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Loughner Influenced by Conspiracy Movie "Zeitgeist": How Fearmongers and Conspiracy Theorists on the Right Encourage Violence

Conspiracy theories have always been around. The difference is their mainstreaming by politicians and pundits on the right.

Michelle Goldberg tells us in this must-read article, about Jared Loughner's obsession with a conspiracy theory "documentary" which includes many of the oddball concepts in Loughner's videos.

We now know a little bit more about the matrix of ideas that helped inspire Jared Loughner’s murderous rampage on Saturday. According to a friend of his interviewed on Good Morning America on Wednesday, the conspiracy documentary Zeitgeist “poured gasoline on his fire” and had “a profound impact on Jared Loughner's mindset and how he views the world that he lives in.” He was also, according to his friend’s father, influenced by the documentary Loose Change , a classic of the 9/11 Truth movement. This does not mean that either of these movies is responsible for making Loughner do what he did, but it does show how his madness was shaped by a broader climate of paranoia, and offers a clue as to why he targeted Gabrielle Giffords.

According to his friend, Zach Osler, Loughner “didn't listen to political radio, he didn't take sides, he wasn't on the left, he wasn't on the right.” Naturally, conservatives have seized upon this to exonerate themselves of charges of incitement. But it’s not that simple. It’s hard to place Zeitgeist and Loose Change on the conventional partisan spectrum—both come from a shadowy conspiracy-mad subculture where the far right and the far left meet. Yet it’s the contemporary right, the right of Glenn Beck and the Tea Party, that has mainstreamed ideas from this demimonde in an unprecedented way.

She goes on to explain radio conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' role in promoting these two films and it reminded me of an email I got from someone last week-end after the shooting in which a reader said that somebody ought to take a look at Jones. Apparently, a lot of the weird incoherence of Loughner's vids is familiar to people who are aware of the Jones ouvre. Goldberg writes of Jones:

His political hero is Ron Paul—he runs RonPaulWarRoom.com, and Paul is a frequent guest on his radio show. But until recently, most conservatives disdained him. In 2007, Michelle Malkin argued that Paul’s association with Jones was enough to disqualify the congressman from participating in GOP primary debates.

Since then, though, Republican politics have become a lot more paranoid. Tea Party groups and Fox News started echoing Jones’ warnings that the swine flu virus was really a pretext to establish martial law. Lou Dobbs went on Jones’ show in 2008 to discuss the coming North American Union.[ Senator Rand Paul is on board with that one --- ed. ]...

People who study the right have worried for months about the consequences of paranoid beliefs about treasonous government plots. In 2009, Berlet authored a report titled, “Toxic to Democracy: Conspiracy Theories, Demonization and Scapegoating.” It traced the history and dissemination of the kind of conspiracy theories floating around the right, and said, “People who believe conspiracist allegations sometimes act on those irrational beliefs, and this has concrete consequences in the real world.

Conspiracy theories have always been around. The difference, as Dave Neiwert explained in his book The Eliminationsts is the mainstreaming of it in the greater society, particularly under the auspices of "news" networks and politicians. Beck is clearly the king of this nonsense, with his blackboard of allegedly interconnecting relationships and credulous reporting of "Fema camps" and Soros conspiracies. As Goldberg points out in her piece, Beck's book The Overton Window , is nothing more than a novelized Alex Jones conspiracy theory.

One might have thought an incident like this would ring enough bells to make the mainstream right feel the do a little soul searching, but it's clear that's not going to happen. Indeed, they are very busy scapegoating the left, and as usual, the public as a consequence ends up believing that each side is equally to blame and putting a pox on both their houses. They are not going to back off.

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