In terms of attempting to figure out a mass shooter, we must ask the question, what motivates someone like Jared Lee Loughner?
What triggered a rampage like the one he delivered?
While the television and radio spinners discuss the impact of Sarah Palin's now infamous map of bullseyes targeting specific Congressional districts, the only opinion to consider is how Rep. Gabby Giffords felt about it.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords told MSNBC when the map was published during the 2010 campaign, "We are on Sarah Palin’s targeted list,” noting that hers was one of 20 conservative districts being highlighted.
[A] new user, who joined the site in early 2009 ...called himself "Erad3." Now - based on the language in his postings, and information about where he logged on - the site's operators believe Erad3 was accused Arizona shooter Jared Lee Loughner, 22.
"I'd go with 99 percent," said Bill Irvine, chief executive of the site's parent company, when asked how certain he was that Erad3 and Loughner were the same person.
The story of those postings - now compiled online at Abovetopsecret.com - adds new detail to the story of Loughner's apparent unraveling.
In real life, friends say, Loughner had pushed away friends and alienated classmates with his odd behavior. After that, it appears, he sought a community online. But, in a gathering place for skeptics and conspiracy theorists, his views still brought ridicule - and even a plea for him to seek help.
"I think youre frankly schizophrenic, and no that's not an amateur opinion and not intended as an uninformed or insulting remark, you clearly make no sense and are unable to communicate. I really do care," a user with the nickname "mordant1" wrote July 11. "Seek help before you hurt yourself or others or start taking your medications again, please."
Erad3 responded to that with a stream of bizarre arguments, touching on ideas familiar from Loughner's YouTube videos. He wrote often about grammar, and inventing one's own currency. But he ended, "Thank you for the concern."
"It seemed like he was hoping he might fit in on a site like ours. But, as you can tell, he really didn't," Irvine said in a telephone interview Tuesday from the site's Scottsdale, Ariz., headquarters. "He seemed just . . . way, way out there, from some of his ideas."
Among Erad3's ideas: The space shuttles and the International Space Station were flying empty, without humans aboard. NASA's Mars rovers were faked. Individuals could make their own currency.
"just thought id pop in to let you know that to me you sound absolutely bonkers," one poster wrote in response.
"The name calling is about to cease!" Erad3 wrote back. He persisted in his belief that the shuttle was fake: "The entering into orbit might be able to kill a human."
None of the posts mention U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was apparently the initial target of Saturday's rampage. Giffords was shot in the head and seriously wounded. Six people died in the attack, and 13 others were wounded.
In none of his posts, Irvine said, did Erad3 seem to threaten violence.
By the time of the attack, Erad3 had not posted anything in several months. On Saturday, as news of the attack filtered out, other site users began to identify Erad3 as Loughner.
This may have been based on the similarities between his posts on the site and YouTube videos attributed to Loughner.
That evening, someone posted on one of Erad3's old threads, about the idea that the Mars rovers were faked: "OP [original poster] is believed to be the shooter in today's assassination attempt."
Throughout the ATS site some deleting appears to be occurring. Jared Loughner, a/k/a erad3 posted on Chupacabras, NASA conspiracies, and even, apparently True Giants, as can be revealed by some cache finds. But please note, Loughner does not seem to have posted any anti-Jewish or anti-Zionist comments. Unfortunately, Sarah Palin's use of "blood libel" and "solution," combined with her earlier bullseye map has resulted in new claims of anti-Semitic underpinnings to this story. (Giffords is Jewish.)
On June 7, 2010, for example, in response to a discussion about whether or not there were giants on the Earth in ancient times, here's what erad3 had to say in "Giants Really Were Really Giants":
You'll tell every poster that these giants are real, and other sources tell the truth, so they must exist!
Everyone on this forum will never believe that they exist.
How sad it is for the size of a toilet.What influences pushed Jared Loughner to do what he did? Perhaps only the demons inside his mind could reveal the answer to that question. Were his demons mad? Perhaps so.
Certainly, recent weeks have seen enough mass shooting models existing throughout the media for any vulnerable, mentally unstable person to take into their cosmos. What Jared Loughner was watching and what inspired him are bits of the puzzle that are still missing.
Let's not forget, as Village Voice Media Executive Editor Michael Lacey observed: Loughner's actions were more the result of mental illness than ideology. It is from that framework that we should be looking for the behavior contagion triggers, not the cryptopolitical ones, for to do so merely joins Loughner in his mental illness.