We now know that Jared Lee Loughner, mass murderer and would-be assassin of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was not a Tea Party member, a Rush Limbaugh dittohead, a Sarah Palin campaign worker or a subscriber to Glenn Beck’s Fusion magazine.   And we all agree that he is crazy: Except me.   He isn’t crazy, he is depraved[1]:  morally bad or debased; corrupt; perverted.

As I have suggested on earlier occasions, our culture has a tendency to expect that anybody who commits multiple murders must be an insane man, a lunatic, someone who “snapped”, or a person who is mentally unstable.  This is a sign we have bought the lie that evil in its worst forms does not exist.     There is no doubt what the Tucson killer did is sickening.   But sick?  No.  We try to cure the sick; or if incurable, we have pity on them.   We certainly don’t punish people when they are sick.

If there are many people killed or the crime is particularly bloody, we are even less likely to identify the killer as wicked.  The worse the crime, the less likely it was one of “us” who did it.  It was one of “them.” It is doubtful Loughner’s court appointed attorney, Judy Clarke, will hesitate a moment to use an insanity defense.  And why should she?  All the news stories and pundits couldn’t be wrong, could they?  It is true, that a good Arizona prosecutor could still squeeze the death penalty out of a jury, but the pool of potential jurors untainted by the mass publicity may be nearly impossible to find.  When is the last time a mass murderer[2] got the death penalty?

One writer wants us to be careful not to confuse being a “nut job” with what she thinks is Loughner’s real problem:  he has a mental illness.

The “ax-murderer” profile is hard to miss.

Loughner was a loner.   What does that mean?   Unless somebody kills somebody, people like him are called “shy”.  And if he was a loner, where did the press find all of these friends like Bryce Tierney, who knew him well enough to go to his house and read his journal. A young man who lived across the street (son of Roxanne Osler) was a friend, too.

Loughner was weird. When we look at Loughner’s online YouTube videos or MySpace profile it is easy in hindsight to label him a “whack job”.   But there are probably hundreds of thousands of anarchists and members of the Goth community whose pages are just as weird.  Some of these folks may the kind of folks ripe to become Hitler’s Youth, but they are hardly crazy.  You can see scores of estranged youth in the halls of the local high school or community college.

Odd behavior does seem to be insanity.   But if any of our lives were watched up close (especially mine) they might conclude we are insane.   Why do some people only acquainted with the killer say they knew something like this was going to happen (but never managed to tell anybody who matters!) while other people are shocked when they hear a co-worker, friend, or family member goes on a shooting rampage?  It is because no one wants to think normal people like them would do such things.  Hindsight brings out details that seemed irrelevant at the time because those behaviors occur in the lives of people around us every day and often in our own lives.

But Loughner’s smiling face on a head-shaved mug shot (where everybody sees a mad man) could have been taken from almost any bald man’s driver’s license and certainly any mug shot from those accused of jaywalking.  If you think he looks insane in that picture, you are seeing things.  You are super-imposing your knowledge of what he did onto his face[3].

In the picture I chose for this article at the top, the guy on the left is not the “insane” accused, but his “normal” classmate shown being interviewed on Fox News, talking about the accused. (Image from the Sean Hannity show). Loughner is on the right side.

Loughner’s family was strange.  Sometimes this nonsense carries over to the families of the perpetrators.  Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, head of enforcement in the county where the shootings took place, called the Loughner’s a “somewhat dysfunctional family” but without a shred of evidence anybody in the family ever did anything illegal, immoral, or out of the ordinary, prior to the shootings.   But normal wouldn’t fit the template.

I need to make three clarifications.

First, I do believe there is such a thing as insanity, but it is not a sickness.  To a degree, all acceptance of unreality is a touch of insanity. It is confused thinking.   There is no indication that Loughner thought himself to be in a dream, believed he was Jesus, or heard voices telling him to kill people.

Second, none of this means I believe other factors don’t have an impact on whether a person is more or less inclined to do horrendous acts of violence.  What people read, watch, or think about; how they are raised, and who they hang out with, all might make a difference.   But none of these things reduce the culpability of the criminal.

Third, being evil is no more an excuse to commit murder, than being deranged is.  Every one of us is capable of doing the same things as Loughner, but we don’t and most of us never will.  We cannot lock people up for what they are capable of doing, or we would all be locked up.

I understand the tendency to disassociate ourselves from reality.  But we are insane if we do so.


[1] Less than ten web news articles refer to him as depraved.

[2] I make the distinction here between mass murderer who kills a large number of people at once and a serial killer who kills a large number of people over time.

[3] Take a brief look by searching Google images of “mug shots” and you will quickly see what I mean.

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15 comments
  1. When I see this man, and the videos, and all of the information. I believe we have someone who is a severe attention seeker. Someone wanting to be different and acknowledged, but could not. The only difference between him and the kid with purple hair, is that one is able to figure out how to get the attention that they want in a healthier manner than the other. I also believe that his garbled and loopy messages in his videos are a direct indicator of the kind of scatter brained thinking that plagues most schizophrenics. Jared is hearing voices and seeing people in a surreal dream-life that he had contained probably fairly well. This was the breaking point, this is what we call, a cry for help.

    As for the mugshot, Ive had them taken before, and I never smirked. It’s just not the kind of time where you should be happy, unless you are satisfied with the attention you’ve received.

    1. He’s not crazy. He is evil and nasty. A mass murderer. Look at his gross face really makes me scare. Please don’t let this nutjob get away. Capital punishment is way too good for this evil dude.

    2. Good point about the strangeness of smiling during a mug shot taken after you’ve been arrested for killing six people. But that likely means he is a hard-hearted unrepentant murderer, not necessarily crazy.

  2. Completely agree, I called him crazy but that wasn’t an excuse for his behavior. He is depraved.

    But Romans 3 and Ephesians 2 (and many other passages) makes it pretty clear that we all are/were that way.

    And you are right the media won’t describe him that way. It doesn’t fit their worldview.

  3. Good comment. It’s true enough: thinking that this is a normal guy, coming out from a normal family, scares people. Now, we should think about what “normal” is. Is normal good? Or is normal the usual setup? The common? Put like this the “functional family” is probably much further away from normal than the “somewhat dysfuntional”.
    See, the same way people try to explain what happened in Hitler Germany. He was insane, they say, and so were all his helpers. Oh yeah? I say, he wasn’t and neither were the thousands that made the massacres possible. Just like all the thousands that came after WWII and committed massacres are not insane. The truth, terrifying as it may be, is that violence, even abhorrent violence, in within every one of us.
    Normally we don’t act on it, though.

  4. Stipulated: That all people are depraved.

    Not stipulated: All depraved people are guilty of homicide.

    However, those who are guilty of homicide should be quickly and publicly executed and their memories forever referred to derisively. And any perverters/delayers of this swift justice should be charged with obstruction thereof and punished accordingly.

  5. Stipulated: That all people are depraved.

    Not stipulated: All depraved people are guilty of homicide.

    However, those who are guilty of homicide should be quickly and publicly executed and their memories forever referred to derisively. And any perverters/delayers of this swift justice should be charged with obstruction thereof and punished accordingly.

  6. David,
    your comment brought tears, because I felt hope for the first time in a long time… That people aren’t as brainwashed by media as I feared. I totally agree with you… this is a matter of wickedness, not insanity. There has to be accountability for what all of us do, bent or not bent like this guy Jared. But it’s truth that brings us out of the darkness. If we keep believing the lies that are coming at us from our gov. and media there’s no hope. Thanks David for making my day.

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