Vanity Fair profiles The eXile: "Gutsy...visceral...serious journalism...abusive, defamatory...poignant...paranoid...and right!"
MSNBC: Mark Ames and Yasha Levine
Broke the Koch Brothers' Takeover of America
Going Postal / January 10, 2011
By Mark Ames


This story was first published in Vanity Fair.

Saturday’s shooting in Tucson, Arizona, has been variously described as an “assassination” and a “shooting rampage”—but which one is it?

This may seem like a semantic quibble, but what occurred in that Safeway supermarket appears to be an entirely new type of American murder: a hybrid of political assassination, of the sort that plagued America in the 1960s and 70s, and a “going postal” rampage massacre, of the kind that first appeared in the mid- to late-1980s, with the rise of Reaganomics inequalities and the deterioration of workplace culture.

Continue reading this story at Vanity Fair, or click here.

Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion: From Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine and Beyond.

Click the cover & buy the book!


Add your own

  • 1. Victorvalley Villain  |  January 10th, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    This one gives a shout out to Mark Ames.
    It’s pretty good.

  • 2. Juan Carlos Perez  |  January 10th, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    This is part of a much older American tradition. See “American assassins” by
    James W. Clarke. 1982 Princeton University Press.

  • 3. Sloop  |  January 10th, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Mark what’s up with these cop out articles you’ve been writing? With both this and the original TSA article you presented a few problems and concluded by saying, “Well, I dont know what to make of all this, but hopefully eventually somebody will.” You’re smarter than that!!

    At least you’ve spared the discourse of yet another piece blanket condemning militant political rhetoric, cause the left wants so badly for this guy to have been sent on high by Sarah Palin herself instead of being symptomatic of the times in a more nuanced way.

  • 4. Pascual Gorostieta  |  January 10th, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    I think we can expect shootings like this to move downwards instead of upwards. I could see shootings/assassination attempts happening in city council meetings and members of state legislatures the like throughout the next decade.
    Another dynamic that certainly might add to right-wing violence is that a few radical Christians are pegging the end of the World in May. Who is to say some Dispensationalist wont try to do God’s work and take out some undesirables before the Second coming.

  • 5. Marlboro  |  January 10th, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    I clicked on the clicky so VF got the traffic and now maybe Graydon will hire you more.

    One of the most chilling things I have ever heard came from a would-be assassin, Sarah Jane Moore. In an interview from prison, she talked about her attempt on President Ford’s life. She said–and this is far from a verbatim quote but it’s the jist of it–“I practiced for one shot because I thought that’s all I could get. But when I got that first shot off, everything and everyone froze. I could’ve gotten a second and even a third shot because everyone was so slow to react. In those split seconds, I was so dumb-founded at my luck and I just stood there until they tackled me to the ground.”

    Whenever the assassins who go on these rampages begin to rehearse and to practice for their acts, then I’ll be concerned. However, Loughner just seems like some random guy, who was so enraged that he couldn’t verbalize his anger and so had to act it out without a coherent plan. As such, this act just seems something for our dear government to hold out to take away more of our freedoms.

  • 6. Derp  |  January 10th, 2011 at 10:16 pm




  • 7. mr. mike  |  January 11th, 2011 at 1:40 am

    Yes, Mr. Ames, this is the worst of all worlds if they want to combine rampage shootings with political asassinations. What also should be said is that Arizona has the perfect trifecta to create such attacks: the state government has been run into the ground by right-wing leadership, social services (including colleges) are beginning to become non-existent, and the state allows concealed handguns without a license. Jared L. Loughner allegedly loved to learn, but he was expelled from a community college for weird outbursts. The fact that he totally shaved his face is interesting; is this a silent admission that he is a skinhead or sympathetic to neo-Nazi groups, or is it a sign of his insanity? Did he go after Guiffords because she was Jewish, or was she a target of opportunity? I hope the trial will find this out.

  • 8. John  |  January 11th, 2011 at 2:26 am

    Uh… the article stated that assassination attempts ended with the beginning of the Reagan era. I seem to remember someone shooting Reagan. Why was that not mentioned, and if taken into account, what is it supposed to mean?
    And finally, the Nixon administration being tagged as a precursor to the common man flipping out is not convincing to me. We should all remember which president passed the most civil rights legislation in the history of the office so far; it was Nixon.
    It should also be noted that the reason we see those paragraphs on employment and rental applications regarding the forbidding of discrimination regardless of race, sex, color or creed, is because Nixon made it so.
    Trying to imply that the act of a probable paranoid schizophrenic is specifically related to a party holding political power seems to me to be disingenuous, particularly since, unless I’m mistaken, the author seems to have fundamental problems with the republican party.
    In any case, the other distinctions regarding the modus operandi of these people was very interesting.

  • 9. the dodd  |  January 11th, 2011 at 4:11 am

    hey, mark, good article!

    although you forgot a couple of things: i’ve read somewhere (forgot where, sorry), that before the shooting, loughner attented at a convention by the democrats a couple of months (or weeks? not sure) ago. he asked one of the politicians: “what is the use of politics if words have no meaning?” (loughner was interested in maths and logic, language), nobody friggin answered him, they simpley didn’t care, so loughner seems quite intelligent and caring for the state of society that he lives in. this seems like one of the key patterns which you pointed out in your book: people are getting ignored as part of the “subtle bullying”. nobody wants to hear their problems, their worries and what not.

    loughner also declared his college a place of “torture”, after that statement, they kicked him out. why did loughner say that in the first place? there surely must be a reason. what’s going on in this college? what’s the inner state of it? you don’t kick somebody out for nothing! again, nobody wanted to listen to loughner, why he said “this is place is torture”. he seems to fit the kind of rebel scheme from ‘going postal’. in summer 2009, his teacher was frightened of him, the teacher asked him for a solution of an arithmetic problem, loughner uttered a random number and asked his teacher: “how can you deny mathematics, instead of accepting it?” the teacher’s reaction: he turned around, didn’t answer him and started to get frightened of loughner for the next weeks. seems like a stupid reaction for an authoritarian person that young people look up to, eh? the teacher ignored loughner, for f*ck’s sake.

    other behaviour from loughner in college was hysterical laughter, bizarre thought hopping and outbursts of aggrevations. he was indeed losing it…but why?

    quite an intruiging case…

  • 10. the dodd  |  January 11th, 2011 at 4:14 am

    correction: “how can you negate mathematics, instead of accepting it?”

  • 11. Kat  |  January 11th, 2011 at 5:29 am

    I guess it sort of reminds me of the final scene (penultimate?) in Nashville. Not that that really matters.

  • 12. coldequation  |  January 11th, 2011 at 5:33 am

    This was neither a throwback to the good old days of political assassination or a “going postal” rampage. This is a lunatic doing his thing. The only new thing about is that, in the good ol’ days, Loughner would have been lobotomized, subjected to insulin shock therapy, and left to wallow in his own shit in a Willowbrook-style loony bin.

  • 13. Fissile  |  January 11th, 2011 at 8:43 am

    The more facts that come out, the clearer it is that this homicidal Gen Y’er was just getting his Taxi Driver on.

    For those of you jumping on the anti-Semitims wagon, sorry, but the kid is Jewish.

    @ John #8, Yup, blaming this on Nixon is a stretch. Nixon was actually quite liberal as far as Republicans go. Nixon was the first prez to seriously attempt a universal health coverage scheme. Nixon health care was quashed by fat/drunk Ted Kennedy, BTW. Nixon privately stated that private possession of handguns should be made illegal.

    That does not completely absolve Palin and her Tea-Tard ilk. The White Trash Queen provides the rhetorical Hot Pockets that feed psychotic personalities like Jared. She should be held liable for that.

  • 14. EJK  |  January 11th, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Love ya, Mark.

    But someone new to your work would think from reading this essay that you buy into the Lone Nut bullshit regarding the 60s assassinations. Which you don’t.

    What gives?

  • 15. az  |  January 11th, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Reaganholic Clintombine Obamacide is what I call it.

  • 16. Alex  |  January 11th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Ames, it is sickening to read one of the best living writers while I’m just writing comments. I suck and I know it! Also, yes I’m a Koch troll like the others, so I pretend that the only articles I like of yours are the wild sex and drugs and prostitutes and all the rest, because those were harmless to my billionaire boss whose ass I lick every day.

  • 17. JF  |  January 11th, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    This was a great article. It knocked it right out of the park.

    I am reminded most recently about the bungled Clay Duke incident last year. If Clay was more effective, it would have fallen into the same exact category. A political statement/assassination followed by a rampage, though Clay’s situation was a bit more rampage than assassination.

    I would surmise that one reason people rampage is because of a perceived impotence, and lack of hope or options, actual or otherwise, as well as the idea being bullied or oppressed(actual or otherwise); therefore suicide is usually the end result. And mental Illness only amplifies the desire to rampage.

    I would also surmise that a straight lone assassin is probably more similar to a soldier in that they are self conditioned to do a task that they feel is right, therefore suicide is not necessarily a forgone conclusion unless they feel the task requires it. I could wrong though.

    Either way more of these events could be forthcoming as our economic situation devolves alongside an increasing lack of a social infrastructure. Our greedy, cruel, narcissistic culture, with an obsession on all things individual, will merrily help grease things along.

    Lastly my logic informs me that the severity will only increase exponentially along with the, education level, technical proficiency, and competence of the individual committing said act. Imagine a chemist or biologist with the same challenges as our young Mr. Loughner. Might their “outlet” be a bit more creative than Jared or Clay’s.

    Also wether or not Nixon passed much of what we call civil rights legislation, logically does not absolve him from how his economic polices have negatively affected the american workplace in the long term. I could even entertain the idea that his Civil Rights legislation were for purely economic reasons. But I digress…

  • 18. Eddie  |  January 11th, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    What saddens me in cases such as this one is how pointlessly stupid the assassins and their actions turn out to be. Non of them seem to have a coherent plan, understanding of the cause and effect of their actions or even the most basic of political motives.

    Instead like spoiled children they lash out on society in a vain attempt to redress their very personal grievances. Be that the pursuit of fame, revenge or religious insanity.

    Gone are the good old days of Gavrilo Princip and his Black Hand homies when assassinations meant something, succeeded in effecting change (although in his case not the one intended) and where carried out for a cause greater then themselves.

    Yet there is still hope for these dimwits. It has taken a whole lot of energy to keep this many people willfully ignorant and that energy is slowly running out. The realities of exponential growth on a finite planet are setting in and no amount of purchases of collateral debt obligations are going to change that. Change is coming, whether we want it or not, and and I suspect that there will be a whole lot of people who like this clown above that will make things far to personal.

  • 19. Tungsten Man  |  January 11th, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    What y’all really need to do is get Dol . . . errr, Brecher on this one. We need to read about this sort of thing in context of internecine warfare.

  • 20. John Drinkwater  |  January 11th, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Congrats on publishing in VF – I bet they pay well. You could’ve added that the Tucson shooting is yet another example of blowback, domestic-style. A cruel, heartless society ostracizes weirdos, refuses to take care of them, even after they show clear signs of mental instability but still somehow wonders How This is Possible? Blaming ALL of the wrong things, like the idiotic, self-righteous trendy crap about ‘heated political rhetoric’ somehow being the cause of the problem.

    Some “community” college that PIMA place turned out to be: take the craziest guy around and throw him out on the streets!

  • 21. Jon  |  January 11th, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    As Ames has noted in the past, the first response to this sort of incident is invariably denial. Yes, the guy was a psycho, that seems undeniable, but, at the same time, it seems equally undeniable that there is something distinctly American about these events; which means that, seeing as how the majority of people in the country have no interest in constructive discussion regarding the underlying issues contributing to the modern American malaise, the shooting rampages will most likely continue unabated. As long as people cling to the idea of American exceptionalism–the religious adherence to which, in my opinion, gives rise to the blithely self-destructive nationalism that is so insidious precisely because people seem entirely unaware of the link between exceptionalism and brutal nationalism–I believe that the societal circumstances, and therefore the violent reactions to said circumstances, will only worsen.

    Another thing I feel compelled to mention is my continual amazement at the media’s willful ignorance (though I actually cannot tell whether it is willful or not, which makes its existence all the more terrifying) and refusal to even feign analysis of the issue. I was watching NBC News tonight, and I immediately picked up on three things that were stressed, in the sense that they were lingered on both visually and verbally: that the guy smoked weed, salvia, and was a community college student. And he was a weird loner (who are of course untrustworthy by default) to boot! That is evidently the best that they could come up with in the way of possible influences on his violent actions.

    It’s truly exasperating to watch this discussion unfold. (Next thing we know, they will discover that he liked violent video games!) I know I’m ripping off Ames or Dolan by saying this, but I’m beginning to suspect that the American people actually enjoy being treated like shit–whatever it takes to please their corporate masters–and that incidents like this one will do absolutely nothing to shake them from their collective stupor. To wake up and begin to think critically about the world around you requires some inclination, however deeply repressed, to make a change. The overwhelming majority just don’t give a fuck as to why our society fosters this sort of behavior.

    Again, I make no equivocation about this guy’s psychosis and ultimate responsibility for his actions, but I think one has to be in a state of the deepest denial and unconscious despair to not realize that there is something very dark–probably worse than even what we happy cynics will admit–lurking underneath the surface of the chipper (i.e., if I pull myself up by my bootstraps, fame and fortune and the Hollywood ending are inevitably mine) American facade.

  • 22. John Drinkwater  |  January 11th, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    “What saddens me in cases such as this one is how pointlessly stupid the assassins and their actions turn out to be.”

    I was thinking the same thing. At least the nihilists and anarchists of old targeted evil villains like Russian Tsars (successful in one attempt) and factory managers like Henry Clay Frick, who Alexander Berkman came very close to killing. Not that I condone those attempts, but it sure beats targeting harmless non-entities like Gabby.

  • 23. Rubbadubba  |  January 12th, 2011 at 12:06 am

    The answer to “Is the Arizona Shooting A New Kind of American Murder?” is No. The answer to “Does mankind need more snapper pics?” is Yes. The answer to “Why Vanity Fair” is Dunno; Hustler pays better.

  • 24. mr. mike  |  January 12th, 2011 at 12:41 am

    There were four students in the PIMA poetry class who complained to the professor that they though Jared Lee Loughner and the instructor himself was disturbed by JLL’s outbursts. The college suspended him until he could prove he was sane.

    I do know that JLL has met Rep. Guiffords before the shooting and did not like how she answered his question. I don’t know how much the GOP rhetoric affected his thinking, but the media theory right now is that Loughner’s schizophrenia drove him to the assasination attempt. I think that may only be proven at a future court date.

  • 25. wengler  |  January 12th, 2011 at 1:45 am

    You should amend your ‘Going Postal’ theory, Mr. Ames. While it appears that this particular shooting has nothing in connection to middle-aged white man rampages, they are all connected in the way that all of the organizations these people belong(ed) to attempt to externalize their problems rather than solve them. It is a societal case of passing the buck until it stops with a bullet to the chest of a nine year-old girl.

    Look at a state like Arizona. So obsessed are its residents with their ideological unwillingness to tax the wealthy that they invent silly schemes like selling the statehouse to make ends meet. They pass the buck in areas like mental health to the communities where the mentally ill and mentally deranged end up in the hospital or the jail.

    Mr. Loughner’s community college, presumably lacking the resources to enter a mentally troubled student into any sort of evaluation process, instead simply kicks out the student and says he can re-enter when he gets a doctor’s evaluation on his own. Unsurprisingly, he did not do that.

    The costs associated with preventing situations like this are miniscule compared having a pre-modern government approach the American Right so prefers. Six people dead. Millions of dollars not counting the incredible human misery inflicted. But Arizona will not abide anything but “small government” solutions and open carry for everyone.

  • 26. tam  |  January 12th, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    @John Drinkwater

    ‘At least the nihilists and anarchists of old targeted evil villains like Russian Tsars (successful in one attempt) and factory managers like Henry Clay Frick, who Alexander Berkman came very close to killing.’

    I think that if those anarchists have a modern day equivalent, it’s got to be the likes of wikileaks, not this guy…

  • 27. the dodd  |  January 12th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    a cbs survey shows that 57% americans don’t believe that the radical statements by the tea party was responsible for the shooting in arizona, 32% believe the opposite. now, if there’s any credibility to the survey, it shows that most americans deep down inside FEEL what’s really going on in the society (maybe they just can’t express it any better)…that there’s something rotten in american society, like in stephen king’s “it” (a novel about a couple of young outcast “losers” – note: the same guys like in ames’ “going postal”, i always had to think at king’s novel while reading it, i just couldn’t fight to see the ‘similarities’ – that was written at the beginning of the 80’s, the time where we made out the first serious type of rampages, it was no coincidence that king wrote such metaphorized stuff back then, i think one has to be a moron, if one overlooks this…), where the violent and sick society created a type-changing-monster and blamed this monster for all the murder and evilness and yet they were the ones responsible for bringing all that stuff into their place…hatred, isolation, racism etc. the grown-ups in this novel are as speechless as the grown-ups in today america after the shooting(s).

  • 28. Reality  |  January 12th, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    “The only new thing about is that, in the good ol’ days, Loughner would have been lobotomized, subjected to insulin shock therapy, and left to wallow in his own shit in a Willowbrook-style loony bin.”

    Aaaaahhhh…The good ol’ days. Oh, how I miss them. (Sigh.)

    BTW, is it really necessary for you Exile fucktards to post a great big picture of that crazy-eyed scumbag on your site? Don’t you think this sick asshole has got enough attention as it is?

    I can only dream of being as good a lover as Mark Ames.

  • 29. Marquelot  |  January 12th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Fuck Nixon. Whoever his fan was up there seems to forget the bombings of Laos and Cambodia, the bugging of the Watergate, “ratfucking”, and all those other wonderful Nixonian doings that led us to a fucked up president like Ray Gun. If you haven’t yet, read Hunter S. Thompson’s eulogy of him “He Was a Crook”. It’s easily googleable…

  • 30. John Drinkwater  |  January 12th, 2011 at 5:15 pm


    I agree. In no way was I trying to suggest that Jared is a modern day equivalent of anarchist bomb throwers. Couldn’t be further apart. I like the anarchists. And, of course, only a few anarchists were violent. Most were peaceful political agitators.

    I also agree that Assange is a what we should call a “postmodern anarchist” – and he should be proud of the title.

  • 31. the dodd  |  January 13th, 2011 at 3:20 am


    “BTW, is it really necessary for you Exile fucktards to post a great big picture of that crazy-eyed scumbag on your site?”

    yes, it is. it’s another important piece in this weird puzzle. american people have to look the ‘loser’-by-product of this perverted society right in the face/in the eye. (i know, they can’t stand it, it’s so disturbing, but that’s what it looks like, if you live in an inhumane culture like america) whoever calls him a “scumbag” is playing be the sick rules of this society, it’s not just a face “from a loony”, like the mainstream media would call it helplessly. it’s an interesting *human* facial expression (what is that anyway? forced smile? he looks somewhat content, like a cheeky kid who just pranked his parents or so…and when was that taken? right after the shooting?).

    why don’t we call cal lightman for pointing out the meaning behind this expression?

    i know only one thing: every american should stop taking xanax etc., it’s not good for your health, these pills manipulate you if you take it more than a couple of months. be sane, wake up and face the madness.

  • 32. az  |  January 13th, 2011 at 8:40 am

    I really can’t live with the fact that he has no eyebrows. That’s just pure nuts.

    And no, dodd, people should continue taking their psych medicine, we all do anyway. Can you imagine how lame parties would be without alcohol/weed/coke?

  • 33. the dodd  |  January 13th, 2011 at 11:10 am

    concerning the eye brows…it’s either a trend, a gang thing or has something to do with schools not wanting any pupils with designs in their brows, so they have to shave them off fully so they can still go to school (a school in portland, oregon wanted that some years ago).

    “And no, dodd, people should continue taking their psych medicine”

    it’s okay for a small amount of time, but irresponsible if you take that a couple of years. if a doctor in europe would do that, i’d kick his butt! but in america the docs prescibe that crap too early and too often, like it’s daily bread. jesus…

    counseling is much more important (but i guess in the states that’s already part of being a ‘loser sissy’ and not cool, eh?), plus there are much more natural alternatives for feeling better mentally (physical activities, fish, nuts, soy stuff etc.). counseling has a better and much more probable chance of curing somebody’s depression, psych drugs won’t do that.

    the pharma industry earns a shitload of money if you take psych medicine, why is nobody realising this? the pharma industry is not interested in “curing” people’s health problems. so having this country’s fucked up ‘the winner takes it all, the loser gets thrown into the trash’ society, the pharma industry has a bigger market, that’s pure genius. america is a country with the majority people being pumped full of psych medicine and yet still most people are on the verge of becoming insane. doesn’t that make you wonder?

    “we all do anyway.”

    that’s so lame. ‘we all do it, so i do it’ – what are you? sheep? just follow the leader? (i’m not having a go at you, i just find such excuses appaling)

    “Can you imagine how lame parties would be without alcohol/weed/coke?”

    that’s a myth! who told you that? some alcohol on a party is okay (while still keeping your sanity level) and getting drunken a little every once in a while, too, but you’re directly telling me that most americans, including you, cannot socially interact anymore without any drugs! do you realise what you’re saying? that’s so disgusting. you can have fun on a party without all that stuff, at least i do and so do my friends. hiding your (insecure) personality behind drugs is a free choice, not an order from your government, you know.

    a whole nation of addicts…this raises new questions about all the “random” shootings/rampages and the u.s. judiciary convicting all the ones who “go postal”…

  • 34. Jack Boot  |  January 14th, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Recall that, back in 1913, there was no peasantry on Earth more docile & devout than the Russian.
    But by 1917, the muzhiks realised just how little their betters cared for them.

    Will history repeat itself – or at least rhyme?
    All will be revealed…

  • 35. Jyp  |  January 14th, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    That’s one ugly fucken nut. A new icon for the degenerating world of postcapitalism. The face of the Gulf disaster, of Katrina, of the endless insane wars and imperial banditry. The face of a dead economy, trillions stolen and siphoned directly into the pockets of a handful of banker scum. Jeebus, no wonder that fucken nut is smiling.

  • 36. Chas  |  January 14th, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Cannot deny the conversation value of events such as this, but the USArmee (and all other armeez currently in action) has you doing precisely this type of thing all day long until someone finally finds it more expedient to put a muzzle on you, for some reason or other, for the time being. Of course, THEM being gooks, or ragheads or junglebunnies or hajies or whatever makes it totally OK and completely different

  • 37. RedBastardGod  |  January 15th, 2011 at 5:52 am

    I wonder if he could light an incandescent bulb merely by sticking one in his mouth?

  • 38. CensusLouie  |  January 16th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Probably the best argument against “smaller government” garbage argument is looking at stuff like this. Stripping away social safety nets and public benefits results in shithole communities where your only options are lottery tickets, meth, or rampages (or all three!). These kind of rampages ALWAYS happens in shithole red states.

    Unless I’m mistaken. Can anyone name one rampage that happened in a blue state? If you can, I’d bet good money that it was in a red district.

  • 39. Phoenix Woman  |  January 17th, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    Let’s see: The dude is a Glenn-Beck-style Gold and Silver Bug, he worships at the altar of right-wing grammar scammer David Wynn Miller, and he’s addicted to various conspiracy theories of the sort pioneered and still favored by right-wingers. Oh, and he thinks women who get abortions are terrorists.

    Yet he’s just a “lone nut” with no political motivations whatsoever, according to the Tea Party types.

  • 40. senior apartments california  |  January 5th, 2012 at 4:52 am

    It should also be noted that the reason we see those paragraphs on employment and rental applications regarding the forbidding of discrimination regardless of race, sex, color or creed, is because Nixon made it so.

  • 41. senior apartments california  |  January 9th, 2012 at 4:10 am

    At least you’ve spared the discourse of yet another piece blanket condemning militant political rhetoric, cause the left wants so badly for this guy to have been sent on high by Sarah Palin herself instead of being symptomatic of the times in a more nuanced way.

Leave a Comment

(Open to all. Comments can and will be censored at whim and without warning.)


Required, hidden

Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed