The Hidden Menace of Arizona
By Tom Hayden
Progressive America Rising
Jan 11, 2011 - An NBC reporter came to my home Monday night asking my opinion on the Arizona shootings crisis. Actually he wanted my response to conservative commentator Larry Elder who was blaming people on the Left, including myself, for the tragedy. Rush Limbaugh has added his considered view that the assassin, Jared Lee Loughner, has the full-support of the Democratic Party in his legal defense.
How unfortunate it is that right-wing media pundits are on the same page in deflecting all blame from themselves or their icons like Sarah Palin.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media tends to emphasize the theme that the shooter is a profoundly-disturbed individual with no connections to the Far Right. This perspective leads to an emphasis on proposed remedies such as toning down political speech and securing the Congress until gun control and better mental health services can kick in.
The most sophisticated conservative argument is by David Brooks in the New York Times. He blames the early commentary for literally suppressing evidence of mental illness in a rush to blame the Tea Party and Palin, and says, “there is no evidence that Loughner was part of these movements or a consumer of their literature.”
I believe these conservative commentators protest too much, as if they are carrying out a crisis management exercise before business-as-usual returns.
An embarrassing problem with the right-wing argument is that it’s not progressives or Sixties radicals who started blaming them. It’s Rep. Gabrielle Giffords herself. It is her father. And it’s Sheriff Clarence Dupnick who is suddenly under attack from the right for criticizing those who make their living from fomenting bigotry and hatred.
Surely the campaign by Giffords’ Tea Party opponent, Jesse Kelly, intensified a climate of demonizing that can result a homicidal outcome. Kelly’s leaflets invited residents to get “on target” to remove Giffords by attending a fund-raiser where they would shoot a fully-automatic M-16. Kelly, a 29-year old ex-Marine, called for ten thousand American troops on the Mexican border of Gifford’s district, in “an active enforcement mode.”
Kelly was named by Salon.com as the “most terrifying candidate” of the 2010 congressional elections. The Anti-Defamation League denounced his support from Americans for Legal Immigration [ALIPAC], a group that was criticized by Sen. John McCain’s office as “white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and anti-semites.” [The Hill, campaign blog, Oct. 26, 2010]
So the right-wing promoted a climate which by any rational measure could lead to a killing. But how does any of this relate to the shooter?
There is preliminary evidence that Jared Lee Loughner took seriously the doctrines of far-right groups who espouse justifiable homicide. His posted rantings are far from the “gibberish” some want us to believe. Consider this: while the Republican Party was insisting that the U.S. Constitution be read on the House floor, by Rep. Giffords among others, Loughner’s writings revealed what many on the far-right believe about that document:
“The majority of citizens in the United States of America have never read the United State’s 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 the treasonous laws. You’re literate, listener?”
And: “The property owners and government officials are no longer in ownership of their land and laws from a revolution. Thus, the revolutionary’s from the revolution are in control of the land and laws…
And: “No! I won’t pay debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold and silver.”
The mention of literacy relates to Loughran’s written belief that the residents of Rep. Giffords’ congressional district are “illiterates.” By this he means they are unaware that the federal government is illegitimate, and is implementing “mind control” and “brainwashing” through the public schools.
The investigation ahead should reveal that this is exactly the thinking in networks across the far right which overlap with the Tea Party. It is the stance of the “Sovereign Citizen” movement, which claims that the national government wrongly federalized the idea of citizenship with the Fourteenth Amendment. The ongoing Sovereign Citizen crusade rejects taxes, car registrations, traffic tickets and the like as illegitimate. And they are deadly serious.
In 1992, one in Michigan repudiated the government’s jurisdiction over him in the matter of fishing licenses. He was Terry Nichols, the accomplice of Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which took 168 lives. The sovereign citizens continue to proliferate. On May 20 last year, a Sovereign Citizen leader, Jerry Kane, who gave seminars across the country, shot and killed two police officers in Arkansas who pulled he and his son, Joseph, over in a drug interdiction exercise. Shortly after, Kane and his son were killed in a second shootout with law enforcement officers.
Much the same analysis was contained in a 2009 report by the Department of Homeland Security, by the way. And no surprise, it created an uproar of opposition from the same Republicans who now control the House of Representatives.
The investigation of how these networks wormed their way into Jared Lee Loughner’s mind – by Internet, individual advice, or attendance at meetings – should be the key focus in the weeks ahead. No one should be permitted to use mental illness or blame-the-Sixties explanations to divert attention from a hidden menace that threatens the democratic process.
When I served in the California legislature over a decade ago, I once passed a resolution denouncing violence at abortion clinics, and specifically the targeting of doctors and staff for murder. There were virtually no Republican “aye” votes for the measure and, when I ask a Republican senate colleague the reason, he told me, “We can’t. These people are all over our districts.” A staunch promoter of the sovereign citizen movement was even in the Senate, railing against state and federal rule. That’s what this is about. In not being able to purge these networks from its base, the Republican Party has allowed the menace to grow. Article originally appeared on tomhayden.com (http://tomhayden.com/). See website for complete article licensing information.