Even in better economic times, Arizona sported a special patina. Home to Barry Goldwater, the ur-conservative of the Reagan revolution, it served as John McCain's national launching pad until (mercifully) McCain's Geritol stopped working.
These are among the intuitive reasons why the Tucson slaughter has attracted so much commentary. If such a shooting spree had erupted in, say, sleepy North Dakota rather than Arizona, the horror would have been just as real, but the pickings for analysis rather slim.
As the Phoenix goes to press, the more serious and respectable elements of the media seem to be wrapped up in a well-intentioned but perhaps fruitless chicken-and-egg debate about Loughner and Arizona's climate of opinion.
It is a tricky business because it is hard to intellectualize the emotional. Reason suggests that Loughner is sick. Emotion, however, animates a search for deeper answers — no matter how elusive those answers might be.
Into this honest turbulence comes the right-wing broadcast blowhards — Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and in the local peanut gallery, second-string wannabes such as Howie Carr, Michael Graham, and Jay Severin.
These guys make their living commodifying fear, anger, and resentment. In the case of the national big mouths, they take home multi-million-dollar paychecks for doing so. The top local "talents" exceed $500,000 annually. They literally profit from fear by spreading loathing. And they represent a national sickness even more terrifying and irrational than gun worship.