Jared Loughner was not a political person, so far as has been revealed to date. There is no evidence whatsoever that Loughner was inspired by, or even listened to, right wing radio or commentators, much less ever saw the 10-month old Sarah Palin electoral target map which caused numerous left-wing political types to blame Palin for the shooting.
Eric Fuller, by contrast, was a highly political person very attuned to the politics of the day. As reported by The New York Times, immediately prior to the shooting in which Fuller was one of the victims, Fuller got into a heated political argument with someone who has not yet been identified:
“Mr. Fuller was also involved in a confrontation on Jan. 8, shortly before the attack on Ms. Giffords, which occurred at an event she held for her constituents outside a Safeway supermarket. He said in a long interview last week with The New York Times that he had argued there with a man he described as a former Marine after a heated discussion over politics. Gabriel Zimmerman, an aide to Ms. Giffords, separated the two.”
Now Fuller has been arrested for threatening the life of Trent Humphries, a local Tea Party leader. According to reports, Fuller
had a snapped a photo of Humphries and pointed to it and said “you’re dead” when Humphries rose to speak at a local forum being sponsored by ABC News. Fuller has been sent to a mental hospital for evaluation.
Was it coincidence that Humphries was targeted? Was Humphries simply someone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, much like Fuller was in the wrong place at the wrong time when Jared Loughner acted out his demented fantasies?
The mainstream media and Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik have been obsessed with proving causation between right-wing political speech and violence. It will be interesting to see if the media and Sheriff Dupnik look into whether Humphries was targeted by Fuller because of a widespread campaign to blame Tea Parties for the Tucson shooting, which resulted in Humphries receiving hate mail.
In particular, in the last few days there has been an effort to demonize Humphries for allegedly “blaming” Congresswoman Giffords for the shooting.
That accusation against Humphries was based on an interview Humphries gave to The Guardian newspaper in Britain in which, when asked about prior statements from Giffords expressing concern about violence, Humphries responded that if Giffords had a real fear of violence, she should have had security present (emphasis mine):
“Pressed on whether he was concerned when he heard Giffords’s warning about Palin’s use of gunsights and calls for supporters not to retreat but “reload” in fighting Democrats, Humphries did not retreat. “It’s political gamesmanship. The real case is that she [Giffords] had no security whatsoever at this event. So if she lived under a constant fear of being targeted, if she lived under this constant fear of this rhetoric and hatred that was seething, why would she attend an event in full view of the public with no security whatsoever?” he said. “For all the stuff they accuse her [Palin] of, that gun poster has not done a tenth of the damage to the political discourse as what we’re hearing right now. There are people who are genuinely confused, scared, and I understand it. But there are also people who are deliberately manipulating this event and tragedy for political ends.””
The sentence quoted in The Guardian article does not appear in the edited video released by The Guardian, so it is hard to understand the true context of the quote. Regardless, it is a stretch to portray Humphries as “blaming” Giffords for the shooting.
In the video released of the interview, in which the quote in question is not presented, Humphries was quite effusive in his praise of Giffords and had only kind words for her:
Nonetheless, the left-wing media — including outlets in Arizona — took this slender reed and spun it into a campaign to accuse Humphries of blaming Giffords for the shooting. Here is just a sampling:
- A blogger in the Tucson Citizen, Trent Humphries blames Giffords for Saturday’s shooting – “Like Sarah Palin, for this fool “it’s all about me!” Blaming the victim of an assassin’s bullet for the acts of a mad man is beyond the pale. This fool doesn’t know when to shut up.”
- The Phoenix New Times, Tucson Tea Party Leader Says Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Should Have Had Security At Tucson Event
- The Raw Story, Tucson tea party founder says Giffords to blame for getting shot
- Crooks and Liars, Tucson tea party founder says Giffords to blame for getting shot
- Think Progress, Tucson Tea Party Founder Blames Giffords For Getting Shot: ‘The Real Case Is That She Had No Security’
Did this demonization of Humphries cause a “climate of hate” against Humphries in which Fuller got caught up? The subject has not even been touched upon in the news reports I have seen. Those news reports either fail to mention that Humphries was a Tea Party leader, or if they do, fail to mention the recent campaign of vilification against Humphries.
Jared Loughner alone is responsible for his acts of homicide and assault, so too Eric Fuller alone is responsible for his death threat. It would not make a difference if Loughner were a right-wing media junkie, just as it doesn’t make a difference that Fuller was steeped in left-wing politics.
The issue is the inherent mainstream media bias in how it treats perpetrators depending upon their politics and victims, seeking political context for crimes only when convenient.
The media politicized the Loughner shooting because his intended victim was a Democratic Congresswoman and the media therefore projected assumed political ideas onto Loughner where none existed. By contrast, Fuller is treated as someone suffering from mental illness whose politics are irrelevant.
Shouldn’t the mainstream media at least put the Fuller threat in the political “context” of anti-Tea Party vitriol since the media insists on making up a political context for Jared Loughner? Or is the context one in which the mainstream media is not interested because the victim of the threat was a Tea Party leader?