by John MacBeath Watkins
Looks like the rumor that Jared Lee Loughner has a Jewish mother has been put to rest.
The Tucson rabbis have never heard of the family, public records show his ancestors having funeral ceremonies in Catholic churches, etc.
The rumor started with a friend of Loughners, Bryce Tierney, who told Mother Jones that Loughner was provoking his Jewish mother when he put Mein Kampf on his list of favorite books.
This tells us a couple of things. One, Lougher's friends didn't really know him very well: He was a terribly isolated person, and if statements about his religion by his friends are inaccurate, statements related to his ideology may be as well. Two, putting Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto on his list of favorite books was probably not directed at his mother, it was directed at everyone who he knew would be looking at the list after his crime. The use of the past tense -- he "had" favorite books -- makes me think he expected to be killed, perhaps after killing many more people than he did.
In a way, the link between him and his victim had as much to do with celebrity as with politics. Gabby Giffords had been in the news a lot, vilified and defended in a heated re-election campaign. My bet is that he wanted to be "somebody," because he felt that he was nobody, and he felt that killing a high-profile target would make him famous, as it has.
Of course, the paranoia that seems to be part of his makeup would have fed on the sort of claims traveling the Internet and the airwaves. There is a strain of redemption ideology in his talk about currency, and the fixation on grammar might come from David Wynn Miller.
Miller makes good money giving quack advice. He's no more to blame for Loughner's actions than Sarah Palin is, which is to say he contributed to the paranoia of strange young man who was looking for a structure that would give direction and justification for an act that would make him feel significant. We can't know whether, in the absence of such sources, his paranoia would simply have found another target. We don't yet know whether he was sane or not, at this point. We do know that peoples' minds are shaped by their environment, whether they are sane or not.
Charlatans like Miller do enough harm without the blame for this incident, and the same might be said of Palin. All these influences are by themselves like a single cigarette; we certainly can't blame one cigarette for giving someone cancer, we can't be sure his cancer came from cigarettes, but if the guy smoked like a chimney, chances are that's what gave him cancer.