Opinion Brief

Jared Loughner: Far left or far right?

Liberals and conservatives are trying to place the alleged Arizona shooter in each others' camp. Which side has the stronger argument?

The political leanings of Jared Loughner, the accused shooter of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and 19 others, is "the subject of a white-hot partisan debate," says Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post. Democrats paint him as "an anti-government, Tea Party conservative;" Republicans say his reading list suggests he's a "left-wing wacko." His voter registration doesn't help: He's an independent who didn't vote in the 2010 election. So is Loughner "to the left of Ralph Nader or to the right of Rush Limbaugh," or somewhere else entirely? (Watch Loughner's classmates speak out)

Loughner is clearly a leftist: Conservative? I don't think so, says Lisa Morris in Blogger News Network. Loughner's list of favorite books include's Hitler's Mein Kampf and Marx's Communist Manifesto, he apparently likes flag burning, and a good high school friend, Caitie Parker, describes him as "left wing," "quite liberal," and a "political radical." Sounds like "he was influenced by socialists."
"Fact: Jared Loughner: Left wing, liberal"

He fits better on the fringy right: Loughner and the far left both have anti-government views, says Mark Potok at the Southern Poverty Law Center. But when you study his bizarre internet paper trail, Loughner sounds more like a "right-wing extremist." His screeds against "currency that's not backed by gold" and government "mind control" through "controlling grammar" are the stuff of the conspiracy theorists in the far-right "Patriot" movement.
"Who is Jared Lee Loughner?"

Loughner's paranoia is its own ideology: "Forget right or left," says Kathryn Olmsted in Foreign Policy. "Loughner's particular brand of government paranoia" fits in its own, "purely all-American" category. He reportedly thinks the U.S. faked the moon landing, the Federal Reserve is a Jewish plot, and 9/11 was a U.S. job. This "toxic jumble of left- and right-wing conspiracy theories" doesn't fit comfortably in either party, but it's also, unfortunately, not as fringy as before. 
"A very American conspiracy theory"

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