Following up on Jared Loughner and the Tucson tragedy and travesty

Two days later, the New York Times inches towards the same assessment made here the day after the murders in Tucson for which Jared Loughner has been arrested. Not that the assessment I made wasn’t pretty obvious and also made by many others not disabled by political blinders. From Benedict Carey in the Times: Red Flags at a College, but Tied Hands.

Details about Mr. Loughner are still emerging, and only an examining doctor will be able to make a definitive diagnosis. But the writings and comments attributed to him point strongly to the kind of delusional thinking that is common in schizophrenia.

“I’d say the chances are 99 percent that he has schizophrenia,” said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, the founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, Va., which advocates stronger laws to require treatment for people with severe mental illnesses. “He was together enough to take courses, and people with untreated schizophrenia can function very well for periods. But when you see these rambling, incoherent writings and comments, there is almost no other disorder where this is a prominent symptom.”

The point is ultimately the same as I made: the issue is detection and treatment of individuals who are descending into psychosis. In particular, in my view, improvements need to be made to how colleges deal with young people who are displaying these kinds of symptoms to the point where teachers and classmates notice and are even frightened. It is typical of schizophrenia to assert itself for the first time most strongly during the late teens or early twenties. As I already wrote, the Virginia Tech killer of 2007, Seung Hui-Cho, is the other prominent example of someone who everyone knew was in a potentially dangerous state of mental illness and yet no one was able to coax or compel to receive treatment. Of-course, the great majority of victims of this disease won’t do anything remotely like what Seung Hui-Cho and Jared Loughner ultimately did, but, for their own sake, they are just as badly in need of treatment.

This is an extremely difficult issue, because it involves laws that enable people’s freedom to be taken away, and allows doctors to administer mind-altering drugs to them, likely without their consent. Currently, most states have laws governing this issue that allow such action to be taken only when the individual can be proven to be a risk to himself or to others, and that generally can only be established after a violent or self-injuring act has taken place. In the case of Jared Loughner and Seung Hoi-Cho, that proved to be much too late.

As far as I’ve read, it has not been established publicly as to whether Loughner’s parents attempted to get help for him and failed, and if so who or what might have failed them. Their son was, after all, living with them (Seung Hoi-Cho by contrast was living away at college).

In any case, there is a serious discussion that needs to take place, involving lawmakers, mental health professionals, and citizens generally, addressing the issues around treatment of people displaying symptoms of psychosis.

That is why the attempt to turn Jared Loughner’s insane actions into a political weapon to be used (without any rational evidence whatsoever) against conservatives in America is not only wrong but is also seriously counter-productive and an extreme disservice to the victims and to others across the nation who are in need of intervention and help.

In the wake of this mad massacre two things should be happening: (1) that discussion I’ve just described and (2) the honoring of the dead.

Instead, much of the media and the liberal political world has been contorted hatefully with efforts to pin the blame for this tragedy on Sarah Palin/The Tea Party/Rush Limbaugh/Insert-Your-Favorite-Conservative-Bogeyman. Not to put too fine a point on it: It has been obscene. It is a naked attempt to exploit the blood and corpses of the victims for the political gain of the Democratic Party, without a single shred of evidence as back up — merely the intense wishes of those doing it. It is honestly beyond obscene.

We have been told that the point of this is to start a discussion about making politics more civil. That is disingenuous in the extreme, obviously, because it is only conservatives who are being targeted for their rhetoric.

It is also self-evidently bound for failure. Dishonestly using the circumstances of this shooting to tell conservatives to “shut up” is not going to calm anyone down. Personally, I am about as angry over this as I have ever been over any political issue in my life (this should not even have been a political issue!), and I think I’m far from alone. I am apoplectic as to what has gone on — the constant utterly irrelevant references to Sarah Palin’s “target map” of congressional districts, the stupid partisan hack “sheriff” who can’t find enough cameras and microphones to get in front of in order to try to score points for his precious Democratic party, the lazy TV journalism of innuendo, hypocrisy, lies and nonsense, and on and on and on.

In the face of this, the last thing I feel like doing is cooling my rhetoric, or telling any other conservatives to cool theirs. The rhetoric opposing those who are so without conscience as to seek political advantage in lying about this carnage only needs to be AMPED UP.

As on some other key previous occasions, I think it will turn out that those in the entwined liberal behemoth of media and depraved partisan hacks have vastly overreached, in their eagerness to take advantage of tragedy for political gain. Americans can see what happened — average Americans know the difference between mental illness and political motives — and can see the great gap between what the media has been telling them versus what the reality is. Already at a very low ebb, the respect of Americans for liberal mouthpiece TV networks and the liberal print media will have been diminished even further. And attempts by Democratic politicians — including President Obama should he go in that direction — to use this event as a cudgel to batter conservatives will backfire dramatically.


Once again, it is a true crying shame that we’re talking politics in the wake of this. It has all been utterly unnecessary and a complete distraction from the question of how to prevent future tragedy born of the same cause.

UPDATE 01/12/11: New information on how Loughner could and should have been stopped: Finally, a fact: Jared Loughner and the Tucson shooting.

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