Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Comments On The Alexandria Shooting

James T. Hodgkinson
Early this morning, shortly after 7 AM ET, James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, IL opened fire with what CBS News has described as "an M4 style assault rifle" on a group of Republican Congressmen who were practicing for their annual charity baseball game against the Democrats. Wounded in the attack were Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) as well as Mark Mika, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods who was acting as a coach, Zach Barth, a legislative aide for Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX), and two Capitol Police officers that have not been identified.

I'm not going to go into all the details of the event itself (we have coverage here), but this does raise an important question.

Why is it that when a Muslim does something like this it is immediately classified as an act of terrorism, but when it's a white guy the first reaction is always "it's a mental health problem?"

My thinking is, duh, any time someone is the assailant in a mass shooting it's a mental health problem. That doesn't mean that terrorism and mental health are mutually exclusive.

For example, the San Bernardino event was labeled an act of domestic terrorism. The Pulse nightclub shooting was not. Neither was Charleston, or the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado, or Virginia Tech, or Columbine, or ... well, the list goes on. The pattern seems to be that the media follows this script:
  • If the shooter is a white male, he is described as "a disturbed loner" or some such.
  • If the shooter is a black male, it becomes indicative of black crime in general.
  • If the shooter is Muslim, it's terrorism.

Even if the circumstances were identical for all three events, these classifications are used, almost reflexively. This is just negligence on the part of the news media, and downright irresponsible for people in power to perpetuate the stereotypes.

Not all Muslims are terrorists, just as not all terrorists are Muslim. Any time someone kills innocent people at random, that is domestic terrorism. Black, brown, white, male, female, Republican, Democrat ... it doesn't matter; once they strap on a gun and start shooting people they become terrorists.

In this case, Hodgkinson was a Democrat, a Bernie Sanders supporter, and his Facebook feed was filled with anti-trump rhetoric. Nothing violent that I could see; basically, he was sharing memes about how corrupt the government is, and publicly arguing for trump's immediate impeachment. Not too terribly different from any other liberal on Facebook, actually. There was nothing there that I was able to find in a cursory look that seemed too out of the ordinary. His last post, from July 13, 2017 at 9:01 AM, was this picture:


I have seen this thing pop up many times over the past few years. Prior to the election it was from the right; after that it came from the left. Each time it has been identical. But getting back to the question at hand ...

This was a case of domestic terrorism. That it was perpetrated by a liberal Bernie supporter as opposed to a right-wing KKK sympathizer like Dylan Roof is immaterial. The fact remains that someone brought a gun to a public place with the intent to harm or kill as many people as possible based on a twisted interpretation of an ideology. I'm sure that over the next few days and weeks we will be hearing from his wife, people who knew him, etc. all describing him in terms both kind and unflattering. However, the one thing that I will lay money on that nobody will say is "Yeah, James was a terrorist." Even the plant managers at the Right-Wing Shriek factory (also known as Fox News) will refrain from applying the terrorist label. After all, he's a white guy, and only brown guys are terrorists, right?

And why did this guy have an assault rifle in the first place? This is not the first time this question has been raised, and it's not the first time that a nutjob has brought the woeful shortcomings of gun policy in the United States to the fore, and it certainly won't be the last.

My bet is that nothing will be done about this, and fast. Some will be surprised by this, and will protest "But it was one of their own this time." To which I say, bullshit.

Gabby Giffords, a former Democratic representative from Arizona, was shot in the head in 2011 during a public appearance. At the time many thought it was the incident that would spark real gun law reform in this country, since the victim was a sitting member of Congress.

It didn't. Neither did someone opening fire in an elementary school and killing 20 five and six year old children along with their teachers. Why would we expect anything different to happen this time?

Finally, this has brought out both the best and the worst of people in both the public and private spheres. Ms. Giffords posted the following tweet:
While the majority of replies to this were favorable and supportive, there was a surprising number of them which were downright awful, a sample of which appear below:





Pretty harsh stuff, and indicative of the hatred, paranoia, and division that has become endemic in American politics.

However, it also flows the other way. There is a Facebook post with a link to NPR's reporting on this event, with the following test in the post: "Those extremist Bernie supporters sure are proving to be the worst of the worst"

Fortunately this was followed by  a series of comments, from both the left and the right, saying that the shooter was no more indicative of Bernie supporters than he was of trump supporters, and perhaps this will work as the impetus for a coming together within our political system.

On this, I will let former Representative Gabby Giffords have the last word:

1 comment:

Claire said...

Well, there are 5 mentally ill responses
to Gabby Gifford !

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