by Roger Koppl
Mother Jones, hardly a right-wing rag, interviewed a friend of Loughner. It seems that Loughner had a grudge against Giffords after she failed to give him a satisfactory answer to a question he put to her at an earlier event. Loughner told his friend that he had asked Giffords, “What is government if words have no meaning?” Loughner’s unfortunate concerns with grammar may or may not be connected to the ideas of Wynn Miller who is generally considered to be on the right. But it seems a stretch to say that such an influence shows that right-wing rhetoric incited Loughner to violence.
In any event, we should avoid loony logical leaps. And how else am I to describe the reasoning of Mark Potok? On the NPR program “To the Point,” Potok noted that Loughner’s reading list included Ayn Rand’s We the Living, The Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf, Animal Farm, and 1984.
From this list Potok draws the inference that Loughner was under the influence of “anti-government” thinking. Really. I’m not kidding. He says, “I think that the consistent theme through those books is anti-government or, you know . . viewing . . . it’s sort of the individual against the totalitarian state, the tyrannical government.” The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels calls for a great expansion of state power, and it was a leading text for the totalitarian regimes of Soviet Russia and Maoist China. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler expresses the political ideology of the world’s most notorious totalitarian system, Nazi Gemany. I cannot understand how such works can become “anti-government” books in the mysterious mind of Mark Potok. If you click on the site, listen from 18:35 to 19:30.
Potok’s loony remarks were no mere slip. In an essay for The Huffington Post, Potok says, “I would argue that that’s the way Loughner seems to be reading The Communist Manifesto and Hitler’s Mein Kampf — as variants of a kind of generalized ‘smash the state’ attitude.” This interpretation of Loughner supports Potok’s conclusion that Loughner “likely absorbed some of his anger from the vitriolic political atmosphere in the United States in general and Arizona in particular.”
How is it possible that Potok could make such a loony logical leap and what does it say about American politics today?