You encounter people like the Pittsburgh cop killer all the time on the Internet. They are conspiracy theorists, having convinced themselves that secret cabals control the country or the world. They believe that their liberties are imperiled so long as they don't feel "free," regardless of reality. They flatter themselves by imagining themselves targets for persecution. According to this report, the killer believed that the Obama administration was going to take his guns away, and that the troops returning from Iraq were going to be Obama's storm troopers. On the Internet people like this are full of big talk about what they're ready to do if conditions in the country get worse. They sneer at people who aren't convinced by their theories, calling them "sheep" for their lack of faith in conspiracist web sites. They fantasize about heading for the hills or the woods with their private arsenals and holding out indefinitely against the government or the gangs or whoever they fear the most. But whatever the theory, the scene in Pittsburgh yesterday was the practice. A creep who couldn't cut it in boot camp, living with his mother and fighting with her over his dog, taking advantage of her call to the cops to stage an ambush and murder three policemen before surrendering like a coward, lacking even the instinctual honor of legitimate madmen. But now you'll see all his counterparts distance themselves from his views. They'll call him a bad egg whose actions had nothing to do with what he read, what he watched, or what he believed. Some will probably even call him an agent provocateur, a creature of the monster government, enacting a scenario designed to discredit all the other conspiracy theorists and gun nuts. They would rather smash the mirror than acknowledge their own reflections on the glass. But it's not what they see, or choose not to, that counts. It's up to the rest of us to figure it out for ourselves.
Update: Here's a defensive reaction from the epicenter of current anti-government conspiracy theory, Alex Jones's Infowars.com. Elsewhere, Jones's people emphasize that he has supposedly never called for violence against the incipient New World Order, although you do wonder how they expect people to react when Infowars propounds the notion that the President is a puppet of a cabal of bankers who want to "enslave" America by taking people's guns away, among other measures. I also happen to think it's cute how these people can have their conspiracy theory both ways, feeding anti-state paranoia and claiming that states inevitably enslave their people (Infowars, of course, having a very low threshold of "slavery") while claiming that the state is actually the plaything of powerful private interests. But I'll give this group credit for so far resisting the temptation to call the shooter a government agent. I still think it's only a matter of time before someone does that.