Quotable: Juan Cole on the Tucson Massacre

“Jared Lee Loughner, the assassin of Federal judge John M. Roll and five others and attempted assassin of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), was clearly mentally unstable. But the political themes of his instability were those of the American far Right. Loughner was acting politically even if he is not all there. He is said to have called out the names of his victims, such as Roll and Gifford, as he fired. As usual, when white people do these things, the mass media doesn’t call it terrorism.”

–Juan Cole, “White Terrorism”

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12 Responses to Quotable: Juan Cole on the Tucson Massacre

  1. SDH says:

    The only solid piece of information currently known that may give some insight to Loughner is his book list, which Cole dismisses outright.
    Cole also doesn’t source any of the “far Right” views he alleges Loughner holds, although I believe tried Loughner to articulate some of these views were in his youtube videos, though I thought the videos were pretty incoherent.

    Sloppy piece of work Professor.

  2. Sabina Becker says:

    The videos were disjointed, as one might expect of a mentally ill person, but one thing leapt out at me–the frequent reference to gold and silver currency. That’s a right-wing reference right there, and Chip Berlet has pointed it out:


    And it’s not the only one he found, either.

    Also, Mark Potok, an expert on right-wing fringe groups, concurs:


    This kid may be mentally ill, but he’s a ‘winger. And his act was undeniably political; just look at who his target was. It was not a right-wing politician, but a Democratic one. Being deranged and being political do not cancel each other out, nor are they mutually exclusive.

    And anyone who tries to claim he was a liberal or a leftist (on the basis of that reading list or anything else) will be laughed right off this blog. Just so’s you know.

    • SDH says:

      The only claim I’d make about Loughner is that he’s a deeply disturbed individual, which given that he just murdered six people, is not much of a stretch.

      Claiming he’s a right winger because he was infatuated with grammar and specie is tenuous at best. Potok/SPLC are hardly unbiased sources.

      Palin’s cross-hair graphic identifying vulnerable districts is no different than the one Democrats (the DLC) produced with bulls-eyes targeting vulnerable districts during Bush’s 2nd term.

      If you do think politicians who use violent references should be punished, you could start with Obama claiming to bring a gun to a knife fight during the 2008 campaign and threatening to kick someone’s ass during the BP oil spill, John Kerry joking about killing Bush 43 on Bill Maher’s show, and joking about the Secret Service killing Quayle if Bush 41 was shot.

      Personally, I view Palin’s and the DLC’s graphics as harmless, Obama’s quotes as meaningless rhetoric, Kerry’s quote on Bush 43 as a failed attempt at glibness, and his joke on Bush 41 as actually kind of funny.

  3. Omar says:

    Sabina I was wondering whether you agree with the view that public figures that incite hatred and violence (against any minority or opponent), should be criminally penalised in some way (possibly heavy pecuniary penalties), or maybe democracy and the will of the people –considering that the majority are sane and reasonable- would decide that matter? Could Hitler and Goebbels somehow have been deterred, and save the world some 50 million innocent lives if they were constrained in that shambolic republic? Of course the problem arises in this context as to who would be the arbiter of what can be tolerated and what can be characterised as pure lunacy, but isn’t there a level of discourse, in your view, that can be understood by civilised and educated people as over the top and blatantly dangerous?

  4. Sabina Becker says:

    Omar, I’m glad you asked. I do indeed think there’s a point at which political rhetoric crosses the line into incitement, and that it has been crossed here. It was also crossed by the anti-abortion groups who, some years back, put out lists of doctors who performed the surgery. They were clearly hit-lists, although it was left to “lone wolves” (who turned out, in many cases, to be not so lone) to do the actual shooting. Since the names of doctors killed were struck off the list soon after the shootings, the website on which the names were posted was judged to be a hit list and thus not free, protected speech. It was taken down by court order. So there is a legal precedent for punishing, say, Sarah Palin for putting out a hit-list, which her crosshairs poster clearly was. Now, what form that punishment takes is for judges to decide. At the very least, she should be barred from ever running for public office again; I think a jail sentence is also in order. Leaving this matter unaddressed now is the worst thing they could do.

    As for what would have stopped Hitler and Goebbels, that’s a bit more complicated. A more cohesive German left, one willing to fight back instead of sniping at each other as they did, would have been enough to keep the Nazis, who were a minority government, from taking over the Reichstag. But then, that’s a parliamentary and not a legal mode of addressing that problem. Unfortunately, Germany was new to democracy at the time, and the Weimar Republic had only a weak democratic commitment at best, so it is hardly surprising that the Reichstag couldn’t stand up to the Nazi onslaught, figuratively and literally.

    BTW, I’m working on a full length post to address these and other issues right now; it’s almost complete. Stay tuned.

  5. Omar says:

    I agree with you that it should be for (independent and impartial) judges to decide -especially in a common law system- and based on legal precedent and common democratic values of peaceful coexistence. Thanks for your feedback and opinion. Really appreciated!

  6. Slave Revolt says:

    The rightwing anger is clearly being stoked by the rightwing corporatocracy. No doubt about it.

    They consistently demonize the left as anti-American traitors, and glorify all things military and imperialistic.

    This game is being fueled by the ruling class to scare and silence any definitively left discussion, policies, and general attitudes that could prevail among the population.

    Indeed, this is all part of a larger game related to how power is distributed and shared in US culture.

    This environment is the default position imposed on the population by the managerial and elite classes that are steering the ship of state. It has been going on for decades, and liberals are too scared to challenge the dynamic.

    Leftists are attacked and harassed by the FBI, and our views are caricatured and demonized. There exists no honest and respectful debate in the lamestream.

    Been going on for decades, and they have it down to a science.

  7. Slave Revolt says:

    I like the fact that my comment appears immediately, and that I don’t have to enter my nome de plum and email address with every comment. Makes conversation less onerous.

    Assholes will distinguish themselves as such by the ugly nature of their thinking; and intelligent beings will recognize it as such.

    I have recognized that authoritarian and insecure people are more apt to censor comments–like a certain “narco” dude we know.

    Nice changes to your site.

    Stupid ideas being challenged and bested makes for good entertainment, and will surely increase the traffic on your blog.

  8. Sabina Becker says:

    Oh please. I think you’re stretching to try to make him out to be some kind of non-partisan nut. I saw no evidence of leftism in anything he wrote. But that disjointed rhetoric? Particularly about gold and silver currency? Nobody but the far right is touting that. And nobody but the far right is touting guns as a “second amendment solution” to the “socialist menace” of “Obamacare”, either. And if you think those crosshairs posters are harmless, you must be off your nut.

    Also, there’s no such thing as an unbiased expert. I trust guys who’ve spent their working lives tracking and denouncing right-wing lunacy over guys who cautiously defend it anyday.

    Nice attempt at false equivalence there too, but some actual jokes compared to a quite serious propaganda poster, put out by a woman who blatantly plays to the gun nut crowd? Fail.

  9. Polaris says:

    Concealed, crime-preventing guns can be carried in Arizona without a permit. That’s supposed to make deranged shooters too scared to open fire because shooters have to assume they might encounter armed opposition wherever they start blasting. Not this time.

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