Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


The gunman arrested in connection with the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the deaths of at least five others was clearly delusional, but was he influenced by the toxic rhetoric coursing through the country today?

Print Email
Outside the Safeway in Tucson, Arizona, where Gabrielle Giffords and at least nine others were shot today. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)
Related Content


From University Medical Center, where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is being treated, to her synagogue, where the rabbi led an emotional service, Tucson residents gathered to pray for the victims of Saturday’s shooting attack

On Saturday morning, Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, was holding a meet-and-greet at a Tucson Safeway when 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner allegedly shot her in the head, point blank. He then allegedly turned his fire on others; at least five people were killed, including federal judge John Roll. Roll had previously received death threats for his involvement in immigration cases, but he had been at the event unexpectedly; Giffords is thought to have been the main target. Miraculously, she survived, though as of this writing she remains in critical condition. We don’t yet know what her would-be assassin was thinking. But we do know that Giffords, the first Jewish woman that Arizona sent to Congress, has been the target of a long campaign of right-wing incitement. And Loughner, while clearly in the grip of delusion rather than any coherent ideology, nonetheless shared many far-right obsessions.

Loughner had a YouTube channel and a MySpace page, and both suggest someone deeply unbalanced. His videos, which mostly feature white text on a black background accompanied by trippy electronic music, are full of unintelligible messages about conscious dreaming and English grammar. But they also make it clear that Loughner has internalized some of the conspiracy theories common in the Tea Party. He is obsessed with currency manipulation and out-of-control government power. Toward the end of a YouTube video titled “My Final Thoughts,” he writes, “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.” Among his MySpace photos is an American history book with a gun on top.

Perhaps equally significant, he lists Mein Kampf among his favorite books—although he cites The Communist Manifesto as well. Giffords was vocal about her Judaism, which she embraced as an adult. (Her father, who is a first cousin of Gwyneth Paltrow’s father, is Jewish, while her mother is a Christian Scientist.) Given Loughner’s fixation on currency and his nod to Hitler, it certainly seems possible that Jew-hatred played a role in his terrible mixed-up fantasy world.

Loughner was probably too insane to have really participated in anti-Semitic politics, or, for that matter, in the Tea Party. But it is important to note that Giffords has been relentlessly demonized by the right, the rhetoric around her charged with violence. And such rhetoric is dangerous precisely because of the effect it can have on the unhinged. Loughner was crazy, but he was also responsive to certain real-world political currents, particularly the right’s nightmare vision of federal power run amok. One can’t completely separate this mad act from earlier threats against Giffords.

In August 2009, during another meet-and-greet at a Safeway, a conservative activist who confronted Giffords dropped a gun, leading worried aides to call the police. As right-wing fury mounted, there were other intimations of violence. In March 2010, hours after Giffords’ vote in favor of health care reform, her Tucson office was vandalized, a door and window either kicked in or shot out. Sarah Palin published a map featuring gun sights on the Congressional districts of 20 Democrats then tweeted it to her followers, saying, “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: Don’t Retreat, Instead—RELOAD.”

“Our office corner has really become an area where the Tea Party movement congregates,” Giffords told MSNBC after the attack on her office. “The rhetoric is incredibly heated. Not just the calls but the emails, the slurs, things have really gotten spun up.” Political leaders, she said, need to realize “that their rhetoric, and firing people up—for example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, the way she has it depicted is the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district—when people do that, you’ve got to realize, there are consequences to that action.”

But the rhetoric didn’t cool down. This summer, Giffords’ Tea Party-backed opponent, Jesse Kelly, held a machine gun-themed campaign event. “Get On Target For Victory in November,” said the invitation. “Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”

Now Giffords has been shot allegedly by a crazy young man who had imbibed elements of Tea Party conspiracy-ism. We don’t know exactly what the reasons were for the attack. Still, it was precisely what the Tea Party, with all its gun brandishing and talk of armed revolution and “second amendment remedies,” has been hinting at for over a year. If they didn’t mean it, if they’re horrified by the notion that someone might have taken their words seriously, they’ll speak differently in the future. We’ll see.

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

Carl Hulse and Kate Zernike have a piece currently on the the New York Times website, entitled: “Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Vitriol in Politics.” In it they include the following:

Tea Party activists also condemned the shooting. Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, a social networking site for Tea Party activists, noted on his Web site that Ms. Giffords is “a liberal,” but added, “that does not matter now. No one should be a victim of violence because of their political beliefs.”

“At a time like this, it is terrible that we do have to think about politics, but no matter what the shooter’s motivations were, the left is going to blame this on the Tea Party movement,” Mr. Phillips said on his Web site.

“While we need to take a moment to extend our sympathies to the families of those who died, we cannot allow the hard left to do what it tried to do in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing,” he wrote. “Within the entire political spectrum, there are extremists, both on the left and the right. Violence of this nature should be decried by everyone and not used for political gain.”

As a Tea Party supporter, when I heard of the shooting, I said a prayer for our Representative. Politics is one thing, but no true Christian or Jewish member of any political movement is going to be happy that their opponent is shot.

Loughner is a radical socialist. His book list: “Mein Kampf”, “The Communist Manefesto” and “Animal Farm”. His You Tube postings. His actions prior to Saturday, all point to a deeply disturbed man.

Rather than blame this on the Tea Party, or Gun Owners (Ms. Giffords is a 2nd Amendment supporter), why not focus on the fact that the guy that shot her hated the Government and evidently idolized Hitler? Especially since she read the 1st Amendment on the floor of the House last Thursday.

Perhaps Loughner is a Jew Hating psycho that will get a needle for killing a Federal Judge and the attempted murder of Ms. Giffords.

Good grief, James, really? A radical socialist? Might as well accuse him of being a secret Kenyan Muslim while you’re at it.

What is it with the Tea Party randomly labeling people as radical socialists? Mein Kampf is a facist book, not socialist, and Animal Farm is ANTI-socialist. Listing The Communist Manifesto on a book list (and yes, it’s manifesto, not manefesto, James) doesn’t mean you can say he’s a radical socialist and absolve the Tea Party of responsibility for its violent rhetoric.

The book list suggests he is drawn to extremist and fantastical views.

However, Jay, for what it’s worth – fascism as a political theory is, like communism, a form of radical socialism. It could not be farther from the libertarian principles the Tea Party is predicated on. Of course this does not make this murderer a radical socialist.

There is some part of the Tea Party that seems to believe in a single American culture, which is the closest they come to fascism. Yet the left is also more culturally coercive than it often seems to recognize.

This article points out that when we allow our political frustrations to take the form of “target lists” we create invitations to psychos to act on them. Let’s not fan the flames by insisting that conservatives are fascists, racists, polluters, and every other horrible thing we can think of. Let’s try to take their best arguments seriously, as liberals would have conservatives do for them.

Paul Brandon says:

Fascism is NOT a form of socialism.
The term was coined by Mussolini in reference to the ‘fasces’ — the axes used as an emblem by Roman legions.
Fascism is just plain old vanilla dictatorship — rule by one man.
About as far from socialism (rule by the society as a whole) as you can get.

addicted says:

As the comments here suggest, I think a large proportion of the Tea Party’s thinking goes like this:

Mein Kampf, a fascistdocument, was written by Hitler, who was German, which is in Europe, and as we all know, everything out of Europe is socialist. Voila, Fascism = Socialism…


Instead of accusing the shooter of being a tea-partier and ganging up on Josh for having a different take on the situation; perhaps you should get your facts straight:

Socialism is an economic system where the state controls the means of production; as opposed to capitalism where the means of production are controlled by private individuals. These are the simplest possible definitions of each term.

Fascism, however, is a political AND economic system wherein the means of production are controlled by the state under the guise of corporate ownership. Fascism in practice (in Italy, Spain and Germany)has always been that combination of a state-controlled economy with the facade of private ownership.

The dictatorial nature of Italian fascism is not unique (Mussolini coined the term from the symbol of the elite members of the Roman Senate, not the legion); as most totalitarian regimes are built around a cult of personality that necessitates rule by one man (Mao, Castro, Hitler, etc..)

As far as the relationship between Mein Kampf and socialism? Well for starters there’s the fact that Nazi is an abbreviation for National SOCIALIST German Workers Party. Then there’s the books repeated calls for a planned economy, single party rule, the outright destruction of free market capitalism, government-subsidized health care and education and the eventual nationalization of all major industries.
(All of which the Nazis accomplished during their rule)

Ugh. Glenn Beck has preached a completely distorted definition of NATIONAL SOCIALISM and we see evidence of that right here in the comments. Extreme German nationalism (esp. anti-semitism) combined with elements of socialism = NAZISM. The Nazis imprisoned, tortured and murdered Social Democrats and Communists (i.e., the LEFT WINGERS).

In other words, “Mein Kampf” is a right-wing, not left-wing, manifesto.

The Lord giveth
and the government taketh away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.

ISamuel 8:9-19

It doesn’t matter what his politics were.

What matters is that he was mentally unhinged, yet allowed by law to own a gun.

Johnny New England says:

It is truly unfortunate that a nutjob with a gun in just moments can destroy innocent lives of both public figures, and private citizens. To say he was provoked by anti-jewish propoganda, or pro right wing sentiment is ignorant. He is obviously an unstable and confused young man. America already had enough problems without this madman stirring the punchbowl. Social evolution is just part of growth as a country. So if his views did not jive with that of the congress womans. He should have worked to remove her from office through motivating others to vote against her.
Although if she is related to Gwen Paltrow as stated in this article. I am sure she is a part of the social elite with plenty of money to crush a small movement against her political career. So what is one to do when political office is bought or bestowed upon the individuals that are part of the psuedo royal social class in america nowdays? I guess this psyco decided to do what he felt he had to. When political corruption is no more, perhaps violence against political figures will be no more. There are three sides to this story. The victims, the shooters, and the truth. What really caused this awful tragedy we will never fully know. What can prevent it from happening again? Probably nothing we can only make it more difficult for it to take place.

Harmon says:

Blaming the Tea Party for the actions of an obvious paranoid schizophrenic?

I was going to put Tablet on my RSS fee. but this example of simpleminded political commentary tells me not to waste my time.

Hosea 8:7

1/10/11 B”H It behooves us to refresh our minds to the tenacity of Jewish existence verily as on of the jewels of our historic achievements has been targeted for the same reason that any Jewish person could be attacked, anywhere, by anybody. The fact that our individually becomes anonymous to the community of Jewish people we need to reduce the amount of animosity we express; if only not to give fuel to those whom may bear us ill, those whom cease not from destructive evil, whither they turn not to find arrogant or caustic remarks about someone Jewish people have downgraded, never to scold the host governments in a acerbic fashion; imaging in our head as though our survival depends on getting along as best we can with what we’ve got. On my account don’t dare utter that I’m chicken, go to slaughter like a sheep, etc. because I have revolutionary ideals that concern pursuit of the liberty that we can assure only through community organization within the socio-economic milieu and by applying the framework of family to secure the freedom of individuals as respected beings, loving, competent, creative and expressive human beings. We will have to swallow the shame that intellectual articulation has riled citizens in America to perpetuate heinous acts, but with a net caution spread to benefit from the tradition that mandates return to the ways of original Judaism, ethics and compassion, fulfillment of the individual within the framework of family and community and nation exemplary amongst the nations. Those who have the power to endear the world by maintaining the glorious treasure of Jewish life unsullied by meanderings about the menaces of civility have only to continue to do so faithfully, goodness blessing courageously as we each encumber ourselves our share in eternity. You may wish to read my earnest efforts to portray my vision towards a secure freedom at

Gerald Herrin says:

Please note that the “fasces” were carried before ancient Roman magistrates symbolized the power of unity ( the rods tied together) and the axe to show the imperium, the power of lawful violence in defense of the Republic. Just a minor point. There seems to be something toxic in the culture and one almost despairs.

Jordana Jacobs says:

I agree that all the political vitriol in this country contributes to violence, especially when political leaders like Palin and Jesse Kelly send such irresponsibly violent messages. However, let’s not confuse the acts of a disturbed man with politics. His acts are not an inditement on socialism or even facism. That is not to say that facism is acceptable. I am saying that a man like this does not get to have a voice that is taken seriously in matters of politics and ideology because he fired a gun and created a tragedy. He is disturbed and is not equipped to participate in the discussion. He is influenced by politics, but that does not mean he should, in turn, influence politics beyond reminding us all to heed John Stewart and Steven Colbert and be less angry and divisive. Let’s quit talking about socialism, capitalism, immigration etc., in this forum. These are gravely important matters and letting this deranged man determine the terms of this discussion is gravely misguided. If we are to learn anything from him, it is the importance of clarity.

We are getting away from the human story here. A young man is disturbed and yet we have heard nothing about his getting treatment and care. And, like someone above noted, it is outragous he was allowed to purchase a gun!

Neil Sagan says:

TPN founder Judson Phillips, in “The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and the left’s attack on the Tea Party movement,” described the shooter as
“a leftist lunatic”
and Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik as a
“leftist sheriff” who “was one of the first to start in on the liberal attack.”

Phillips urged tea party supporters to blame liberals for the attack on centrist Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was shot through the head and is now fighting for her life, as a means of defending the tea party movement’s recent electoral gains.

This shooting is yet another very tragic, senseless gun related crime. It is unfathomable to me, in this age and in this country where life and liberty are intrinsic to our way of life, that the right to bear arms is still even in debate. Unbalanced and weilding a gun, in a society where politicians feel emboldened to use gun/shooting references to rally the masses, scares me to my core. Tea partiers, it is more the manner in which your spokespeople are articluting their agenda, than their agenda itself that is currently attracting negative attention. It should worry you as much as it does me.

asherZ says:

Attributing the senseless shooting to Tea Party statements is as ridiculous as tarring the left wingers for an individual who threatened the life of George Bush. Making political hay out of a tragedy is plain stupid, and reflects desperation on the part of those who so proclaim. The shooter is a nutjob and should be put away for the rest of his life.

“And Loughner, while clearly in the grip of delusion rather than any coherent ideology, nonetheless shared many far-right obsessions.”

Have you taken a tally of how many far-left obsessions he has? Why is it so difficult to report the news without spewing your filthy agenda?

“full of unintelligible messages about conscious dreaming and English grammar.”


“Loughner has internalized some of the conspiracy theories common in the Tea Party”

I thought the Teat Party was a bunch of KKK gun toting racist. Now they are conspiracy theorists. Is that a move up or side ways?

“Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: Don’t Retreat, Instead—RELOAD.”

I am not a big Palin fan but if you believe she is telling people to use guns you’re just as loony as Loughner!

Does anyone on Tablet know how to write an objective article?

This is very disappointing. People were shot by a sick bastard! I understand a 9 year child was killed. It’s a horrible shame! Instead your article seeks to explain Loughners sick mind? Do you have a psychology degree? Where is the objectivity?!?!!!

This whole discussion of parse ideologies seems to miss the point. Is our political discourse inflated? Yes (just look at some of the comments of Tablet readers — and they’re the rational ones). Do words have impact? Of course, how else could deliberative bodies of governance operate? From a Jewish perspective, we should be mindful of our speech; lashon hara is one of the primary sins atoned for at Yom Kippur.

But this young may was clearly insane and neither the right nor the left have a monopoly on that. Schizophrenics are often motivated in their delusions by religious texts or prophesy. Should we therefore censor or regulate religion? To my way of thinking there are at least 3 causes to this all-too-American tragedy:

1) a devolved and hobbled mental health care system;
2) our society’s tolerance and appetite for violence;
3) and the gun lobby who have made rational gun regulation impossible to secure.

People of all political stripes and ideological preference should be concerned about these.

Stephan Pickering/Chofetz Chay says:

Shalom & Boker tov:
Gabrielle Giffords was targeted because she is a womanist and a Jew. Endless speculations about the pistolist’s ‘state-of-mind’ are akin to guessing what the inside of a brick is like, or if water is everywhere ‘wet’. In other words, I don’t take mediasaurs in their frenzy seriously. The man with the gun is part of the rise of protonazism in this country, and the Tea Party et al. are the 21st century brown shirts.
Tzeteh’ LeShalom, Ms Gifford, VeShuveh’ LeShalom…go in peace, return in peace.
STEPHAN PICKERING / Chofetz Chayim ben-Avraham

“Yes, how many deaths will it take till [we] know
That too many people have died ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”
– the Hibbinger Rebbe

And I would suggest that trumping all hopelessly literal and beside-the-point questions of socialist vs fascist, or whether the shooter drank the Tea is the overlooked, obvious fact of life that public rhetoric influences individuals. The unbalanced, borderline, violence-prone among us, who seek an outlet for their own rage are channels for messages like “don’t retreat, reload” and countless other coded mantras that all say it’s noble and heroic to murder those you disagree with. This might not be quite so lethal were it not for the added societal madness that allows the walking (psychologically) wounded to buy semi-automatic pistols as easily as toasters. I have two rather Jewish slogans for the coming renewed movement for sane gun regulation: “Never again!” and “Enough already!”

Loughner’s mother is jewish which makes Loughner jewish. So he doesn’t fit the typical anti semitic profile.

He was into gothic and loved punk rock.

Loughner believed govt was responsible for 9/11. Neighbors called his family the local hippies. He didn’t believe in religion and smoked pot and loved a lefty band.

The left demonized joe lieberman and call him holy joe. They root for missiles from hamas and hezbollah to hurt israelis.

You want hatred of jews check out rev wright’s church and the hate obama listened to against jews. rev wright had articles up praising hamas.

Sites like obama’s campaign election site, dailykos, democraticunderground have rhetoric blaming jews and israel for all the problems in the world and how jews own the banks.

The left’s rhetoric could have lead to the jewish shooting in seattle.

What about the great obama who said they bring a knife to a fight and we bring a gun.

What about the great obama who said his opponents on immigration were his enemies.

When Reagan was shot by a mental nut did the media blame the left?

This is unreal. Just unreal. The media is out of control.

If you went to obama’s site during the election you would see they aren’t friends of jews.

They would rail against israel and jews and they refused to take it down.

Obama blamed israel for the deaths of u.s soldiers.

Obama associated with radical jew haters in chicago on his rise up.

Obama is arming syria and said nothing when syria and iran had a missile meeting with hamas yet took israeli to the woodshed.

Obama allowed wto entry to syria. Obama said he purposefully wouldn’t visit israel to appease arabs.

Obama is no friend to jews. His adviser van jones said israel was occupying in 1948 and another adviser went off on blaming zionists for everything.

Obama is the enemy of jews and for you to use some left wing pot smoker who neighbors called a hippy to bash the tea party.

Go to leftist websites like dailykos where they destroyed joe lieberman during the ned lamont campaign and had him in scarface and call him holy joe and the power of jews and israel. They support groups like hezbollah and they are the real nazis and even salute like them.

As a jew i am sick and tired of the stupidity from jews who can’t see how the hatred of jews from the political left.

Your hero obama listened to rev wright rail against jews for 10 years when every sane person left his church of hate.

I follow many sites like freerepublic on the right and they never bash jews or israel like the leftist sites like dailykos or democraticundergorund.

The right likes joe lieberman while the left railroaded him and had him kicked off an enviornmental committee.

Jews on the left are absolutely blind. They are sleeping with the enemy.

Why didn’t you speak out against obama calling his opponents enemies.

Why didn’t you speak out against rev wright.

Why didn’t you speak out against obama saying he brings a gun to a fight not a knife.

Why didn’t you denounce al franken who joked about al queda killing bush.

Why didn’t you denounce bush when the left villified him as hitler.

This selective outrage from the left when they have people like keith olbermann, rev wright, al sharpton with all their hate.

This selective outrage is supposed to improve discourse.

Also Obama will hurt israel more than you can imagine. Another six years of obama as pres will do unreal damage to israel.

Palin didn’t publish anything with gun sights.

It was a map targeting congressional swing districts to win back congress.

It was a map by a consulting firm that has worked for democrats and democrats have had maps targeting swing districts and the dnc has used them.

Enough with the lies.

Thanks Josh for that elegant example of troubling invective.

“As far as the relationship between Mein Kampf and socialism? Well for starters there’s the fact that Nazi is an abbreviation for National SOCIALIST German Workers Party. Then there’s the books repeated calls for a planned economy, single party rule, the outright destruction of free market capitalism, government-subsidized health care and education and the eventual nationalization of all major industries.
(All of which the Nazis accomplished during their rule)”

Haven’t you left out a few additional, albeit minor, Nazi ‘accomplisments’?

The question was addressed to Joe.

Can it be any clearer: the young man who perpetrated this heinous crime is certainly unhinged but, the fact that he could act out his imbalance with a gun in his hand is a crime of a different sort. In my mind, political rhetoric or rhetoric of any kind that uses gun imagery to endear itself to any portion of the population, sane or otherwise, is irresponsible.

[S]trong suspicion is being directed at AmRen / American Renaissance. Suspect is possibly linked to this group. (through videos posted on his myspace and YouTube account.). The group’s ideology is anti government, anti immigration, anti ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti Semitic. Gabrielle Gifford is the first Jewish female elected to such a high position in the US government. She was also opposite this group’s ideology when it came to immigration debate.

Homeland Security Internal Memo leaked to Fox

Johnny New England says:
Jan 9, 2011 at 11:43 PM

“To say he was provoked by anti-jewish propoganda, or pro right wing sentiment is ignorant.”

Or is it more intelligent,’JohnyNewEngland’ not to ignore the vitriol climate which always in the history of “unstable and confused” assasins has played not a minor role. Not at all far from the Rabin’s assasination time.

“Although if she is related to Gwen Paltrow as stated in this article. I am sure she is a part of the social elite with plenty of money to crush a small movement against her political career.”

Are you sure your statement is not a worn stereotype, mostly related to a whiff of anti-semitism?

“When political corruption is no more, perhaps violence against political figures will be no more.”

Don’t make people mistakenly think you have not yet made up your mind as to the invalidation or validation of ‘political assasinations.

“There are three sides to this story. The victims, the shooters, and the truth.”

Maybe the truth is that as long as there will be insane political manipulators, there will be enough “psycho”s to follow in their path and bring havoc. From Hitler down to the last specimens.

John F. says:

There is, of course, not a single shred of evidence that the shooter was motivated by anything but insanity. Friends that have spoken to the press have already said that he was not a particularly politically-inspired individual, and there certainly does not seem to be any evidence of a coherent political ideology, unless you call government control through grammar an ideology. This all seems like a replay of the Clay County census employee who killed himself and made it look like a homicide, while the left-leaning blogosphere was alleging that it was a lynching inspired by right-wing rhetoric. People like Michelle who write and think about politics for a living often forget a simple fact of life: most of the time politics has nothing to do with why people do things.

Corinna Hasofferett-
Obviously I left out the Shoah and the conquest of Europe. That wasn’t to diminish them or their impact in any way, but the main point I was trying to address is the historical white-washing (so to speak) of the socialistic roots if the National Socialist German Workers party.

What many people of all political stripes (right, left and centrist)often miss is how the Nazis (and the Soviets for that matter) used the gradual stripping away of individual rights through legislation and social engineering(tyranny by degrees) in order to create a socio-political environment where rounding up “enemies of the state” and “undesirables” (Jews, Catholics, Gypsies, Communists, Capitalists, Trade Unionists, Homosexuals, etc…)was not only acceptable but legal.

Once again; the right/left dichotomy fails to adequately convey a complex political reality.

The Soviets and Nazis were both totalitarian, statist governments with economies based on socialist principles (Because the Nazis maintained the facade of corporate ownership; we can accurately call them fascists). They both seized territory in aggressive wars of expansion; and both committed mass murder and genocide on a scale reaching into the tens of millions.

The only substantial difference was in branding; with the Nazi’s “National Socialism” versus the Soviet’s “International Socialism”; and yet some continue to call the Nazis “right-wingers”.

When it comes to the shooter in Arizona- the man’s political philosophy was obviously subordinate to his being certifiably insane.
The article’s tenuous thesis that he was influenced by “right wing” ideas is akin to claiming that his admiration for “The Communist Manifesto” ties him directly to the DNC.

Both claims are hurtful and ridiculous; especially when one considers that violent extremism has far less to do with ideology than with something which this nutjob clearly lacked:
Basic respect for the lives of others.

Jordana Jacobs says:

The dichotomy between left and right is human-made. It is not perfect. Someone can have so-called “leftist” ideas and “rightist” ideas simultaneously. By adhering too closely to these labels, we are mislead and we get no further than calling each other names, rather blindly.

This discussion board has turned into a forum for discussing politics when the three points made by Scott Cohen sums it all up and it really shouldn’t go further than that, not when talking about a deranged man. We should be talking about the failing of our system to identify those who need help and provide care. We should be talking about gun control. This seems to be beyond politics and ideology. As this tragic event has proven, this is a matter of practicality.

However, since charged words are being bandied about, I would like to point out that the word “Party” in Nazi Socialist Party is not considered evil and that the word “Union” in Soviet Union is not threatening. I make this simple point to illustrate that the Nazis don’t determine the meaning of socialism (though they have a hand in determining genocide) any more than they determine the meaning of party. Just because an evil man brushes his teeth does not mean brushing teeth is an act of cruelty. In other words, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here.

As for Palin–look at the image she published. It shows states with cross-hairs: gun imagery. She is pandering to people’s violent tendencies. This tragedy should not start a conversation about politics, but it should start some soul-searching for culture of the U.S.A. This culture promotes extremism, simplification, and violence. What we need to address precedes politics and must be addressed!

I like what BRG said:
political rhetoric or rhetoric of any kind that uses gun imagery to endear itself to any portion of the population, sane or otherwise, is irresponsible.
We’ll perhaps never know what motivated this killer. But it is for sure irresponsible for a public figure to say things like, “don’t retreat, reload.” and use gun imagery, implying that gun usage may be ok or at the least, putting ideas in the heads of crazies.

Jordana, you have a beautifully clear mind and heart. thanks for bringing some actual wisdom to this board.

There’s nothing political about it. He is a nutjob! His fixation on politics and the like was merely something to help him navigate social interactions, life, community, etc. He had mental problems and is very young. He needed help and has now destroyed lives because of his mental illness…which is not related to any political party. Period.

Phillip Cohen says:

Strange reading some of the responses to this article. It seems as if several of the entries were anti-semitic. A number of them were in defense of ultra-right wing positions on..what?…hating?

No, Nazi’s were not socialists. Just because a song has Blues in the title does not make the song a Blues.

It appears that this person with delusions had a little too much hateful rhetoric from the right in his attic. Fox News and Sean Beck and Tea Party Activists along with Sarah Palin killed that 9 year old girl.

Jason, I’ve never seen any campaign material for any Democratic candidate that used bullet crosshairs customarily used in target practice. Moreover,Sarah Palin has repeatedly used gun jargon in speeches: “Locked and Loaded,” “Reload,” etc.

While there can be no doubt that the shooter is mentally ill, I do believe that a deranged, troubled, disaffected young person such as he is precisely the type of person most likely to be influenced by hearing hate speech and seeing bullet imagery in the course of a political campaign.

I don’t know how many more innocent people need to be killed in tragedies such as this before this country finally tightens its gun laws. And seeing support for Sarah Palin, darling of the gun lobby, in the comments on this site makes me livid. For all those who would vote for Sarah Palin solely because of issues in Israel, I say: Make Aliyah, don’t destroy the US by electing an ignorant, dangerous woman to political office.

Also, Jason, you complain about hate speech from the left, which is pretty ironic given all the ugly, hateful, mostly inaccurate things you say about Obama in your seven consecutive rambling comments here.

yochanan says:

frankly he wasn’t political in any sence, did not even vote in 2010.

i looked at his utube posts clearly if there was any political idology it was anarchist BUT TOTALLY OFF HIS MEDS. Crazy anarchist.

In fact he was fellowing the Congresswoman way back in 2007. People who know him before he had a booze overdose said he was a radical leftist. He was reported to beleive President Bush did 9-11.

He was mentally ill. living in his own little world.

those who make a rush to judgement before the facts come out esp on the political blame game are showing more about themseleves than the shooter. I kind of remember some of the left including President Obama all saying we should not rush to judgement on the FORT HOOD SHOOTER why aren’t they fellowing there own advice now?

yochanan says:

the difference between ‘national socialism’ and stalin’s ‘international socialism were different but also had many things in common.

both accepted that the END JUSTIFIED THE MEANS.
both wanted a ‘BIG STATE’

Often the results were the same even though the words were different for example on the question of raceism and anti semitism One was proud of it’s bigotry and the other claimed not to be bigoted but if your national group was considered to be reactionary or counter revolutionary you ended up in mass graves.

for ‘national socialists’ it was THE JEWS.
for ‘international socialists (esp stalin) it was THE ZIONISTS.

Back under stalin in the ‘DOCTORS TRIAL’ the two were combined.

yochanan says:

jason both parties have used this type of image and President Obama said if they bring a knife to the fight we will bring a GUN.

and there were cases of the SEIU acting on this too.

since know one really knows why this CRAZY person did this at this point i would thing the Democrats jumped the shark on this one.

Hitler could have been called “too insane” to have participated in anti-Semitic politics. Still, that did not prevent him from mass genocide. Just because people are deranged it doesn’t mean they are not acting on elaborate ideologies that share a following.

asherZ says:

Jordana writes:
“As for Palin–look at the image she published. It shows states with cross-hairs: gun imagery. She is pandering to people’s violent tendencies.”
So Palin bears some resposibility for the Tucson tragedy because of the imagery she presented in a political campaign. I guess we should also eliminate Homer,Herodotus, Gibbon and Machiavelli from our libraries as well, because some crazy youth might get violent ideas from this literature. And of course Senator Joe Manchin, (D W.Va.) should never have run a rifle campaign. Lastly see the URL below from the Democratic Party TARGETING Bush states in 2004. No Jordana, guns don’t kill, people do. Eliminate all guns and the crazies will still find a way to carry out their evil actions.

If even a fraction of the energy being spent defending Palin and her ilk could be channeled toward healing the underlying wounds in our body politic, the heavens would rejoice.

Arnie Persky says:

Join Paul Krugman. This article like his blaming free speech for this horrible act is beyond stupid.

You socialists have to stop blaming those who disagree with your attempts to convert our Republic to a European socialist government for the lunatic acts of people like this psycho. He was a nutcase before he knew of Palin, the Tea Party etc.

What drove him? Who knows? But conservatives, Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh,?

Nothing to back these claims.

Jordana Jacobs says:

AsherZ, I think I understand your concerns. I agree with you that stories containing violence should not be censored or even considered taboo: they tell our story, our condition, our reality. But Palin was speaking in the imperative, not telling our story. She was using violent imagery to rally people to take real-life democratic opponents out of office. This is not splitting hairs–the difference is profound. I am not saying that she, or other people who are irresponsible with their rhetoric, are to blame for the actions of this disturbed young man. How could we possbible chart what forces, inward and outward,made him tick? I am saying that they contribute to creating an environment in which hate and divisiveness no longer seem like extremism. They have become the norm. And when civility, respect, a degree or trust, and the meaningful and honest debate that comes with these behaviors are lost, our culture suffers. People like Palin and, yes, the occassional puffed-up Democrat, who abuse the language and use violent imagery to serve their immediate and rather petty purposes create an atmosphere that not only extinguishes civility. Worse, it makes violent acts seem less taboo. They should not take responsibility for pulling the trigger, for they are not accountable for the deranged thoughts of a lone young man with easy access to a gun, but they should repent their role in creating an toxic atmosphere.

Even more practical ways to prevent tragic events: gun control and better, more proactive services for the mentally ill. This will not end senseless violence and human-made tragedy, but it will certainly curb it and that is enough to ask for right now.

asherZ says:

Corey writes”If even a fraction of the energy being spent defending Palin and her ilk could be channeled toward healing the underlying wounds in our body politic, the heavens would rejoice.”
Substitute attacking Palin instead of defending Palin and you then made a good point. The fact that you don’t recognize this point is revealing…

VHJM van Neerven says:

Let’s remember Palinn’s choicy words: “Blood-libel.”

Just tell me this,

Arnie, I double-dare you to name one, just one, European country with a socialist government.

sherZ: Did anyone ever say or write that Palin had to be “targeted”?

Dhr. Drs VHJM van Neerven MSW MA
editor-in-chief VNCcommunicationcounsel
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

I’ve said that least 4365818 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.


The gunman arrested in connection with the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the deaths of at least five others was clearly delusional, but was he influenced by the toxic rhetoric coursing through the country today?

More on Tablet:

Why the World Should Test Netanyahu’s Newfound Commitment to Peace

By Yair Rosenberg — Bibi announces support for Arab Peace Initiative. It doesn’t matter if it’s real.