Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

On the Tucson Massacre

On the Tucson Massacre

By Barry M. Dank

The mantra of too many people weighing in on the Tucson killer is the idea that such persons and their acts are inexplicable, random acts of madmen. Any invocation that Jared Loughner’s behavior has any sort of political or social underpinning is discarded.

However, it would be preposterous to say that killers of the Laughner genre are not influenced by words.  Whether we like it or not they are a part of the same human condition of which we are a part.  People who engage in mass or serial killings have been influenced by toxic environments which function to both create and focus feelings of anger, hostility, worthlessness and powerlessness.

For some, homicidal ideation and fantasies never lead to lethal behavior.  Simple possession of guns, even an arsenal of guns may serve as a power gratification which may never lead to any lethal behavior.  However, whether one goes beyond fantasy thinking may very well depend on the social context of which one is a part.

For Laughner it appears that he developed a grudge toward Gabrielle Griffins in 2007; yet it was not until 2011 that said grudge was apparently activated into an act of violence. It therefore becomes relevant to ask what were the environments that Laughner was exposed to in recent years.

I suggest that the environment of the 2010 campaign for congress between Jesse Kelly and Gabrielle Giffords might have lead to a violent reaction by Laughner.  During October 2010 until the November election, Giffords was subject to a continual barrage of degrading rhetoric from Jesse Kelly.  Such reached a crescendo when on October 9 Kelly stated to a rally of Tucson Tea Partiers- “Aren’t you tired of having people spit in your face. You know what we do about people who spit in your face; we make them unemployed in November. (To fully appreciate the Kelly tirade against Giffords, please click the link.)

People of the psyche of the Tucson killer are likely to have felt that people have spat in their face their entire lives. Kelly creates Giffords as a symbol of the degrading other.  The rhetoric of Kelly  could have functioned to legitimize and intensify Laughner’s irrational hatred of Giffords.

But Kelly did present a way out for people like Laughner who feel disenchanted and alienated.  Their way out was the election of Jesse Kelly; Kelly promised that if elected they would never be left out.

Such was not to be since Kelly lost the election.  In late November Laughner bought an automatic weapon. And Laughner used his first opportunity to shoot Giffords and anybody else in her vicinity on January 8.

The scenario presented is of a speculative nature, but certainly not beyond the realm of possibility, not beyond the mind of the delusional and unstable.  And certainly not a part of a well thought out political agenda.

It should be made clear that I do not think that Jesse Kelly and others of his political genre have any legal responsibility for the shooting, but I believe that Jesse Kelly and all politicians have a responsibility in the moral sense of creating a climate which is inhospitable to haters.

Nor should censorship ever be invoked in political campaigns.

What should be invoked is self-restraint and a moral condemnation of persons who engage in irresponsible rhetoric.

January 11, 2011 Posted by | assassination, Gabrielle Giffords, Jared Loughner, political violence, Tucson, Uncategorized | 1 Comment


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