Jonah Goldberg

In the wake of the horrendous shooting rampage in Tucson, why isn't anyone talking about banning "Mein Kampf"? Or "The Communist Manifesto"? Or for that matter, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "The Phantom Tollbooth"?

After all, unlike Sarah Palin's absurdly infamous Facebook map with crosshairs on congressional districts that some pundits have blamed for the violence, we have some evidence -- suspect Jared Lee Loughner's own words -- that these books were a direct influence on him.

And to listen to partisan ghouls such as Keith Olbermann exploiting this horrific crime, any rhetoric or writing or images that contributed to it must be stopped, and those who don't accept blame and then repent (specifically Palin) must be "dismissed from politics."

Note: It's apparent from evidence found by the authorities and from interviews with the alleged killer's friends and acquaintances that Loughner has fixated on Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords since 2007, long before anyone heard of the "tea parties" or, in most cases, Palin. Moreover, his grievance with Giffords appears to be unrelated to any coherent -- or even incoherent -- ideological platform. Rather, it drew on the bilious stew of resentments this young man cultivated as he lost his grip on reality.

Indeed, according to a fascinating interview in Mother Jones with one of Loughner's close friends, this twisted soul was apparently an ardent believer in "lucid dreaming" in which he could control an alternate "'Matrix-style" reality.

Something similar seems to be taking hold in more respectable quarters. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman insists he wasn't surprised this happened because he saw it coming, even though the facts in this dimension don't support his premonitions.

But rather than beat up on those who've migrated from the reality-based community, it might be worthwhile to take them at their word.

If these people seriously believe that the tea parties and Palin's "lock and load" rhetoric are to blame, then what shall we do about it?

It's hard to find a serious answer to this question. For most of these ideological ambulance chasers, it seems enough to lay the blame at Republican or right-wing feet in an effort to anathematize ideas they don't like.

But that's shortsighted. Misplaced panics like this have a momentum and logic all their own. Already, Rep. Bob Brady (D-Pa.) has drafted legislation to ban the use of symbols (crosshairs on a map, for instance) or language ("lock and load!") that could foster violence. "The rhetoric is just ramped up so negatively, so high, that we have got to shut this down," he told CNN.

That opens the bidding. The question is, where will it end?


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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