Why does a person buy a firearm, travel across the country and then shoot two guards at the Pentagon?
Because a man who recently did just that also died in the shooting, we may not get an answer to the question. But the national media came up with several guesses:
The man, John Patrick Bedell, was a skeptic of the official 9/11 theory (a "9/11 Truther").
Bedell suffered from bipolar disorder.
Bedell used marijuana.
But what did any of these labels stuck to Bedell have to do with his use of violence?
Millions of people in the United States and across the world tell booksellers, blogs and pollsters that they do not believe the official theory as to 9/11 that nineteen Arab suicide hijackers took over four planes and crashed three of them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Yet no one who studies crime has stated any rise in crime among these truthers or any connection between believing in an alternative theory and using violence.
As for his apparently untreated mental illness, approximately 5.7 million people in our nation suffer from bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive illness. But this illness causes a person to drift from a depressive phase in which their brain slows down to a manic phase in which they become excited. In the first phase, a person with the disorder typically cannot concentrate well enough to plan harm to another and in the second phase, the person is too giddy with excitement to want to harm anyone.
And who has heard of marijuana use ever being linked to violence? No credible study supports this conclusion and it seems out of place here, as Bedell did not commit a crime with the intention of making money, as some drug users do in order to buy more drugs.
As the reporters of this crime, the media used labels not relevant to the incident. But now many of those who have heard the reports have likely wrongly concluded that the media guesses of 9/11 truth, bipolar disorder and marijuana contributed to Bedell's intent to commit murder.
The unfortunate consequence of this labeling is that three groups of people will be stigmatized for something that they had nothing to do with. In a society where voters urge politicians to be "tough on crime" and where civil liberties have shrunk dramatically since the advent of the "War on Drugs" and the events of 9/11, false labeling will enable our government to scare decent citizens into hiding who they are for fear of being profiled.
We must stop our government from scapegoating anyone. This is how the Nazis got started and after they played upon the ignorance of their people, they succeeded in getting Germans to approve of the second-class citizenship and eventually the detention and murder of people in several groups: Jews, communists, the disabled, the gays, etc.
Cross-examine the reports about the Pentagon shooting and work toward a society where people are still innocent unless proven guilty.