Continuing to bang away at this critique of the binary between having to show a direct link between specific pieces of rhetoric and Loughner's act versus having to content ourselves with general correlations. I thought I could adapt Susan Bordo’s famous phrase, “psychopathology as crystallization of culture,” which she used to resist medicalization of anorexia. We would never be able to identify one image and the onset of anorexia in a particular anorectic, but I wouldn’t want to say there was no connection at all between cultural images of desirable thinness (plus those of thinness as sign of willpower, etc) and that particular anorectic.
So I think we shouldn’t say that short of finding a passage in Loughner’s journal where he says “I just saw this Palin (or Jesse Kelly or …) ad and I’m now convinced Giffords must be eliminated” that we can’t say anything about Loughner-in-Tucson and Giffords.
Note the "Loughner-in-Tucson" syntax. I think that's a key: it's the assemblage that counts, as I argue in the Columbine chapter in Political Affect. So the idea is that Loughner was not outside culture in being insane. On the contrary, he was too close to it; he had no filters, or not strong enough filters. Not only that, but Tucson provided him no buffers; it was all "guns are the solution to government" all the time. Having no filters in Ann Arbor Michigan might keep have kept him in a basement making YouTube videos, but having no filters in Tucson put him in that supermarket parking lot.
So to follow up on the Simondonian resonances of "crystallization": "psychopathology as the transduction of pathological culture"?
UPDATE Th 13 Jan 10:11 CST: My thoughts on Bordo were considerably sharpened by this Facebook comment by Hasana Sharp (reprinted with permission):
My worry about the Bordo-model is that it could imply that the problem with these social mirrors is that they aren't Cartesian enough -- that the solution is better filters, better abilities to affirm or deny the validity of our sensuous representations. It doesn't have to imply that: it could mean we need better buffers. His social constellation did not provide any alternatives and exacerbated these cultural tendencies, whereas we are inserted in other constellations that make tea party rhetoric sound either (a) like rhetoric/ posturing/ playing a game and/ or (b) insane. If the problem with crazy people is that we think words mean what they mean, then we also need to resist the Cartesian conclusion that we need individually cultivated critical faculties that are permanently set on skepticism, or else we are profoundly vulnerable to the deceptions of opinion and sensation (=culture). I don't think Bordo is wrong, only that there is still some Descartes lurking there, despite her magisterial critique of him as a pathological symptom.