The ConWeb Shrugged
WorldNetDaily, Newsmax, and the Media Research Center want you to know that Marx and Hitler were on Jared Loughner's reading list -- but not that Ayn Rand is too. Plus: More ConWeb falsehoods, silliness and crassness about the Arizona shooting.
By Terry Krepel
When news came that an assailant opened fire on an event being held by Democratic Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords outside a grocery store in Tuscon, critically wounding the congresswoman and killing six others, the ConWeb sprung into action to figure out ways to prove the alleged shooter -- identified at Jared Loughner -- not only was not conservative but was somehow liberal.
One method of doing so quickly stuck out: a list of books Loughner had posted to his YouTube profile.
WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein was the first to pounce, declaring in a Jan. 8 article that "'The Communist Manifesto' and Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' were among the favorite reading materials of Jared Lee Loughner, the suspected gunman in today's fatal shooting that reportedly left six dead and gravely injured a U.S. congresswoman." He followed up the next day in "news analysis" by asking: "Are the news media deliberately disguising the reported liberal politics of Jared Lee Loughner, the suspected gunman in yesterday's fatal shooting that left six dead and gravely injured a U.S. congresswoman?" As evidence, Klein highlighted "the men actually listed by Loughner as among his favorite authors, Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler," linking to his article of the previous day.
WND colleague Drew Zahn, in a Jan. 10 article, reinforced the story by stating that "Loughner also listed on his YouTube channel among his favorite books Karl Marx's 'The Communist Manifesto' and Adolf Hitler's 'Mein Kampf,' casting further doubt on the notion that he was an angered tea-party type."
Much the same thing was happening over at Newsmax. A Jan. 9 article complained that "some Democrats and major media have moved to pin the blame for her attack on the tea party movement and conservatives like Sarah Palin, despite the fact that the shooter was both deranged and fascinated by leftwing politics." Newsmax went on to state that "Loughner had identified among his favorite books 'The Communist Manifesto' by Karl Marx, Adolf Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' and the fiction classic 'One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest' -- hardly the reading list of a Palin supporter."
David Patten and Kathleen Walter wrote in a Jan. 10 article that "Loughner’s bizarre rants mention Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but do not mention Palin, Fox News, the Tea Party, or other high profile conservatives such as host Glenn Beck or Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C." Another Jan. 10 article by Patten, inveighing against the "backlash mounted against media outlets who blamed the shooting on inflammatory right-wing rhetoric," similarly stated that "His online rants appeared to reflect a muddled, possibly left-wing viewpoint that embrace anarchy. Intellectually, his influences appeared to range from Karl Marx to Hitler’s Mein Kampf."
Even the Media Research Center bought in. During a Jan. 10 interview highlighted in the Patten-Walter Newsmax article, MRC chief Brent Bozell said that Loughner "isn't even a conservative. We now know he's some kind of anarchist who liked the Communist Manifesto." And in his Jan. 12 CNSNews.com column, editor-in-chief Terry Jeffrey declared that Loughner had "admiration for the writings of Marx and Hitler."
(UPDATE: Also at the MRC, Noel Sheppard wrote in a Jan. 8 NewsBusters post that Loughner "listed his favorite books including 'Mein Kampf' and 'The Communist Manifesto,'" adding that Hitler's "views were quite opposite of what conservatives in America currently stand for, especially Palin, Beck, and members of the Tea Party." And CNSNews.com published a Jan. 13 syndicated column by Ben Shapiro calling Loughner "a fan of 'Mein Kampf' and 'The Communist Manifesto.'")
For all this ConWeb name-checking of Marx and Hitler, you would never know -- and they have no interest in telling you -- that there are 19 other books on Loughner's list, some of which dispel the notion that he was some sort of communist Nazi.
Among them: Ayn Rand's anti-communist novel "We The Living." Also present were anti-totalitarian tomes like George Orwell's "Animal Farm" and Ray Bradbury's "Farenheit 451."
Yet the ConWeb never claimed that Loughner had "admiration" for Ayn Rand, despite the fact that the presence "We The Living" and the other anti-totalitarian books that would seem to directly contradict the notion that Loughner was in any sort of thrall to Marx and/or Hitler.
Of course, as Salon.com's Laura Miller pointed out, the presence of such contradictory books -- not to mention two books by the Greek philosopher Plato, "Republic" and "Meno" -- on Loughner's reading list suggest that perhaps he's just a crazy person and people shouldn't be trying to divine significance where there is none:
But Loughner is almost certainly insane and, like the countless other mentally disturbed people who send similar ravings to media outlets around the world, his ideas would have been ignored as incoherent and irrelevant if he hadn't fired a gun into a crowd of people Saturday. The fact that he did fire that gun, however, doesn't make his delusions suddenly meaningful. It doesn't make his list of favorite books significant. Crazy people who make headlines and change history are still crazy.
The ConWeb simply shrugged off the truth. Wait, didn't Rand write a book about shrugging off something?
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The myth that Loughner's reading list consisted only of Marx and Hitler is only the most widespread of the falsehoods and misinformation the ConWeb has spread about the Arizona shooting. Unsurprisingly, WorldNetDaily led the way.
Aaron Klein seems to have decided that Bill Ayers must be worked into this story somehow, so a Jan. 10 article by Klein begins:
Jared Lee Loughner, the suspected gunman in Saturday's Arizona shooting, attended a high school that is part of a network in which teachers are trained and provided resources by a liberal group founded by Weatherman terrorist Bill Ayers and funded by President Obama, WND has learned.
What is missing from Klein's article is any evidence that the curriculum at the high school Loughner attended is "communist," related to '60s radicalism, or even "liberal" -- or any examples at all of what the school's curriculum actually contains. This despite the fact that the headline of Klein's article reads, "Bill Ayers, communist provided Arizona shooter's curriculum?"
Without any facts to back up his implication that Ayers taught Loughner how to be a terrorist -- and because Klein and his research assistant Brenda J. Elliott, who also helped Klein with his factually dubious smear book on President Obama, couldn't be bothered to find out what actually is being taught -- this is yet another smear piece rehashing the same tired claims about how Ayers is a unrepentant terrorist and, of course, a close personal friend of President Obama.
Corsi joined in the misleading fun with a Jan. 9 article obsessing over supposed links between the YouTube channels of Giffords and Loughner. At one point, Corsi stated that "Gifford subscribed to Loughner's website since Oct. 25, 2010" -- a poorly worded claim made more absurd by Corsi's statement in the previous paragraph that Loughner created his YouTube channel the same day he awkwardly suggests that Giffords subscribed to it.
Corsi also falsely asserted that "it is now known that Loughner worked for Gifford's election campaign in 2007" -- something nobody else has ever claimed. But the only evidence he offered to that effect was noting that "in Loughner's home was found a form letter from Giffords' office, thanking him for attending a 2007 event." That is not the same thing as having "worked for Gifford's election campaign."
Two days later, Corsi seemed to have been trying to correct the damage; in a article headlined "Sorting fact from fiction about Jared Loughner," Corsi declared that "So far, no evidence has established that Loughner ever served as a formal volunteer to a Giffords' election campaign, or that Giffords knew Loughner well, even though she wrote him what appears to have been a typical congressional letter to a constituent." Of course, Corsi made no mention of his own false claim to the contrary.
If that bit of incompetence wasn't enough, Corsi then tried to present himself as an expert on punk rock, asserting in a Jan. 10 article that Loughner "may have been inspired by the radical leftist punk-rock band Anti-Flag, one of his favorite bands."
Essentially, all Corsi did for his article is read a tweet by someone who claimed Anti-Flag was one of Loughner's favorite bands, found a music lyrics website (he even linked to it) and copied-and-pasted from selected songs. That, apparently, is Corsi's idea of journalism.
Meanwhile, the MRC's Brent Bozell was in quite the falsehood-peddling mood during a Jan. 10 interview with Newsmax (referenced above). "Note how quickly the New York Times came out with an editorial calling for the Fairness Doctrine as a result of this," Bozell said.
But that didn't happen; in fact, a search of the Times' website indicates no mention of "fairness doctrine" anywhere in the Times -- not just not on the editorial page, but anywhere in the paper -- in the 30 days before Bozell's interview. The closest a Times editorial published between the shooting and Bozell's interview came to discussing speech issues regarding the shooting is a Jan. 10 editorial that called for "quieting the voices of intolerance," which is not even remotely the same thing as "calling for the Fairness Doctrine."
Bozell also asserted that "The Daily Kos whackjob website has got targets over faces that they don’t like." Not true either -- in fact, Daily Kos has issued no graphics containing a bulls-eye image regarding Giffords.
But for pure crassness, you can't beat WND's attempt to cash in on the massacre. Putting money before any principles it claims to have, WND inserted a promotional ad into a Jan. 10 WND article: "Who really inspired Jared Lee Loughner? Read Richard Wurmbrand's Marx & Satan to find out." The link goes to the page for the book at the WND online store. (No mention of Ayn Rand, of course.)
WND continued the cravenness with an article-length plug for a book (which, of course, it sells) arguing "the biblical case for armed self-defense," calling it the "common-sense, tried-and-true biblical and constitutional prescription" to "a man-made disaster like the Arizona massacre."