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If this goes on…

The problem with mentally ill people is that they are mentally ill.

Their thinking isn’t rational. They don’t go from “a” to “b” to “c” as most people do. Rather, they go from “a” to “orange” by a process that makes absolutely no sense. When their illness produces violence, which it can do in certain situations if left unnoticed or untreated, there isn’t a purely rational reason for the rampage, a one to one correlation between thought, intent and action. The environment contributes but it doesn’t cause.

I bring all that up as everyone races to find the cause of Jared Lee Loughner’s assassination exercise in Arizona. Everyone wants this to be directly about the increasingly shrill and violent language and imagery used primarily by the Right to advance their point of view. I don’t think it’s fair to say that Beck’s language, Palin’s imagery or Angle’s revolutionary rhetoric caused an unbalanced and severely ill person to pick up a gun, an extended ammo clip, a box of bullets from Walmart and walk into a crowd and kill a mess of people.  Violent imagery isn’t the root cause of a paranoid schizophrenic’s violence. Untreated mental illness is.

But that doesn’t mean Beck, Palin and Angle or anyone else you can think of gets off scot-free. Far from it.

As fans of some pretty out-there imagery, doorQs know how quickly horror films or video games get blamed for murders and mayhem, when there just isn’t any corresponding evidence to back that up. We don’t need such things to be violent; we’re pretty good with it on our own. For most of us, the violence in video games, the terror in horror films, the monsters in SF movies, are a place to let out our aggressions. It doesn’t fuel them, but channels and satiates them, in constructive, or at the very least, non-destructive, ways. It’s fiction and fantasy. We all know that. And while we might wish the world were otherwise, we know very well that blowing someone away with a gun isn’t the right thing to do. Fiction is fiction and reality is another beast altogether.

But it’s when that intent to harm, when that desire to harm, is taken by presumably sane people from the realm of fantasy and used as a common factor in everyday discourse about real world problems and situations, that problems arise. And for that, the Palins, Becks and Angles of the country are more than culpable.

We’ve reached a point now where disagreements over priorities are labeled, not just by outlier personalities but much of the rank and file, as treasonous behavior. Where the intent to resort to violence to those who disagree politically is a selling point and not a deal breaker. Where an entire 24 hour news network is devoted not to illumination of issues — colored by conviction or no — but to obfuscation and out and out lies.

Loughner didn’t do what he did because of the rhetoric of the Palins, Becks and Angles. But what Loughner did is what that rhetoric says one should do. You can’t endlessly advocate for violence and be surprised when people point out that’s what you’ve been doing.

And, sometime in the future, you can’t be outraged when someone “sane” follows through on those calls for violence.

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  1. reymoart says
    January 22, 2011, 6:30 am

    I read that Loughner was seriously affected by the movie “Zeitgeist” (which chronicles the theories that Christianity is based on other older religions that were based in astrology, the U.S. government is purposely using our current economic system to enslave everyone and working with other powers towards forming a global economy, and that it creates wars intentionally for profit and to help achieve the global economy – or something along those lines).

    I know you mention that horror movies and violent games, etc. shouldn’t be blamed for a persons mental issues, but after watching the movie Zeitgeist I can understand how that particular film would definitely add to a person’s instability. It seems to breakdown a person’s belief in God, fuels a mistrust of the government, and makes you not want to be a part of productive society (in the form of working for money – because then you feel like you are being used a slave).

    Even though I agree that violent fiction (in the form of movies, music, games, etc.) aren’t to blame, I’m not so sure about Zeitgeist. It presents everything as fact and is very believable. I’m still on the fence about a lot of what it said, but it did make me feel uneasy and aroused a lot of questions and suspicions. I wish I had never seen it, and when I read that he bought in to everything it said I understood better why he had this mental breakdown.

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  2. January 23, 2011, 11:51 pm

    The thing about deep and serious mental illness, which Loughner in my opinion has, is that you aren’t every really acting ”rationally.” You can’t tie his behavior to anything, other than that he simply wasn’t being treated with needed medicine and therapy for a pronounced disease.

    Beyond that, I can’t countenance censorship, no matter how silly or conspiratorial. People need to be free to express whatever is on their mind. I, in turn, need to be just as free to ridicule such silliness for the utter tripe it is, as ”Zeitgeist” sounds to be. 🙂

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