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James Ferragut, Published January 16 2011

Ferragut: Insanity is not political

Insanity is not political

It was only a matter of time before the 24-hour cycle of news was broken. We’re in the post-holiday, January-sucks funk while the media try to keep us engaged. But no matter how many times they want to spin the lame-duck Congress, the usurping of the Obama health care initiative, the stuttering economic recovery and bad-weather cycles, there has been little for the newsies to work with.

Until a human tragedy intrudes. That cycle of human tragedy more often than not is murder. Jared Loughner can now be added to the list of mass murderers who have stolen lives and shaken the culture.

A madman’s assassination attempt on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the murder of six bright lights and the damage to the injured have caused great suffering. I don’t use the word “madman” lightly. An effort to plan and execute a murder is the action of someone who is deranged.

The media’s tendency to spin this horrible event into political hay is indefensible. Enter the lovable and ever-sensitive Rush Limbaugh, who let go on this diatribe:

“What Mr. Loughner knows is that he’s sitting in jail and the Democrat Party is attempting to find anybody but him to blame. He knows … he’s just a victim. He’s the latest in a parade of victims brought about by the unfairness of America ... he understands he’s getting all the attention, and he’s got a political party doing everything it can to make sure he’s not convicted of murder ...”

I’m sure the families of victims and survivors are comforted by Limbaugh’s healing words of empathy and compassion. Contrast his imbecilic rant to British author Elizabeth Gaskell’s reaction to a long-ago assassination:

“My heart burned with grief; we could think of nothing else. …We had only snatches of sleep, waking up … to the sense of a great shock and grief. Everyone is feeling the same. I never knew so universal a feeling.”

Perhaps that is the more appropriate sentiment to broadcast to a dedicated audience of 4 million ditto-heads. But Limbaugh is not one to temper his political obsessions.

The mind of a mass murderer is an intricate, complicated and often self-contradicting web. Ferreting out “intent” is difficult.

Was Charles Whitman motivated by politics when he packed a lunch, climbed up into a college bell tower with a rifle and methodically wounded and killed 47 students and teachers? No. He was insane. Was Seung-Hui Cho sane when he wounded or killed 57 innocents at the University of Virginia campus? No.

The attempt on Congresswoman Giffords’ life and collateral damage comprise one of those events where the only positive consequence is it drives a rare but fragile sense of national unity.

Assigning political motives where there are none is reprehensible. Throwing an accelerant on the fires of party politics is inexcusable. Any message that strays beyond compassion and healing is unforgivable.

Ferragut, Fargo, is a marketing executive and contributor to The Forum’s commentary page. E-mail jferragut50@gmail.com.