And yes, sadly, there's a Nevada Angle to this story.
While she may not have been the main cause of the Tucson massacre that killed six people and wounded nineteen others, including US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona), Sharron Angle's and the tea party's increasingly violent rhetoric certainly helped to create the environment that encouraged fringe radicals like Jared Lee Loughner to use "Second Amendment Remedies". Back in January, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik pointed it out.
“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.” [...]
“We need to do some soul searching … It’s the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business. People tend to pooh-pooh this business about the vitriol that inflames American public opinion by the people who make a living off of that. That may be free speech but it’s not without consequences.”
And the Southern Poverty Law Center researched the origins of the conspiracy theories Loughner embraced, and found some startling clues for what motivated him to turn violent.
At one point, Loughner refers disparagingly to “currency that’s not backed by gold or silver.” The idea that silver and gold are the only “constitutional” money is widespread in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement that produced so much violence in the 1990s. It’s linked to the core Patriot theory that the Federal Reserve is actually a private corporation run for the benefit of unnamed international bankers. So-called Patriots say paper money — what they refer to with a sneer as “Federal Reserve notes” — is not lawful.
At another, Loughner makes extraordinarily obscure comments about language and grammar, suggesting that the government engages in “mind control on the people by controlling grammar.” That’s not the kind of idea that’s very common out there, even on the Internet. In fact, I think it’s pretty clear that Loughner is taking ideas from Patriot conspiracy theorist David Wynn Miller of Milwaukee. Miller claims that the government uses grammar to “enslave” Americans and offers up his truly weird “Truth-language” as an antidote. For example, he says that if you add colons and hyphens to your name in a certain way, you are no longer taxable. Miller may be mad as a hatter, but he has a real following on the right.
Loughner talks about how you “can’t trust the government” and someone burns a U.S. flag in one of his videos. Although certain right-wing websites are already using that (and his listing of The Communist Manifesto as one of his favorite books) to claim that Loughner was a “left-winger,” that does not strike me as true. The main enemy of the Patriot movement is certainly the federal government. And so-called Patriots have certainly engaged in acts like burning the flag.
And if you think this is all just "crazy talk", tell that to Iowa. According to PPP, Ron Paul has now taken the lead there as the Iowa Caucus is fast approaching. Remember, Ron Paul has repeatedly winked and nodded at these conspiracy theories as he's trying to turn the fringe into mainstream. And it's not just Paul. The whole radical right likes to play footsie with this kind of crazy... Until something like this occurs, when they then try to rewrite history.
As I wrote back in January...
OK, so Loughner may have been dabbling in some looney tunes nonsense, possibly even including a known white supremacist hate group. What does this have to do with Glenn Beck... Or Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle for that matter? Well, it comes back to the ["tea party"]. The "tea party" is a sort of umbrella classification of a number of far right organizations and politicians, but there is definitely strong evidence to show that leading "tea party" figures are trying to legitimize the same extreme ideology of the extreme right that influenced past terrorists, like Timothy McVeigh.
And worse, as Glenn Beck warns of supposed "conspiracies of the left" to bring about "imminent violent revolution", and as Sarah Palin tells her followers, "never retreat, instead RELOAD!", and as Sharron Angle suggests "Second Amendment Remedies" to take care of "enemies in our own system... in the walls of Congress"...
Far too many media pundits and politicians in DC have been far too willing to simply dismiss this as "politics as usual". This is NOT "politics as usual". This is an ever escalating culture of political violence that must stop!
Again, I had feared something like this would eventually happen. Last year, I feared Harry Reid would be the victim. I had seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears the teabaggers' unplugged, unfiltered, and unfettered irrational hatred of Harry Reid... As well as President Barack Obama, for that matter. While "Tea Party, Inc." consultants in California were just focusing on building enough opposition to win an election, the opposition among many teabaggers ran far deeper.
And that January, we found out the hard way how deep that was.
Yet while we saw the far right turn increasingly radical, we also saw glimmers of hope as folks in The Southwest turned away from it. Pay attention again to Gabby's own words.
Strangely enough, Giffords talked with an long time Republican friend about starting a campaign to tone down the increasingly extreme rhetoric in today's politics right before her "Congress on Your Corner" town hall that turned so bloody. Yet while Giffords herself ultimately couldn't lead on this, others soon filled that void. Extreme anti-immigrant Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now facing his own legal troubles for politicizing law enforcement there. Russell Pearce, the state senator who briefly turned Arizona's legislature into a breeding ground for "tea party" extremism, was recalled by his own constituents just last month. Jan Brewer, the Arizona Governor that signed the SB 1070 "papers, please" law and campaigned for reelection on it, is now seeing her popularity fade fast in light of a failed redistricting power grab. And in another twist of fate, Daniel Hernandez, the intern who helped to save Gabby Giffords' life, won election to a seat on the local Tuscon school board.
So maybe there is hope, after all. Gabby Giffords herself continues to recover. She's showing remarkable progress for someone who suffered that kind of brain injury, and is showing interest in running for reelection to Congress.
I'll leave you with this from Time.
There was much to hate about politics this year, especially the amount of hate that seemed to poison it. But if there was an antidote, it came from one of the victims: Gabrielle Giffords, vibrant and valiant member of Congress from Arizona, gunned down when a deranged shooter outside a supermarket put a bullet through her brain. That she survived at all was a miracle; that she recovers — slowly, stubbornly, each day a search for another word, another milestone — is a model. "You have to have hope and faith," she says at the end of Gabby, the book she wrote with her husband and fellow warrior against all odds and expectations, astronaut Mark Kelly. "I will get stronger. I will return."