- “When facts are few,” observed the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, “speculations are most likely to represent individual psychology.”
Or political ideology — as in the case of the Washington, D.C., sniper.
But what can’t be argued is that Americans have entered into a second era of terror, an era likely to end as the last one did, in tougher security measures at home and abroad.
Especially around Washington, it was inevitable that speculation about the identity of the killer would cleave along ideological lines. Those on the political right often have suggested that the sniper could be linked to Al Qaeda or even Saddam Hussein. In this camp one finds William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, Chris Ruddy of Newsmax.com, various talking heads on Fox News and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin, who has just published a book on the dangers of unrestricted immigration.
Such speculation, of course, feeds into the hawkish worldview that the U.S. is under siege by foreigners and foreign terror. And so part of the solution, as Frank Gaffney of the pro-Pentagon Center for Security Policy wrote recently, is to go overseas and “drain the swamps” of foreign terror.
“Saddam Hussein not only has the connections to Al Qaeda,” Gaffney argued, but he has the motive of derailing American war plans. Thus the Iraqi dictator “stands to benefit directly from the distracting effect of seemingly unrelated terrorist activities elsewhere.” By such logic, the bloody deeds of the Beltway sniper could become yet another reason to attack Iraq.
On the left side of the political spectrum, guessing has clustered around a white male as the suspect. Former FBI agent Candice DeLong was quoted by the New York Times as saying of the shooter, “I see him all into this stealth ninja stuff, walking around with a swagger, used to bossing people around, maybe a fireman or construction worker.” And Democratic-activist-turned-“Crossfire” host James Carville declared, “This guy strikes me as someone who has either law enforcement training or military training.” CNN reported that violent video games could be the cause. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, meanwhile, seized the moment to attack “gun nuts” for blocking greater gun control.
What we see, or think we see, is framed by the background against which we see it.