Mass Shootings Make Sense In A Democracy

In the wake of yet another mass shooting in America – this time, with the added bonus of being a Muslim terrorist attack – the mainstream media has been treating us all to a smorgasbord of adjectives with twisted and debased meanings. Evil becomes tragic, deviancy becomes familiar, and a perfectly-calculated and well-planned attack becomes ‘senseless.’ Pick any adjective, then pick your preferred meaning.

This last twisting of meaning irked me. “Senseless tragedy.” “Senseless massacre.” “Senseless attack.” I won’t link the offending papers for reasons that don’t need to be repeated, but I will call attention to their egregious crimes against the English language.

What exactly was senseless about the recent mass shooting in Orlando? According to the dictionary, which I still use to craft sentences, something isn’t senseless unless it has no discernible meaning or purpose. Was there no discernible meaning or purpose behind the attack on homosexuals in Orlando? None at all?

The perpetrator of the shooting, Omar Mateen, was an Afghan Pashtun by blood and a Sunni Muslim by faith. According to various accounts, he pledged allegiance to the Sunni Muslim terrorists in the Islamic State and wanted the United States to “stop bombing [his] country.” Despite being born in the United States, I think we can safely assume that he was talking about Afghanistan, and not New York. A fact of some probable importance is that ISIS has claimed territory in the former and not the latter – yet.

Various descriptions of the perpetrator paint him as a fairly standard Middle Eastern man living in the late-stage democratic mess that is the contemporary West. He had “behavioral problems” in school, he liked sex and violence, got into fights, and bragged about Islamic terrorist attacks on Western targets to his classmates. He had an unhealthy penchant for nightclubs and marijuana, which he balanced with several weekly visits to his mosque.

He took suspicious trips to the Middle East and was less than six degrees of separation from known jihadists and Islamic radicals. He beat his ex-wife and got mad at open displays of homosexuality. Mainstream outlets report these facts in a revelatory and frightening tone, as if they weren’t ordinary and unremarkable for any Muslim man – and any Muslim terrorist – living anywhere from Michigan to Molenbeek.

Then, one day, he decided to sell his house for $10, buy firearms and ammunition, case a few locations with his Muslim wife, and eventually shoot and kill 49 Hispanic homosexuals at a gay nightclub. For no discernible meaning or purpose. The fashionable thing is to blame either his supposed latent homosexuality or the tools he chose for murder, but not in any way shape or form admit to purpose, meaning, or agency. The whole thing was too insane to make sense of, so don’t even try.

With a little effort, I think I can not only discern meaning behind this mass shooting, but purpose and agency too. Read this abstract from a paper put out by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point:

There appears to be a strong correlation between territorial losses inflicted on the Islamic State by an international coalition and the group’s increasingly global campaign of terrorism. Two reasons likely explain why the group is shifting toward international terrorism. The first is a top-down decision by Islamic State leaders to prioritize international attack plotting as a strategy to safeguard their self-declared caliphate. The second is a bottom-up dynamic in which foreign fighters and satellite groups are retaliating on their own initiative on behalf of the caliphate, a function of the group’s fluid command and control structures. As the Islamic State continues to lose ground, the international community should brace for a surge in international terror.

This paper was published two months before the Orlando attack. A Muslim Afghan man who pledged allegiance to ISIS attacks and kills homosexuals in America two months after a West Point paper is published detailing ISIS’ strategy of encouraging and organizing international terror attacks. The Islamic State itself commits terrorism because, as this informative article stated, “The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse.”

That sounds exotic — to put it mildly — but hardly senseless.

Not that the mass shooting in Orlando was alone in making a little bit more sense than the approved media would have you believe. Do a quick Google search of “mass shooters manifesto” and see how many results come up. Almost every single mass shooter releases some kind of manifesto or statement detailing their beliefs, their ideology, and why the two required a massacre. Sometimes, it’s as straightforward as “the world is against me, I must fight the world.” That describes the manifesto of Christopher Harper-Mercer. Sometimes, like in the case of Anders Behring Breivik, the manifesto runs up to 1500 pages long.

Far be it from me to sympathize with or support mass murderers, but to claim that men who spend years developing intricate, murderous ideologies with a litany of published justifications before acting on them is senseless–is, frankly, senseless.

Why do I bring this up at all?

If something is senseless, it cannot be predicted, explained or prevented. You can’t explain natural disasters. You can’t make sense of Alzheimer’s disease. You can’t predict the next thought of a schizophrenic. With these things, you just have to suck it up, deal with the damage, and pray. That is what the preferred response to mass shootings – aside from a little gun grab – would be. Do not notice any patterns, please. Just soldier on and accept that you may be next. It’s all random anyway.

On the other hand, if something isn’t senseless, if you can identify an agent behind it, identify some meaning behind it and a deliberate purpose, you can then develop a model of it, treat it as a problem or enemy, and eliminate it decisively. Burglars steal for good reasons that are understandable and predictable, and can therefore be impeded with appropriate responses like alarms and guns. Most other problems fall into this category, too.

The media, academic and political clerisy – that is to say, the Cathedral – make it abundantly clear that they prefer you do not delve into the motives or circumstances of mass shooters too deeply. They make it abundantly clear that they prefer pious, high-minded ignorance. Why might that be?

I notice one crucial thing that changed apropos society, thanks to the very same clerisy, that makes mass shootings not just more likely but positively sensible.

That is the politicization of the masses. It is democracy, the media, the news cycle, and the enshrinement of politics as a daily ritual. Without the politicization of the masses, there is no “mass” with which to preface “shooting.” There is no media to report on it and spread the killer’s name and actions far and wide. There is no vicarious shock and fear on the parts of the 99.9% of people who do not know the victims, and there is no need to piously signal your opinions on the news event to coordinate your informal political army.

Democracy, as the engineering of permanent conflict in a society, demands that every individual with a vote becomes an unofficial soldier and therefore a legitimate unofficial target. International treaties trying to establish the opposite did nothing to prevent that logic from developing into the messes of the First and Second World Wars, when total war acquired its true meaning — total mobilization of the economy, the militarization of the civilian population, and mass murder as a legitimate method of warfare. The Allies, Germans, and Soviets were all complicit. The logic didn’t disappear after 1945.

Why do mass shooters aim for a high kill count? They don’t kill themselves in a forest quietly, in protest. They don’t attack infrastructure. They don’t assassinate powerful figures. They don’t even seem to care much about injuries and trauma so much as the raw death count. They want to make sure that their targets are dead. Why? We’ve habituated to the idea that mass shooters try to kill as many people as possible, but we don’t seem to examine why this macabre calculus is so unremarkable.

There are many things you can’t do once you’re dead, but the most important thing in a politicized society is vote. In mass societies of millions, one vote is all you get. For the thin, outer fringes of mass society, that one vote is not enough to take power, and they compensate for it in the most perfectly logical, sensible, and predictable way possible, according to the logic of democracy.

Omar Mateen only got one unimportant vote as a registered member of the Democratic Party. But in Orlando, Omar Mateen voted for ISIS 49 times.

Want to end mass shootings? Get rid of democracy. Get rid of the media. Take away the votes. When only the King can vote, only the King is worth riddling with bullets. Everyone else could rest easy as non-combatants once again.

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  1. An interesting analysis of a formerly very convoluted event.

  2. Arthur Marian June 24, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    The first part – well, yes, OK, a valid interpretation of events. But your solution? A return to 17th Century monarchic absolutism? Nah, it’s been tried, don’t work, and won’t work with a literate society in the 21st Century, unless you roll back the culture, technology and social advances of the past three hundred years. Try again.

    1. Are you new here?

      You should read the Latter-Day Pamphlets by Thomas Carlyle:

      1. Arthur Marian June 25, 2016 at 7:21 pm

        Carlyle wrote “….that great men should rule and that others should revere them…”. OK, then. Which man or woman alive to-day do you sincerely revere? Let’s expand this question – which “great men” were sincerely revered by their subjects in the past 100 years anywhere in the World? Were they Good Men? Would you have liked to live in the societies they controlled?

        Putting Carlyle’s Latter-Day Pamphlets in context, he was writing about the Age of Revolutions of 1848. From France to Poland and Romania, and from Sicily to Denmark Europe was in turmoil, and from the relative safety of Britain a well-connected English philosopher and historian could moralize on the antics of the mad foreigners across the English Channel. The British Establishment, too, was worried. Immense poverty in the major cities and an expanding population was seen as a threat to political stability. Looking at social survey maps of Central London of the 1840’s, where now stand multi- milion dollar apartments, we see whole areas marked as “destitute laborers” or simply, “the criminal classes”.

        But I digress. The window of opportunity for a monarchy permanently rooted in the Thirteen Colonies was between the end of the French and Indian Wars and 1770. The French threat had gone, the Native tribes were demoralized, and British garrisons were established on the frontier not so much to protect the Colonies, but to prevent the colonists from breaking the treaties made by the Crown. By any standard – personal freedom, literacy, personal wealth and access to social advancement, the colonist had an advantage over the British working man, and was immeasurably wealthier than his Continental European counterpart. Most importantly, no other ethnic European in an organized state had a lighter tax burden than a citizen of the Thirteen Colonies.

        And then you blew it, and there’s no going back.

        ps – I prefer Arnold Toynbee as a historian, and if you don’t mind his Marxist leanings Fernand Braudel is a good read, too.

        The only sensible thing he said in this text was “…to men in their sleep there is nothing granted in this world….” I hope at least we can agree on the wisdom of that phrase.

        1. Arthur Marian June 25, 2016 at 7:39 pm

          In the last paragraph, the quote is, of course, from Carlyle.

    2. You appear to be making false assertions. I would take mostly the contrary position: monarchy did work, it’s 21st century bureaucratic populism that’s the terribly dysfunctional idea, technology has very little to do with it, and *what* social advances? Sacred negros and sacred dickbutts?

      1. Charles – I made no assumptions. ALL political systems can work, up to a point. What is that point? Where a generalized social mood says “this isn’t working”, or “we can make it better”. Context of the time and place is the key. The principle of the Divine Right of Kings worked pretty well in medieval Europe, less well in the 17th Century, and by the end of the 18th Century was no longer tenable. No matter where or when a society evolves, the success or failure of a particular system of government will depend on the degree of symbiosis between itself and the people it rules – their social rules, traditions, ways of life and level of development.

        You ask what social advances? Let’s take the period from the foundation of Jamestown to the present day, a period of about 400 years. Most people no longer accept buying and selling human beings as a career option, we don’t burn witches, the fear of bad magic doesn’t grip our souls, and most men in the Western world don’t consider their womenfolk as inferior beings. In many societies literacy is universal, lifespans have nearly doubled, and science and technology has given the opportunity for hundreds of millions of people to escape poverty in a subsistence economy.

        1. “I made no assumptions.”
          I said assertions. Exercise literacy.

          “Most people no longer accept buying and selling human beings as a career option”
          This is not a social advance.

          “we don’t burn witches”
          Irrelevant when we don’t *find* any witches in the first place to consider burning or not burning. This is like crediting yourself with not genociding Martians. Besides, why shouldn’t traitors to humanity be burned, or at least executed in some way?

          “the fear of bad magic doesn’t grip our souls”
          Yes it does. Case in point, safe spaces and hate speech, peaking in students claiming to have been emotionally traumatized by the words “Trump 2016” or by having to perform in a majority-white classroom.

          “most men in the Western world don’t consider their womenfolk as inferior beings”
          My experience suggests that if I try to argue this point, you’re going to equivocate very fast on the meaning of “inferior”. Under one interpretation of that term, men never did, cf. Hildegard; under another interpretation, men ought to do so. Not a social advance either way.

    3. An augment against democracy is not necessarily an endorsement of an absolutist Catholic monarchy. Some (such as myself) favor something different, but find common ground in opposing democracy and egalitarianism It’s possible to have technological progress, while eschewing democracy.

  3. Want to end mass shootings? Get rid of democracy. Get rid of the media. Take away the votes. When only the King can vote, only the King is worth riddling with bullets. Everyone else could rest easy as non-combatants once again.

    Is there any substantive evidence ending democracy eliminate mass shootings or this a hunch by the author? Mass acts of violence prove the ‘power’ their perpetrators seek, although the connection with democracy teems tenuous. The problem has more to do mentally unstable people having access to firearms, which seems to be the simplest explanation . Also ending Islamic immigration would also help.

    1. “Mass acts of violence prove the ‘power’ their perpetrators seek”

      I think that’s the author’s point about democracy and the way it allocates power. Only in a democracy can killing random people make you feel powerful, because only in a democracy do random people have slices of power.

      1. Also, the random people who see your high kill count on mass media might read your manifesto and give you a broader political impact.

      2. R. J. Moore II June 28, 2016 at 9:40 pm

        Also, it’s especially in (social) democracy that an othervvise strongly motivated & even principled person vvith notevvorthy talents can find himself blocked @ every turn by complete losers and morons, leading to frustration and disaffection to a homicidal-suicidal degree. Mediocrity turns Brevich from the Special Forces or history nerd he might have been into a loony vvith a vendetta & nothing to lose.

  4. You can take the Muslim out of South Asia, but sometimes you can take the South Asian out of the Muslim. There is something about Afghanis and Pakis… well I was gonna say “crazy”, but the point here is that they aren’t crazy. They’re just evil.

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