Jared Lee Loughner, charged with Saturday’s shootings, has invoked his right to silence, leaving us ignorant of his motives. Sources disagree on his politics — an acquaintance calls him an “extreme” liberal; a government memo links him to a “racial-realist” journal (one that denies any ties to him). His online writings point to an unhinged mind. But though much remains unclear, people are withdrawing some of their first theories, which rashly labeled the shootings a Tea Party / Republican plot.
Replacing those accusations is a broader look at how the shooter may have responded to intense political rhetoric. Critics again blame the right-wing, mainly Sarah Palin, whose PAC last year produced an image with crosshairs on congressional seats such as Giffords’. It was only a slight escalation from the usual manner of treating politics as war (Targeted districts, swiftboating, battleground states, political campaigns).