When news first broke of the shooting spree that left six dead in Arizona, the only thing liberals seemed to care about was the killer's motive. They almost instantly surmised, without any evidence at all, that the cause of this massacre was some kind of right-wing extremism for which they could blame Sarah Palin, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Party movement.
As more and more evidence pointed away from their explanation of choice, however, liberals seemed to lose interest in finding clues to the political framework of the madness that police say caused 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner to target Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
In a story on the front page of today's Washington Post, for example, three staff writers expend 2,756 words describing Loughner's descent into murderous madness. Among other things, the Post story describes marathon Monopoly games, Loughern's early promise as a jazz saxophonist, his love of sci-fi novels by Philip K. Dick and his breakup with his high-school girlfriend. But in all those 2,756 words -- yes, I counted -- there is one important word that is missing: Zeitgeist.
That's the name of a 2007 documentary that has developed a cult following among conspiracy theorists. Among other things, Zeitgeist attacks Christianity as "the fraud of the age," suggests that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job perpetrated by sinister forces in the U.S. government, depicts international bankers scheming for world domination, and warns against malign plots to embed computer chips in people. In an interview that aired Wednesday on ABC News, Loughner's former friend Zach Osler said, "I really think that this Zeitgeist documentary had a profound impact upon Jared Loughner's mindset and how he views the world that he lives in."
Despite this clue from Osler, even though the entire two hours of Zeitgeist are available online -- I've embedded it at my personal blog, in case you want to see it -- it doesn't rate a mention from the Washington Post. Nor do any other major media seem interested in following up on the worldwide "Zeitgeist Movement," which involves the so-called "Venus Project," the utopian socialist fantasy of 94-year-old Jaque Fresco.
As Jesse Walker of Reason magazine says, Loughner's "profound" interest in Zeitgeist "clears things up a bit" in regard to the murder suspect's incoherent online ramblings about monetary theory:
The best label would probably be "New Age paranoia." If you've ever gone browsing in an occult bookstore (and you really should; it's like browsing in a science fiction bookstore, only the authors really believe the stories they're writing, or pretend to), you may have seen a shelf labeled "conspiracies" right alongside the sections marked "astrology" or "Tarot." People who write about fringe politics often miss the extent to which New Agers serve as a transmission belt, allowing ideas from the left, the right, and the counterculture -- not to mention more outré folks like the UFO buffs -- to slide from one subculture to another.
While it would be unfair to say that Jaque Fresco and Zeitgeist director Peter Joseph caused Saturday's atrocity, Loughner's obsession with this atheistic paranoid gobbledygook is probably the closest we're going to get to a political explanation of the Tucson shootings.
And let the reader imagine what the Washington Post would have written if the accused gunman's friend had told a network news crew that Loughner was an avid reader of The American Spectator and that R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. had a "profound impact" on his worldview.
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