First, let's get this out of the way. A definition of proximate cause: An act from which an injury results as a natural, direct, uninterrupted consequence and without which the injury would not have occurred.
In other words, if talk radio, political bloggers, talk TV and bombastic talk by politicians of all stripes were to have suddenly and completely disappeared over the course of the last three to four years (going back to Jared Loughner's first contact with Arizona congressional rep Gabrielle Giffords), would Mr. Loughner still have gone to the Safeway and shot 20 people on Saturday, January 8, 2011?
I am afraid that he very well would have carried out this terrible crime, even in the absence of all political bombast.
The demons lived in his head without much external support. According to news reports, he and his parents had gradually removed themselves from the public commons, one by one cutting off old friends and neighbors over the past three to four years. It seems to me that they became a toxic self sustaining brew of dysfunction. When Jared ventured out into society, he quickly gathered a scary reputation, finding himself banned from a community college campus.
Did his parents react to this? Or did they just continue to form the tight cocoon around their lives? It could have been that political discourse was part of the background noise in the dark, isolated homes that these people lived in, getting more and more crazy, disconnected, delusional.
Then again, they could have just been sitting around playing Grand Theft Auto too.
The proximate cause of Jared Loughner's actions was his untreated and unmonitored dysfunctional, delusional mental state. Oh, we could stand to be nicer to each other in political speech, and our discourse needs to be less partisan in order to solve the difficult problems in our nation--that has been a long standing position of this writer. However, this sad young man is sick.
So Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin and the Daily Kos did not cause this man to take up a gun and shoot 20 people. Neither, for that matter, did Grand Theft Auto.