Loughner’s Demons, and Who Created Them

Today on Tablet


Political columnist Michelle Goldberg argued over the weekend in Tablet Magazine that even though Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged shooter of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and murderer of six others, was “clearly in the grip of delusion rather than any coherent ideology,” it is still reasonable to explore whether the paranoid and nativist political climate cultivated by far-right groups and, to an extent, mainstreamed by the Tea Party helped lent=d Loughner the impetus to try to kill not just anyone but specifically a Democratic, Jewish congresswoman. Writes Goldberg:

Loughner was probably too insane to have really participated in anti-Semitic politics, or, for that matter, in the Tea Party. But it is important to note that Giffords has been relentlessly demonized by the right, the rhetoric around her charged with violence. And such rhetoric is dangerous precisely because of the effect it can have on the unhinged. Loughner was crazy, but he was also responsive to certain real-world political currents, particularly the right’s nightmare vision of federal power run amok.

Others have made similar cases: I would particularly recommend James Fallows‘s and George Packer‘s takes (insists the latter, “The massacre in Tucson is, in a sense, irrelevant to the important point”).

Or, you know, you could compare arguments such as those above to blood libel. (More responsibly and persuasively, you could assert that politics had little if anything to do with it, and you could welcome even the most heated discourse as a pressure valve that heads off most violence.)


Why Was Giffords Targeted?

Alleged shooter may have been driven in part by anti-Semitism

Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged would-be assassin of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.(Reuters/NYT)

Leaving aside whether broader currents in American political discourse influenced Jared Lee Loughner’s attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s life, what exactly were the direct, proximate motivations behind Loughton’s decision to shoot Giffords in the head and then open fire on the crowd at her “Congress on Your Corner” event Saturday in Tucson, Arizona, killing six and wounding nearly two dozen? More specifically: Was Giffords’s Jewishness—her father is Jewish, her mother Christian Scientist, and she identifies as Jewish; she even served on the Anti-Defamation League’s regional board—at all relevant?

It seems very clear that, primarily, Loughner was deeply disturbed and very likely mentally ill, and had been obsessed with Giffords for several years. “Loughner’s behavior grew so troubling that he was told he could no longer attend the school,” the New York Times reports, referring to an Arizona community college, “and he appeared, given his various Internet postings, to find a sense of community in some of the more paranoid corners of the Internet.”

The Department of Homeland Security suggested, in a memo distributed to law enforcement, that Loughner may have had links to American Renaissance, a racist publication (which denies both the link and its racism and condemned the attack), whose ideology, according to DHS, is “anti government, anti immigration, anti ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti Semitic” [sic]. And then there is one report stating that Loughner’s mother is, yes, Jewish. (Incidentally, President Obama has called for a moment of silence at 11 am.) (more…)

Daybreak: Giffords Remains Critical, On Track

Plus R.I.P. Debbie Friedman, Clinton on Iran, and more in the news

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

• Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Jewish congresswoman shot Saturday, is in critical condition, though her doctors remain optimistic. Federal charges, including two counts of murder, were filed against her alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. Much, much more on this throughout the day. [NYT]

• Debbie Friedman, who became famous for her folky reimaginings of Jewish prayers, died at 59 of pneumonia. [Post Mortem]

• Israeli bulldozers demolished part of the Shepherd Hotel, a landmark—it was built for the notorious Grand Mufti al-Husseini—in the predominantly Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Jewish houses, drawing international condemnations. [NYT]

• Traveling through the region, Secretary of State Clinton sought to downplay new, bearish estimates on Iranian nuclear development in order to persuade Gulf states to keep steady with the sanctions agains the Islamic Republic. [NYT]

• Meanwhile, Iran arrested a “network of spies” allegedly tied to Mossad and allegedly responsible for the 2010 death of one of their nuclear scientists. [Haaretz]

• The IDF plans to exempt fewer and enlist more ultra-Orthodox. [Haaretz]

Jewish Congresswoman Shot, May Survive

Would be first rep. killed in America since Reconstruction

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.(Wikipedia)

Though we don’t know for sure, it looks like Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, 40, the third-term congresswoman from Arizona who was shot point-blank in the head during a “Congress on Your Corner” event in Tucson this morning, is going to survive. Several of the other victims of the gunman’s subsequent bullet-spraying will not be so lucky. Giffords is Jewish—the first Jewish woman to be elected from Arizona—and is a moderate Democratic representing a conservative district along the Mexico border.

We do not yet know if the attempt on her life was politically motivated—the single suspect, a 22-year-old white man named Jared Loughner, is in police custody. UPDATE: He seems to be a fringe sort of character who listed Mein Kampf among his favorite books and had an obsession with currency. So—for now—it seems wise to keep speculation and broader assigning of blame to a minimum. I’ll merely note that Giffords was heavily and particularly criticized by right-wing leaders associated with the Tea Party for her support for health-care reform.

In the most recent election cycle, her Jewishness was briefly made an issue when a Republican National Committee operative questioned her stance on Israel, and referred to her as someone “who claims to be a Jewess.” (In fact, she’s the great-granddaughter of a Lithuanian rabbi.) She supports direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and said that a 2001 trip to Israel was “one of the most memorable experiences of my life.” She added, “I got to see firsthand the sacrifices that Israelis make in the name of security because of the dangerous state of affairs there. I will always be a strong supporter of Israel.”

It appears that only two active U.S. representatives have been killed: One, from Arkansas, during Reconstruction; and another, Leo Ryan, in 1978 in Guyana by the cult behind the Jonestown Massacre.

Sundown: A Martyr for Organ Donation?

Plus eat bagels not bombs, and more

Avi Cohen.(Soccer Buzz)

• Soccer star Avi Cohen’s death has put new focus on Jewish unease with organ donation, including Israel’s low organ-donor rate. [Babylon & Beyond]

• Left-wing Israeli bloggers have had some success in pushing the line that the IDF is covering up alleged culpability in a Palestinian protester’s tear gas-caused death. [The Lede]

• Chicago-area Rabbi Evan Moffic calls for the Reform Movement to adopt a “Judaism of relevance.” It’s more than a slogan. [Forward]

• RELEASE THE VULTURE! [Australia Broadcasting Corporation/Vos Iz Neias?]

• A “suspicious package” on a flight turned out to be a bagel with cream cheese. Current whereabouts unknown, though it is believed either to be at a black site in Poland or in some lucky person’s stomach. [NBC Miami]

• Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys beat his cancer. Damn right. [HuffPo via Jewcy]

Give it up for MCA.

Haredi Rabbis Target Popular Jewish Website

This is voz is neias today


Devoted Scroll readers know that a not-infrequent source for round-up items is Vos Iz Neias?, a Website that aggregates Jewish-relevant stories (the name is Yiddish for “What’s news?”). So why did 36 (really, exactly 36!) ultra-Orthodox rabbis call for a ban of the site and accuse it of launching a “hidden ambush”? The Jewish Star, which serves the Orthodox communities of Long Island’s Five Towns, has the goods.

The Truth About the Ban [The Jewish Star]

Mosaic Internet Law

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, in his weekly parasha Liel Leibovitz insists that Moses’s teachings dictate an Internet where most content remains free and copyright rules are lax.

Copy That

Jewish Women Say Goodnight

They’ll cry instead

Barbra Streisand, about to cry, in The Way We Were.(IMDB)

A new study shows that women’s tears act as an anti-aphrodisiac to men. Specifically, the scent of women’s emotionally-provoked tears lowers various signs of male sexual arousal. The study was performed at none other than the Weizmann Institute for Science, south of Tel Aviv, and it involved several roughly 30-year-old women with a known proclivity for crying being shown sad movies and having their faces sniffed by men in their late 20s. So presumably these were all Jewish women crying and Jewish men licking their faces. It’s enough to make one … well, not cry, so much as laugh really, really hard.

Gosh, where to begin? Maybe: “Dr. Sobel said the researchers started with women because, when they advertised for ‘volunteers who can cry with ease,’ they could not find men who were ‘good criers.’”

Or perhaps the part where the Jewish women are shown Life is Beautiful so that they’ll cry.

And then there’s, “They showed men scenes from 9 ½ Weeks—specifically, from the more explicit European version, which, Dr. Sobel said, ‘has been validated as being particularly arousing.’” You’re telling me!

But ultimately, first prize for Best Line in This Amazing Article goes to: “They had assumed chemical signals from tears would trigger sadness or empathy in others. But initial experiments found that sniffing women’s tears did not affect men’s mood or empathy, but ‘had a pronounced influence on sexual arousal.’” Sorry, ladies. You know we love you.

In Tears, a Chemical Cold Shower [NYT]

The Nation of Patriots

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, staff writer Marc Tracy talks to football statistician Aaron Schatz about advanced, metrics, this year’s playoffs, and Jewish players in the NFL. From the perspective of both the numbers and the Jews, one team stands out as the Super Bowl favorite.

Mathletic Prowess

Stronger Than a Speeding Bullet

Comment of the week!

(Ravi Joshi/Tablet Magazine)

Here is a new thing we are going to be doing: Comment of the week! Winner gets a free Nextbook Press book that is thematically appropriate to his or her comment (provided he or she emails me at with his or her mailing address).

This week’s winner is “Michael,” who wrote, in response to the news that contributing editor Joshua Cohen’s novel Witz came closest to stopping a bullet, “Neither reader nor bullet can make it through Witz.”

“Michael” will receive a copy of David Mamet’s The Wicked Son, though he might also enjoy Mamet’s Three Uses of the Knife.

The Wicked Son [Nextbook Press]
Earlier: Which Book Can (Almost) Stop a Bullet?

NPR’s Weiss Resigns After Juan Williams Firing

Wife of Reform leader steps down following review

The NPR building in Washington, D.c.(Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Ellen Weiss, the senior vice president for news at NPR, resigned—almost certainly not voluntarily, as James Fallows notes in an excellent write-up—following an independent review of the public radio station’s decision to fire news analyst Juan Williams after he said, on Fox News, “When I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.” Weiss was extremely popular at NPR, and had worked there for nearly three decades. She is also the wife of Rabbi David Saperstein, head of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism—he is essentially the leading political voice for the Reform Movement in America.

Can probably file this under trying to right a wrong with another wrong.

Review of Juan Williams’ Firing Done; NPR News Exec Resigns [NPR]
Ellen Weiss Out at NPR (Juan Williams Aftereffects) [James Fallows]

Israeli Music ‘Goes Out’ in America

Today on Tablet


Ari Y. Kelman—previously seen helping compile Tablet Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Jewish songs ever—today tells the story of “Tzena, Tzena” (#47), a 1941 song authored by two Jews in Mandatory Palestine that urged young girls to “Go Out, Go Out” and meet the British soldiers here. “With its romantic depiction of young women lusting after righteous male soldiers,” Kelman argues, “the song fulfilled the expectations of Israel held by many American Jews in 1951.” They heard it after a recording by The Weavers—a folk outfit fronted by a fellow named Pete Seeger—went to #2 on the charts. Check it out:

Hear Israel


In Israel, gentrification is about religion, not class

(Len Small/Tablet Magazine)

Israelispeak is the way Israelis and the Israeli media use Hebrew. Behind the literal meaning, there’s an additional web of suggestion, doublespeak, and cultural innuendo that too often gets lost in translation. Every Friday, we reveal what is really being said. To view all the entries in this series, click here.

“What’s more dangerous for Israel,” asks an op-ed in Maariv. “Islamization or Haredization?”

“Haredization,” or hithardut in Hebrew, shares the same root as “Haredi,” the religious ideology that is colloquially known in the United States as “black hat” or “yeshivish.” Often translated as “ultra-Orthodox,” “Haredi” literally means “one who fears,” in the sense of fearing God.

But while the word “Haredization” makes sense in English, too (at least to those who have heard of haredim), its meaning in English tends to be limited to the rightward tendencies of Orthodox Judaism. In Hebrew, “hithardut” has broader connotations, partly because of the extent to which religious and civil society—synagogue and state—are intertwined. (more…)

Daybreak: Iran Reported Years Away from Bomb

Plus Gaza strikes, Debbie Friedman, and more in the news

The nuclear facility in Bushehr.(IIPA via Getty Images)

• Meir Dagan, the well-respected outgoing Mossad chief, said that due to “malfunctions” Iran will not possess nuclear weapons before 2015. [Haaretz]

• Tensions in Gaza continue, with the Israeli Air Force hitting a camp in the north and a smuggling tunnel in the south. [JPost]

• The IDF officially regretted killing a Palestinian man during a West Bank raid to arrest several Hamas men. [Haaretz]

• Sunken treasure! A Pissarro painting! The Nazis! You’ve gotta love WikiLeaks. [NYT]

• The Israeli government is more than doubling its funding of Birthright, hoping to bring 50,000 people a year to the Holy Land for free to learn about their heritage and hook up with that cute but like you know also really cool girl from Brandeis. [JPost/Forward]

• Singer-songwriter Debbie Friedman, in her late fifties, was hospitalized in California. She is on a respirator. [JTA/Jewish Journal]

Sundown: Hillary’s Turn

Plus hot Jewish Ivy League frat-boys, and more

Dear God.(New Voices)

• Citing the administration’s record of “dysfunction” on the Mideast peace process, experienced negotiator Aaron David Miller calls for Secretary of State Clinton to take a more active, involved role. [Foreign Policy]

• You can get a calendar featuring the hunks of the Cornell AEPi. Does not—repeat: Does not—appear to be a parody. [New Voices]

• On the subject of Israel, Eric Alterman (a Cornell grad!) finds clowns to the left of him and jokers to the right. [Moment]

• Is Jean-Marc Liling’s Jerusalem apartment more “Jerusalem” or more “European”? Either way, it is totally awesome. Jerusalem is totally the new Brooklyn! [NYT]

• Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer who handled Iranian defectors, was indicted for leaking information to a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter. [AP]

• Apply for this year’s Selah Leadership Forum. You know you wanna! [Jewish Funds for Justice]

• Why aren’t all of you writing several-hundred-word blogposts inspired by Josh Lambert’s weekly column? [Erika Dreifus]

Kindergarten, Likud-style.

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