Going For the “Occult” Angle in Tucson Shooting

Saturday’s horrific attempted assassination of Arizona U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, along with the deaths of Federal judge John McCarthy Roll and five others, has many grasping for answers.  Why did 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner do this? Despite attempts from across the political spectrum to blame this on one ideology or another, his tortured, conspiratorial thinking seems to escape easy classification.

“I doubt people who say this is about politics have a good understanding of mental illness,” said Dr. Bob Dolgoff, medical director of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center‘s mental health division. “It could be conspiracy theories or men from outer space. The important thing here is, why wasn’t he in treatment?”

In the words of media consultant Andrew Sprung, who has analyzed Loughner’s Youtube ramblings, “this unfortunate insane individual is of no party or clique.” So it is dismaying that the NY Daily News, holding exclusive pictures of Loughner’s home, seems to be trying on an “occult” angle to see if it fits.

Loughner shrine.

NY Daily News photo.

A sinister shrine reveals a chilling occult dimension in the mind of the deranged gunman accused of shooting a member of Congress and 19 others. Hidden within a camouflage tent behind Jared Lee Loughner’s home sits an alarming altar with a skull sitting atop a pot filled with shriveled oranges. A row of ceremonial candles and a bag of potting soil lay nearby, photos reveal. Experts on Sunday said the elements are featured in the ceremonies of a number of occult groups.

Of course neither the Daily News journalists, nor the unnamed “experts” consider the possibility that the altar has no formal occult meaning. That it could be a product of his imagination, a manifestation of his distress, or playful seasonal potpourri left to rot as his mind deteriorated. Considering the fact that millions of people build altars every year with skulls and fruit, to ascribe a “chilling occult dimension” to this scene is jumping the gun to say the least. No doubt sensing an opportunity, I predict that it won’t be long before various “occult experts” start slithering out of the woodwork to give their “expert opinion” on the “occult” nature of Loughner’s short-lived reign of terror.

ADDENDUM: More on this from Star Foster at Patheos and USA Today.