By Monday, The New York Times’ editorial page had kicked into action. It conceded that, sure, Loughner operated “well beyond usual ideological categories,” but, still, it was “legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge.” The Los Angeles Times followed suit. It admitted that, sure, Loughner and “his own demons were primarily to blame,” but it still condemned the “increasingly incendiary and violent rhetoric that characterizes today’s political debate,” for which “the right bears the brunt of responsibility.” Meanwhile, dozens of opinion writers were busily adding related but equally ethereal musings to the heap. Writing in the Guardian, blogger Jessica Valenti blamed a “country that sees masculinity—especially violent masculinity—as the ideal.”
There is of course one advantage to all such lines of argument, if argument is the word for it. They are entirely faith-based, which makes them pretty much irrefutable. But faith-based punditry works in more than one direction. Seven years after the massacre at Columbine High School—in which two senior students shot and killed twelve students and a teacher—CBS News invited Brian Rohrbough, who had lost his son Dan, to explain why he thought the shootings had happened. “The public school system has taught in a moral vacuum, expelling God from the school and from the government, replacing him with evolution, where the strong kill the weak, without moral consequences and life has no inherent value,” Rohrbough said. “And I assure you the murder of innocent children is always wrong, including by abortion. Abortion has diminished the value of children.” Most liberals (myself included) would disagree with Rohrbough’s explanation for the shooting, but they’d have trouble explaining why it’s any less plausible or substantive than explanations blaming Jared Loughner on rightwing hysteria.