Thursday, 13 January 2011

Jared Loughner

The media is becoming increasingly hysterical about Jared Loughner's assassination attempt on the Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. An attempt, it should be added, that was so incompetent that whilst the target thankfully survived, six other people were killed and many injured.

Prominent Democrats have made tenuous connections between Sarah Palin and the shooting, and the Republicans have pointed out that the Democrats are hardly averse to such behaviour (for instance, Obama himself saying ''If they bring a knife to a fight, then we bring a gun"). Guns are so engrained in American culture that such martial talk is inevitable on all sides.

Slugger O'Toole goes into this in more detail.

It seems to me that blame needs to be pointed in one direction only: at Jared Loughner himself. It was therefore with interest that I discovered this morning that it is more than likely that Loughner was a member of the conspiracy theory website, Above Top Secret. The rest of this post assumes that this belief is correct.

I have read ATS for some years now. It is a dark and often amusing corner of the Internet, and comprises of a series of forums. Some, like the advanced aircraft forum, have knowledgeable people contributing snippets of information not commonly available elsewhere. Others, like the 911 and 2012 forums, are worth reading just to see the way people can wrap themselves in layers of flawed analysis and false logic. It makes for reading that is both hilarious and distinctly worrying.

The website has admitted that Loughner was probably a member, and have commendably listed all the posts made under what is believed to be Loughner's alias.

It makes fascinating reading. One of the topics he created says that the space shuttle cannot fly with a crew. Another posits that the entire Mars Rover project is faked. His posts and comments show someone who seems to barely have a grip on reality, yet alone logic. For instance take these two gems:
I don't believe it's possible to send the mars rover to mars. 
I don't believe it's possible to stabilize communication from mars to earth. 
I think we can safely say that both of these are extraordinary claims, and require extraordinary proof. Yet he makes no attempt to prove them. He has decided something and uses them as a basis for a conspiracy theory.

The posts portray Loughner as a troubled man, and one for whom reality appears to have been a stranger. His command of English was so poor that I actually found it hard to believe that it was his main language.

The shuttle post is particularly interesting as it gives a possible direct connection between Loughner and Gifford, and one that is far stronger than Palin's targeted map. Gifford's husband is Mark Kelly, an astronaut on the shuttle program and who is due to be the commander of the last planned shuttle flight later in the year. Is it inconceivable that someone who believes the shuttle program is faked would attempt to get at the wife of an astronaut on that program, especially when she is also a local politician? It is certainly a much more direct connection than the sickening slurs against Palin.

Toning down political rhetoric is to be commended; I doubt it will happen. But the blame for this issue lies with Jared and the entire culture he lives in, not stupid comments made by politicians.

Sometimes there are no easy answers.

I wish Gifford and all of the injured a speedy recovery.

Edit: 13/01/2011, 14.30
It appears that this was not Loughner's first contact with the Giffords. In 2007 he submitted the following written question to her:
“What is government if words have no meaning?”
Apparently he was unsatisfied with her answer. Which is sad, because I am not sure what answer I would give to such a malformed question. Perhaps: "Government is actions, not words." But that is weak.

Given this, it could be that his rants against the shuttle were caused because Gifford's husband was a shuttle commander.

It is looking increasingly unlikely that a campaign poster caused this.

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