Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reading Loughner or How to Talk Past One Another

12 January 2011

It seems to me that, at least in part, the disagreements over whether the "fevered rhetoric" of the American moment impacted Jared Loughner, the individual who killed and wounded several people recently in Tucson, Arizona including a federal judge and a congressperson, is grounded in different approaches. Those who say there is a connection to the "fevered rhetoric" and Loughner's actions tend to ground their arguments, consciously or non-consciously, in broader contexts. Those who question this connection tend to be postulants of cause and effect deductivism and want to see specific rhetoric causing specific actions (Loughner saying he wanted to kill Congressperson Giffords because of Palin's crosshairs map). They are, as is often the case, talking past one another.

My problem with the causal arguments are many. First, real life is usually not so neat as positivists would like as Rickert, Husserl and others noted long ago. Second, Loughner's rhetoric of "currency" and discourse as power is social and cultural and political. If this "talk" is an evidence of "madness" then it is fully social and cultural and political because, as numerous commentators have pointed out, language is social and cultural and political and it is through social and cultural and political language that we express ourselves. Third, the ability of someone like Loughner to obtain a gun is, in part, a political issue. Fourth, the way we treat mental illness is, at least in part, a political issue.

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