Jared Loughner is not cooperating with police, remaining silent since being taken into custody. So we only have his past patterns to use to try and understand his character and his motivations for arriving at the Tuscon Safeway with a loaded gun on Saturday.

It looks increasingly clear that Loughner was a normal teen who gradually lost touch with reality, probably due to mental illness. He was anti-government but not in a coherent way. And it appears he held a grudge against Gabby Giffords.

Tierney tells Mother Jones in an exclusive interview that Loughner held a years-long grudge against Giffords and had repeatedly derided her as a “fake.” Loughner’s animus toward Giffords intensified after he attended one of her campaign events and she did not, in his view, sufficiently answer a question he had posed, Tierney says. He also describes Loughner as being obsessed with “lucid dreaming”—that is, the idea that conscious dreams are an alternative reality that a person can inhabit and control—and says Loughner became “more interested in this world than our reality.” Tierney adds, “I saw his dream journal once. That’s the golden piece of evidence. You want to know what goes on in Jared Loughner’s mind, there’s a dream journal that will tell you everything.” [...]

Tierney, who’s also 22, recalls Loughner complaining about a Giffords event he attended during that period. He’s unsure whether it was the same one mentioned in the charges—Loughner “might have gone to some other rallies,” he says—but Tierney notes it was a significant moment for Loughner: “He told me that she opened up the floor for questions and he asked a question. The question was, ‘What is government if words have no meaning?’”

Giffords’ answer, whatever it was, didn’t satisfy Loughner. “He said, ‘Can you believe it, they wouldn’t answer my question,’ and I told him, ‘Dude, no one’s going to answer that,’” Tierney recalls. “Ever since that, he thought she was fake, he had something against her.”

Tierney actually got a phone call from Loughner at 2am the night before the murder.

So you have an alienated youth with a disturbed mind, someone who prefers to live in an alternate reality and control his dreams, and someone affected by mental illness. But that’s not a reason to close Loughner off from the increasingly toxic atmosphere of the world around us. Particularly in Arizona, the air was thick with hate speech, conspiracist talk and a generally pervasive anger. Loughner appeared to connect with this – talking about currency and mind control. You almost get the sense that he was infected by the world around him, even if he was not entirely cognizant of it.

In the text on one of the videos, for example, Mr. Loughner states, “No! I won’t pay debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold and silver.” He also argues that “the current government officials are in power for their currency” and he uses his videos to display text about becoming a treasurer of “a new money system.”

The position, for instance, that currency not backed by a gold or silver standard is worthless is a hallmark of the far right and the militia movement, said Mark Potok, who directs research on hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“That idea is linked closely to the belief among militia supporters that the Federal Reserve is a completely private entity engaged in ripping off the American people,” Mr. Potok said.

But Mr. Loughner also posits in his Web postings the idea that the government is seeking to control people through rules and structure of grammar and language.

This is similar to the position of David Wynn Miller, 62, a former tool-and-die welder from Milwaukee who describes himself as a “Plenipotentiary-judge” seeking to correct, through a mathematical formula, what he sees as the erroneous and manipulative use of grammar and language worldwide. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers Mr. Miller a conspiracy theorist, some of whose positions have been adopted by militias in general.

More from Potok here, and it’s definitely worth reading. Loughner may also have been influenced by American Renaissance, a white supremacist group, may also be involved.

This is far-right Patriot movement stuff, exactly where you expect an attack like this would come from. The fringe has been mainstreamed on the right, and this transmits to people on the outer limits of society, who find purchase for their wildest viewpoints. You can credibly characterize Loughner as an unstable individual, but the zeitgeist seems to have played a role, if only at the level of being anti-authority.