Charleston

5582bef890908.imageI’m sickened by what happened in Charleston, South Carolina.  A white high-school dropout shot nine black people to death in a historically black church.  Based upon the location and some early evidence gleamed from Social Media, it does appear that this was a racially based series of unconscionable crimes.  The murderer is fortunately now in custody.

Browsing Twitter, I saw a screen cap of someone looking for their grandmother who worked in that church, only to discover a few hours later that her relative was among the murdered.  I can’t verify the validity of these posts, but even the prospect of their truth pulled at my heart-strings. I have nothing but sorrow for the families of those who have passed and any who may still be fighting to survive.

Meanwhile, a debate has begun to emerge revolving around the intent of the shooter, in a sort of head scratching competition of “mental illness” vs. “racism.”  As in most things, the reality is likely somewhere in the middle.  The societal conversation to follow needs to discuss the susceptibility of serious mentally ill persons toward extremist ideologies at the hands of manipulative provocateurs.

Throughout history, cowards too afraid of death or imprisonment to themselves engage in violent activity have repeatedly strived to indoctrinate young sick minds into acting out their fantasies. In modern times, Social Media has created an outlet not only for lone wolves to find other like-minded support systems of hatred, but also to indoctrinate the innocent toward philosophies they might not have otherwise adopted.

When someone is constantly informed that people belonging to group A are inhuman / evil / deserving of punishment and that it would be great if someone were to do something about it, it’s not exactly a surprise when at some point someone follows through as an indoctrinated individual lacking empathy, impulse control, and a drive to hurt people with a clear conscience.

It doesn’t matter if group A is non-Muslims beheaded for being the wrong religion. It doesn’t matter if group A is black people shot in a church for being the wrong skin color. It doesn’t matter if group A is police officers shot while sitting in a car for working the wrong job.   Someone made the decision that murder wasn’t really murder as long as it was committed against the right group.

The science of indoctrination and those who embrace manipulation toward violent ends is so sickeningly familiar, regardless of overarching philosophy. It is from this acknowledgement that the intention to murder the innocent based upon group affiliation in the pursuit of any philosophy must be condemned without equivocation. Extremism flourishes when objectivity is rejected.


 

I will gladly post any fundraising for the families of the fallen from the events in South Carolina.

WS

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4 thoughts on “Charleston

  1. It’s not just social media that is part of the problem, in my opinion. Mainstream media contributes with reporting like much of that on Mike Brown’s death. Benet Embry, a black man from the neighborhood of the McKinney pool party, gave me a rather bitter laugh the other day, when he talked about how the media misrepresented the situation there, then went on to say, “we’re not like Ferguson, this isn’t like Travon Martin” — not for one second considering the fact that the media twisted those events, just as they had twisted the racial elements of the event her personally witnessed! White supremacists don’t work in a vacuum; when the media so regularly twists facts on racial lines, that just empowers the supremacists.

    Having read journals and statements made by mass murderers prior to acting, I think mainstream media also contributes by idolizing the murderer. People are much more likely to remember the names of the killers rather than the names of the killed, because the killer is the media’s primary focus. The media presents the murderer as enormously powerful and important, and people buy into that. Women were writing love letters and marriage proposals to mass murderers long before social media came along.

    In actual fact, numerous potential mass murderers, and even some who manage to kill enough people to qualify as a mass murderer, have been stopped by unarmed or armed citizens. People see them as all-powerful, but they’re not. Like most bullies, they are cowards at heart, and a surprisingly low level of resistance can stop some of them. It’s the media that gives them this powerful image. The odds against any particular individual dealing with a mass murder situation are in the hundreds-of-millions to one range, and usually the mass murderer is just as vulnerable to getting shot as his victims are (barring body armor); the only unique power these guys have is the power the media gives them.

    A fair percentage of these guys, including many of those who suicide after killing, count on gaining fame and admiration through their actions. Take that away from mass murderers, and maybe we’d lower the percentage of mass murder events a tad. I don’t think we’ll ever eliminate random acts of violence, because I don’t think we’ll ever eliminate madness, but I do think the current media approach exacerbates the problem of mass murder.

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    • Without a doubt, the media has their share of blame in exacerbating the mystique of the mass murderer. However, where ideology is the focus, as I think it was here, there exists greater support for extremist philosophies and indoctrinating propaganda than ever before. The media might make inquiring minds more interested in investigating these materials but the internet / social media allows for greater dissemination.

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      • I think people who are drawn to extremist philosophies and propaganda have always been good at tracking down like thinkers if that’s what they’re looking for. The only idea he spouts in his diatribe that wasn’t easily available when I was a kid is the idea that Jewish people ought to be blue. Granted, he could have plucked that from the discussion board of an obscure group of Yooper British Israelites for all I know, but the really damaging ideas have always been around and easily found, and the guys who are attracted to them were pretty skilled at finding one or two cronies and convincing themselves that “this is what people really believe, they’re just too cowardly to admit it.”

        I was living in Colorado at 21, where I don’t think white supremacist ideas have ever been as popular as they were further east, and I was a firm believer that racial prejudice is stupid on Biblical grounds, but I still stumbled across the occasional British Israelite or neo-Nazi. At least in larger cities, racial hatred has always been available, if that’s the route a kid wants to go. And since there were kids driving three hours or more to join in obscure interest social groups I hung out with back then, I’m not sure living in a smaller town or city is that much of a handicap. Social media makes it easier to find, but unless this kid has been steeping in it since he was ten, which isn’t the case here, I don’t think it makes much difference. It just speeds up the process a tad.

        I still think if the mainstream media took the attitude of, ‘Just another nut job, it’s a real challenge to predict when people will snap. On the other hand, nine people are murdered in Chicago every seven and a half days, and there’s a statistic we can do something about,” instead of, “oh my gosh, what can we do about these mass murderers, this is the most important and outrageous thing that’s happening right now, lets examine this guy in minute detail” that would considerably disempower the most damaging ideas floating around out there. (Another problem I have with mainstream media is their refusal to grapple with the idea that solutions should actually work. But that’s another whine for another time.)

        This kids idea that he could start a race war is ridiculous. The idea that he could go from obscure loser to front page importance, however, was a completely valid one. Guys with destructive impulses often dream of going out in a blaze of glory. I suspect they’re much more likely to act on that dream if the glory is pretty much guaranteed.

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