Among the tragedies of mass murders is the bitter truth that the murderer will often for a time become more famous than the victims.  Perhaps that is especially true with true lunatics, as the public struggles to understand exactly what triggered the murder spree.  That will be the case for at least the next few days as more details emerge about Jared Lee Loughner and the very strange life he led in the years prior to killing at least six people and gravely wounding several others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson.

Today, the Daily News reports that Loughner may have had an “alarming altar” consisting of a skull in a flowerpot, lending a “chilling occult dimension” to the attempted assassination:

A sinister shrine reveals a chilling occult dimension in the mind of the deranged gunman accused of shooting a member of Congress and 19 others.

Hidden within a camouflage tent behind Jared Lee Loughner’s home sits an alarming altar with a skull sitting atop a pot filled with shriveled oranges.

A row of ceremonial candles and a bag of potting soil lay nearby, photos reveal.

Experts on Sunday said the elements are featured in the ceremonies of a number of occult groups.

Earlier reports had pegged Loughner as an outspoken atheist, which makes this a little contradictory.  It reminds us to keep our minds open and to refrain from jumping to conclusions — even about the “alarming altar.”  The Daily News has a picture of the “altar,” which looks less than described, although the DN has a big, red “EXCLUSIVE” ribbon across the top left corner.  It might be an “altar,” or it could be the remains of an old party, or just some junk.

The AP reports with less breathlessness about Loughner’s 9/11 Trutherism:

For a time, Loughner drank heavily, to the point of poisoning himself, the friends said. Once, during school lunch break as a junior, he downed so much tequila that he came back to class, within five minutes passed out cold, had to be rushed to the hospital and “almost died,” one friend said.

Mistrust of government was Loughner’s defining conviction, the friends said. He believed the U.S. government was behind 9/11, and worried that governments were maneuvering to create a unified monetary system (“a New World Order currency” one friend said) so that social elites and bureaucrats could control the rest of the world.

On his YouTube page, he listed among his favorite books “Animal Farm” and “Brave New World” — two novels about how authorities control the masses. Other books in the wide-ranging list included “Mein Kampf,” ”The Communist Manifesto,” ”Peter Pan” and Aesop’s Fables.

More to the point, though, they lead with the fact that Loughner has a particular and personal grudge against Giffords from more than three years ago:

At an event roughly three years ago, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords took a question from Jared Loughner, the man accused of trying to assassinate her and killing six other people. According to two of his high school friends the question was essentially this: “What is government if words have no meaning?”

Loughner was angry about her response — she read the question and didn’t have much to say.

The portrait that the evidence thus far paints is of a nutcase with a grudge, whose lunacy utterly defies political categorization.  If people had waited a couple of days before jumping to conclusions, they could have saved themselves a lot of embarrassment.

Update: A couple of more links this morning on Loughner’s background courtesy of Allahpundit.  The first comes from the Wall Street Journal that reports that he was “fixated” with Giffords, mainly with the same data already known:

Accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner appeared to have been long obsessed with U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

A safe at Mr. Loughner’s home contained a form letter from Ms. Giffords’ office thanking him for attending a 2007 “Congress on your Corner” event in Tucson. The safe also held an envelope with handwritten notes, including the name of Ms. Giffords, as well as “I planned ahead,” “My assassination,” and what appeared to be Mr. Loughner’s signature, according to an FBI affidavit. …

Mr. Loughner had complained to a friend about how he was treated by the Arizona lawmaker during an event several years ago, which aggravated Mr. Loughner, according to the friend.

As for his politics, no one got much of a sense of them except for his “frustration” with the government:

“All he did was play video games and play music,” said Tommy Marriotti, a high school friend. Mr. Marriotti said much of Mr. Loughner’s free time was devoted to the school band. He wasn’t especially political, Mr. Marriotti said, though he expressed frustration with the Bush Administration.

Mother Jones provides some testimonial corroboration for the fixation:

Loughner would occasionally mention Giffords, according to Tierney: “It wasn’t a day-in, day-out thing, but maybe once in a while, if Giffords did something that was ridiculous or passed some stupid law or did something stupid, he related that to people. But the thing I remember most is just that question. I don’t remember him stalking her or anything.” Tierney notes that Loughner did not display any specific political or ideological bent: “It wasn’t like he was in a certain party or went to rallies…It’s not like he’d go on political rants.” But Loughner did, according to Tierney, believe that government is “fucking us over.” He never heard Loughner vent about about the perils of “currency,” as Loughner did on one YouTube video he created.

Meanwhile, don’t miss Michelle’s retrospective on the Left’s use of violent imagery over the last decade.

Update II: Because apparently a blogger or two can’t read for comprehension, let me state again that it appears that Loughner was neither a “righty” or a “lefty,” but an “outie” — as in outer space on the political spectrum.  He’s a lunatic.  The Truther issue appears on the fringe of both sides.