James W. von Brunn, the 88-year-old white supremacist alleged to have opened fire on June 10 at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, killing 39-year-old security guard Stephen Johns, is and was nuts. The insane von Brunn, as of today in critical condition at George Washington University Hospital after being shot in the face by Johns's fellow security guards, was charged with murder Thursday in the death of Johns of Temple Hills, Md.
That's why he began shooting. That's why a man is dead. It's that simple. Von Brunn's nuts.
And perhaps not legally insane a la M'Naghten (for all you criminal law scholars), von Brunn is a sociopath, a homicidal one at that. Now, it seems as of late with the murder of the late-term abortion doctor, George Tiller, a passel of the usual characters are bellying up to the mic and keyboard and attributing blame to a slew of typically loud-mouthed, conservative pundits of all stripes and colors who spew hate and vile bile. Any excuse to blame the rabid right for anything or to highlight their insanity is good enough for these folks. There isn't a day that goes by when they fail to quote, repeat, reprint or replay a wingnut's bleating screed. And while it may seem that I'm defending the noxious words and thoughts of the loathed counterfeit conservative, no, in fact I'm desecrating them and exposing, yet again, the fictive pull and sway that they purport to have.
Now, I've made it easy. The following is a list I've created pari passu of those who are not responsible for the deaths of Messrs. Johns and Tiller, in no particular order of relevance or importance, mind you.
* Rush Limbaugh
* Sean Hannity
* Bill O'Reilly
* Glenn Beck
* The Faux News team in toto
* Newt Gingrich
* The Vatican and/or Pope
* The RNC
* Sarah Palin
* The Bible
* Randall Terry
* "The Turner Diaries"
* Nancy Pelosi
* Michael Moore
* The Dixie Chicks
* Bill Maher
* The DNC
For the last entry, add your own name or any organization, book, politician, cleric, author or person, alive or dead. I know this may come as a shock to folks, but delusion and dementia are inspired by a host of causes. The etiology of homicidal psycopathy is still a medical mystery.
There are roughly 300 million people in our country. Many of them are devout, Christian, republican, conservative, Bible-toting, scripture-spouting right-to-lifers. Believe it our not, it's not that uncommon a find. But we are thankful that the von Brunns and Scott Roeder, the nut who gunned down Dr. Tiller, are rarae aves. For now, we pray.
Cause and deflect.
In my career as a prosecutor and criminal defense trial lawyer, scores of well-intended people have tried to make the connection between criminal behavior and stressors, environmental and genetic, if you will, e.g. PTSD, drugs, abusive childhoods, abused-spouse syndrome, chemical imbalances, too much sugar, too little sugar, porn, violent TV, etc. Jury after jury still reject these arguments. Why? Because nothing vitiates the one element critical to criminal and actual culpability: Did they intend to kill? Why they kill is inapposite and irrelevant. It's tough for us to assign blame and criminal culpability to something as vague as someone being evil or the garden variety crackpot. Remember: Everyone has a reason for everything.
And while El Rushbo and his intellectually loathsome conservative right wing-nuts spew fetid verbal whatevers daily, they can't be held responsible because they're not. I know, I know. Would that we could attribute something of consequence to these folks; it would be a veritable wet dream for the usual suspects. But, alas. We can't and shan't. It simply drives folks crazy that something so awful as these crimes are without legitimate source and cause. I know, let's call it a "hate" crime. That seems to make us feel better. Appending "hate" to anything that screams of hate makes some of us happier, as though we've accomplished something special. "Hate crime": the ultimate in tautological redundancy (as is the term "tautological redundancy").
When you start playing around with what "motivated" someone to do something, you little by little go after why they did it. And why someone did it is irrelevant. And are we to then blame the words of the pundits? And if so, then what? Hold them responsible? Civilly or criminally liable? Again, if their words actually incited and inspired murderous behavior, what would Rush's critics want done as a remedy or punishment?
Haven't we heard this before?
This reminds me of when parents sued Ozzy Osbourne in 1986 after their kid shot himself in the head after listening to "Suicide Solution." Perhaps the kid's depression may have played a role in the incident. (D'ya think?) Folks love causation and with it liability and blame. In 1971 "The Anarchist Cookbook" was published. It detailed recipes for explosive and combustible witches brew and potions. Even it can't be held liable for some homicidal jerk who uses the book to kill. So how can Rush or O'Reilly the Boeotian? If only it were that easy.
There was a time when the Bush detractors called for his impeachment, indictment and incarceration. Same went for ol' Cerberus, Cheney. Vincent Bugliosi wrote a book about it. The drumbeat was loud and clear. Bush was responsible for the deaths of American soldiers, they claimed. (Not exactly far-fetched an idea, I might add.) He was a murderer. The Bush hatred was seething. And certainly not without any basis, I must admit again. Day after day, newly-minted pundits of the left and progressive worlds were spreading their wings and maws and lambasting the President and Bush with philippics that in some cases were over the top. Fine. I understand the frustration. Plus, they were new at this venture. They had the floor and folks were listening. There was an antidote to the trumpeting of the right.
But say some nut finally heard enough and went crackers. Instead of an old, anti-Semitic, white supremacist it was a 60's holdover: a Birkenstock-shod (with socks, mind you), tie-dyed, dreadlocked hippy manque. Assume arguendo he recited verbatim passages of Maher's "New Rules" or chimed Chomsky while he charged the Cheney White House or worse. You can hear the usual right-wing goobers blaming the "loony left" with their hate speech and the like. The aghast gauche would howl at the hilarity of such a specious claim, citing his lone wolf-ness. And believe me, there are plenty of nuts out there to go around and this will happen.
The usual suspect and symptoms.
I'll bet anything von Brunn has every book that every right wing loon wrote, DVR'd Faux News constantly and scoured the internet for racist chatter. I'll bet he was the prototypical loner who "kept to himself." I'll bet he had interpersonal conflicts and was not a nice guy. He had few friends, if any. Most probably he was enuretic as a child, teased small animals and liked to start fires.
Yes, psycopathy has many traits. But correlation and cause are two different things. There has never been, in the annals of criminality, a person who did something dastardly and couldn't tell you why, who couldn't point to something or someone as the inspiration or cause. Something, ofttimes chimerical, always sets the plan in motion. The insanity continues if you fall for the spiel.
Von Brunn killed because he's nuts and consumed by hate. Period. El Rushbo et al. are off the hook this time. And that's good for many of today's populist pundits. Why? Simple.
If Rush and his merry band of caterwauling cooks were silenced, what would many if not most of these commentators comment anent?