Jared Lee Loughner: seeking insight from his reading list(Read article summary)
Jared Lee Loughner's favorite books include many with anti-government themes.
Do the books that Jared Lee Loughner was reading tell us anything useful about his state of mind?
â€śTell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are,â€ť the great French lawyer and gastronome Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said.
In other words, you are what you eat, Brillat-Savarin posited. Are we also what we read? Can an individualâ€™s bookshelf offer a glimpse into his mind? Are we a reflection of what we read â€“ or vice versa?
Investigators, legal aid workers, counselors, and the media are considering these questions as they pore over a revealing piece of evidence in Saturday's grisly Arizona shooting spree: suspected shooter Jared Lee Loughnerâ€™s reading list.
Loughnerâ€™s YouTube profile page includes a long list of his favorite books. On the list are â€śAnimal Farm,â€ť â€śBrave New World,â€ť â€śThe Wizard Of Oz,â€ť â€śAesop Fables,â€ť â€śThe Odyssey,â€ť â€śAlice Adventures Into Wonderland,â€ť â€śFahrenheit 451,â€ť â€śPeter Pan,â€ť â€śTo Kill A Mockingbird,â€ť â€śWe The Living,â€ť â€śPhantom Toll Booth,â€ť â€śOne Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest,â€ť â€śPulp,â€ť â€śThrough The Looking Glass,â€ť â€śThe Communist Manifesto,â€ť â€śSiddhartha,â€ť â€śThe Old Man And The Sea,â€ť â€śGulliver's Travels,â€ť â€śMein Kampf,â€ť â€śThe Republic,â€ť and â€śMeno.â€ť
Since its discovery, observers have scrutinized the list, straining to find clues about the mysterious 22-year-old suspect. They have attempted to draw correlations between his bookshelf and the impetus that drove him to release an explosion of bullets into Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others, ultimately leaving six people dead and 13 wounded or in critical condition, including Rep. Giffords.
What insight does Loughnerâ€™s reading list offer?
Anti-government propaganda, for starters. â€śIn examining Loughnerâ€™s list of favorite books, which includes Orwell and 'Mein Kampf,' the Southern Poverty Law Centerâ€™s [Mark] Potok notes that an anti-government thread runs through all those works," reports Newsweek. In the current climate of political vitriol and venom, particularly regarding health care and immigration, the impassioned political rhetoric may have inspired violence in the mentally-troubled 22-year-old Loughner.
Another theme in his reading list? Paranoia. Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic theorizes, â€śWhat unites [the assassinâ€™s reading list] is paranoia, a sense of others controlling you, of conspiracy theories and government plots, of illegitimate government and its agents of control.â€ť
If â€śAnimal Farm,â€ť â€śBrave New World,â€ť â€śFahrenheit 451,â€ť and â€śOne Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest,â€ť provide a sampler of paranoia and conspiracy theories, unfortunately, so does 21st-century politics. Some Americans still believe 9/11 was an â€śinside job,â€ť while scores of others continue to claim President Obama is a foreign-born Muslim/Fascist/Socialist/terrorist intent on killing Americans through health care â€śdeath panels.â€ť As yet, we donâ€™t know Loughnerâ€™s views, but he may have absorbed some of the paranoia he read and observed in politics.
Indeed, speculation has run far and wide â€“ some say Loughner was an anti-Semite, as indicated by the inclusion of â€śMein Kampfâ€ť on his reading list; Others have posited he is a proponent of conscious dreaming, the idea that reality is perceived and we live in a holographic universe. Evidence? â€śAlice in Wonderland.â€ť
Still others wonder not about whatâ€™s on the list, but whatâ€™s not on the list. â€śCatcher in the Ryeâ€ť isnâ€™t on the list. It was a novel favored by two other mentally-disturbed shooters: Mark David Chapman, who killed John Lennon, and John Hinckley, who tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan.
Whatever insight Loughnerâ€™s bookshelf offers into his mind, â€śthe idea that this list will tell us much about Loughner and any political motives he had for shooting those 19 people is sorely misguided,â€ť Salon.com reports.
Loughnerâ€™s story isnâ€™t likely to be found between the covers of his favorite books. The real story lies in his garbled, rambling, imcomprehensible statements on YouTube, indicative of a mentally disturbed young man whose grip on reality had become increasingly weak in recent years.
Husna Haq is a Monitor contributor.