whether it's irresponsible to come to that conclusion. To which any reasonable person must say, COME ON: The shooter lived in a culture where it was acceptable to target Gabby Giffords for violence. No matter who he was, or what else was going on with him, that's what happened. Multiple people were already targeting her, and the condemnation of those people was not all that strong, and the people who created the rhetoric didn't tone it down. Yeah, he could have been not at all influenced by this rhetoric, conceivably. You could also get struck by lightning and hit by a car at the same time. When somebody shows up with tire tracks on them, you don't conclude they were struck by lightning.]

Reason two: Jared Loughner was stupid. Jared Loughner, like a whole lot of people, was stupid. He was fucked-up and stupid and placed a very low value on human life; he was terrible. Jared Loughner, like a whole lot of people, was terrible.

And do you know who is most intimately familiar with the fact that a whole lot of people are stupid or terrible? Politicians. And anyone who operates in anything that could be considered a “political” field. Every single person who operates publicly, especially politically, is familiar with the “lowest common denominator” requirement — that is, given that a lot of people who hear you are going to be stupid or terrible, how can you communicate most clearly to them? How can you factor in the known fact that some of the people who hear you are going to be stupid or mean or unreasonable, when you create your message? Whether that’s protecting yourself from the stupid or unreasonable people, or finding a way to convince them to side with you, that is something that every single person who operates in a political field actually, actively has to think about in order to succeed. You have to get the largest possible number of people behind you; lots of people are stupid or mean; let’s not be prissy, we have to win this thing, let’s get them behind you, too.

So the Tea Party created a message. The Tea Party made that message as public as possible. The Tea Party aimed to make that message as convincing to as many people as possible. The Tea Party knew that at least one person who heard them was going to be as stupid and gullible and malleable and bad and wrong as Jared Loughner. And then the Tea Party went ahead and endorsed bullseyes, “Second Amendment remedies,” shooting machine guns; the Tea Party went ahead, knowing that Jared Loughner or someone else just as bad could hear them, and the Tea Party recommended guns.

The Tea Party had every reason to see this coming.

The Tea Party had a lot of people pointing out to them, more or less constantly, that something like this was coming.

And then it came.

7. You’re going to find some way to tie this into lady issues too, aren’t you?

Sure am! For, you see, women who operate in the public arena are always more vulnerable than men, in certain ways. Of course, certain men are vulnerable as well: Gay men, men of color. But there are things to which women are vulnerable that no-one else is.

When they vet or examine you, your background is more vulnerable — men can do things that you can’t do, in your private life. When they look at you or listen to you, your appearance and tone and personality are more vulnerable — it doesn’t take much to be seen as weak or overemotional, and it doesn’t take much to be seen as an overly masculine bitch, and sometimes, if you’re Hillary Clinton, you get to be seen as both. It doesn’t take much to be seen as slutty — Sarah Palin actually knows all about that one; so, for that matter, does Christine O’Donnell — or stupid. And if you’re not stupid, you’re an arrogant bitch. It doesn’t take much, in other words, to make people hate you. When they’re rallying up the hate, the chances that it will fall on you, the girl, are just THAT MUCH HIGHER. You will bear the brunt of it. You simply will.

Here’s what it took to make Jared Loughner hate Gabby Giffords:

“That interest might have triggered Mr. Loughner’s first meeting with Ms. Giffords in 2007. Mr. Loughner said he asked the lawmaker, “How do you know words mean anything?” recalled Mr. Montanaro. He said Mr. Loughner was “aggravated” when Ms. Giffords, after pausing for a couple of seconds, “responded to him in Spanish and moved on with the meeting.”

And I am sorry. But this is classic. A man tries to impress a woman; she is not impressed; he hates her very much (he told a friend that she was “stupid” later, as per the friend), and then he retaliates. Whether that’s a guy calling you “bitch” because you won’t let him buy you a drink at the bar, or a street harasser telling you that you’re “not really that hot” after you tell him to fuck off, or your college classmate targeting you for shittiness all semester long because you’re doing well (I, personaly, had a guy sit behind me and pull faces every time I talked, occasionally making the “yap yap” motion with his hand), or an abuser slapping his wife for sassing him back and not making him feel Important and Like a Man, or a guy pulling a gun on a female politician because he couldn’t outsmart her at a meeting, that is some classic misogyny happening, right there.

So, yes. I will find a way to bring lady issues into it. Because this was going on for a long while, and a female politician who failed to be impressed by a male constituent was the one who got shot. Because the lady issues, they are already there.

7. I’m sorry. You went on forever, like you always do. Whose fault is this, again?

The climate exemplified by this right here, and the people who made that climate possible, and the people who made this:

And the man they knew they were probably talking to. These people, and their audience, Jared Loughner.


  1. Feather wrote:

    Man, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here, and I think the point comparing Loughner to street harassers is particularly brilliant, but showing the map with the gunsights is a little misleading, considering the fact that Democrats have used the exact same imagery (see here: Republican rhetoric is obviously far more incendiary, but I don’t want us to get comfortable and think our hands are completely clean.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Permalink
  2. aravind wrote:

    Sady, you say everything I try to say and fail miserably at.

    Of course, our old friend Olbermann is trying to string some sort of false equivalency “we’re all culpable” thing together which you’ve excellently shot down.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Permalink
  3. aravind wrote:

    PS: Feather, one of those two maps was about targeting states. I don’t think that’s quite the same caliber (uh, is that maybe a poor word to use, I don’t know guns) as the other maps we’re talking about (including the other one your source brought up) actually show targets on individuals.

    So, bit of a difference. Unless we think some one could assume that they don’t mean target those states with ads but rather with mass murder or something?

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Permalink
  4. Tyler Healey wrote:

    I give Keith props for stepping up and taking himself to task. However, I’m still waiting for Keith to issue a special comment on the Julian Assange case.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink
  5. Sady wrote:

    @Feather: UH RLY? You’re comparing a map with generalized bullseye targets representing states to a map with gunsights on it, listing names, with red (“dead”) targets to list the ones who are no longer in office, and the words “It’s Time To Take a Stand,” FROM a woman who has repeatedly used gun-oriented language and imagery about her opponents, TO a movement that frequently uses gun-and-violent-overthrow-oriented language and imagery, THAT is engaging in violence and threats of violence openly already?

    And you’re linking to a right-wing blog to do it?

    Jesus. That’s either kinda clueless, or you are a SUPER-effective troll.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink
  6. Carolyn wrote:

    If anyone on the left *is* culpable, it might be KO. He’s way, way too angry a lot of the time. But I agree that at the moment, the Repubs have the upper hand in the incendiary rhetoric game. In large part, this is due to the very reason that gun metaphors work for them: they support gun rights. Guns are more than just a metaphor for them, they want people to have guns. Their rallies encourage people to have guns. Their people bring guns to rallies. Guns are a big part of their thing, so I think it’s more likely for their gun metaphors to cause this than for Dems because they actually support guns/militias etc.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink
  7. tenar wrote:

    I totes agree with all your points here Sady, but…

    If you think Jared Loughner is schizophrenic, then his disorganized thoughts are a symptom, not a sign that he’s “stupid” and “fucked up”. And he’s not a bad, terrible person, he’s a sick person who did bad, terrible things.

    It doesn’t make his actions any better, but we don’t have to stigmatize mental illness to condemn them.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Permalink
  8. dan solomon wrote:

    I have some concerns with attempting to link Loughner directly with the Tea Party, because I think that it’s entirely possible we’ll find out that he despised Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and Sharon Angle, and everybody else whose name gets talked about right now. Assuming that he’s a Tea Party supporter because he talks about the gold standard and Federalist laws ignores that there are people way out further on the fringe than Rand or Ron Paul, and I strongly suspect that this kid identified more with them than he did Palin or the Tea Party.

    Because another thing you can extrapolate from his list of favorite books is that he liked to be incendiary. He clearly thought he was the smartest person ever, and listing a bunch of contradictory, controversial books — no one who says Mein Kampf is a favorite book actually -likes- Mein Kampf, even neo-Nazis don’t actually like it, people just list it to get a reaction — is a way to shock the squares, to say, “I’m superior to all of your ideologies. I’m so smart, I can take the Communist Manifesto AND Ayn Rand and see the flaws in both, as evinced by the fact that I list them together! I’m not beholden to anyone’s philosophy but my own!” The list probably has much less to do with the books he actually liked (except maybe Peter Pan) and much more to do with wanting to be seen as someone of such towering intellect that he had room for all of those contradictions inside of him. (Which, as you put it: stupid.)

    And the sort of person who does that is the sort of person who doesn’t see himself as a joiner. If he thought he was smarter than Giffords, he probably thought he was smarter than Palin. There may well be a blog that he kept pseudonymously, or comments that he left on total fringe wacko websites, in which he talks about how much he hates Palin and thinks she’s a moron. I spent a little bit of time with a group of utterly delusional Texas secessionists while working on a story last year (highlight: when one guy started talking about how Americans were all sheep because they actually believed George Washington was the first President of the United States), and from what I’ve read about Loughner, he seems to have a lot more in common with the young dudes among them than he does the Tea Party guys I know. And those secessionists -hated- the Tea Party.

    (That’s not to say that their anger isn’t spurred on by the Tea Party’s rhetoric. But it’d be a simplification to point to Palin’s map, if one of them attempted to assassinate a politician, and say that they did it because of her.)

    Anyway, this worries me because I -do- think that the rhetoric of gun-based political violence was an obvious factor, but when people try to so directly cast Loughner as a Tea Party person, then that same rhetoric will be cleared if someone turns up a website he had in which he says that Sarah Palin was an idiot. He may not have identified with the Tea Party. He may not have even agreed with them about much. But he was still a person who committed an act of gun-based political violence, and whatever he personally believed, the fact that he did so in the midst of a culture of gun-based politically violent rhetoric is a valid point to make.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Permalink
  9. Marley wrote:

    Thank you for writing about Gabby Giffords. I have had a really hard time both trying to follow and not follow what different media outlets are saying, because I want to know what’s happening and I’m sick of the arguments being thrown back and forth–especially false equivalency. You’ve said everything I’ve been feeling, but haven’t been able to put into words.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Permalink
  10. a.b. wrote:

    @Feather What’s underneath a bull’s eye? A bale of hay. What’s underneath cross-hairs? A person.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Permalink
  11. N'Awlins Contrarian wrote:

    Insofar as Jared Loughner reportedly registered to vote as a Democrat, it hardly seems fair to say that Tea Party types incited him to do this. Is he a wacko? Very likely. Does he belong in prison? Very likely. Was he motivated by anti-government paranoia? Very likely. But anti-government paranoia exists on the left as well as the right, and both types of anti-government paranoia have resulted in violence. Was “he was demonstrably influenced by some right-wing rhetoric”? May well have been, although the evidence for that seems inconclusive at present. He was probably also influenced by left-wing rhetoric, other wackos, and quite possibly drugs. If you are going to posit that someone who reportedly registered to vote as a Democrat went on a murder rampage due in any major part to Tea Party rhetoric, IMO you ought to have stronger evidence.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink
  12. Sady wrote:

    @N’Awlins Contrarian: And IMO you are ignoring the fact that this woman was demonstrably targeted for violence for a very long time, and the actual evidence right in front of your face, and the fact that no matter who he was or how incoherent he was he lived in a culture where violence toward this woman was encouraged and acceptable. IMO you need to drop the “Contrarian” schtick and look at what the hell is going on in front of you.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink
  13. Victoria wrote:

    Palin’s map is representative of a large group of people using violent rhetoric to rouse people and/or make a shitload of money. I keep running into the phrase “If ballots don’t work, bullets will.” Over and over. So it’s more a representative example than a simplification to link the map to the event.

    It strikes me as interesting that so much of the gun-baiting language I’m hearing is coming from women on the right. Why are Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Michelle Bachmann, Joyce Kaufman, etc, the chosen mouthpieces for this rhetoric? I’m thinking about the direct link between sex and violence, but not coming up with anything coherent to explain this to myself, except to say that it seems to me to be obviously deliberate and disturbing.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink
  14. Victoria wrote:

    @N’Awlins Contrarian: For many years, I was registered to vote as a Republican. That was because no Democrats were ever opposed in primaries in my hometown,and I wanted to vote in primaries, so I made my best possible informed decisions on the R ballot. I’ve never voted for a Republican in a general election in my life.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Permalink
  15. Anna wrote:

    just a tiny sort of almost-correction/pedantic niggle: animal farm wasn’t really anti-communist, it was more anti-stalinist. orwell was kinda really leftwing (democratic socialist) himself and was more bummed out about how the USSR ended up turning out, rather than the actual communist-thing-in-general.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Permalink
  16. Stesha wrote:

    I just want to say that I found Tigerbeatdown from a friend’s Facebook, and I’m really, really glad that I did. This is a very thoughtful, but appropriately enraged blog (I’ve read a few entries now) that, you know, cites their sources and cares about having actual intelligent discourse on its comment page. [Insert applause here].
    A topical response:
    Thank you for pointing out that the shooter was stupid. Not just like normal stupid, but lowest-common-denominator stupid. That is really far more of a ‘clear and present danger’ than any foreign enemy that can be sliced into a 2-D image and made into gun range targets. And that’s one more thing I like this blog for: it’s fucking smart.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Permalink
  17. Sady wrote:

    @Anna: Totally true! I’m thinking more of its rep as the book they give you to Explain Why Communism Is Bad, without making any of those distinctions. But I’ll edit, to reflect that.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Permalink
  18. Feather wrote:

    …clueless, I guess. A friend of mine linked to it, and I found it striking, without knowing anything else about the blog.

    It’s difficult to know how to think about or deal with the right wing. In my personal life, I try not to judge other people, or pretend I know how they should live their lives — I’m not perfect, I have enough crap in my own backyard to occupy me for life. It’s a policy that generally works for me pretty well. But, on a larger scale, on a political scale, it doesn’t work.

    What I was doing, and what I think a few other commenters are doing, is trying to bring this back to us, to our behavior, to see how we can change, and step it up, and get better. But, what that amounts to here is trying to engage reasonably with people who cannot be reasoned with — which is, I think, the big problem with Obama’s approach.

    So, I guess my question is, is there any place for examination of liberal behavior at times like these? Is it just distracting? These aren’t rhetorical questions, I really don’t know. (And, I guess one possible response is that the link I posted is a poor stand-in for intelligent critique, which, fair enough.)

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Permalink
  19. Feather wrote:

    And by “engage reasonably,” I mean, “You behave your best, and we’ll make sure to do the same,” which should work, but is a stupid approach to take with people who have no intention of behaving honorably.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Permalink
  20. Justin wrote:

    But, but, but, when you point out that the right is being vile and bigoted your engaging in the same behavior, Right?
    It drives me to anger that we have to listen to the talking heads try to convince people that there is some sort of equanimity in what’s going on currently.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Permalink
  21. Seisy wrote:

    I’m still concerned about the language used in today’s political climate, but I’m still not convinced that the rush to tie the two together is anything more than political jockeying. Hinckley didn’t need that kind of rhetoric to be inspired to shoot Reagan. Though very few people suffering mental illness may decide to give mass murder a try, that doesn’t rule out that one might…without having to posit direct external influence. Until we know more for sure, I’m reserving my opinion.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Permalink
  22. LeftSidePositive wrote:

    You know how sometimes someone writes something that, like, exactly describes what you’ve been feeling when you yell at your computer screen at all those news articles that don’t seem to get it, and yet this writer person manages to say everything you’ve been feeling with slightly more comprehensibility than “YouFuckingTwitYouFuckingTwit!!!”

    Shit, Sady. Like, seriously, holy shit.

    Well done.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink
  23. Jenny wrote:

    Actually, there might not have been any influence from Palin on the shooter:

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Permalink
  24. Sady wrote:

    @Jenny: Jenny? I’m going to ask you this as nicely as I can. Did you read the post?

    Because what you’ve linked to is an OPINION POST, just like mine. It contains statements like “Of course, she didn’t say that people should shoot them, nor did she personally issue threats against them,” which I address here, and “I don’t recall anyone commenting on the map at the time,” which is manifestly untrue, and “it is evident that few, if any, people took it literally, or thought that others would do so,” which I also address here, and “there have been reports that Loughner is a mentally disordered individual,” which I addressed here in three separate sections. It’s an opinion post, Jenny, and it’s full of the opinions that I specifically address and disagree with in this post here.

    So I have to ask again. This post. Did you read it?

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Permalink
  25. Copcher wrote:

    @Carolyn, #6 about KO being culpable, I have to say I disagree. I haven’t been watching his show since December (I don’t make it a priority to support the perpetuation of rape culture), so I don’t know how he’s responding to this particular incident, but from what I remember, he is always careful to remind viewers not to be violent. Around Halloween in 2008, when someone decorated their house with tasteless and dummies that looked like McCain and Palin getting killed, he commented on it, saying it was not funny or appropriate, with something along the lines of, “not now, not ever.” And I could be wrong, but I think part of the reason he got rid of his Worst Persons segment was that Jon Stewart mentioned that it could be understood as inciting violence. Yes, he is often very angry and very vocal about his anger, and sometimes tasteless and tactless about it. But anger is an appropriate response to a lot of what’s going on in the US, and showing your anger is very, very different from actually recommending, even if you don’t really mean it, the use of guns to fix the country.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Permalink
  26. Joy wrote:

    Sady Fucking Doyle, how I love you.

    First Joan of Arc, now this. THIS. Yes. Everything. EVERYfuckingTHING.

    Thank you. And thank you for not taking down Tiger Beatdown. It gives me strength. Even hope. Really and truly. The internet, and the world, is a little less lonely and terrifying because you write in it. Yes, I digress, but I gotta fit a lot of commenting in at one time or else I’d be blathering over every last one of your posts.

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Permalink
  27. Tabs wrote:

    Right on!

    Monday, January 10, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink
  28. Jordan Rastrick wrote:

    Sady, I’m an absolutely massive fan of yours, especially lately – your “Why I didn’t delete TBD” post brought tears to my eyes.

    However as it happens I want to finally delurk to take issues with some of the things you’ve said in this post.

    “You know what doesn’t really influence someone’s ability or willingness to murder another person, though? Having schizophrenia, which is what they’re saying Jared Loughner probably has.”

    I don’t think that’s true. While the mistake of over-attributing violence to psychotic disorders is of course ridiculously common, I’d say you’re making the opposite one here.

    Someone affected by psychosis is, statistically, more likely to commit violent crimes than average (notwithstanding that they’re far more likely to be a victim than a perpetrator etc.) If you consider some of the most of the most obvious subcategories that this particular crime falls under – violence against a public figure, act of multiple homicide against strangers, etc, that correlation is even stronger.

    Of course many people with such disorders are non-violent, and a disorder is rarely the sole cause of someone’s actions. I agree with you that the atmosphere created by Tea Party rhetoric is very likely a contributing factor in this case. But the role of any mental illness Lougner may happen to have shouldn’t be discounted.

    “Actually, to go back to that “favorite books” list, what it demonstrates most clearly is not that Jared Loughner is mentally ill, but that Jared Loughner is stupid.”

    Again, I think you’re probably wrong here, or at least jumping to conclusions. Loughner may well be stupid, but its by no means guarnateed. Its easy to mistake symptoms of a thought disorder as stupidity even when the person may in fact be highly intelligent – particularily when the evidence is such a limited piece of information as a list of favourite books.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 2:21 am | Permalink
  29. Tiferet wrote:

    I pretty much agree with everything here, although I actually like Ayn Rand’s books too. As trashy novels. Having read them, I cannot for the life of me understand how people read these trashy novels as anything other than trashy novels. But I enjoy a good trashy novel once in a while, so I hope you won’t think that I’m stupid because I like Atlas Shrugged (and Twilight for that matter) but do not regard it (or Twilight for that matter) as any kind of sane instruction book for real life.

    But then, I haven’t ever shot anyone, and I’m really incredibly unlikely to :)

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 2:25 am | Permalink
  30. Samantha B. wrote:

    I know it’s incidental to this post, but given it’s kind of a big fucking deal for the ladies- that pregnancy makes one vulnerable to murder- categorizing it as “weird” makes me a little squirmy. For the most part, these murders are part and parcel of domestic violence, and while any understanding of why is largely speculation- maybe it speaks to a serious societal failure that this is the case? It’s not so much “weird,” I’m thinking, that we have so little understanding of this phenomenon, but instead it demonstrates that we’ve decided that patterns of violence against women aren’t worthy of rigorous study or societal examination? Every time this happens, it’s presented by the media as a “freak” case- Laci Peterson, etc.-, so we aren’t understood to bear collective societal responsibility. When in fact, I think we very much do!

    And that much, I think, ties my derail back to the larger post- we want to look at violent incidents as isolated and anomalous because it inculcates us against responsibility. Which is a really, really problematic bluff to our selves. It makes us feel safer in the abstract and short term, perhaps, but also makes us a lot more vulnerable in the real world long term.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 5:33 am | Permalink
  31. k not K wrote:

    I honestly think he sounds more like one of those sovereign citizen, tax protester, “patriot movement” type of right-wingers than someone who was actually interested in the Tea Party. This lawyer’s website provides a good overview of tax protester beliefs, and Loughner shared a lot of them:

    People always forget, the conspiracy-minded right wing has been around much longer than the current Tea Party temper tantrum. Some of the “sovereign citizen” stuff is being integrated into Tea Party goals (like repealing the 14th Amendment – that’s classic patriot movement veiled white supremacism) but a lot of this stuff is super-fringy even for the Tea Party.

    However, I do agree with all of the points about the mainstreaming of violent rhetoric. More than that, it’s specifically conspiracist, apocalyptic rhetoric, which I consider particularly dangerous. When you see someone as mainstream and influential as Glenn Beck hinting at dark forces at work and not quite explaining them, you’re going to get paranoid people filling in the blanks themselves. And every once in a while you’re going to get this:

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 5:57 am | Permalink
  32. SeanH wrote:

    I think you’re definitely right about the dudely tendency to list Great Books in any “favourite books” field in order to show off how incredibly smart you are – I know because I used to do it. I’m not sure what’s worse, lying about what books you’ve read, or forcing yourself to read boring books in order to brag that you’ve read them? I’ve done both.

    But – does it make you stupid to like books that are in opposition to one another? I like Aristotle’s Ethics and Mill’s On Liberty, and they’re in opposition. I like Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. LeGuin, which is arguably pretty contradictory. Hell, I like Nietzsche, and he’s in opposition to everything ever. In fact, if you were describing reading habits which reflected a lack of intelligence, might you not suggest that only reading books which were in 100% agreement with one another isn’t a great habit?

    Which is not to defend the brilliant intelligence and nuance of Jared Loughner – he’s definitely just a pseud who’s picked out a load of Really Smart Books. But it doesn’t make you stupid to like a wide variety of books.

    (I might just be totally misreading that paragraph of yours, though)

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 6:58 am | Permalink
  33. spiralsheep wrote:

    Victoria @ 12 wrote: “It strikes me as interesting that so much of the gun-baiting language I’m hearing is coming from women on the right. Why are Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Michelle Bachmann, Joyce Kaufman, etc, the chosen mouthpieces for this rhetoric?”

    Because women promoting gun-use are automatically characterised in US mainstream culture as defensive of themselves and their families whereas men are seen as more likely to be overtly aggressive and offensive? (Which, y’know, fits with women using violent rhetoric and then men actually killing people.)

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink
  34. Mejoff wrote:

    He’s been described as ‘unstable, but not insane’. Now I don;t know about you guys, but I never met a person who could not, at some points in their lives be decribed as unstable. Which leave us with the thought that, rather than being explained away with a ‘mental health’ handwave (simultaneously tarring all people with mental health issues with the brush of extreme risk of violence), he might just be a vicious right-wing bastard who hates liberals.

    Of course – mission accomplished – the ‘crazy’ narrative has saturated the mainstream press and the idea that he’s just an ideological terrorist will never be front and center.

    (yes, I used the ‘t’ word, why has nobody else yet?)

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink
  35. GallingGalla wrote:

    This is spot on, Sady, and you’re absolutely correct that this is ladybusiness. Especially that there’s four other women on Palin’s “target” list.

    Years ago, I was for gun rights (though I never owned or fired a gun, and supported mandatory registration and licensing). As I have become more aware of the climate of violence and fear stoked by the right, especially since 2008, my support for gun rights has eroded. This latest shooting and its connection to the Tea Party, was the last straw for me.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink
  36. N'Awlins Contrarian wrote:

    @Victoria, @Spiralsheep:
    Both the left and the right like to use mouthpieces that function as wedges, and that the other side will find harder to attack. On the right, these days that often seems to mean Republicans promoting the women, racial and ethnic minorities, etc. from their membership to be public faces. On the left, these days that often seems to mean Democrats promoting children of Republican politicians who are liberal, or gay, or whatever. There are probably other examples and trends–just commenting on two that I personally have noticed. While the ‘See, even so-and-so agrees’ approach might at times have some merit, I tend to think that both parties are cynically involved in a race to the bottom. (And Spiralsheep, I agree that there is at least some truth to what you said.)

    @Sady (re: “[N]o matter who he was or how incoherent he was he lived in a culture where violence toward this woman was encouraged and acceptable.”) I agree with you that there’s a lot of inappropriate rhetoric, and that there is at least some risk that such rhetoric coming from people for whom is it only rhetoric could incite nuts who take it as a true call to action. I don’t feel qualified to comment on the extent of the confluence of misogyny, just-assassinate-them extremism, and plain insanity (your sub-theme?). But I think you are at least at the edge of using an unfairly broad brush to paint a sizable chunk of the right (“the Tea Party”), and thereby risk contributing (admittedly, in a small way) to the degrading of the political discussion. Which to me is doubly unfortunate because I sincerely think you have a lot of important and interesting stuff to say.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 10:31 am | Permalink
  37. Amy wrote:

    Considering everything, this is an incredibly minor point. However, I take issue with the fact that Congresswoman Giffords is being referred to so frequently and familiarly as “Gabby”. Not Representative Giffords. Not Ms. Giffords, Not even Gabrielle. Gabby. This is probably very Victorian of me, and I’m not going to read too much in to it because then I would be co-opting the tragedy. But, please, nick-names are for friends and family, and she earned that title. Let’s show some respect.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  38. Amy wrote:

    Also, not that this makes a difference, and I’d feel the same either way, but I know her from having worked with her during her freshman term at the Arizona State Senate – during which time, I never would have dreamt of calling her anything but Senator Giffords.

    She’s a classy lady, and I still can’t believe that this happened to her.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink
  39. speedbudget wrote:

    I think the reason so many women on the right are the ones shown with guns and/or baiting with violent rhetoric is because of the movement on the right to “man up.” To conservatives, a woman’s rightful place is in the home, quietly tending to the children. These women are powerful public figures, and I think they feel the need to make themselves seem more “manly” by co-opting these images and ideas we usually associate with men, namely warrior imagery and hunting imagery. It’s a way of telling the conservatives that they are one of them, and the gun waving is helpful in letting them know they are not to be ignored.

    Really, I think this does boil down to ladybusiness in the idea of the fretful masculinity we have seen lately where some (mostly conservative) men feel the need to go above and beyond to prove their manliness, and in doing so they take the extreme ends of the manly stereotype in order to shore themselves up. What this really comes down to is a vilifying of traditionally “female” values in order to build a construct of hypermasculinity. I blame the previous administration and their need to promoted endless wars as the start of this trend.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink
  40. Lainey wrote:

    How is that everyone accepts that a verbally hostile school environment can lead to violence, but so many people question the link between hostile political rhetoric and political violence? Could someone explain why language and violence can be linked in one context and not the other?

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink
  41. Lucy wrote:

    @Lainey: because schools are a tool of the socialist agenda that wants to turn our children into robotic tools of the state ready to turn on their god-fearing patriot parents at a moment’s notice, while hostile political rhetoric is just words, and everybody knows words never accomplish anything.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink
  42. KittyWrangler wrote:

    @Amy: yeah, “Gabby” is obnoxious, though I haven’t personally seen much coverage of the shooting at all. I hate how when people die or face tragedy the media tries to make them more endearing, and for women that means infantilizing them.

    I think the radical right–both male and female– instinctively uses women as mouthpieces for violent rhetoric as a way of dressing a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The femininity is supposed to “soften” the sentiment of, “hey let’s make sure we get our way using phallic guns and deadly bullets!”

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink
  43. ari wrote:

    i heart sadie. can i just say that to every post and by some magical telepathic mind movement, you will know i am deeply reading and understanding. yes, yes i can. i heart sadiefuckingdoyle.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
  44. snobographer wrote:

    Victoria @ 12

    “It strikes me as interesting that so much of the gun-baiting language I’m hearing is coming from women on the right. Why are Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Michelle Bachmann, Joyce Kaufman, etc, the chosen mouthpieces for this rhetoric?”

    cc spiralsheep

    Guns as penis substitutes. You have to be macho in politics, especially in US politics, and especially in right-wing US politics.
    It occurs to me, unless I’m overlooking something, I can’t recall ever hearing of any female media heads or politicians use the old “liberals want to cram it down our throats/expect us to bend over and take it” rhetoric that Limbaugh and other right-wing dudes often toss around. Rape metaphors don’t work so well for the ladies.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Permalink
  45. snobographer wrote:

    On Loughner though, what I’ve read and heard of his writings and statements, he does sound like some severely mentally ill people I’ve known. Believing there’s government surveillance devices in ordinary objects is something I’ve seen a few times, but I don’t know what condition that indicates. I also don’t know if somebody that ill could do the planning and preparation Loughner did.
    I’ve only heard a little about this possible accomplice. I’m wondering if somebody who noticed Loughner’s mental situation used that to get Loughner to try to kill Giffords.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Permalink
  46. Sady wrote:

    @snobographer: Yeah, it was my understanding they cleared the possible accomplice.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
  47. Lynn wrote:

    Consider the source, but the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has done a brief timeline starting in 2008 of the violent rhetoric-to-whackjob correlation:

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Permalink
  48. AndyG wrote:

    Just read an interview with Trent Humphries, co-founder of Tuscon Tea Party. He manages to do all of the following:

    a) Claim the event is a tragedy for the Tea Party because they are now being made the victim of political attacks on the basis of the shooting
    b) Blame Gabrielle Giffords for not having enough security and question whether she could really have felt threatened if she didn’t have lots of security
    c) Claim that an old photo of Gabrielle Giffords with an AK-47 was equivalent to a recent campaign ad for the Republican candidate Jesse Kelly: “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Permalink
  49. Molly wrote:

    I used to lurk here occasionally, then wander off and forget to come back for a few months. I come back today and see that I’ve missed some of the most amazing writing and activism I’ve ever encountered. Thank you for everything you do. I’ll be sure not to wander too far from now on.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Permalink
  50. C wrote:

    1. Sady, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that you are awesome. For all you do.

    2. I might not read too much into the books. Fox News is inflating Marx to distance themselves from Loughner. (“A textbook study of everything I’ve warned you about,” said Glenn Beck.)

    Loughner’s friend said he probably listed the controversial books just to push people’s buttons.

    As for the culture: you said it. Also, I think the media’s habit of false equivalence enables the vitriol. Reality is not fair. Right-wingers foster a toxic political climate more than the left do. When CNN pretends otherwise, it shields the guilty.

    Thanks for articulate wisdom. Apologies for my media rant.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Permalink
  51. aravind wrote:

    @Amy: I’ve been troubled by how infrequently she’s been referenced to as “Congresswoman Giffords” or “Representative Giffords” when I can’t think of a time that any male representative or congressman was referred to solely by his first name. Personally, I’ve tried to always use her title, since, as you said, she earned it. She’s the youngest woman ever elected to the US Congress – that’s a shade of Joan of Arc.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 2:15 am | Permalink
  52. aravind wrote:

    Correction: In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, I recall a few sources stopped calling Bush as “President Bush” and started using “Mr. Bush” which doesn’t seem like much of a demotion, at least compared to first name references.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 2:17 am | Permalink
  53. aravind wrote:

    *Argh, triple post: I meant to add “referred to solely by his first name when not running for office”.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 2:18 am | Permalink
  54. Raemon wrote:

    Just wanted to note that I mostly agree with Dan Solomon. I think Palin (and the right in general) deserve to be called out on their inflammatory memes. But I am wary of trying to hard to connect Palin directly to this guy, because right now we simply DON’T know enough and it could easily end up backfiring on us.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink
  55. Magdalene wrote:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head, again.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink
  56. Alyson wrote:

    @Sady’s comment #5:
    You know, this map of Palin’s really creeps me out. Her usage of the red crosshairs to indicate “already dead” is very reminiscent of certain anti-choice websites which post lists of information about doctors–their names are in black, unless they’re either dead or there have been attempts made on their lives, in which case their names change colors. It’s very scary that she seems to be getting her ideas from those groups…and that this is the kind of thing that happens to one of the people on her list–one of the few who wasn’t re-elected–whether or not Loughner was influenced by the tea party or not.

    And if, as K Not K wrote, he’s more the “sovereign citizen” type, then that’s even more frightening.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Permalink
  57. Zoe wrote:

    I’m a huge fan of Tiger Beatdown, though I’ve never commented before(largely because every time I read one of your posts I agree with just about everything you say), but this time I have a bit of a beef with your argument, namely repeatedly calling Loughner “stupid”.

    While your explanation of the lowest common denominator problem in politics was totally eye-opening to me, bringing Loughner down to the level where he is just some stupid, terrible guy out there minimizes what he did, in my opinion. There are, as you said, plenty of stupid, terrible people out there who are exposed to these same incendiary campaign strategies, but who nonetheless don’t pull out a gun and murder innocent people. In many respects, Loughner isn’t unique at all in terms of his background and what he’s been exposed to, and probably even his personality. Therefore, I think something more has to be said about him than that he was just an idiot exposed to dirty campaigning.

    I’m not saying that he should get off the hook one something like schizophrenia (I read an article questioning why white murderers are insane, whereas colored ones are terrorists that really got me hating on the he’s-schizophrenic-and-can’t-help-it logic), but there’s got to be something more to it than just idiocy. Your analysis of the situation is extremely apt and convincing, but the “stupid” argument ruins some of its effect.

    Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink
  58. I’m pretty sure that shooting someone because you don’t like their politics is a stupid thing to do, regardless of what other issues are involved. Most of us with mental illnesses (myself included) don’t go around shooting people. Nor do most people with extreme political views of any sort. Moving from the thought: ‘I don’t like what this lady is saying, so I should totally shoot her to make things better’ to actually doing it is, in fact, a stupid thing to do.

    It is a stupid thing to do regardless of whether he himself is stupid. It is stupid no matter how fervently he believes it. It is stupid no matter how damaged or brilliant or zealous or politically confused he might be. He could be the alternate-reality twin with the facial hair or a yellow lantern or a do-gooder from Bizzarro world (okay, that last one actually makes a bit of sense), and it would still be a stupid thing to do.

    And while by no means a certainty, stupid things are most often done by stupid people.

    I’m honestly surprised at the amount of pushback this post has received. It seems to be standard, wonderful, I – <3 – Sady awesome, only with extra 'but what about..?' sprinkles on top. I don't know how to explain it, but it makes me rather uncomfortable.

    … Oh, that's what it is. There are more comments on language and detail than on the overall thrust of the article itself. I'm not saying those aren't valid comments, but that there's an unusually high proportion of them in this case.

    (Aaand now that this derail into my own feelings and meta is over, I'd just like to reiterate that a) I like the post, b) it was a stupid thing to do, and c) stupid activities (frequently-but-not-always) strongly correlate with stupid people as actors.)

    Friday, January 14, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Permalink
  59. Jordan Rastrick wrote:


    “I’m pretty sure that shooting someone because you don’t like their politics is a stupid thing to do, regardless of what other issues are involved.”

    At this stage, its possible Loughner shot people largely because he didn’t like their *grammar*. Would you say that makes it a stupid act?

    “Most of us with mental illnesses (myself included) don’t go around shooting people.”

    Of course not. But most people with physical illnesses don’t die from hypoglycemia; that doesn’t negate the fact that there is a particular subset of physical diesase, diabetes, that plays a causal role in a lot of those deaths.

    Likewise, psychosis, coupled with other factors, demonstrably leads some (*not all*) people who suffer from it to act violently.

    “And while by no means a certainty, stupid things are most often done by stupid people.”

    I don’t quite understand the preference for characterising a violent person as unintelligent rather than mentally ill. Sure, most people with a mental illness don’t kill people; neither do most stupid people. Loughner is quite possibly both, in which case both may well have contributed to his actions.

    “There are more comments on language and detail than on the overall thrust of the article itself.”

    Well, maybe a large number of people happen to agree with the overall thrust to an extent, but disagree with some of the details.

    Friday, January 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Permalink
  60. We get further details now from two reporters working this part of the story…David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post joins me here in the studio and Kirk Johnson of The New York Times is in Tucson…And Kirk lets start with you…The release of documents from the college would seem to indicate that they knew for a while they had a problem in Jared Loughner…KIRK JOHNSON The New York Times They certainly knew they had disruptive presence…If you look at these documents that were released they show a pattern of disruption in class. Their — the reports usually say that these incidents dont rise to the level of threat or action at that time.

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 2:02 am | Permalink