Initial reports described Loughner as a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and a possible member of the Tea Party, or at least a far right wing sympathizer.
Unfortunately for the media projectionists who created this scenario, it turns out that Loughner was only a taxi rider, and not the taxi driver of their assumptions (and fervent wishes).
The 50-some-year-old “person of interest” who was projected to be a possible co-conspirator turned out to be an actual real life taxi driver. He did his job and unknowingly delivered a homegrown American taxi rider, likely suffering from a homegrown variety of psychiatric disorders, to the Safeway in Tucson.
Loughner, a habitual long-term pot smoker, once tried but failed in his attempt to join the United States military. Somehow this fact was turned inside out and upside down and made him a war vet, one of the top characteristics of another favorite media boogeyman, the “lone wolf.”
Let’s consider some actual facts about the clinical connection between street drugs such as Loughner’s favorite, marijuana, and the development of schizophrenia among other psychoses. Research on www.schizophrenia.com cites more than 30 separate scientific studies showing a “significantly increased probability of developing psychosis and schizophrenia” in individuals who chronically use street drugs such as marijuana.
“Experts estimate that between 8 percent and 13 percent of all schizophrenia cases are linked to marijuana/cannabis use during teen years,” the website states.
Diaz Dixon, the CEO of Step2, a substance abuse treatment program in Reno for women and children, reinforced the high risk for the development of mental illness in individuals who abuse alcohol and drugs.
“Drugs and alcohol can trigger mental illness in anyone who has any mental health issues at all, which is a majority of people,” he said. “Eventually something’s got to give.”
We can all agree that as far as Loughner is concerned, it appears that something did indeed “give” leaving an unimaginable trail of carnage. Of course, the connection between his chronic pot use and a possible raging psychotic disorder is just an educated guess when it comes to the alleged Arizona shooter. We can only guess the extensive notes being made by doctors dissecting the casserole of chemical reasons behind his shooting rampage and his now infamous, chilling mug shot. I’m guessing it’s a pretty hefty medical record based on the media interviews of the taxi rider’s acquaintances. Read the stories from Loughner’s former classmates about violent poems featuring bombs strapped to babies and classmates who intentionally sat near the door with the assumption that, due to his inherent creepiness, he would eventually become the subject of breaking news. The filter between our reality and Loughner’s clearly needed replacing. This should have been an open and shut case as far as motive was concerned from the beginning.
However, rather than citing these obvious motives, the media chose to send the search party in a different direction for some dirt that better serves their political assumptions. One rabid reporter actually scaled Loughner’s fence, one hand clinging to the fence post, the other to his microphone, apparently looking for a pile of Tea Party signs in the backyard.
The media had some help though. Within an hour after the massacre, the level-headed, reasonable voice of authority, Pima County Sherriff Clarence Dupnik, had it all figured out. Based on his collection of no evidence and having absolutely no clear idea of what had just happened, Dupnik announced Loughner’s motive as “the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths on talk radio,” adding that Arizona had become “the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”
There is an old sarcastic saying that goes like this, “Let’s not confuse the issue with facts.” The issue here seems to be that there are many editors, legislators, talking heads and a certain ignorant sheriff that hoped Loughner was the right wing Tea Party “nut case” of their fantasies. The fact that he has not turned out to be this mythical figure has not deterred the narrative from being projected forth. The show continues.
Christine Whitmarsh is the owner of local writing firm Christine, Ink. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.