Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Praying for Toledo - and other myths about America's mass shootings

Judd Legum at popular.info has a public post this morning. Part of it has more evidence that what Trump offers in the wake of El Paso and Dayton has nothing to do with causes for America’s romance with guns and domestic terrorism. (If you dispute “nothing”, prove me wrong.)

Later on in this post I cover the suggestions as to what we can do ranging from NY Times Editors to Seth Meyers’ closer look (both being finds from our Roving Reporter Sherry).

Trump prays for Toledo

President Trump, whose rhetoric was adopted repeatedly in the El Paso shooter’s manifesto, spoke about the two massacres from the White House on Monday. In Dayton, the shooter was able to kill nine people by firing 41 shots in 30 seconds. But Trump quickly made clear that he would not entertain any serious effort to limit the availability of military-style firearms. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” Trump said.

Instead, he sought to attribute the tragedies to “mental illness” and called for more “involuntary confinement.”

[W]e must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people not only get treatment but, when necessary, involuntary confinement.

In a statement, the American Psychological Association (APA) hit back.

Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing. Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. The rates of mental illness are roughly the same around the world, yet other countries are not experiencing these traumatic events as often as we face them. One critical factor is access to, and the lethality of, the weapons that are being used in these crimes. Adding racism, intolerance and bigotry to the mix is a recipe for disaster.

Trump also attempted to blame the video game industry.

[W]e must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence.

Guns around the world

But, as Vox notes, people spend the most money on video games in South Korea and China – two places where the rate of violent gun death is very low.

In an early-morning tweet, Trump suggested he would support universal background checks if the policy were paired with immigration reform. He did not explain why, if he believed universal background checks was a good policy, he would condition his support on funding for his draconian immigration policies. But it didn’t matter. A couple of hours later, he made no mention of background checks.

“May God bless the memory of those who perished in Toledo,” Trump concluded, forgetting the name of the Ohio city where the shooting occurred.

One can only hope that God’s memory is better than Trump’s. And with apologies to those whose religiosity index is greater than mine, I really doubt that “bless the memory” will be any more effective than “thoughts & prayers.”

What can America do?

The first thing is to recognize that mass shootings are overlaid upon white nationalist terrorism as the NY Times reports in [We Have a White Nationalist Terrorist Problem][nyt]. The Editors say that Mass shootings like the one in El Paso should be condemned by America’s leaders as terrorism. The Times editorial concludes:

The nation owed a debt to the victims of the 9/11 attacks, to take action against the vile infrastructure that allowed the terrorists to achieve their goals that horrible Tuesday. We owe no less of a debt to the victims in El Paso and to the hundreds of other victims of white nationalist terrorism around the nation.

Moderate members of the political right must do more to condemn white nationalists, even if the president condemns them from one side of his mouth and extols ethnonationalism from the other.

Advertisers have a duty not to sponsor television programs that flirt with white nationalism or advocate it outright.

Banks have a duty not to help finance white nationalist organizations.

Religious leaders should feel called to denounce white nationalism from the pulpit.

Technology companies have a responsibility to de-platform white nationalist propaganda and communities as they did ISIS propaganda. And if the technology companies refuse to step up, law enforcement has a duty to vigilantly monitor and end the anonymity, via search warrants, of those who openly plot attacks in murky forums.

Those people who encourage terrorism anonymously online should be named.

Those who sympathize with the white nationalist ideology but who deplore the violence should work closely with law enforcement to see that fellow travelers who may be prone to violence do not have access to firearms like semiautomatic assault-style weapons that are massively destructive.

Most importantly, American law enforcement needs to target white nationalists with the same zeal that they have targeted radical Islamic terrorists. Ensuring the security of the homeland demands it.

There can be no middle ground when it comes to white nationalism and the terrorism it inspires. You’re either for it or against it.

Finally, you should check out this one. Seth Meyers Shames GOP After Shootings: ‘Fucking Do Something’. The “Late Night” host hammered Republicans for pretending “this is some sort of unsolvable problem” because they are “beholden” to the NRA.

“All decent people, everywhere, should set themselves to the task of stopping this and expressing solidarity with and support for the oppressed and marginalized communities targeted by this hatred and violence,” [Meyers] concluded. “And as for our political leaders, the ones who are supposed to be protecting us, all we say is they need to”—in the words of Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH)—“get their shit together.”


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