Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jared Loughner and Clay Duke - A Tale Of Two Shooters

Jared Lee Loughner's suitably unsettling mugshot
On 8th January, America and much of the world was shocked by the shooting of Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, federal judge John Roll, and eighteen others. The attack took place at a shopping precinct in Tucson, Arizona. Giffords is believed to have been shooter Jared Lee Loughner's primary target, and she is currently in a critical condition, having been shot in the head at point blank range. Roll, a congressional aide, a nine-year-old girl, and three people in their seventies died at the scene or shortly after.

Whatever the immediate spark for Loughner's actions, there is now little doubt that he had come under the influence of fascistic elements on the fringe of the Republican Party, many of whom identify with the 'Tea Party' label. While his online political statements are incoherent even on their own terms, Loughner borrowed much of his vocabulary from extreme right politicians such as Sarah Palin, as well as media personalities like Glenn Beck. Tea Party-inspired references to the "second constitution" (i.e. the Amendments which banned slavery and granted citizenship to all born in the US) and a return to the gold standard (a favourite theme of Beck's) sit alongside rants about the "ZOG" (Zionist Occupation Government, an anti-Semitic 'theory'), and government mind control through grammar.

While Loughner - an unemployed twenty-two year old living with his parents - could never benefit from his belief in right wing theories, the Tea Party politicians and their multi-millionaire backers such as Rupert Murdoch certainly could. In spreading such rhetoric, Murdoch, Beck, Palin and others hope to push both the Republican Party and the Obama administration even further to the right. Now, having taken their views on board, a vulnerable and disturbed individual has acted violently upon them.

Today Palin issued a statement, claiming that articles linking her with the killing amount to "blood libel", continuing that: "Our debates are full of passion but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box." However, Palin's devotion to the ballot over the bullet does not carry much weight, when one considers that she recently suggested WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange should be assassinated, just like an al-Qaeda leader would be.
Duke: "I was just born poor in a country where the Wealthy manipulate, use, abuse, and economically enslave 95 percent of the population."

Just before Christmas, Clay Duke held a Florida school board hostage, fired shots which hit no-one, and then finally turned the gun on himself. The incident, which was captured on video, saw Duke approaching the podium, mumbling incoherently, and then spraypainting a circled letter v on the wall, in an apparent reference to the anti-government graphic novel and film V For Vendetta. He then pulled out his pistol, told public members and women on the board they could leave, and spoke about his wife having been sacked by the Panama City school system.

Rebecca Duke had been taken on as a primary school teacher for children with special needs in September 2009. After her probationary period, superintendent Bill Husfelt took the decision to let her go. She was unable to find further work, and her unemployment benefits eventually expired, leaving her destitute.

What makes the Duke case even more tragic is the class consciousness that Clay had developed. On his Facebook profile, he declared:
"My testament: Some people (the government sponsored media) will say I was evil, a monster (V) ... no ... I was just born poor in a country where the Wealthy manipulate, use, abuse, and economically enslave 95 percent of the population. Rich Republicans, Rich Democrats ... same-same ... rich ... they take turns fleecing us ... our few dollars ... pyramiding the wealth for themselves...The 95%… the us, in US of A, are the neo slaves of the Global South. Our Masters, the Wealthy, do, as they like to us…"
Clay went on to quote billionaire Warren Buffett's famous observation that "There’s class warfare, alright, but it's my class, the rich class that’s making war, and we’re winning." He signed off with words with Percy Shelley's The Masque Of Anarchy: "Rise like lions after slumber/In unvanquishable number/Shake your chains to earth like dew/Which in sleep has fallen on you/Ye are many - they are few".

In the midst of the greatest social crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, enormous stresses are building up within the working class. As yet, they have found no mass collective expression, and this has robbed us of Clay Duke, who would surely have been won over to a new movement. When large scale resistance does come, even some of the politically confused Jared Loughners may see the error or their ways. Until then, social tensions will continue to erupt in acts of individual desperation.
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