American Renaissance: Was Jared Lee Loughner tied to anti-immigrant group?
A Department of Homeland Security memo suggests a 'possible link' between Jared Lee Loughner, the suspect in the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and American Renaissance, an 'anti-government' journal.
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Through web posts and interviews with those who know him, a picture of Loughner has emerged as an anti-social, erratic and possibly mentally unstable young man, whose anti-religion and anti-flag views run starkly counter to the broader tea party platform. Caitie Parker, one of his high school classmates, says in press reports that in the past Loughner was "quite liberal," and a "political radical." Sheriff Dupnik said Saturday, "He has a troubled past, I can tell you that."Skip to next paragraph
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In his internet posts, Loughner complains that the government was in some way trying to take advantage of him. "I know who's listening: Government officials, and the People," Loughner wrote. "Nearly all the people, who don't know this accurate information of a new currency, aren't aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn't have happen."
Some commentators minimized the likelihood Loughner was politically motivated.
"For all the instant analysis that this might be tied to political attacks on Giffords and others who supported President Obama on health-care reform, there's not a whiff of politics in Loughner's language about coins and calendars and other ramblings," writes USA Today's Cathy Lynn Grossman. "Yet he does exclaim in his YouTube video, 'No! I won't trust in God!'"
Trying to tease out definitive links between Loughner and specific political movements or groups is problematic, says Mr. Levin, of California State University.
"Extremists can be like bullets ricocheting off the political spectrum and bouncing to whatever gives them comfort or meshes with their paranoid distrust," he says.
But Levin adds that notably rancorous politics, tied to deepening distrust of government, can play a supporting role in fueling a violent attack like the one unleashed Saturday.
While expressing her condolensces to Giffords and the victims, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin removed from her website a controversial graphic from last year that showed crosshairs on 20 districts being targeted by Republicans, one of which was Giffords' seat. Liberals, including President Obama, have also used rhetoric – as well as maps with shooting targets – that could also be seen as exhorting violence.
"When we have people who are irresponsibly exploiting the political debate, one of the side effects is it's going to resonate with really unstable people who are looking for a philosophical overlay to legitimize their irrational aggression," says Levin. "What happens is they create a quasi-political philosophy that justifies their anger, so you can't necessarily pin that on one party or another."