"Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath," said President Obama in his recent remarks at the memorial service in Tucson.
"For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack," Obama continued. "None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind."
That was good advice, especially after all the mud throwing in the previous five days, with both sides trying to put the other side’s jersey on the alleged shooter.
The pundits on the left pictured Jared Loughner sitting at a table in a red jersey with Sarah Palin, a little tea party, drawing crosshairs on the Congressional district of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
The other side pointed to President Obama’s inflammatory rhetoric, the labeling of his political opponents as "enemies," his threat to escalate the vitriol – "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun."
At the memorial service, the tone was different. "But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another," said President Obama, departing from the "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste" advice from Ron Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s former chief of staff at the White House.
In fact, the initial "simple explanations" for Jared Loughner’s behavior were way off base.
As Zach Osler, former close friend of Loughner, explained on Good Morning America about the accused shooter: "He did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didn’t listen to political radio. He didn’t take sides. He wasn’t on the left. He wasn’t on the right."
What did, however, have "a profound impact on Jared Loughner’s mindset," said Osler, was a "documentary called Zeitgeist," a conspiracy-mined film that "poured gasoline on his fire."
It a nutshell, the Zeitgeist film asserts that Jesus Christ did not historically exist, that elements in the American government had either planned the September 11 attack on the United States or allowed it to happen, and that crooked bankers are manipulating the world’s media and monetary systems.
In an Associated Press interview, Zach Osler’s father explained that Jared Loughner introduced the Osler family to Loose Change, a film that charges that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, not Osama bin Laden and Mohamed Atta, orchestrated the attacks of September 11.
A group called "Voices of Opposition to War, Racism and Oppression" showed the Loose Change film at the University of Arizona as part of its Fall 2010 film series, a program of steady doses of anti-American, anti-government propaganda.
The first film focused on the "assault on Gaza" by American-backed Israelis. Others focused on America ignoring the rights of Afghan women, America’s "brutal" immigration raids, the American government’s cover-up of oil spill damages by BP, and oppression in Central America by the American market system and U.S. military.
"We are centered here in Tucson, Arizona," says the "Voices of Opposition …" website. "Hopefully, at some point we will branch out to reach Pima Community College and the rest of the community."
At Pima Community College, Jared Loughner was the subject of numerous reports by the school’s Department of Public Safety.
Someone should check if Mr. Loughner was more touched by Sarah Palin’s Alaskan travelogue or by the anti-American outreach program put on by the "Voices of Opposition …," a drumbeat of films and weekly meetings about the purportedly deadly evils of the federal government.
A cab ride away for Jared Loughner on that ill-fated Saturday morning in Tucson, Gabrielle Giffords was the most visible and accessible representative of that allegedly murderous government.
Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.
Ralph R. Reiland
E-mail: [email protected]