Was the Attack by Jared Lee Loughner Tied to His Views on Immigration?

Since the attack in Arizona on Saturday that left six dead and 14 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), there has been much speculation as to the motives of the shooter, 22-year-old Jared Loughner.

At present, not enough evidence has surfaced to draw firm conclusions about Loughner’s political views, and whether or not those views had any impact on what the federal government is calling an assassination attempt against Giffords.

However, a series of eerie, seemingly inscrutable YouTube videos created by Loughner give some insight into his state of mind before the attacks, if not his motives.

Using the available evidence about the attackers, some experts have tried to draw conclusions about Loughner’s views. One of the more expansive analyses appeared on Huffington Post on Sunday in the form of a column by Mark Potok, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a national organization that monitors hate groups.

It’s worth reading the entire piece by Potok, but here are his thoughts—as an expert—as to whether or not what we know about Loughner conveyed any anti-immigrant views. Here’s what he said:

Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates points out in a post earlier today that Loughner also makes a reference to a “second American constitution.” As Chip notes, that is commonly understood to refer to the Reconstruction amendments that freed the slaves and gave them citizenship, among other things. Chip says that “raises the question of a possible racist and anti-immigrant tie” in the Arizona shooting.

Fox News is reporting on an internal Department of Homeland Security message suggesting some tie between Loughner and American Renaissance, a kind of white-collar racist group.

I can’t speak to those allegations. Outside of what Chip pointed out, I didn’t see anything that suggested racial, anti-Semitic or anti-immigrant animus in Loughner’s writings. Certainly, there’s nothing I saw at all reminiscent of American Renaissance, which focuses heavily on the alleged intellectual and psychological inferiority of black people.

At this early stage, I think Loughner is probably best described as a mentally ill or unstable person who was influenced by the rhetoric and demonizing propaganda around him. Ideology may not explain why he allegedly killed, but it could help explain how he selected his target.