The front page of Sunday's New York Times featured a very long profile of Tucson shooter Jared
Loughner reported by Jo Becker, Serge Kovaleski, Michael Luo, and Dan
Barry, and written by Barry, "Looking Behind the Mug-Shot Grin ."
Even a week later, with Loughner's apolitical insanity long made clear,
the Times can't shake the false assumption that Loughner was motivated
by extreme "right-wing" politics.
Mr. Loughner's spellbinding mug shot - that bald head, that bright-eyed gaze, that smile - yields no answer to why, why, why, why, the aching question cried out in a subdued Tucson synagogue last week. Does the absence of hair suggest a girding for battle? Does the grin convey a sense of accomplishment, or complete disengagement from the consequence of his actions?
What the cacophony of facts do suggest is that Mr. Loughner is struggling with a profound mental illness (most likely paranoid schizophrenia, many psychiatrists say); that his recent years have been marked by stinging rejection - from his country's military, his community college, his girlfriends and, perhaps, his father; that he, in turn, rejected American society, including its government, its currency, its language, even its math. Mr. Loughner once declared to his professor that the number 6 could be called 18.
As he alienated himself from his small clutch of friends, grew contemptuous of women in positions of power and became increasingly oblivious to basic social mores, Mr. Loughner seemed to develop a dreamy alternate world, where the sky was sometimes orange, the grass sometimes blue and the Internet's informational chaos provided refuge.
He became an echo chamber for stray ideas, amplifying, for example, certain grandiose tenets of a number of extremist right-wing groups - including the need for a new money system and the government's mind-manipulation of the masses through language.
In the last three months, Mr. Loughner had a 9-millimeter bullet tattooed on his right shoulder blade and turned increasingly to the Internet to post indecipherable tutorials about the new currency, bemoan the prevalence of illiteracy and settle scores with the Army and Pima Community College, both of which had shunned him. He also may have felt rejected by the American government in general, and by Ms. Giffords in particular, with whom he had a brief - and, to him, unsatisfactory - encounter in 2007.
Although Loughner's conspiracy theories about 9-11 and his loathing of President Bush are aligned with the left, the Times did not label them as such.
He became intrigued by antigovernment conspiracy theories, including that the Sept. 11 attacks were perpetrated by the government and that the country's central banking system was enslaving its citizens. His anger would well up at the sight of President George W. Bush, or in discussing what he considered to be the nefarious designs of government.
After a confrontation at Pima Community College that required police intervention:
A few days later, during a meeting with a school administrator, Mr. Loughner said that he had paid for his courses illegally because, "I did not pay with gold and silver" - a standard position among right-wing extremist groups. With Mr. Loughner's consent, that same administrator then arranged to meet with the student and his mother to discuss the creation of a "behavioral contract" for him, after which the official noted: "Throughout the meeting, Jared held himself very rigidly and smiled overtly at inappropriate times."
These next two paragraphs would appear to put to an end liberal speculation that Loughner was some kind of Palin fan - he didn't believe women should be allowed to hold power.
It was not just his appearance - the pale shaved head and eyebrows - that unnerved them. It was also the aggressive, often sexist things that he said, including asserting that women should not be allowed to hold positions of power or authority.
One individual with knowledge of the situation said Mr. Loughner once got into a dispute with a female branch employee after she told him that a request of his would violate bank policy. He brusquely challenged the woman, telling her that she should not have any power.