Monday, June 6, 2022

Ted Rall: Reactions to Mass Shootings Follow a Predictable Pattern

        Liberal politicians call for gun control, and they have a point. Countries with gun control have less gun violence. The old assault weapons ban did some good. You have to pass a test to get licensed to drive a car or, in most states, to operate a boat -- surely the same could be required of those who want to possess firearms. 

        Conservative politicians call attention to America's worsening epidemic of mental illness. They have a point, too. Most mass shooters have untreated psychiatric disorders; most are suicidal.

        But neither side addresses America's culture of violence. Why would they? They both feed into it.

        The ethical norms of a society become broadly accepted after they are defined and propagated by the acts and public statements of political and religious leaders, news and entertainment media and celebrities. If morale goes from the top down, so do morals. If you doubt this is true, look at nations with low rates of violent crime like Switzerland, Denmark and Japan. Compared with our political discourse, which is often glib, macho and coarse, theirs is thoughtful, polite and reserved. Day-to-day interactions between citizens is less aggressive; their drivers are the safest and least likely to succumb to road rage.

        American political leaders, on the other hand, revel in cognitive dissonance, flashing a knowing wink at cameras as they call for peace in between indulging their swaggery inner cowboy: starting and prolonging wars, ordering assassinations and issuing one threat after another. Is it any wonder that a young man made impressionable by mental illness and desensitized by over-the-top violence on film and interactive bloodletting in immersive video games might draw the message that opening fire on a classroom full of schoolchildren is an acceptable way to express his frustration and rage?

        "There's no place for violence," Joe Biden said during the 2020 election campaign. But he wasn't talking about state violence; he was condemning the destruction of property by Black Lives Matter demonstrators who were trying to stop police brutality.

        Truth is, there's plenty of places where rhetorical violence is acceptable in America -- beginning at the White House podium. Even when reacting to last week's massacre of 19 children and their two teachers in Uvalde Texas, Biden bottom-shelved grief and sorrow in favor of frustration, irritation and blame: "I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don't tell me we can't have an impact on this carnage ... What in God's name  do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone? Deer aren't running through the forest with Kevlar vests on,  for God's sake. It's  just sick.  And the gun manufacturers have spent two decades aggressively marketing assault weapons which make them the most and largest profit." (Emphases mine.)

        Where American politicians really revel in violent rhetoric at a fever-pitch level unheard just anywhere else on the planet, however, is where it's easiest to other-ize their victims: foreign affairs.

        "This strike was not the last," Biden said after ordering an assassination drone to launch missiles into a house in Kabul in August 2021, deploying the butch verbiage of an action movie. "We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack (by ISIS-K at the Kabul airport) and make them pay." (Actually, the drone strike killed 10 innocent civilians, mostly children.) Imagine a European prime minister talking like that!

        On the campaign trail for President Barack Obama in 2012, then-Vice President Biden repeatedly bragged that his administration had carried out the extrajudicial assassination of Osama bin Laden and had ordered the Al Qaeda chief murdered after he was captured alive. "You want to know whether we're better off?" Biden asked a cheering crowd of 3,500 in Detroit. "I've got a little bumper sticker for you: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive." Charming.

        For Americans, violence is the go-to solution to many foreign crises even when there are better alternatives. Bin Laden, for example, could have been put on trial, with 9/11 treated as a law-enforcement issue. It would have elevated us, provided answers to the victims' families and diminished the prestige of the terrorists.

        Following the bombastic, high-strung President George W. Bush, Obama cultivated an image of calm deliberation: "No Drama Obama," his staff called him. Still, that didn't stop him from tastelessly normalizing political murder. The president pointed to the Jonas Brothers during the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner and joked: "Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but boys, don't get any ideas," Obama said as reporters guffawed. "Two words for you: Predator drones. You will never see it coming." The thousands of innocent people blown up by Obama's drones, none by legal means, must have found his depravity hilarious.

        Political leaders of other countries have started wars. Some have murdered rivals. But most have enough grace and attention to decorum to recognize that such acts are unpleasant -- necessary, perhaps, in order to achieve their objective, but nothing to boast about. They deny involvement or refuse to comment or invent cover stories to justify their crimes, as Hitler did when he claimed that his 1939 invasion of Poland was an act of self-defense. Only Americans respond to an adversary's sticky end with an unseemly spiking of the football.

        Hillary Clinton, who served as secretary of state under Obama, also contributed to America's uniquely cavalier attitude toward violence. While watching a video of Libyan jihadis murdering dictator Muammar Gaddafi by sodomizing him with a bayonet, she famously cackled: "We came, we saw, he died." She then laughed heartily.

        Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces occupying Iraq in late 2003. Never one for keeping his thumb off the scale, Bush called for the dictator -- a former U.S. ally -- to be executed: "I think he ought to receive the ultimate penalty ... for what he has done to his people. He is a torturer, a murderer, and they had rape rooms, and this is a disgusting tyrant who deserves justice, the ultimate justice." Self-awareness note: Guantanamo and other U.S. "black sites" set up by Bush for kidnapped Muslims also featured torture, murder and rape.

        Americans don't just like violence. Extrajudicial, illegal violence is in our DNA. We glorify Washington's crossing of the Delaware on Christmas because he won and chuckle at his willingness to violate the customs of how war was fought at the time. American revolutionaries who ambushed the British using guerilla tactics weren't cheaters; they were clever. Lincoln is considered great because he fought the Civil War over his refusal to accept the Confederacy's legal decision to secede. Few Americans gave much thought to George H.W. Bush's decision to invade Panama, a sovereign nation, and prosecute its president, in the U.S., like a common criminal even though he was probably innocent -- but it was insane.

        Is there a direct line between statements by presidents and Salvador Ramos, the 18-year-old Uvalde shooter? No. But direct orders are not how cultural norms permeate a society. When a behavior is normalized it becomes, by definition, so commonplace and acceptable that it hardly occurs to anyone that there's anything wrong with it. Violence in America is like the old Palmolive commercial: We're soaking in it. So we don't notice it. Political leaders who normalize violence (especially extrajudicial violence) as acceptable, entertaining and amusing shouldn't be surprised when impressionable young men follow their example and resort to violence themselves.

        Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, "The Stringer." Order one today. You can support Ted's hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.



Anonymous said...

The Democrat Party is going to push hard this time. They are either going to ram through California style restrictions on semi automatic rifles, another full AWB, or they are going to get magazine fed semi autos added to the NFA.

Either one passes and law abiding citizens who refuse to comply will be criminals. The existing criminals don’t care because they are already illegally possessing guns.

But remember this, few Canadians and New Zealanders have complied with their recent radical bans on military style rifles. NZ had a registration system for their AR15s and last I read it was reported that less than 1000 of the 250,000 “assault” weapons had been turned in for destruction. Just as few Canadians have complied with Trudeau’s orders.

Professionally_Sketchy_Guy said...

"countries with gun co trol have less gun violence."

But they have more violence overall. When Australia banned most civilian firearm ownership; murders, rapes, home invasions, and stabbings all skyrocketed. Same in the UK. Removing law abiding people's ability to defend themselves from violent criminals does absolutely nothing to stop violent criminals and often just emboldens them, knowing that they will not face equally armed resistance.

Saying "we need gun control to stop murders," won't stop murders, it'll just change how people are murdered and make that more likely.

Look to our southern neighbors. They have a single legal gun store in the entire country, and almost no legally owned guns. They have Almost twice as many murders as we do, stemming from the fact that criminals are not afraid of the citizens or even the army who they often outgun.

That's not a future I want for America.

Anonymous said...

I'm more conservative and pro-2A than most, and unlike most of the armchair cowboys who will read this article, I try to make sense out of and find common thoughts with whatever I read. Not finding much here to disagree with, I'll open the floor to the cowboys.

Anonymous said...

"Political leaders who normalize acceptable, entertaining and amusimg....Another hard-hitting, accurate, screed by this goof.
Cancel him

Anonymous said...

Take away all guns and mass murderers will use rented vehicles, cans of gasoline, and/or homemade poison gas. Just like they’ve done in Europe and Japan.
Mass murderers will always find a way.

Anonymous said...

I'm more conservative and pro-2A than most ...

This endless droning of appeals to authority are totally meaningless. You are anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Nothing will change. There is a zero chance a single Republican will vote for any type of gun control. It is more sacred to them than life itself.

Anonymous said...

We didn't have school shootings in the 50's, the 60's, the 70's. What happened? Why has this become an epidemic of death?

I'll tell you why: Children have no fear. They tell their parents what to do and most chicken shit parents do it.

Why are we seeing teenagers (and younger) spray bullets all over every major city in this country?
No fear of punishment.

If you've EVER had your ass whipped by your father, you know what I am talking about. If you've NEVER had your ass whipped by your father, you don't know what I'm talking about.

It really is that simple.

Anonymous said...

"The old assault weapons ban did some good."


Followed by a whole article of nonsense.

Anonymous said...

@5:12, did you read the post @4:56?? What common thoughts do you have with that post??

Anonymous said...

Still not willing to take a look at Russia, huh Ted?

Anonymous said...

I, personally, welcome the soon-to-be passed assault rifle confiscation legislation for, on the admittedly low contingency that my family and I should ever need to defend ourselves, I need only call 911 for the Uvalde Police Department to come to the rescue.

There. I said it and I'm proud of it.

Anonymous said...

Most of the people reading here will quickly decide if Mr. Rall is pro or anti and then decide to dismiss everything he says. He must be with me or he's 100% wrong. Every observation he makes is totally ridiculous? Well I disagree with some of his conclusions but I find some of his observations to be worth consideration if not agreement. Worth consideration.

Anonymous said...

9:57, It isn't his conclusions I disagree with. It's his lack of integrity and credibility. I wrote him off a couple of months ago with his observations about Ukraine, the U.S., U.K., and every other NATO member, while completely ignoring Russia.

When it comes to a Rall post, I just click for the comments, many of which constitute an honest exchange of ideas, rather than would-be Soviet propaganda.

Anonymous said...

It’s not gun violence! It’s human violence. When a drunk driver kills someone, they don’t say car violence or alcohol violence.

Anonymous said...

Nodody is trying to deprive the American people of the ability to protect themselves. But nobody needs an AR 15 or other assault rifle to do so. And the odds are low for most of a home invasion during the time it takes to do a thorough background check and provide a cooling off period. Reasonable gun regulations will not stop all mass shootings, but they will decrease them. If they save the life of one five year old, I am for them.

Anonymous said...

@ 9:57 -


Anonymous said...

This is all by design and you people would know it if people like Kingfish wouldn’t censor the truth.

Anonymous said...

@7:04 AM
It’s not a bill or needs or a bill of wants. It’s a bill or rights. And it SHALL NOT be infringed. All the infringements so far are treason. Life Free or DIE. And take your feminine emotions with you to some tyrannical shithole on your way out!

Anonymous said...

What new firearm is being sold without a background check?? I ask this question because some people keep bring this up.

Anonymous said...

It is perfectly legal for an individual to give or sell a firearm without a background check. I once gave a trusted friend a . 22 rifle as a gift. It was a perfectly legal transfer. The left calls this a ”loophole” instead of a right.

Anonymous said...

@ 7:04 - First, Amendment II is in the Bill of Rights, not the bill of needs (as 9:11 pointed out). Second, a so-called assault rifle is just a semi-automatic rifle. Do you propose outlawing the following semi-automatic rifles?

Remington Models 8 and 81
Remington Models 740 and 742
Ruger Model 44 Carbine
Winchester Model 100
Browning Bar Mark II Safari
Remington Model 7400
Ruger Mini-Thirty
Valmet Hunter M88

Third, so-called mass shootings are stimulated by media coverage of so-called mass shootings. Alex Pew, et al., "Does Media Coverage Inspire Copy Cat Mass Shootings?", National Center for Health Research (from paper: "Violent events are often covered by news outlets in great detail and spread immediately through mass media and social media. Experts believe that this media coverage can inspire others to copy these actions or commit similar crimes. . . . The American Psychological Association points out that this “fame” is something that most mass shooters desire . . . Studies indicate that the more media attention a shooter gets, the more likely the event will inspire a future mass shooter. For example, a 2015 study found that after a mass shooting, there was an increased chance of another one occurring in the next 13 days. A 2017 study found that media coverage of a mass shooting may increase the frequency and lethality of future shootings for much longer than two weeks. . . . As long as the media continue to focus their news stories on the attacker, it is likely that these copycats will continue."). Maybe it's time for legislation which restricts what public officials can say about so-called mass shootings and restrict the media to one news story per week per news outlet. Amendment I is not absolute, right?

Anonymous said...

History really does repeat itself.
We lost a lot of out 2A rights when they fruity and corrupt J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI, pushed to get the first National Firearms Act passesd. He used the excuse that criminals had the ability to out-gun the federal government as justification. Here we have a new, even more corrupt FBI full of fruitcakes, and another Great Depression ok the horizon, and the nutty degenerates in DC want to use criminals again as the excuse to take even more rights away!

Anonymous said...

10:58 Are you suggesting the media should limit the coverage of mass-murder? How will that work?

Anonymous said...

Refuse to say their name or show their picture.

Anonymous said...

" fruity and corrupt J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI,"

Not to go too much off topic, but I remember my late Grandmother saying during the 70's, "even back in the 30's everyone knew Hoover was an odd bird".

Anonymous said...

No Constitutional right is absolute. Reasonable regulations abound in many contexts.

Anonymous said...

No Constitutional Right exists in the United States. Rights are held by the individual and not granted by the government. The U.S. Constitution lists some limitations the government has on those rights.

It also lists one right that Government CAN NOT INFRINGE. One, and only one Right, has that language.

Anonymous said...

You sound like you would be a better fit in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, comrade. They have an impressive constitution full of “rights” with “reasonable” regulations as well!

Anonymous said...

@1:07 - You missed the sarcasm.

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