While the immediate reaction to the shootings in Arizona this weekend centered on the possible role vitriolic political rhetoric might have played in motivating Jared Lee Loughner to allegedly shoot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (and a federal judge, and a 9-year-old girl, and others), now that more details of the troubled young man's life are appearing, a fuller picture is emerging. The Wall Street Journal reports that Loughner was a gamer.
His game of choice was, apparently, Earth Empires, a text-based browser strategy game with a heavy focus on community--pretty far from the sort of ultra-violent gaming you might expect from an apparent mass killer. He also reportedly played Diablo and StarCraft when he was younger.
While little can be read from Loughner's choice of game, his posting on Earth Empire's message boards provide a glimpse into his mind. While many of Loughner's posts concern the kind of mundane chatter familiar to anyone who has spent any time on the internet, in retrospect, some of his words are chilling, including this post from April 20, 2010:
"Would you hit a Handy Cap Child/ Adult?"
Or this post, from May 20:
"I bet your hungry....Because i know how to cut a body open and eat you for more then a week. ;-)"
On May 9 at 2:00 a.m., he asked:
"Does anyone have aggression 24/7?"
Overall, Loughner's posts echo many of the themes on his videos from YouTube page. They display an obsession with language, a hatred of the educational system, aggression and an inability to find employment. Also, problems with dating and cracked philosophical musings. There is no mention of anything political in his online postings.
If you read Loughner's posts before he reportedly committed his massive, violent shooting spree, you'd see little that would concern you. No threats of violence. No Unabomber style manifestos. Loughner's posts and involvement in this community and with other strategy games honestly doesn't seem all that out of the ordinary. He seems like the weird kid in your guild. The kid you probably don't think that much about, but if you do, it's to wonder if he's on drugs, or if he needs some kind of psychological help. Ultimately, Evil can be pretty mundane, and Evil people pretty much like all of us.
If there can be anything said to be positive in this story, the reaction Loughner's online pals showed to his posting are illuminating. Loughner's post complaining about not being able to find a job were answered with constructive comments on what to do, as, it seems, were most of his comments. Overall, judging from The Wall Street Journal's posts, the online community of Earth Empires was one of the few positive aspects of Loughner's life, a fact that troubles some of the Earth Empire community, a member of which recently wrote, "I can't stand that I know him."
Source: Wall Street Journal