In a land of rugged individualism our terrorists inevitably send mixed, idiosyncratic messages. The married couple who killed three people, including two policemen, before carrying out a murder-suicide -- the wife doing the shooting -- in Las Vegas last weekend are described as "anti-government extremists." Early reports were confused by their reported draping of swastikas over their police victims, but it now seems apparent that they were labeling the cops, and not identifying themselves, as Nazis. They also deployed the so-called Gadsden flag, the "Don't Tread On Me" banner with the snake, tempting Democrats and liberals to indict all such flag wavers by association with the killer couple. They apparently sought to align themselves with right-wing anti-government causes, showing up on Cliven Bundy's ranch to offer their support in the racist rancher's battle with the federal government over grazing fees. The Bundys kicked them off the ranch; they say the couple was too extreme for them, while the husband claimed at the time that he was spurned because he was a convicted felon. Taking all this into account, the most glaring fact remains the husband's fascination with The Joker. He would dress up as Batman's arch-enemy, his wife getting the role of Harley Quinn, the sidekick/consort created for Joker in the 1992 cartoon series. This reminded me of the maniac who shot up a Colorado movie theater during the premier of The Dark Knight Rises and left booby traps at home for investigators; he initially identified himself as The Joker. It does not remind me of anyone dedicated to defending traditional values of individual liberty and limited government. Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight has sometimes been called a "fascist" film in part because it portrays the creation of an unprecedentedly intrusive (but short-lived) surveillance network for the sole purpose of capturing The Joker. Did this real-life Joker agree with the criticism? Did he somehow identify the villain's nihilist rampage in the film, or his mass-murder exploits in recent comics, as resistance to power or authority? Perhaps The Joker is "V" minus any appeal to social justice, the new icon of sociopathic pride. I don't know whether the murderer did his Joker act on the Bundy ranch, but I could understand why the Bundys might throw him out if he did, regardless of any ideological affinity between the ranchers and the crackpot couple. Some readers may think of all "right-wing extremism" as evil, but most right-wing extremists, obviously enough, don't think of themselves that way. But if you dress up as The Joker, what else can you be saying about yourself? Maybe he -- the real man or his avatar -- stands at the bottom of the slippery slope that starts with a zero-sum defense of liberty against government and accelerates with resentment or any exterior constraint on individual freedom. The Joker is arguably the modern embodiment of an alternate libertarian tradition that could trace its roots to that eloquent 18th-century advocate of personal liberty, the Marquis de Sade. Yet Jerad Miller and his wife would have you think they died defending the more traditional, moralistic tradition. That's so funny I forgot to laugh.
Updates: Local police now report that they took "Mr. J." down and that "Harley" only killed herself. Further reading reveals that Miller reportedly said that he adopted the Joker identity because he assumed that the government would see him as a terrorist, the comics and movie villain being, in his mind, the ultimate icon of terror. Idiot.