Did Loughner read Miller?

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I have no idea.

Several people have suggested that the ravings of Jared Lee Loughner ("The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar"; "What's government if words don't have meaning?") may have been influenced by the ravings of David Wynn Miller ("I am the judge in 1988 who wrote the mathematical interface on all 5,000 languages proving that language is a linear equation in algebra certifying that all words have 900 definitions through this mathematical algebraic formula and over the course of the past 21 years have developed an accuracy level in the syntaxing of language sentence structure to prove the correct sentence structure communication syntax language is required in a court system"; "FOR THESE TRUTH-COMMUNICATIONS-CITIZEN'S-KNOWLEDGE OF THESE FACTS ARE WITH THESE CLAIMS OF THESE FACTS-AS-FACTS BY THESE SENTENCE-CONTRACTS."), mentioned about a year ago on LL ("All words have 900 definitions?", 1/29/2010).

I'm skeptical about this — so far I haven't seen any connection more specific than the fact that both relate to language and both are ravings; but I don't have a lot of patience for reading this sort of thing.

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24 Comments »

  1. Aaron Toivo said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 8:43 am

    What is it about the raving mad that their English is distorted in particular ways? The grammar of both those people's ravings have a great deal in common with each other and with, say, the Timecube guy. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what, beyond a tendency to run-on sentences, repetition, and using words as the wrong part of speech. There really feels like some kind of common thread between how all of them mis-structure their English.

    For Loughner this is hard to see from only the brief examples you've posted here, but if you can stomach any of his YouTube videos it's all there in its grammatically bizarre glory: http://www.youtube.com/user/Classitup10

  2. baylink said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 8:51 am

    Miller sounds like the guy who writes the package copy for Dr Bronner's castille soap.

    All one!

  3. GeorgeW said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 9:10 am

    "The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar"

    Super-hyper-steroidal Whorfianism?

  4. John Lawler said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 9:12 am

    Super-hyper-steroidal peeving.

  5. Spell Me Jeff said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 9:18 am

    More likely his community college English prof (the government) circled his nutsy constructions in red ink and took off points (controlling his grammar).

  6. Adam said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 10:21 am

    Never mind the unusual use of language, the soap is nice. (AIUI, the mineral bouillon was discontinued when Dr Bronner died and took the recipe with him.)

  7. Dan T. said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 11:10 am

    In one of his videos, he refers to years in "BCE" (a valid alternative to BC, meaning Before Common Era), but then later makes reference to "ADE" years, an apparent attempt to improperly extend the pattern, where the actual proper counterpart to BCE is CE, which is parallel to the more-Christian AD (Anno Domini).

    The year number he uses in his examples, however, have so many digits in them that they are way out of the range of actual existent years within the lifespan of the universe.

  8. richard said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 11:26 am

    I found it interesting that he talked about engaging in "conscience dreaming," which I would guess is a reference to "conscious dreaming," the effort to manipulate your dreams while sleeping. (This was popular in the 1980s, at least, after several ethnologists described similar efforts by the Senoi of peninsular Malaysia, and new agers decided to give it a try). Some reports indicate that he was habitually depriving himself of sleep, which of course wouldn't help maintain the boundaries between reality and fantasy, either.

    Confusing "conscious" and "conscience" is pretty common among my undergraduate students–e.g. discussion of Jung's idea of "collective unconscience" in student papers of a certain kind. But I do find myself wondering what "conscience dreaming" would entail….

    [(myl) From the Rev. John Howe, "Sermon VII", 1838:

    Awake! awake! be in a prepared posture, in a ready posture : let me not carry conscience slumbering, conscience dreaming, conscience in a deep sleep, unto such an ordinance, but labour to have it awake, in order hereunto : and that it may be so, urge upon it those former heads. [...]

    But if nothing of this be, but still conscience must be kept asleep from duty to duty, there is nothing to be said, but that hereafter it will awake for torment.

    I suspect you're right that Loughner's usage was a malapropism/eggcorn for "conscious dreaming". But it may be inappropriate to expect even hidden coherence from someone who wrote "My favorite activity is conscience dreaming; the greatest inspiration for my political business information. … In conclusion, my ambition – is for informing literate dreamers about a new currency; in a few days, you know I'm conscience dreaming!"]

  9. Colin Reid said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 11:45 am

    George Orwell's 'Newspeak' also comes to mind here, although that was more about vocabulary than grammar.

  10. Coby Lubliner said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 11:52 am

    MWCD11 cites "conscience" as archaic: CONSCIOUSNESS, and that's probably what it is in Howe (1838). I am much more likely to go along with the idea of it being, at present, just a mishearing of "conscious".

  11. Lucy Kemnitzer said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 11:53 am

    I like the sound of "conscience dreaming." It would be this: you've got an ethical dilemma, and you sleep on it. When you wake, you mull over your dreams, and hope that you've figured out the puzzle by doing so.

  12. KevinM said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

    On the other hand, there's "The Awakening Conscience," a prime cut of Victorian kitsch, in which a fallen women suddenly decides that she will no longer sit on a man's lap as he plays the piano (apparently one of those pieces, like the Ravel Concerto, for left hand only).
    http://www.rishabh.com/Images/art/awakening.gif

  13. Our Bold Hero said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

    From that freaky Oath In the Truth website it seems like his preferred spelling is David-Wynn: Miller but maybe I'm wrong. He was quoted in the NYT yesterday and you'd think they'd at least allow him the hyphen.

  14. Nicholas Waller said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 5:23 pm

    Andrea James, Wikipedian and blogger on BoingBoing, has blogged on this: "Miller travels the country advising people in the Sovereign Citizen anti-tax movement that they can fight in court by using a special grammar he created in 1988. It basically comes down to a belief that how one renders one's name with punctuation and how one uses grammar can alter one's legal status as a person. In other words, DAVID WYNN MILLER (as on his birth certificate) can be taxed, but :David-Wynn: Miller cannot, because that is not legally a person."

  15. David Walker said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

    Try http://www.timecube.com, but don't waste too much time there. Basically, the earth has four corners, and it rotates once a day… somehow he gets from that to this: "Do you realize that a 4 corner square rotating 1/4 turn creates a full circle? A full rotated square will create 16 corners, 96 hours and 4 simultaneous 24 hour Day circles within only a single imaginary cubed Earth roation [sic]".

    And "This act demonstrates that both Sun and Earth rotate around each other simultaneously – thus creating Opposites existing only as opposites with a zero value existence between the binary and cancelling to nothing as One or God theism." Yikes.

    I wonder how these people's brains actually work?

    There's more, such as how he's the only non-stupid person on Earth, and other fun.

  16. Dan T. said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 6:08 pm

    The Bizarro World, in DC Comics, is cubical; maybe that's the planet the Time Cube guy came from.

  17. Russell said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 6:12 pm

    I think he meant 900 definitions and "a camel."

  18. Nathan Myers said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 9:00 pm

    Neurologists have invented all manner of clever tests to distinguish a lesion in one part of the brain from a lesion in another, where the symptoms may appear identical. Surely a large body of text provides enough experimental samples to allow a neurologist to say something definite about the impairments of the writer. Has this been explored? If not, a thesis is waiting to be written.

  19. Shangwen said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 10:42 pm

    Speaking of language and crazy politics, here are the BBC's final paragraphs on the sentencing of Tom DeLay:

    "At the hearing on Monday, former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois testified on DeLay's behalf.

    He said DeLay was motivated by the desire to help his Texan constituents, and talked about the former congressman's efforts to lower taxes and his religious beliefs."

    I guess if his religious beliefs were getting in the way of his crooked behavior, he certainly managed to lower them.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12157749

  20. scav said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 7:37 am

    My guess is that rational thought is not something that comes easily; it requires discipline and concentration, and the ability to hold evidence and arguments steady in short-term memory for long enough to assess their relationships accurately.

    It's similar to the mental work you have to do to express any complex concept clearly in spoken or written language, but more so. A little mental confusion will allow you communicate reasonably well but with gaps in your logic that normally don't matter.

    The level of mental confusion that deranges your grammar to the point where it gets noticed on language log and your every utterance should have an asterisk beside it — well, it pretty much precludes reason.

  21. Adam said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 7:45 am

    @richard: collective unconscience is how "Internet wisdom of crowds" works, right?

  22. Dick Margulis said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 9:06 am

    Here's a factoid that may help resolve the question asked: yesterday on NPR, there was an interview with an algebra instructor at Pima Community College who had Loughner in class. He described him as having "outbursts" (later described as not loud, just inappropriate) of utterances that I think were consistent with the tenor of the Miller passage you quote. These incidents eventually led to Loughner's suspension from the school. Perhaps he enrolled in an algebra class under the false presumption that it would help him decode Miller.

  23. ENKI-2 said,

    January 11, 2011 @ 10:19 am

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_speech is relevant to the discussion (and yes, there has been quite a bit of work on classifying the grammatical constructions of crazy people)

  24. Greg Morrow said,

    January 13, 2011 @ 1:31 pm

    According to an article in Salon, interviewing a headshrinker who specialized in the subject, fractured grammar of the sort demonstrated by Loughner (and hence, Miller?) is pathognomonic of schizophrenia.

    Which made me learn a useful new word.

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