John Bedell was killed after shooting at police outside the Pentagon. His motivation seems to have been his distrust of the government and his apparently rather disturbed mental state. Bedell is being cast as a libertarian although, obviously enough, most libertarians do not advocate shooting police.
Interestingly, while Bedell saw patterns of conspiracy, some folks see him as being part of a pattern as well. As Northeastern University criminologist Jack Levin says, “Sadly enough, there is a pattern. He represents a much larger force in our society today. If one individual is paranoid, we call it mental illness. If thousands of people share the same paranoia, we call it ideology. There are thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of Americans who are extremely angry with the federal government.”
Levin is correct in his claim that many people are angry with the federal government. However, it seems rather problematic to equate this anger with paranoia. After all, while there are people who are, in fact, paranoid, there are people who are rather angry at the government who are not mentally ill. A problem with this sort of remark is that it can be taken as dismissing those who are angry with the government as being mentally ill and hence most likely lacking in legitimate concerns.
While there are angry and paranoid people, the number of people who take violent action against the government is rather small. This is not to dismiss the danger presented by such people but rather to put it in perspective. Yes, we should obviously be concerned about people who will engage in such attacks, just as we should be concerned about possible attacks by foreign terrorists or actions by violent criminals. However, it is also important to keep the threat in a proper perspective. It would be a mistake, for example, to infer that because a few loners have done such acts of violence that there is a rather vast army of the paranoid waiting out there for the moment to strike. Also, it would be a mistake to dismiss those who are critical of the government as merely paranoid. After all, there are excellent grounds on which to be angry at the folks in the government. This anger does not, however, justify violence.
He was a 911 conspiracy theorist:
Many, many metally ill people I’ve dealt with always had the three letter agengies in their minds: FBI, CIA, NSA–they’re all outto get me. It’s a coomon sympton, for whatever reason, amongst the mentally ill.
Michael LaBossiere says
I suspect that these agencies are the convenient devils and witches of our time for such folks. When someone is paranoid, they need an enemy worthy of that paranoia: one that can seemingly act in secret (so no one else can see it) and one that has great power.
In mid- February it was Andrew Joseph Stack III. Early March and it’s John Patrick Bedell. As corpses gradually collect on the playing field (IRS office, Pentagon)labels like mental illness , paranoia, and ideological terrorism will begin to blend like the blood of the fallen.
T. J. Babson says
Good first sentence for a novel 🙂
Michael LaBossiere says
These cases do indicate a problem (anytime citizens are murdering other citizens is a problem). However, I think it is critical to remember that our political process is generally a peaceful one (with some brutal exceptions). There is, however, the usual danger that a few cases can inspire others and this can (over time) lead to an increase in violence acts.
I try not to confuse the selective attention of the media with the total picture.
I think 24 hr news has damaged America. Yes, Fox included.
It is difficult to predict when, where,how, or if pure criminality, madness and ideological terrorism may intersect.But it seems to me that the more such violent acts aimed at government that we see, the more likely the intersection will occur. If that’s true, the more dreadful become the likely effects of the 24-hour newscycle that magus references.
My theory is that things have pretty much always been like they are. Only technology changes the capabilities, but not the intent, of humans.
As you can see, these people are alive and well, right here on WordPress:
Iran agrees with the shooter: