Listening to the media pushed along by the Right wing’s insistence that Jared Loughner was a “madman” so hence his massacre had nothing to do with politics or right wing violent rhetoric is mind-boggling. One of the biggest indicators of psychosis is the belief that the people on TV and radio have a personal message just for you. And that means that violent paranoia spewed by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin reaches the ears of the psychotic and explodes into a personal message, sometimes taken as directions even.
The person suffering from the mental illness need not be political in order to get the message so carefully wrapped in layers of paranoia and fear. Jared Loughner’s YouTube videos were classic indicators of psychosis with his obsessions over grammar, mind control, currency, paranoia about “them” (government in this case) God, and other bizarre obsessions. Does this exonerate the Gang of Four?
Explaining psychosis in layman’s terms:
Sometimes however, we can’t dismiss an idea or thought, we think about it all the time and find it distressing. When these beliefs are something beyond what people believe normally, such as the belief that our actions might be controlled by an implant, or the idea that people on the television or radio might be sending us personal messages, then we often call these psychotic beliefs or ‘delusions’.
In reality it’s difficult to work out what the cut off is between a ‘normal’ belief and a ‘delusional’ belief as there is no clear divide. Usually how much you believe something, how much it seems based on reality, the level of distress and how much you think about it are used to decide whether there’s a problem or not.
Examples of common psychotic beliefs or delusions:
• Thoughts are being interfered with, this may include having thoughts put into your head or taken away.
• That other people know what you’re thinking.
• That people are out to get you (paranoia).
• Personal messages are being sent via the television, radio or through newspapers or magazines.
• That you are the centre of a conspiracy.
• People are constantly watching you and might be recording what you do or say.
• That you have an implant in your head or body.
• That people are not who they say they are (such as your parents, who are actually imposters)
• That you are someone special e.g. Jesus, the Anti-Christ, a celebrity (or related to one), have unrecognised brilliance, special powers or gifts etc.
Interestingly, people who are psychotic are not inherently violent toward others, however substance abuse significantly raises the rate of violence in people with schizophrenia — but also in people who do not have any mental illness. So how does this play into the notion that these psychotic madmen go around shooting people but are not influenced by their culture? It doesn’t.
A specific form of psychosis is schizophrenia (though it should be noted that labels such as schizophrenia are utilized for diagnostic purposes and often over-used when they become the mental illness du jour; still the symptoms are real and hence the label of the illness is simply a way to distinguish the symptoms from other mental illnesses).
Positive Symptoms of Schizophrenia:
Delusions are firmly held erroneous beliefs due to distortions or exaggerations of reasoning and/or misinterpretations of perceptions or experiences. Delusions of being followed or watched are common, as are beliefs that comments, radio or TV programs, etc., are directing special messages directly to him/her.
And again, reiterated always with the reference to hearing things on TV or radio that are interpreted as special messages:
Delusions are false beliefs that are not part of the person’s culture and do not change. The person believes delusions even after other people prove that the beliefs are not true or logical. People with schizophrenia can have delusions that seem bizarre, such as believing … that people on television are directing special messages to them…
To suggest that delusions are things that are not a part of our culture suggests that the belief is at odds with reality – but sadly, in our case, Glenn Beck is allowed to preach delusions to his audience every day. He preaches demonstrably false delusions about progressives being violent and out to get the Right, about the government coming to take all of his audience’s freedoms away, about currency, about Obama being like Hitler, and more. Palin, Beck, Limbaugh and in fact much of Fox News (the Gang of Four) regularly implement rhetoric such as ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ — dog whistle language for white supremacists about Jews and “others” taking over the country.
None of these things has a basis in reality and as such, is not opinion but delusion.
Allowing Glenn Beck to sell his delusions as reality every day on Fox News mainstreams these ideas until they are a seemingly legitimate belief system in a certain subset of the culture. How then can the Right claim Loughner is a madman when he believes many of the things Beck preaches, whether or not he ever listened to Glenn Beck?
Glenn Beck hardly exists in a vacuum. His words get repeated, his beliefs seep into the broader culture often unchallenged – and so what we have in effect is a subset of people who would have one of the largest symptoms of psychosis because they believe things that are themselves demonstrably false. At this point, his rhetoric has become dangerous.
Now, among this subset of people who believe Glenn Beck is telling them the truth, or who hear of his ideas as they permeate the culture at large and to whom they ring somewhat true or for whom the ideas feed an already existing paranoia and subsequent break with reality, we have waiting in the dark someone who is suffering from the number one symptom of psychosis – that is, he believes the people on TV and the radio are talking to him and have a secret message just for him, like Beck telling his audience to just “shoot them.”
Although sadly, Beck achieved his mission long before that direct statement – for he is constantly warning his audience about how progressives, liberals and Obama are coming for them. He is the match to the psychotic’s already existing paranoia and he or Sarah Palin is also then the special message.
If you pair that symptom up with the wide-spread pollution of paranoia carefully tended to by Beck et al, a dangerous marriage of psychosis with a carefully aimed persecution complex combine to form the special message for the already psychotic.
Glenn Beck has created a subset of people who are now broken from reality – these are people with whom their family can no longer discuss politics because they are not operating within the confines of this culture. They are in their own special group, a culture defined by paranoia and a belief that everyone else is lying to them. Within this group, or even on the fringes of this group, are people who are already not mentally fit. They are ripe pickings for the paranoia Beck sells.
So whether a person like the liberal church shooter read Beck (he did) and was a fan of Palin (he was), or the Tides shooter listened to Beck (he did), the Holocaust Museum shooter who was a huge Palin fan, birther, Pat Buchannan reader who parroted Palin’s 2008 campaign lines about “media deception” (he did) or the Pittsburgh cop killer had just uploaded a Beck video (he had), or perhaps just heard Beck in their living room every night in the background or perhaps their father was a Beck fan and railed about Beck’s paranoid beliefs over the dinner table or perhaps he overheard others repeating Beck’s distortions of reality over the water cooler at work – he need not have a direct connection to Beck in order to be influenced by Beck’s deliberate breeding of psychosis as defined by a break with reality.
In all of these ways, claims that because the shooter was a “madman” exonerate Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are exceptionally disingenuous. Beck and Palin speak to the already at risk, stoking the paranoia and fear each and every day, deliberately and with malice. They are actually breeding armies of mentally disturbed people who are no longer in touch with reality. This is very dangerous. Then, with words about “taking them out”, graphics with crosshairs showing who the enemy is, and relentless messages of imminent danger at the hands of these enemies, Beck and Palin et al have lit the match under the already psychotic and in some cases, actually caused the break with reality that brought about the psychosis.
It’s completely dishonest to suggest that Beck and Palin exist in a vacuum wherein their words never reach the mentally ill. Their words have seeped into the culture such that Palin’s malapropism “refudiate” was made a new word in the Oxford dictionary. Death Panels became a national talking point.
Beck and Palin’s words do matter, they have taken root in the culture, and as such, they have created a subset of people who are not dealing with reality. When you add their violent, irresponsible rhetoric to this mix, you will eventually get violence by their foot soldiers.
It is inevitable, it is predictable, and it is reprehensible.
Even knowing this might be the case, a normal person would cut down on their rhetoric. But what we have here are two leaders so cynical, so disturbed themselves, so narcissistic and so power hungry that they will not back down regardless of the consequences. Things are so bad now that the British want Rupert Murdoch to answer for Glenn Beck and the Australians are warning that they will charge Palin with incitement to violence if she ever steps foot in their country.
Meanwhile, in this country, we are busy playing nice with the angry Right wing – no one wants to hurt their feelings by pointing out reality. We must all adopt the absolute crap line that this was a lone gunman. Like all the other oddly Right wing lone gunmen who believed the paranoid things they hear on Fox News.
Silence is complicity and the truth might be ugly but it’s still the truth. Our media has become the overwhelmed babysitter, favoring the loudest complainer and bribing the instigator with sugar — an irresponsible, short-term solution to quell the wailing. Our culture is eroding by the very political correctness of false equivalency and pseudo niceness the right pretends to abhor but never fails to take advantage of.
It isn’t that if Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin walk it back there will be no more insane shooters. But without access to the paranoia, without access to leaders who confirm the paranoia and direct the rage and fear, the distance between psychosis and psychotic action could be much larger.
The number one symptom of psychosis is believing that people on the TV and radio have a special message for the psychotic. Given this fact, how can anyone suggest that a shooter exposed to this kind of paranoia on a daily basis was not influenced by it? And even more dangerously, how can anyone deny that we have an entire subset of the culture who actually believe what the Gang of Four sell, meaning that they are all suffering from delusions – breaks with reality.
When the next shooter goes off, having spewed the exact right wing, white supremacist, and anti-government paranoia as repeatedly sold by Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and the Gang of Four, must we be sure to immediately protect those who will be blamed? Is it more important that they not be held falsely accountable or get their feelings hurt than that we have a civil society that operates in reality? The fact that we, as reflected by the mainstream media, have chosen to value Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck’s feelings over reality and over a civilized society is distressing and alarming. No one is suggesting that they pulled the trigger. But their incendiary rhetoric is a contributing factor and this cannot be denied.
Just how many more lone gunman — “bad apples” — would you say they have left in their deliberately created culture of the delusional?