The dope on DePape

Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was attacked by a man with a hammer at the couple’s home in San Francisco early Friday morning. CNN has strung a series of reports on the attack here. CNN’s first report of the assault was posted at 11:08 a.m. on October 28. By 2:25 p.m. Gavin Newsom had attributed the attack to “divisive and hateful rhetoric.” By 7:25 p.m. President Biden had observed that assaulter’s query — “Where’s Nancy?” — was the same one used during the Jan. 6 “insurrection” at the Capitol.

Defamation dies in darkness. The Washington Post therefore assigned three reporters to the case. By 7:00 a.m. on October 29 the Post had nailed it down: “Attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband follows years of GOP demonizing her.” The subhead was equally unsubtle: “A man with right-wing views who broke into the House speaker’s home yelled ‘Where is Nancy?’ before assaulting Paul Pelosi with a hammer, police say.” The Post must have capitalized “Where is Nancy” to indicate it’s part of the right-wing code.

Michael Shellenberger has taken note. Shellenberger is the long time Bay-area resident and author of San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities (2021). Shellenberger finds the attacker — David DePape — to be more in the grip of a drug-induced psychosis than ideology-induced fanaticism. Shellenberger wrote in his Substack post on DePape (links omitted):

DePape’s politics have little rhyme or reason. In past years DePape shared a post about Stephen Colbert’s 2006 roast of President George W. Bush at the White House Correspondents dinner; linked to videos of Disney films altered to make it look like the characters were swearing; and claimed, “Jesus is the anti-Christ” — not exactly a litany of right-wing tropes.

And, as I discovered yesterday, DePape lived with a notorious local nudist in a Berkeley home, complete with a Black Lives Matter sign in the window and an LGBT rainbow flag, emblazoned with a marijuana symbol, hanging from a tree. A closer look reveals the characteristics of a homeless encampment, or what Europeans call “an open drug scene.” In the driveway, there is a broken-down camper van. On the street is a yellow school bus, which neighbors said DePape occasionally stayed in. Both are filled with garbage typical of such structures in homeless encampments. People come and go from the house and the vehicles, neighbors say, in part to partake in the use of a potent psychedelic drug, ibogaine.

Neighbors described DePape as a homeless addict with a politics that was, until recently, left-wing, but of secondary importance to his psychotic and paranoid behavior. “What I know about the family is that they’re very radical activists,” said one of DePape’s neighbors, a woman who only gave her first name, Trish. “They seem very left. They are all about the Black Lives Matter movement. Gay pride. But they’re very detached from reality. They have called the cops on several of the neighbors, including us, claiming that we are plotting against them. It’s really weird to see that they are willing to be so aggressive toward somebody else who is also a lefty.”

Not all of the news media missed DePape’s history of drug use, psychosis, and homelessness. CNN reported that a woman named Laura Hayes, who said she worked with DePape 10 years ago making hemp bracelets, said he had been living in a storage shed. “He talks to angels,” she said, and told her that “there will be a hard time coming.”

Another woman, Linda Schneider, told CNN and Bay Area NBC TV affiliate, KRON4, that she got to know DePape around 2014 and that he was still homeless, living in a storage unit, and using hard drugs. “He (was) likely a mindless follower of something he saw on social media because I don’t think he had the courage to be part of any political or terrorist group,” said Schneider. “His drug use began again and he went off his rocker.”

But much of the rest of the news media, particularly local journalists who could have interviewed DePape’s neighbors, were swept up in the narrative that DePape was more like John Wilkes Booth, the fanatical but sane assassin of Abraham Lincoln, than John Hinkley, Jr., the mentally ill man who shot Ronald Reagan. DePape is much more like one of the hundreds of psychotic homeless people I’ve interviewed in recent years than the fanatical climate ideologues who I’ve been writing about in recent weeks.

Wrapped up in their own obsession with Trump Republicans, most journalists have missed the real story. David DePape is not a microcosm of the political psychosis gripping America in general. Rather, he’s a microcosm of the drug-induced psychosis gripping the West Coast in particular.

Shellenberger has more here and there is more to come, I’m sure.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise was of course gravely wounded by a Bernie Bro. The Washington Post did not make much of the shooter’s obvious political mania. Indeed, they placed his near assassination in the context of “the long, awful history of gunned-down lawmakers.” Scalise spoke for himself in his characteristically decent voice on Twitter.

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