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There's a great line in "The Way of the Gun" where a character says "20 million dollars isn't money - it’s a motivation with an all purpose adapter."  It can be modified into a useful truth by saying "Religion is a motivation with an all purpose adapter."  Religion is the underlying motive for MLK and those dedicated to undercutting his cause, to Paul Farmer and Muqtada al-Sadr, for Rabbi Joseph Eckstein and Khairallah Talfah.  Religion provides the basis for the purpose of your choice.

Crazy is the reverse.  It's a purpose looking for a motivation.  When all is said and done, I think we'll discover that Jared Lee Loughner's issue was some bum luck with genetics, bad neurochemistry, drug abuse that was the result of trying to self medicate, and potentially a handful of physical or sexual abuse.  That he latched on to some incoherent mashup of gold standard and Constitutionalist rhetoric doesn't mean that those discussions were understood rationally in any meaningful way.  That the Army wouldn't accept him at a time when they seem to be accepting anyone says to me that their testing showed he was gay or psychotic, and I'd bet on the latter.

There's no way of knowing whether the famous bullseye map provided input into this kids plans.  I think that if Loughner was living in Nowhere, IA, he'd shoot up the local town meeting instead of this Congressman's town hall meeting.  While it's fair to say that the bullseye map was bad politics, there have been similar maps/"targeting" rhetoric from the DCCC.  The imagery isn't as explicit, but I think that's because it doesn't appeal to the left's base, not because the DCCC has any greater reluctance to use inappropriate strategies. 

It's also not useful to say that the bullseye imagery shouldn't be used because it can prompt borderline psychotics to act out.  There is no reasonable way to restrict one's speech so that you'll never provide the adapter for crazy people.  That thinking also bans "Catcher in the Rye" and Jodie Foster.

It IS fair to say that the bullseye imagery was bad politics.  It used the language and rhetoric that appeals to it's base in a way to make them feel more powerful (as does the "second amendment remedies" rhetoric) without improving the quality of the discussion.  Again, both sides do this, but the language used when promoting inappropriate solutions is keyed to appeal to the base, and the Left's base doesn't respond to the same thing that the Right does.

 

On the other hand, I do think that some of the excessive rhetoric will be scaled back because this incident will promote a self-imposed chilling effect based on fear of a media backlash, not because of any genuine desire to improve the debate.  19 round magazines will be restricted in a flurry of self-rightousness, to no effect on the broader issues of spree killers or crime in general.  While I'm a RKBA advocate, the loss of 19 round magazines doesn't feel like much of a burden.  Time will tell what other restrictions will come of this. 

 

Seeing as I've simplified both religion and psychosis into elegant aphorisms, it's also worth doing the same to politics.  The first thread on CNN that reported on the shooting had comments from people CERTAIN that the killer was

 

 - a liberal

 - a Tea Partier

 - an immigrant

 - a birther

 - a lesbian

 - a radical Islamist

 - an anti-immigrationist

 - an open carry advocate

 - a gay person

 

The eye brings what it sees to seeing, indeed.  It would also be nice if there were a self-imposed chilling effect on the desire to fit all stories into the narrative you want to be true.


[edit: It's most likely that he was rejected from the Army b/c he dropped out of HS.]
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January 2014

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