But within a few hours, the evidence from YouTube and MySpace was clear: the typical national media pundits' prejudice had been wrong. Jared Loughner was not a conservative, he was a radical and, most importantly, he was obviously deeply mentally ill.
What has been fascinating is how A) So few have recanted and/or apologized and B) How many have responded to being wrong by shouting the same thing even louder in the hope that repetition can make their wishful thinking be remembered as the truth. For example, in Tuesday's New York Times, Adam Nagourney pounds the table harder:
Brewer Tries to Save Arizona's Reputationby Adam Nagourney
[Republican Gov. Jan Brewer] is eagerly trying to defend a state whose reputation has been battered in recent years, particularly since the massacre here on Saturday.
But fairly or not, Arizona's image has been forged in part because of Ms. Brewer herself, who has been identified with the tough law aimed at illegal immigrants, budget cuts that include denying aid to people who need life-saving transplants and laws permitting people to take concealed guns into bars and banning the teaching of ethnic studies in public schools.
Arizona's image has been unfairly battered by, among others, Adam Nagourney, who has the bullhorn and has no intention of sharing it.
Or, in the Washington Post's Slate on Monday evening, long after the facts had been out, we read:
the big idea
How anti-government, pro-gun, xenophobic populism made the Giffords shooting more likely.
By Jacob Weisberg
Posted Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, at 6:30 PM ET
There's something offensive, as well as pointless, about the politically charged inquiry into what might have been swirling inside the head of Jared Loughner. We hear that the accused shooter read The Communist Manifesto and liked flag-burning videos-good news for the right. Wait-he was a devotee of Ayn Rand and favored the gold standard, so he was a right-winger after all. Some assassinations embody an ideology, however twisted. Based on what we know so far, the Tucson killings look like more like politically tinged schizophrenia.
It is appropriate, however, to consider what was swirling outside Loughner's head. ... It was the anti-government, pro-gun, xenophobic populism that flourishes in the dry and angry climate of Arizona. Extremist shouters didn't program Loughner, in some mechanistic way, to shoot Gabrielle Giffords. But the Tea Party movement did make it appreciably more likely that a disturbed person like Loughner would react, would be able to react, and would not be prevented from reacting, in the crazy way he did.
Huh? How do you know that, Mr. Weisberg? Jared Loughner was not shy about sharing his thoughts with the world. Or are you just projecting the angry thoughts in your own head onto the world?
What would it mean if, say, it turned out that every evening around the dinner table, the shooter's mother, a government employee for the last 23 years, had denounced the Tea Party and worried out loud that Republicans might take away some of her government pension? What if it turns out that a check of Loughner's web browser finds that he read many of the countless denunciations of Arizonans in the national press in 2010, and that he shared the fear and loathing of the Nagourneys, Weisbergs, Sullivans, Greenbergs, and Krugmans toward the average Arizona voter, that Loughner's craziness had been stoked by the national campaign of vilification against Arizonans? What would it mean?
Well, it wouldn't mean much. The bottom line is that the killer is a major league lunatic.
The real issue isn't one maniac's psyche, of course, it's what has been revealed over the last four days about the psyches of the people who have the media bullhorn.