Sunday, January 9, 2011

Conservative Rage: Jared Loughner and the Arizona Shooting

Things haven't been going well in Arizona for a while. "Has Arizona gone insane?" everybody asked on hearing yet another newsflash from the state that seemed hell-bent on proving its kookiness credentials. Today, we have received further proof that when people are exposed to an unstemmed barrage of Tea Party's hysterical rhetoric and when those hate-filled diatribes come in touch with people's intimate terror of encroaching modernity, an explosion isn't far behind.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police are investigating a shooting near Tucson, Ariz., that critically injured US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) and left an aide, a 9-year-old child, a federal judge, and at least two others dead, law-enforcement officials say. The attack, which injured at least a dozen other people, involved an automatic weapon, according to the Associated Press. Little is known about the suspect, who is in police custody. Among those killed was US District Judge John Roll. He joined the federal court in 1991, and for part of his tenure, he had served as chief judge. Although some early accounts had the congresswoman among the fatally wounded, the Associated Press reports that doctors at the hospital where she was taken say that they are "optimistic". . . This past November, Representative Giffords won reelection in a tight race against Republican Jesse Kelly, an Iraq war veteran and favorite of the tea party. . . Following Giffords's vote in favor of Obama's health-care reform package, the lawmaker's Tucson office was vandalized. The attack was widely seen as part of a broader backlash by more-radical elements of the tea party against lawmakers who back the health-care overhaul.
The 22-year-old shooter left a collection of YouTube videos and comments on social networking websites that consist of an insane mish-mash of Tea Party verbiage. To give an example:
The majority of citizens in the United States of America have never read the United States of America's Constitution. You don't have to accept the federalist laws. Nonetheless, read the United States of America's Constitution to apprehend all of the current treasonous laws. You're literate, listener? If property owners and government officials are no longer in ownership of their land and laws from a revolution then the revolutionary's from the revolution are in control of the land and the laws. The property owners and government officials are no longer in ownership of their land and laws from a revolution. Thus, the revolutionary's from the revolution are in control of the land and the laws. In conclusion, reading the second United States Constitution, I can't trust the government because of the ratifications: The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.
You can find the rest of Loughner's rantings here. Loughner is scheduled to appear in federal court tomorrow at 2 pm.

There are many people out there who feel confused, lonely and lost in a world where modernity is destroying old certitudes, identities and ways of being. Modernity is liberating in the sense that we are a lot less tied to collective identities ascribed to us at birth. Gender identities, normative sexualities, class origins, religious backgrounds still exist, of course. Nevertheless, they are nowehere as binding as they used to be before the advent of modernity. It isn't easy to challenge the identitarian status quo, but it still can be done. For many people, though, this liberating potential of modernity isn't worth the steep price they have to pay for it: individuality.

There is no burden bigger than that of a personal responsibility, personal choice, individuality. A society that strictly prescribes its collective identities offers people a great degree of freedom from the irksome necessity to make their own decisions. At birth, you a handed a set of norms that you are supposed to observe as a representative of your gender, social class, religious denomination, etc. You accumulate enough of these collective allegiances and you can guarantee that pretty much every aspect of your life will be defined for you. Then all you need to do is follow the check-list of expected behaviors. No painful dilemmas, no fears of making the wrong choice. And most pleasantly - no need to think.

Modernity is terrifying because it erodes the stability of collective identities. Remember, nothing gets people to die for it as disinterestedly and enthusiastically as collective identity. You threaten people's right to live their lives unthinkingly, without the hypnotic dictates of collective identities on how to organize their existence, and they will erupt in violence. If you were told that the Tea Party is about the economy, the taxes, the deficit, the immigrants, the politics, or anything like that, you've been deceived. Tea Partiers are people who are terrified of and confused by modernity. The world is changing, and they don't understand it any more. Internet, new technologies, globalization, world economy - everything is getting too complex for them. That's why they get together on their rallies and scream senseless slogans. That's why they adore their Sarah Palins who offer them simple slogans that seem to offer pithy explanations of incomprehensible realities.

Of course, the sound bites that their leaders offer them ("the best way to deal with a multi-billion deficit is making a budget," "immigrants get free healthcare in the US," "gays bad, abortion bad, taxes bad, guns good," "get the government out of my Medicaid and into that woman's uterus") only offer a momentary relief from the anxieties of modernity. When the burden of dealing with an incomprehensible world gets unbearable, these misfits of contemporary existence erupt in violence. They ram airplanes into the Twin Towers, blow up a truck in Oklahoma City, and start shooting into the crowd in Arizona.

In the XXth century, two world wars were fought** because the entrance into modernity was more painful for some people than for others. What happened in Arizona yesterday should remind us all about how violent people get when dragged into the modern way of being against their will. Of course, modernity will win in the end. The nature of time, which cannot be stopped in its tracks and frozen in immobility, is proof of that. In the meanwhile, though, modernity's discontents will wreak a lot of damage on everything and everybody they come in touch with.


* I would like to ask people to abstain from "how dare you analyze, this is a tragedy" type of comments. I analyze and opine. This is what I do, so live with it. If you want some helpless OMG clucking and thou-shalt-not-judge hand-wringing, there are tons of bloggers out there who do just that. Also, I'm in a vile mood today (the reasons for which will be explained tomorrow), so it's better not to get into anything with me today.

** Yes, as usual, this is my opinion, which I can substantiate with a lot of thinking, reading, and accumulation of information.

27 comments:

m Andrea said...

Most excellent commentary, thank you so much. (Found you from Violet's, if it matters.)

Clarissa said...

Thank you! Although I'm not sure who Violet is rigt now. Maybe I'm just spazzing.

Patient C said...

I am glad I read your take on this, it gives much to think about (which is one of my highest compliments!).

Hope tomorrow is better for you. Hell, I hope tomorrow is better for all of us.

Clarissa said...

It's one of the compliments I like the most to hear, so thank you. :-)

Canukistani said...

“Today, we have received further proof that when people are exposed to an unstemmed barrage of Tea Party's hysterical rhetoric and when those hate-filled diatribes come in touch with people's intimate terror of encroaching modernity, an explosion isn't far behind.”

It will be interesting to watch how fast the media reformulates the issue of Jared Loughner as a lone deranged person acting without social or cultural context. This process has already begun with an Op-ed piece by Ross Douthat in the NYT on Sunday 9th, 2010.

“This won’t stop partisans from making hay out of Saturday’s tragedy, of course. The Democratic operative who was quoted in Politico saying that his party needs “to deftly pin this on the Tea Partiers” was just stating the obvious: after a political season rife with overheated rhetoric from conservative “revolutionaries,” the attempted murder of a Democratic congresswoman is a potential gift to liberalism. ...When our politicians and media loudmouths act like fools and zealots, they should be held responsible for being fools and zealots. They shouldn’t be held responsible for the darkness that always waits to swallow up the unstable and the lost. ...There is no faction in American politics that actually wants its opponents dead.”

It’s also enlightening to juxtaposition your statement “Modernity is terrifying because it erodes the stability of collective identities” with a statement that Ross Douthat made on October 16th, 2000 in the Harvard Crimson”... But whether they are bound for the Champs-Elysees or the Great White North, liberal Harvardians and the Baldwin of Baldwins seem to have one thing in common: they are, deep in their progressive little souls, terrified of Republicans. While vaguely absurd, this overpowering fear is a natural consequence of a mindset which treats Progress, with a capital "P," as the chief end and highest good to which a society can aspire. If Progress is Good, it follows that those who stand in the way of said Progress must be Bad, Wicked, and a dozen other capitalized synonyms for Absolute Evil.” I have a feeling that your opinion on the analysis of collective identity substantiated or not, will not make it into the mainstream news commentary. I can give an example based on another issue which is not directly connected.

When General Motors was taken over by the federal government two years ago, the company could not sell its cars. This was not only due to a decrease in demand from the recession but also because of the fact that 90% of cars are purchased with car loans and banks were not advancing credit even to the most solvent customers. Currently the conventional wisdom as expounded by all the media is that overpaid union workers were the cause and President Obama announced that an agreement with the union replacing $28 an hour workers with $14 an hour workers was part of the solution even though labour costs make up about 5% of the cost of the production of cars. Thus the issue was reframed as a union problem instead of a bank problem. I’m sure that a reframing of the issue of Jared will take place in the next few weeks and the current destabilizing political situation will continue until catastrophic failure. The role of the mainstream media is to validate the norms of society and allay the insecurities of the low information voter (ILV). If the ILV were to be exposed to your analysis, it would threaten the present power structure.

Clarissa said...

I agree that we are not going to hear an analysis of these events that will raise above the accepted pieties of the moment. Didn't we see this happen around 9/11 where any attempt at an analysis was drowned ina sea of triviality? The problem with this kind of response to traumatic events is that the trauma doesn't heal when it isn't address. It festers.

Douthat's 2000 quote is priceless. I can't believe that Douthat recognizes here that the conservatives stand in the way of progress. Normally, such honesty is not to be expected. Remember how Bush Jr. kept presenting himself as the defender of world progress from those nasty, barbaric Arabs? Arabs who were branded "medieval" and coming from the "Dark Ages"?

A scary Conservative is the one who insists that conservatism is progressive (against all reason). Douthat, at least, was honest once 11 years ago in recognizing what this entire movement stands for. As for us being afraid of the conservatives, how can one not be afraid? Waco, Oklahoma, Dr. Tiller, Jared Loughton (and this is ust a short list) - they keep blowing up in violent rage. How many progressives do we see walk into a mall with a weapon and start shooting into the crowd or detonate a truck bomb in defense of progressive values?

Douthat has chosen to join the bullies to allay his fears of them. Now he wants all of us to do the same. What he doesn't understand is that this fear cannot be allayed. It will keep spilling out in these violent ways.

eric said...

Of course the Teabaggers are going to wash their hands of this act, while privately, they are giddy...

eric said...

I would also like to add that the 'baggers are not only saddled with an unwillingness to confront modernity. Modernity itself may not last indefinitely, given intractible ecological crises (climate change, resource shortage including peak oil, overpopulation), and the interminable breakdown of the neoliberal order. So the upshot is, there may be more of this to come. I'm suprised those in the position to do so haven't called this an act of terrorism, which is exactly what it is.

Also, Arizona is the armpit of the United States, if not the universe. As a former resident and Giffords costituent, I'm not at all surprised this happened--just so soon.

Clarissa said...

"Also, Arizona is the armpit of the United States, if not the universe."

-This is why I love blogging. I get to talk to people who have the courage to say what I want to. :-)

FD said...

A scary Conservative is the one who insists that conservatism is progressive...

Crikey, yes, this. The current government here keeps calling their savage cutting to government services 'progressive'. It horrifies me that so few commentators are willing to call them on it.

Greenconsciousness said...

The shooter is a schizophrenic. It had nothing to do with Arizona -- those are your politics, not his. He if anything political is a Marxist. HA! But actually he is just another untreated schizophrenic. The issue is the state insurance premiums and mental health systems, not Arizona or right wing politics. However, tactics and speech are good diversions from the real issues destroying the lives of real human beings.

eric said...

"The issue is the state insurance premiums and mental health systems, not Arizona or right wing politics."

Really? Obviously you have never lived there.

Tonewah said...

I think the guy was probably schizophrenic. Honestly.

What's sad is that a buch of people are dead, and all anyone wants to blabber about is politics.

All of this political talk about a crazy guy is disgusting. He was probably just as influenced by leftist ideas as he was from the right.

Clarissa said...

Of course, you can dismiss any event by saying that it just happened, Hitler was just crazy, Stalin was just paranoid, and 9/11 was simply unfortunate. Why make an effort to analyze anything when you can assign labels to people and event and dismiss them? And then return to chewing the cud happily.

Have fun chewing!

Mary said...

Well Clarissa, as anyone with an ounce of honesty and sanity knows by now, the Tea Party has ZERO to do with this murdering slug.

Your post is revolting and you owe a lot of good people an apology.

We will wait.

Clarissa said...

Mary: thank you for your insightful and detailed analysis of the situation. Your arguments are exhaustive and convincing.

Wait, there is no analysis. There are no arguments either. There is just the word "zero" in capital letters. I guess this is supposed to work as a substitute for actual reasoning in you, crazed ignoramuses.

Mary said...

Analyze what? Your unfounded and tasteless attack on the Tea Party mere hours after a mass murder took place?


Still waiting for your apology Clarissa. By all means,take your time. I can tell you are going to need it to try and conjure up a post that doesn't leave you in the monstrous light you are currently in.

Clarissa said...

Have you tried consulting a psychiatriast? I hear that Loughner also began with disjointed, weird ramblings.

Do take care of your mental helath and please ask your Tea Party friends to do the same.

Canukistani said...

I’m surprised that Mary didn’t add “We know where you live” to her comment and post a map with crosshairs over Edwardsville. She sounds like one of those low information voters who work at the Creationist theme park in Kentucky. Ok. It’s not fair but making an unsubstantiated assertion isn’t fair either.

People have been busy profiling Jared on the Internet and in the news. Dom Giordano, a radio show host wrote yesterday on the Philly examiner online comment section:

“A prime example of that is the recent arrest of Penn State student Emerson Begolly. I've highlighted Begolly on my show because of the pro-jihad, pro-bin Laden and virulently anti-Jewish songs and poems he'd posted. After he became a national story, FBI agents arrested him last week. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Picking, "He frequently told relatives he wasn't long for this world, and that he wanted to martyr himself by taking others with him when he killed himself." He was carrying a loaded 9 mm pistol when he was arrested last week. OF COURSE, his lawyer blames his threats on his Asperger's syndrome and says he's only an oddball. “

Today Heather Mallick, a columnist in the Toronto Star wrote:
“He had been a student of sorts and classmates had instantly tagged him as a Bickle-to-be. Classrooms lure seasick minds. It’s partly that unlike workplaces — where your worth is measured daily and your mental temperature is kept on a chart in your boss’s office — universities are genuine democracies.”

Another newspaper stated that Seung-Hui Cho , the Virginia tech mass murderer was not only a student but also a foreign immigrant so now we have a complete profile – aspergers, spends a lot of time in a classroom and is a foreign immigrant. I was always suspicious of your hair. You’re really bald and carry a 9mm glock in your purse with the phrase “Partido Socialista Obrero Español” inscribed on the barrel.

MnMark said...

You may have seen by now the comments from Loughner's friends that he was apolitical, that he was not left or right, that what he was attacking was the world, not specific people. There is zero evidence that he was the least bit interested in the Tea Party or conservatism. In fact one of his friends said that when she knew him, he was a leftist.

From what I have read of his rantings, the man is most accurately described as a nihilist. He saw no meaning in the world. He asked Giffords at one meeting something like "what is politics if words have no meanings?" I'm afraid it is the modernists and their nihilism and atheism which is most similar to this disturbed man's worldview. When you teach young people that human beings are just evolved animals, that there is no higher power or Creator or meaning to life, that everything is relative and everything means whatever you want it to mean, then you shouldn't be surprised when depressed mentally ill young people go out and start shooting people. You've taught them humans are nothing more than animals and life is just an evolutionary accident without meaning.

It's funny that the author of this blog would write "Why make an effort to analyze anything when you can assign labels to people and event and dismiss them?" as a criticism of another commenter when this is PRECISELY what she has done with regard to Loughner: without knowing anything specific about his motivations or political beliefs, she projected her own hatred of the political right onto him and shot her mouth off before knowing the facts. She "assigned a label" to Loughner (right-wing gun-loving hater) and used it as an excuse to spread a little more hatred of others in the world.

Clarissa said...

MnMark: can you please show me where I called Loughner "right-wing gun-loving hater". I'm only asking because it is not possible for me to concoct such an ugly phrase while I'm sober. Or are you talking to yourself, just like all of your Tea Party brethren?

Try rereading the post very slowly. Maybe then you will see that it is not about Loughner's "political beliefs." Or anybody's political beliefs. And then attempt to respond to the actual post I have written, not the voices you are hearing in your head, OK?

Clarissa said...

Canukistani: you are brilliant, as always. Although you forgot to mention how I insert subliminal communist messages into my PowerPoints I use in class. And how about that Soviet flag I'm hiding under my bed while I'm waiting for the happy day when Obama finally declares that the US is now communist? :-) :-)

J Schwartz said...

***Things haven't been going well in Arizona for a while.***

In what respect? If you are referring to their efforts to enforce immigration laws, then I fail to see how that is a problem. Rather, it is attempting to avert the difficulty that California is now encountering.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112167023

***Today, we have received further proof that when people are exposed to an unstemmed barrage of Tea Party's hysterical rhetoric and when those hate-filled diatribes come in touch with people's intimate terror of encroaching modernity, an explosion isn't far behind.***

When gay Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was shot, did you consider that to be proof of the danger of liberal rhetoric? What about when Ronald Reagan was shot?

If you believe that tea party rhetoric is any more hateful than progressive hatred towards the likes of Palin & Bush, read Michelle Malkin's
list.


In any case, the evidence that this shooting is linked to political rhetoric is tenuous. It seems that this shooter held a grudge against Gifford dating back to 2007 (well before the Tea Party or Sarah Palin). This was because she failed to adequately answer a question he posed at a townhall meeting.

Anonymous said...

J Schwartz:

Don't try confusing Clarissa with facts. She doesn't like them, and doesn't put any of them in her half-insane "analysis".

She sure has intellectual pretensions though.

Clarence

Clarissa said...

Oh, they are getting all pouty, how cute is that? Let's see how many more tantrums our Tea Party toddlers throw here.

James said...

Clarissa, I would be interested to actually hear a left winger admit that they were wrong about something, this being an even I have never seen before.

All I see so far is a follow up post where you label people who disagree with you as suffering from "stupidty".

Well done... [slow handclap]

You are an academic? Explains a lot about higher education and the cookie cutter drones it churns out.

Jump across to Ozconservative, the commenting is open and you might just learn something; like how to debate with people who disagree with you.

Clarissa said...

I'm not a "left winger", so I'm sorry I can't help you here. Maybe if you search for "left winger" blogs in Google, you might find some. This, however, is not a place for you if that's what you want.

I looked at a couple of posts at the blog you mention. They are very poorly written, both stylistically and grammatically. They are also generally unintelligent. So I got bored and left. Apparently, so did you because you keep hanging around my intelligent, well-written blog. You are welcome here and I'm sure you'll learn a lot even though I can't provide any left wingers for you.