Extremist Radical, Or Just A Nut?

Both, says expert Mark Potok, who suspects anti-government rhetoric, not anti-Semitism, affected alleged Arizona shooter.

01/11/11
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An internal Department of Homeland Security memo obtained by Fox News says that accused Arizona shooter Jared Loughner is “possibly connected” to American Renaissance, a group that describes itself on its website as committed to “the study of all aspects of race, whether historical, cultural, or biological. This approach is known as race realism.”

The DHS memo, as cited by Fox, said the “group’s ideology is anti government, anti immigration, anti ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti Semitic.” It notes that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords “is the first Jewish female elected to such a high position in the US government. She was also opposite this group’s ideology when it came to immigration debate.”

On Sunday, Jared Taylor, editor of the American Renaissance website, wrote in a post on the site that “no one by the name of Loughner has ever been a subscriber to American Renaissance or has ever registered for an American Renaissance conference. We have no evidence that he has even visited the AR website.” He also insisted “AR is not anti-government, anti-Semitic, or anti-ZOG, as is clear from the 20 years of back issues that are posted on our website. The expression ‘ZOG’ has never appeared in the pages of AR, and we have always welcomed Jewish participation in our work. Many of the speakers at American Renaissance conferences have been Jewish.”

Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, who keeps close tabs on extremist groups and has reviewed Loughner’s Internet trail, believes the suspect was likely not motivated by hate but is a troubled man who latched onto anti-government rhetoric. The Jewish Week spoke to Potok on Monday as the nation sought out answers about the tragedy.

Was the suspect connected to hate groups?

I know of absolutely no connection of Jared Loughner to any groups. It seems very likely he absorbed some of the more far-out ideas of the radical right via the Internet, like this idea of the government controlling people through grammar, which is extremely unusual even on the fringe of the fringe.

The report of some internal e-mail from DHS is making the claim that he was connected to American Renaissance. All I can say is I don’t see any connection after looking at everything out there, although maybe they saw something I didn’t. It is not an anti-Jewish group; it’s an anti-black group.

Aren’t such groups interconnected?

Not in this case. The American Renaissance has explicitly rejected anti-Semitism. In any case, in reading through this person’s material I did not see anything that suggested anti-Semitism.

What about his citation of “Mein Kampf” in his YouTube profile?

My own take on his readings when you look at those books together [“Mein Kampf,” the “Communist Manifesto” and Ayn Rand’s “We The Living”] they’re about the individual versus the state, a tyrannical, oppressive government. That’s a weird reading of “Mein Kampf” … he is hardly an intellectual or even a consistent political thinker. My own sense is that he is mentally ill and seems to have absorbed some ideas from the radical right.

Could those ideas have pushed him over the edge?

Perhaps you can say the ideas affected him and whom he killed and the target he selected. Otherwise he may have ended up shooting up an elementary school or a post office or a mall. The fact that the target was the highest official of the federal government near him means it was very likely sparked by something. Maybe the kind of words he saw on the Internet made him feel that behind all evil in the world was the federal government.

Had you heard of Jared Loughner before Saturday?

We didn’t know him at all.

Is there any indication that he was influenced by the tone and rhetoric of conservative political commentators?

There is nothing to suggest that.

Last Update:

01/16/2011 - 10:44

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The intellectual dishonesty of this article is very alarming, Mr. Dickter. First of all, why is this piece, which blames the Tucson shooting on Sarah Palin and allegedly violent right-wing rhetoric a "news" story, yet this piece from Tuesday (http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial_opinion/editorial/tucson_no_rush_judgment), which cogently argues against reaching such a rushed and unsubstantiated conclusion, is relegated to the "Opinion" page? Secondly, you misleadingly failed to identify Mark Potok and his Southern Poverty Law Center as an unabashed far-left organization. This SPLC has a sordid history of magically finding "right-wing extremism" under every rock and pebble. "Expert" Potok's agenda, like too many in our media this past week, was not to look for real answers to the shooting, but rather to politicize it for their own personal gain. And you willingly gave him the forum to do so. Finally, the title and subheader of your article (which is an *opinion,* and an incorrect one in my view) is completely at odds with the article's final sentences (which are arguably *facts*). Compare: Title and subhead: Extremist Radical, Or Just A Nut? Both, says expert Mark Potok, who suspects anti-government rhetoric, not anti-Semitism, affected alleged Arizona shooter. Last two sentences: Is there any indication that he was influenced by the tone and rhetoric of conservative political commentators? There is nothing to suggest that. So which is it? Clearly many people who glance at the blaring title and subhead will believe they've learned all the need to about the topic at hand, and move on without ever getting to the bottom of the article which completely contradicts it. Sorry, but I expected better journalism from TJW. http://vocalminority.typepad.com The Jewish Republican's Web Sanctuary
Jared actually means "he who descended" in Hebrew, although that doesn't prove his religious origins. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jared
@ Sid it was reported in Mother Jones that one his friends told the reporter that the mentally ill shooter told him that his mother was Jewish.There is no corroboration of this from anyone else. In any event it has been found not to be a hate crime as stated in this article.So what is point to bring up an unsubstantiated claim that now has blown up on hate sites claiming his parents attended synagogues in Tuscon which no one has ,but these hate sites has claimed.When i asked them for a link they had none.
It has now been widely reported (although not by the mainstream media) that Jared Loughner's mother is Jewish and attends the same small Reform synagogue as the unfortunate Rep Giffords. Might it not have been relevant to mention this in your article?
When Reagan was shot were people suggesting that was due to liberal or leftist rhetoric? Charles Krauthammer has an excellent opinion piece in the Washington Post outlining that this guy was mentally ill and actually first encountered Gifford in 2007 & felt slighted by a response she gave. "One of Loughner's friends told the Journal that during his first meeting with Giffords in 2007, Loughner, who "really tried to be philosophical," got "aggravated" when he asked Giffords, "How do you know words mean anything?" and she paused for a few seconds, then "responded to him in Spanish and moved on with the meeting." Another friend of Loughner's described the shooter as holding a years-long grudge against Giffords and repeatedly calling her out as a "fake." http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2011/01/tuscon_shooters_obsession_with.html?f=most-commented-24h-10

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