I just watched a 60 Minutes segment on Jared Loughner, which included interviews with some of his friends.
The segment confirmed that Loughner’s grudge against Gabrielle Giffords dates back at least to the time he met her in 2007, when he posed a question to her at an event she did not answer. The question was bizarre, having to do with the meaning of words. A form letter from Giffords thanking Loughner for his attendance was saved by Loughner, who wrote on the envelope “die bitch.”
Loughner’s slow slide into a bizarre nihilist word of dreams was known to his friends, and appears to have worsened until he cut off most contact in March 2010. Enrolled in school at the time, Loughner immediately started disrupting classes in a menacing manner.
The segment also included interviews with the authors of a Secret Service study which showed that political assassins, at least in the U.S., almost never are motivated by politics. Loughner appears to fit the prototype of the mentally disturbed assassin focused on personal fame and a need to address fictional problems created by their diseased minds.
The segment left me with several emotions. First, I was impressed with the professionalism of the Secret Service, which tracks people deemed potential threats to the President or Presidents for years.
Second, I wonderered whether our educational and medical privacy laws, and fear of lawsuits, may have contributed to the failure to alert appropriate authorities as to Loughner’s menacing behavior.
But most of all, I was left with a disgust at how the left-wing blogosphere, the mainstream media, and Sheriff Dupnik tried to spin, and still try to spin, Loughner’s crime as the fault of right-wing political rhetoric.
Not only are such accusations against Sarah Palin, the Tea Parties and conservatives devoid of factual basis, such accusations also fly in the face of the history of political assassinations as documented by the Secret Service.
A moment or two of reflection and research after the shooting would have revealed much of what we now know, but some people did not want to let facts and research get in the way of a political narrative.
Update: Thanks to Trochilus (in the comments) for the video link of the program. Like the child forced to write “I will not talk in class” one hundred times on the blackboard for bad behavior, Paul Krugman should be forced to watch this segment 100 times: