16 November 2012

When OIP Derangement Syndrome Turns Deadly

When Talking Points Memo rounded up “The 6 Most Bizarre Freakouts Over Obama’s Re-Election,” the site excluded “incidents where mental illness may have been a factor.” But there is an unfortunate overlap between OIP Derangement Syndrome and violent crime.

Back in 2009, a 22-year-old named Richard Poplawski shot three police officers in Pittsburgh. Poplawski had told at least two friends that he believed President Barack Obama was going to take away his rights. His paranoia also focused on Jews. He has been sentenced to death in Pennsylvania.

Shortly afterward, a 28-year-old named Joshua Cartwright killed two sheriffs’ deputies in Florida before being shot to death. His wife said he as “severely disturbed” by President Obama’s election and believed the federal government was oppressing him.

In November 2011, a 21-year-old man named Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez traveled from Idaho Falls to Washington and fired nine rifle shots at the White House. One round hit a window of the first family’s living quarters, though that was probably a lucky shot and they weren’t home. Hernandez had told people that Obama was the “antichrist” and the “devil.”

In August 2012, Georgia authorities indicted four U.S. Army soldiers who had talked about assassinating President Obama, as well as taking over a local fort, bombing sites, and poisoning apple crops. Such planning might sound ludicrous, but the four had murdered a former comrade and his girlfriend who knew about their discussions.

In September, the Daily Mail reported that 57-year-old Albert Peterson killed his wife, two young sons, and himself in a severe depression that became focused onto Obama. American newspapers haven’t run that aspect of the murder-suicide, which is based on statements of an anonymous friend of the family. The Mail quoted a police department spokesperson saying, “We are aware that the father had strong political opinions.”

This month, a 28-year-old woman named Holly Solomon was so upset about President Obama’s reelection that she chased down her husband, who hadn’t voted, with her Jeep. He was severely injured. She was arrested.

And a 64-year-old Florida man named Henry Hamilton committed suicide after the election, writing an obscenity about Obama on the wall as he did. Hamilton was taking medication for “anxiety and schizophrenia,” according to the Miami Herald.

Some of those people had already been under psychiatric care, and others were at the age when serious mental illnesses can emerge. Still, it’s striking how their delusions came to echo the messages and implications of America’s right-wing media, quick to blame President Obama for all problems or believe the worst about him.


Anonymous said...

Should the victims sue Fox News and assorted talkradio hosts?

J. L. Bell said...

I don't think we can draw such a short, straight line as to establish legal culpability. But I think the NRA bears some responsibility for pushing the "Obama will take your guns" line for two elections now with no evidence at all. For people who don't like the label "gun nuts," they show very little interest in acknowledging reality.