Of all the ink spilled so far over Jared Loughner’s shooting in the head of a Jewish congresswoman, Gabriella Giffords, the Mother Jones interview with Loughner’s long time friend, Bryce Tierne, is, I think, most illuminating, particularly with regard to Loughner’s underlying obsessions:
As Loughner and Tierney grew closer, Tierney got used to spending the first ten minutes or so of every day together arguing with Loughner’s “nihilist” view of the world. “By the time he was 19 or 20, he was really fascinated with semantics and how the world is really nothing—illusion,” Tierney says. Once, Tierney recalls, Loughner told him, “I’m pretty sure I’ve come to the conclusion that words mean nothing.” Loughner would also tell Tierney and his friends that life “means nothing,” and they’d reply, “If it means nothing, what you’re saying means nothing.”
So, before collapsing headlong into psychosis and violence, Jared Loughner had nursed a Weltanschauung—a worldview—and that worldview was atheism of the nihilistic variety. He was a Dostoevskian “underground man”; a Raskolnikov atheist ruminating on semantics and nihilism. Tierney also says Loughner was percolating a longstanding hatred toward his congressional district’s representative, Gabriella Giffords, and possessed a serious inclination to play Heath Ledger’s Joker for real:
Since hearing of the rampage, Tierney has been trying to figure out why Loughner did what he allegedly did. “More chaos, maybe,” he says. “I think the reason he did it was mainly to just promote chaos. He wanted the media to freak out about this whole thing. He wanted exactly what’s happening. He wants all of that.” Tierney thinks that Loughner’s mindset was like the Joker in the most recent Batman movie: “He fucks things up to fuck shit up, there’s no rhyme or reason, he wants to watch the world burn. He probably wanted to take everyone out of their monotonous lives: ‘Another Saturday, going to go get groceries’—to take people out of these norms that he thought society had trapped us in.”
This may be an incorrect speculation on the part of Loughner’s friend, but it all sounds plausible to me. At this point, I would lay blame for the incident with the following:
- The general Arizona Tea Party climate of hostility surrounding Giffords (which unstable people are particularly prone to pick up on).
- Loughner’s atheist nihilism.
- His easy access to a semi-automatic weapon.
- His descent into madness.
All this made for an abysmal stew. If Barack Obama is assassinated in office it will, no doubt, come from an “underground man” like Loughner.
Source for Dostoevsky image: Wikipedia Commons.