Category Archives: Guns

God, Guns and Video Games

The din struck by videos of the gaming variety; its forced causal link (always alleged, never proved) to altering conduct, continues its relentless march across the discussion forums in the United States and beyond.  The almost casual butcheries – actual, not as opposed to digital – have gone on unabated, the next extremist taking a murderous shot at his role in history – and everybody else.  Now it is the white supremacists who are sharing top billing with previous jihadi enthusiasts, a concession on the part of law enforcement authorities that there might be something to say about using the word “terrorist” in an ecumenical sense.

The August 3 shootings at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, left over 30 dead and 53 injured.  The profiles of the shooters were subjected to a less than thorough dissection.  A twenty-one-year old Patrick Crusius had allegedly driven from Dallas-Fort Worth to El Paso in the hope of targeting Mexican immigrants.  For Connor Betts, motives seemed sketchy, though he was noted for having a Twitter account showing much support for Antifa and an interest in “exploring violent ideologies”.  Much is being made of his drug addled state at the time of the shootings.

The taking of sides over the whole calculus of violence took place in a matter of hours.  For those insisting on gun control, lax rules enabling the easy acquisition of weapons of mass lethality were fundamental, with Texas taking the lead.  Racism and xenophobia were also blamed.

For gun worshippers, the culprits were violent celluloid, naughty video games, hideous media.  Even as the casualty lists were being compiled, Fox News host Jon Scott  suggested that the El Paso shooter was merely another youth raised on a diet of violent video games that might propel him to take to guns.

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick speculated that the killings were the bloody realisations of a video game, a desire on the part of the shooter to “be a super soldier, for his Call of Duty game.”  But there was a bit more to that: God’s banishment from society, the one and only deity being cast out for most of the week, unable to exert His moral authority.  “As long as we continue to only praise God and look at God on a Sunday morning and kick him out of the town square in our schools the other six days of the week, what do we expect?”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures that video games dehumanized participants, turning them into insentient zombies.  “We’ve watched studies show what it does to individuals, and you look at these photos and how it took place, you can see the actions within video games and others.”

President Donald Trump, as he did in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Parklands, Florida, lamented the “glorification of violence in our society”, which included “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. We must stop or substantially reduce this, and it has to begin immediately.”

The president also had room for that old straw man Fake News which “has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years.  News coverage has got to start being fair, balanced and unbiased, or these terrible problems will only get worse!”

Some common ground is found in commentary suggesting that Gamergate holds the toxic key – at least when it comes to understanding white nationalist trigger happy types. Founded in a campaign of coordinated harassment in 2014 against female video game designers and gaming critics, the Gamergaters migrated from the 4chan image-based website to 8chan.  (4chan had tired of the harassing troupe.)  Evan Urquhart duly stretches the bow in his Slate contribution.  “This subculture of Gamergaters, who erroneously believe themselves to be the only true gamers in the world in a world of phonies, is what made the culture of 8chan what it is.  It was violent then, it it’s more violent now.”

If only it were that simple: the moving image would be banned; the provocative print would be stored away in inaccessible troves; online forums would be banished.  But as tens of millions of humans happily engage with such matter without incident on a daily basis, the prosecution is left floundering on this point.

In the 1950s, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham pushily decided that comic books were needlessly imperilling readers (perhaps viewers is more appropriate?).  His methodologically unsound Seduction of the Innocent remains a suitable bit of canonical drivel, stirring the agitated, not least of all his claim that the gay subtext of the Batman stories was harmful to youths.  It led to a panic that saw the creation of the Comics Code Authority and the eventual demise of EC Comics.

Since then, there has been a smattering of work on the gaming-violence causation business.  The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology ran a study in 2013 featuring participants engaged in playing violent or non-violent video games over 20 minutes per day over 3 days.  “As expected, aggressive behaviour and hostile expectations increased over days for violent game players, but not for nonviolent video game players, and the increase in aggressive behaviour was partially due to hostile expectations.”  That same year, another study published in Aggressive Behaviour found an exception: participants surveyed sowed that violence with a “prosocial motive (i.e. protecting a friend and furthering his nonviolent goals) were found to show lower short-term aggression”.

Research published this year by Andrew K. Przybylski of Oxford University and Netta Weinstein of Cardiff University, arguably gives us one of the most thorough bodies of work to date.  It surveyed 1,004 British 14-15-year-olds on gaming habits and behaviour, along with an equal number of carers.  “There was no evidence for a critical tipping point relating violent game engagement to aggressive behaviour.”  According to co-author Weinstein, “Our finding suggest that researcher biases might have influenced previous studies on this topic, and have distorted our understanding of the effects of video games.”

Even judges have opined from upon high on the issue, with the late Antonin Scalia observing in the 2011 case of Brown v Entertainment Merchant Association that psychological research studies, at least those being relied upon in that case, “do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning).”  The studies only showed “at best some correlation between exposure to violent entertainment and miniscule real-world effects”.

This does not prevent the prosecution from having a good stab at the futile.  Dozens of countries have access to violent games and do not see gamers running amok massacring all and sundry.  The issue is deeper, and the deeper part is what is problematic.  In this, progressives and conservatives find testy, shallow consensus, if in slightly different ways.  The video gamers are being accused of producing a star fashioned in ghoulish, murderous reality.

Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common

Writing under the title of “If the El Paso shooter had been Muslim”, Moustafa Bayoumi stated the obvious.

“If the El Paso shooter had been a Muslim,” Bayoumi wrote in the British Guardian newspaper on August 6, US President Donald Trump “would be lobbing accusations such as ‘Islam hates us’ in the direction of Muslims and not lecturing the public about video games.”

Bayoumi was referring to the double standards that define much of western official and media discourses regarding violence. When the alleged perpetrator of violence is a Muslim, then the case becomes a matter of national security and is categorically dealt with as an act of terrorism. When the perpetrator is a white male, however, it is a whole different story.

On August 3, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius carried out a mass shooting in a Wal-mart store in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 innocent people.

Neither US authorities nor media used the term “terrorism” in describing the heinous act. Instead, the Justice Department is “seriously considering” bringing federal hate crime charges against the killer, CNN reported.

On the other hand, Trump reasoned that “mental illness and hatred pull the trigger, not the gun,” in another attempt at whitewashing violent crimes by white individuals.

The “mental illness” explanation, in particular, has served as the convenient rationale for all similar violence.

For example, when 28-year-old Ilan Long opened fire on college students in Thousand Oaks, California, in November 2018, killing 12 people, Trump offered this logic. “He was a very, very mentally ill person,” he said, referring to Long. “He’s a very sick — well, it’s a mental health problem. He is a very sick puppy. He was a very, very sick guy.”

The mental illness argument was infused repeatedly, including last March, when Brenton Tarrant opened fire on Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people.

“I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems,” Trump said of Tarrant’s anti-Muslim terrorist attack.

Compare this to Trump’s response to the killing of 14 people in San Bernardino, California, which was blamed on two Muslims. Trump immediately assigned the word “terrorism” to the violent act, while calling for a “total and complete shutdown” of the entry of Muslims to the United States, “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on”.

But we do, in fact, know “what is going on”, a truth that goes beyond the typical western double standards. Crusius, Tarrant and many such white terrorists are connected through a deep bond that exceeds the supposed claim of mental illness into something truly sinister.

These individuals are all part of a larger phenomenon, an amalgamation of various ultra-nationalist governments, political movements and groups all around the world, all united by their hate for immigrants, refugees and Muslims.

Crusius and Tarrant were not “lone wolf” terrorists, as some would want us to believe. Even if they were single-handedly responsible for the mass murder of those innocent people, they are members of a large, ideological, militant network that is dedicated to spreading hate and racism, one which sees immigrants — especially Muslims — as “invaders”.

In his “manifesto”, a 74-page document that he posted online shortly before he carried out his heinous act, Tarrant references the far-right, the racist ideologues who inspired him, along with fellow “ethno-soldiers” — like-minded murderers who committed equally horrific acts against civilians.

It was not by accident that Tarrant named his document the “Great Replacement”, as it was framed after a similarly named conspiracy theory made popular by a strong Israel supporter, Renaud Camus.

Camus is an infamous French writer whose “Le Grand Remplacement”, an even more extreme interpretation of Francis Fukuyama’s Clash of Civilizations, envisages a global conflict that sees Muslims as the new enemy.

The Great Replacement, along with other such literature widely popular among the far right, represents the ideological foundation for the, until recently, disorganized and disconnected efforts by various ultra-nationalist movements around the world, all united in their desire to address the “Muslim invasion”.

The common thread between violent white males who commit mass killings is obvious: a deep indoctrination of racism, anti-immigrant sentiment and hate for Muslims. Like Tarrant, Crusius also left his own manifesto, one that is, according to CNN, “filled with white nationalist and racist hatred toward immigrants and Hispanics, blaming immigrants and first-generation Americans for taking away jobs and the blending of cultures in the US”.

Moreover, both seemed to subscribe to the same intellectual discourse, as they had posted links to a 16,000-word document on Twitter and 8chan that was “filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments”.

“The writer of the document linked to the El Paso suspect expressed support for the shootings of two mosques in Christchurch,” CNN also reported.

White militants are gripped by the groundless fear that they are being “replaced”. “Great Replacement” promoters argue that Islam and the Islamic civilization are “ethnically replacing” other races, and that such a supposed phenomenon must be stopped, using violent means if necessary. Unsurprisingly, they see Israel as a model country that is succeeding in fighting against the “Muslim menace”.

What makes violent white supremacists even more dangerous is the fact that they now have friends in high places. Trump’s refusal to address the issue of white nationalist militancy in a serious way is no accident. But the American president is not alone. The rising star of Italian politics, Matteo Salvini, for example, has a great deal of sympathy for such movements. Following the Christchurch massacre, the Italian defense minister refused to condemn white extremists. Instead, he said: “The only extremism which should be carefully addressed is the Islamic one.”

The list of far-right ideologues and their benefactors is long and constantly expanding. But their hate-filled speech and disturbing “theories”, along with their fascination with Israeli violence and racism, would have been assigned to the bins of history if it were not for the high price of violence that is now associated with this movement.

Our understanding of white nationalist violence should move beyond the double-standard argument into a more wholesome analysis of the ideological links that tie these individuals and groups together. In the final analysis, no form of violence targeting innocent people should be justified or tolerated, regardless of the skin color, religion or identity of the perpetrators.

Are Hate Crimes Linked to Mind Control?

As part of Remarks by President Trump on Mass Shootings in Texas and Ohio on August 5, President Donald Trump announced:

“Today, I am also directing the Department of Justice to propose legislation ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty, and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively, and without years of needless delay.”

Normally it might have been expected that the mainstream media would run with Trump’s support of the death-penalty-for-hate-crimes as proof positive that the man is off his rocker. Instead, the statement garnered barely a flicker of public notice. Did anyone in authority bother to confirm that the shootings were indeed motivated by ‘hate’?

As the monopoly media consistently rushes to judgment, speculation too often becomes fact before all the evidence is considered (i.e., Russiagate). Yet the monopoly media is relied on to provide factual and critical background information. However, since 65% of the American public believe that the monopoly media is peddling fake news, this begs the question of why should detailed reporting on these tragic events be left to a discredited media establishment or that their information on these recent shootings be considered truthful? Why should the American public trust the monopoly media for what may have already been determined to be a ‘hate’ crime without providing evidence of the hate – as the Divide and Rule Game continues undeterred sowing division and conflict among the American people.

It remains unclear exactly why either tragedy is being specifically labeled a ‘hate’ crime instead of felony murder as if there is a larger agenda to establish ‘hate’ as a bona fide. Obviously, such barbaric mass killings are not normal behavior as the rationale for such conduct must stem from some deep emotional depravity just as the epidemic of suicides of young white males who have lost hope in American society makes no more sense.

There is an endemic crisis throughout the country and the political class are responsible. Decades after federal government elimination of grants for community mental health programs, ‘hate’ is the favorite determinant factor as the world’s most violent nation creates a generation of emotionally or mentally unstable young men, many of whom may be on mind-numbing psychiatric drugs. Since the monopoly media has failed to inform the American public of advanced mind control practices; perhaps the monopoly media itself and the young shooters are part of widespread experiment using MK Ultra or other state-of-the-art brain manipulation techniques. How would the American public ever know which might be true?

The 21-year-old El Paso shooter was immediately identified as a right-wing Trumper acting on behalf of the President’s ‘hate’ rhetoric and that he had posted an anti-immigration racist tract entitled “An Inconvenient Truth’ – all of which turned out to be something less than the truth. Decrying mass immigration as an environmental plea for population control sounds more like something John Muir might have written rather than a hate-filled racist diatribe justifying the slaughter. Perusing the politically charged manifesto are such statements as: “Our lifestyle is destroying the environment of our country If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become more sustainable .” There is, however, a problematic psychiatrist father of uncertain character in the background as the shooter drove 650 miles from his home to El Paso before committing the crime and surrendering to authorities.

On the other hand, the Dayton shooter also defies the usual partisan identity and has been acknowledged as a 24-year-old member of the Democratic Socialist Party, a Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren supporter, and was dressed and masked as an Antifa member at the time of the shooting. Although he had a high school history as a bully who kept a hit list and made violent threats, his weapons and ammo magazines appear to have been legally acquired.

Meanwhile, the Democrats who consider themselves the responsible party on gun control, failed to restore the assault gun ban when they had the votes in 2010 as they prefer fanning the flames of more ‘hate’ by blaming Trump’s loose lips even though the once-revered ACLU does not oppose the Second Amendment.

One wonders that if the El Paso shooter can be tagged with being influenced by Trump rhetoric, did the Dayton shooter receive his inspiration from Antifa or perhaps Elizabeth Warren? It is too much to expect any rational media voice to inquire – all of which brings us back to the President’s Remarks endorsing the death penalty.

How exactly did this ‘hate’ language make its way into Trump’s remarks as ‘hate’ has become a preoccupation of American society and the Administration as its Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism’s very life purpose is to root out hate – not hate of all kinds but only that of the Jewish variety.

Historically, the American criminal justice system, flawed as it is, requires any jury in a criminal case to consider the Defendant’s level of conscious intent to commit a criminal act as well as the illegality of the act without specificity to the psychological issues of that intent.

Originally, hate crime laws were expected to offer special protection based on an individuals’ sexual orientation, gender, religion, disability or racial identity as perceived by the perpetrator. In a manner that does not occur in normal criminal proceedings, defining the “hate” component of a crime requires a distinct determination that the defendant’s actions were solely motivated by thoughts of ‘hate.’

In a worse case scenario, is Trump suggesting that the death penalty may be applied to what is determined to be a hate crime even if that crime has not resulted in a death? The reality is that hate crimes may be difficult to distinguish from a run-of-the-mill felony murder, thereby increasing the hate crime penalty makes little sense since first degree murder is already subject to the death penalty. Therefore, it appears that a redundant death penalty for a crime that would already call for the death penalty is little more than… overkill.

In other words, hate crime prosecution necessarily relies on criminalizing thoughts as the NSA claims it has already developed remote neural monitoring revealing one’s most hidden private thoughts or an iphone may be bugged with implants to reduce impulse control.

Many legal scholars would respond that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and the Due Process Clause in the Fifth Amendment already provides all American citizens with the guaranteed right to equal protection under the law (i.e., Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade) and therefore such hate laws are unnecessary and may be unconstitutional.

Since the Constitution already protects the rights of aggrieved parties, why would Congress initiate an entirely new category of duplicative Hate Crime laws unless they needed the extra legislative accomplishment to justify their existence or to satisfy prominent politically-connected constituencies or to create a nefarious political agenda.

Bodies on The Ground And The Rise And Rise Of The Economic Elite

The US is less of a nation than a collective, psychotic episode.

Within day to day life in the nation, a cultural aura exists that shifts, mingles, and merges between a sense of nervous agitation and displaced rage, in combination with a sense of weightlessness. The fragmented quality of daily life imparts an insubstantial, unreal quality wherein the citizenry of the capitalist/consumer empire of hungry ghosts drift through a nadascape comprised of ad hoc, fast-buck-driven, suburban/exburban architecture and the ersatz eros of constant, consumer come-ons.

Yet beneath the nebulous dread and nettling angst of it all, there exists the primal human imperative for connection and social communion; i.e., authentic eros. The most lost among the lost in the ghostsphere of the collective mind attempt to animate the realm of shades with libations of blood. The gods of the capitalist death cult demand no less.

Where does an impulse to possess an unlimited number of firearms fit into the scheme of things? A firearm’s heft, for one. The weapon feel substantial when held and hoisted thus serves, provisionally, to mitigate a psychical sense of weightlessness. The act of engagement eases nervous agitation. Guns reality is antithetically to the weightless content of media reality. Focus is achieved when one aligns the weapon’s site to a target. Nebulous dread transforms into adamantine purpose. The presence of an Angel Of Death will focus the mind. The ground, for the moment, feels solid beneath one’s feet. Hence, there arrives a craving, in the sense of addiction, to hoard the object that provides relief; in addition, massive quantities of ammunition must be stored as emotional ballast. The mystifying, rankling, uncontrollable criteria of this weightless Age and the white noise of uncertainty seem to yield to the clear and decisive crack of a rifle shot. Relief is imagined in the concomitant carnage. Rebecca West captures the phenomenon in prose:

Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.

― Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, 1941

Because we, on a personal level, in most cases, choose the primary option, our hidden, shadow half will live out the latter on a collective basis. During the blood lust on display at Trump rallies, the mob finds a collective comfort zone in catastrophic longings. The domestic landscape of paranoia works in behalf of the profiteers of perpetual war, perpetrators of the U.S.-created deathscapes overseas, and vice versa, in a self-resonating feedback loop of carnage.

In our era, in which the US empire is in decline, as a consequence the White supremacist order no longer seems inevitable, Trump’s frightened legions have personalised the decline. In their gut, they feel as if their identity is under siege. Seal off the nation’s borders. Construct an unscalable wall. Create a cordon sanitaire to protect and preserve racial purity. A strong authority figure is craved in order to set the world back in order. The phenomenon could be termed, Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS) — a pathology manifested in personality types who have been traumatized by the authoritarianism of the US socio-political milieu but who seek to assuage their hurt and humiliation by identification with the very forces responsible for their torment.. The stuff of a cultural nervous breakdown.

To that end, according to its own laws, the nation’s citizenry, sufferers of mental distress, should be restricted from purchasing a gun. Yet without a doubt, the most disturbed of all are the nation’s political class, those responsible for gun legislation. There is compelling evidence that they present a clear and present danger to themselves and others. The political class is a menace to society; they make decisions, more often than not, based on delusional thinking, that are responsible for harm on a massive scale. Thus they should be subject to institutional-style restraint, within the confines of the most heavily secure, lockdown ward in an asylum for the criminally insane.

Although the so-called mentally ill, as a rule, are not any more inclined to commit violent crimes than are the general population of capitalist dystopias. The US nation was founded in genocidal violence and the fortunes of its ruling class are protected by the state sanctioned violence of the police and are bloated by the violence inherent to imperialist shakedown operations.

It comes down to this: In our emotionally brutal era, those deemed mentally ill are suffering from capitalism. The pummelling stress and boot-in-the-face, hierarchy-inflicted humiliations inherent to the system inflict trauma on large swathes of the citizenry.

Epidemic levels of middle age, US citizens are dying with needles in their arms. The inherent and internalised White supremacy of the societal order has been exacerbated by Trump’s self-serving, reckless agitprop and acts in a drug-like manner causing dopamine levels to rise in those experiencing emotional torment due to humiliation-caused despair. Demagogues such as Trump are aware and exploit the manner despair can be palliatively mitigated by the emotional displacement of rage.

Fascist insignias rise when the hopes and aspirations of the working class lay shattered across a capitalist economic wasteland. Hoisted torches provide the illusion that dark despair has been banished. The fascist mob becomes possessed by a belief that they, en masse, can ascend into the precincts of heaven by scaling a mountain of corpses comprised of outsider groups.

Fascism not only acts as anaesthetic to the wounds delivered by capitalism, it is a psychoactive drug because incantatory rhetoric and imagist psychical material get those susceptible to its crude allure high.

Capitalism is borne on manic wings. The economic elite move from corporate skyscrapers and high rise rooftops in order to travel by helicopter, where upon landing, they board private, luxury jets, then, whereupon landing again, they are transported by helicopter to corporate skyscrapers and high rise rooftops. Touching the earth is a fleeting experience. The ruling class have lost touch with ground level verities. In a classical sense, such displays of hubris were understood as the progenitor of madness. The gods first elevate those they drive mad.

And, yes, race-based fears and animus are in play. Racism engendered mass murder has been coming to pass since armed Europeans trudged ashore in the Americas, with their blood-sodden religion and their murderous craving for gold and land. Of course, the racist demagoguery of the Bloated Orange Tub Of Nazi Goo oozing into and agitating the limbic systems of violent cretins during homegrown Nuremberg Rallies and his compulsion to blitzkrieg the pixel-sphere with Der Stürmer tweets is fomenting racist mayhem that includes bacchanals of blood. US mythos is rancid with the reek of the corpses of the innocent slaughtered by White men brandishing firearms. Mass murderers have been and continue to be enshrined as heroes, from Wounded Knee to Afghanistan.

The nation was established by gun-enabled genocide and the intimidation of African slaves held at gunpoint on capitalist plantations. The truth has never been faced; e.g., the suppression of the Nixon tape in which Ronald Reagan displayed his racist mindset.

The US citizenry thanks the soldiers of its racist wars of aggression for their “service.” Perpetual shooting sprees origins can be traced to the heart of darkness of the nation and its concomitant White supremacist creed. The killings happened long before the rise and election of the Tangerine Tweet Führer. Of course, the racist shit-heel Trump has exacerbated the situation. He deserves all scorn cast his way. It is obvious his capacity for malice does not possess a governor’s switch.

Trump is a two-legged emblem of the hypertrophy at play in late US imperium. Gun-inflicted violence is steeped into the blood-stained fabric of the US (sham) republic. Withal, Trump is not an anomaly; he is an emblem. Gun-strokers are no more going to shed their mythos than liberals and progressives are going to shed theirs that the US is a democratic republic, governed by the rule of law, and progressive reforms will be implemented by its High Dollar owned and controlled political class that will serve to turn around the trajectory of the blood-built and maintained US empire.

Guns and Chips and Irony

I had Doctor Daniel Brown from Harvard spend 70 hours with Sirhan over almost three years [and] he comes away with this staggering, staggering evaluation. He says Sirhan was hypnoprogrammed ….. a technique of using chemicals as well as hypnosis ….. The program on him makes him forget everything within a certain time frame ….. He remembers when he gets a pinch on the neck [that] what he sees is not Senator Kennedy. It’s a paper target of a human being.

— William Pepper, 2013, speaking at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Two issues made explicit in the U.S Constitution had to do with personal protection and the creation of money. Regarding the Second Amendment, its single sentence is blunt: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (Infringe: to limit or control) The authors, informed by history, knew that governments typically grow despotic, and that being armed provides a measure of protection for citizens against a government grown oppressive and unaccountable. In Thomas Jefferson’s words, “…. to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

Yet there is a growing call for governmental control of guns in the hands of citizens, the call coming from within the citizenry itself, and the reason is evident: Every so often in recent years an apparently deranged individual goes on a shooting spree in a school or public space. With each shooting the chorus to rein in gun ownership grows ever louder, and ever more politicians, sniffing out prevailing public sentiment, make gun control a campaign issue. Ideas range from the registration of all firearms to the outlawing of weapons that might give citizens parity with, say, a militarized police force.

But here’s an interesting question: Might devious elements within a government, intent on disarming its populace, resort to the creation of false-flag scenarios designed to frighten and to produce justification for ever-tightening control? Might it be a question of “LIHOP” (let it happen on purpose) or “MIHOP” (make it happen on purpose), to use the lingo of what CIA-tutored media figures call “conspiracy theorists”? It’s just a question. I’m not so cynical as to imagine such intent, but the notion that such could be the case definitely exists among many who are inclined to ferret out details of certain events like the sinking of the Maine, the Lusitania, Operation Northwoods, Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin. Things like that.

The fact that elements of the U.S. Government have developed and refined mind control techniques, such as those apparently applied to Sirhan Sirhan, is old news. The CIA’s Program MKUltra was born more than 60 years ago, and although it was reported as having been officially terminated in the 1970s, anyone who would accept that as fact resides in the kind of comfortable mental Happy Place that seems to be an American specialty.

Shootings themselves make excellent ‘news’, as they produce an uptick in public attention (and anxiety), which is important to those with a stake in maintaining narratives and crafting prevailing public opinion. And when poignant biographies of victims are aired as news items, with touching facial photos, evocative descriptions of their generosity and good works, and how they were so beloved, the victims are transformed for viewers into something akin to neighbors, and the shootings become a viewer’s neighborhood issues. Something must be done! And so public demand for gun control continues to grow.

Would central banks jump to the rescue and offer a fully anonymous digital currency? Certainly not. Doing so would be a bonanza for criminals.

— Christine Lagarde, IMF Director, 2018, speaking at the Singapore Fintech Festival

It is Congress that was granted the power “to coin money [and] establish the value thereof”, or at least that‘s how the U.S. Constitution would have it. But times changed, as did our governors, so in 1913 the Congress and President decided, despite multiple warnings from Jefferson to Lincoln (and others in between and since) to turn that process over to a private banking interest given the grossly misleading title “Federal Reserve”.

Those whom we allowed to become the masters of our money are now herding us toward an electronic global currency. The concept has been widely discussed since at least 1988 when a cover article in The Economist predicted a single world currency by 2018 along the lines of a theoretical “Phoenix”. The stepwise route described would be at first allowing — then later encouraging — the use of some form of private-sector money to be used in addition to existing national currencies. Thereafter, over time, the public would come to prefer it on the basis of its greater convenience. While the 2018 prediction was itself a miss, cryptocurrency had by that time become all the rage in some quarters, and the concept of cryptocurrency as a global reserve currency is now being discussed.

Meanwhile, the use of credit- and debit cards continues to rise, in some European countries virtually the sole means of making purchases. Banks and credit unions are now offering incentives for their use, even as powerful governmental forces are advocating the banning of cash altogether. Follow the threads and the world that emerges is one in which our every transaction is an electronic record. Consider, though, that a personal “chip”, that dreaded item of ultimate control in the worst of all dystopian futures, needn’t be a microscopic subcutaneous transmitter. A plastic card willingly (and, in a cashless society, necessarily) produced with every exchange works perfectly for recording the where and what of each individual’s every movement.

With cash a relic of the past, there would be no place to protect savings were The Economy to require negative interest rates and “bail-ins”; accounts would be docked automatically. Anyone deemed an irritant to the government would simply have his or her “chip” turned off (It happens!) leaving the offender absolutely disabled in a cashless world. With the loss of one’s card an ever-present possibility, instinct would naturally tend toward protective self editing, and the inevitable result would be a population rendered ideal from the standpoint of an oppressive and unaccountable government: obedient and submissive.

And the irony? If governmental and social forces now in motion continue unabated and unopposed, Americans, who proclaim themselves “lovers of freedom”, will have essentially disarmed and chipped ourselves. Having been made fearful, we don’t merely allow, we insist, on governmental control of personal arms. And through a process of multigenerational social engineering, our attachment to our plastic identifiers has been so reinforced and normalized that we have failed to realize what they represent and how they can be used against us.

Why Are These Facts So Stubbornly Forbidden?

Like you, I’ve had countless experiences of pointing out a new fact to someone, and seeing them acknowledge it and incorporate it into their thinking and their talking from that point forward. I’ve even had this experience with public petitions pushed on powerful people. But, I’ve also had a different experience. There are some facts that some people just will not accept, and for some of them I have a very hard time understanding why. Can you help me understand?

For example, today I received an appeal from the March for Our Lives people upset and outraged that teachers were going to be allowed to bring guns into their school in Florida. They do not want any guns in their school, they said. But — and this they did not say — their school already has ROTC and gun training. Their school already has lots of guns in it. Their classmate who killed many of their other classmates was trained to shoot guns in their school by the U.S. Army. So, do they want guns in their school or not? They are 100% dedicated to pretending that the ROTC does not exist, but also outraged by the idea of guns being brought into the school that they are pretending is gun-free. Why can they not incorporate into their consciousness the existence of the program whose t-shirt the murderer was wearing? What prevents it? I really want to know. Do you have an answer that’s not just a guess?

Also today I received an email from Senator Tim Kaine who remains outraged that a president might start an “unnecessary” and “unconstitutional” war. A president cannot legally attack Iran without Congressional approval, Kaine announces for the billionth time. But a president also cannot legally attack Iran WITH Congressional approval. Violating various laws, including the United Nations Charter, is a crime completely and utterly regardless of whether Congress is in on it. There’s no waiver for the U.S. Congress or any branch of any other government. I questioned Tim Kaine about this a long time ago and posted it on my Youtube page. He readily admitted that I was right, but in the next breath went right back to talking the way he has continued talking to this day — just like every single one of his colleagues and every single media outlet he ever encounters. Why is Kaine incapable of grabbing hold of a fact that he readily comprehended? I’d seriously like an answer.

Most of U.S. political discourse seems to me perverted by the stubborn universal refusal to incorporate basic acknowledged facts into general understanding. Also today I saw a report claiming that the U.S. government has been spending more on fossil fuel subsidies than on “defense.” Of course, the U.S. government spends little or nothing on anything designed to be defensive, so we have to translate that to “military.” But over half of the military budget is not counted in this or any other situation because it’s spread across numerous departments and agencies. At $1.25 trillion a year, it dwarfs fossil fuel subsidies, but the fact that those subsidies outpace the fraction of military spending that goes to the Pentagon is still staggering. Or it would be, if most people would incorporate into their worldview the fact that militarism costs anything at all. For most people, only non-military expenses cost anything, and their size determines the size of the government, even though militarism is now about two-thirds of federal discretionary spending.

What costs money and what does not really seems to be up to personal preference. For example, does the collapse of the climate — all the storms and droughts and floods to come — cost anything? On the one hand, you would think so. Young people are already suing governments for imposing enormous costs on young and future generations. There have been studies done of the cost of converting the world to sustainable green energy, and the cost is in the negative tens of trillions of dollars. In other words, it would save money, yet it is understood to be outrageously too expensive to even dream about.

In my city, we’re asking our local government to divest public dollars from weapons and fossil fuels, and city officials are concerned about their responsibility to benefit investors. But if the earth and our city with it remain habitable doesn’t that benefit even city employees? Wouldn’t the city leap at a guaranteed financial savings over a year or a month that was susceptible to temporary losses over hours or days? Why, when the same situation involves a decade rather than a year does it become incomprehensible? I really want to know.

Healthcare, too, is something we cannot afford, even though countries that have it pay less for it than we pay to not have it. This doesn’t seem to make any sense as long as we refuse to mention the parasitical insurance companies that are actually what we cannot afford, have no use for, and (in thousands of cases every year) die at the hands of.

What about all the health savings from green energy that would cost a fraction of either military spending or fossil fuel subsidies, and lower the cost of healthcare to a fraction of what we pay to not get healthcare? How can people be made to understand such incomprehensible realities as long as key facts are forbidden? I think we absolutely have to find out.

BUI: Born Under the Influence

Some of it is physical, but there’s more than muscle and mass to consider.  Men seem to perceive, process, and react differently than women.  A biological base to our differences is obvious, as is the likely interplay of socialization.  It’s not necessarily a negative: male specialization has been integral to the survival of our species.  Physical strength, aggression, and audacious behavior have enabled males to nurture and protect tribal identity, while concurrently spreading their half of the genetic seed.  But it’s not always a positive either: male aggression and perilous behavior can also be lethal to tribe, family, and self, especially in today’s world where masculinity is combined with modern technology.

Male boldness is visible and well documented.  4,833 people have climbed to the top of Mt. Everest (thru 2018).  288 have died in the attempt.  89% of the climbers were male and they comprised 96% of all deaths.  In 2017, Alex Honnold scaled the 3,000 foot shear face of Yosemite’s El Capitan alone, without aid of ropes or safety gear.  He’s made similar vertical climbs at other imposing cliff sites (as of this writing, he’s still alive).  At least 31 wingsuit BASE jumpers plummeted to their deaths in 2016; apparently all were male.  These risk takers are (or were) all brave, though not necessarily heroic individuals.  Their feats were performed not to escape or disable danger, but to experience it.  Such flirtations with death pose immense self risk, but little danger to others.  The same cannot be said for all male inclination towards audacious behavior.

We (males) capriciously put lives at risk, including our own, for no apparent survival benefit.  Often our displays are acts of aggression, and they’re not always just angry reactions.  Sometimes our behavior is planned; sometimes it’s simply bizarre and beyond rational explanation.  It’s not quite monopolized; females too, are seen to exhibit such behavior, but not nearly to the extent observed in males.

Males commit 70% to 90% of all murders.  Men perpetrate about 98% of all mass killings and constitute at least 90% of all modern day serial killers.  In domestic settings, 80% of spousal murders are committed by men, and in the workplace, males account for 97% of all rampage style killings.  The propensity towards violence and instability is clearly evident.  Less visible are some underlying neurological conditions that might give biological evidence to male associated instability. Men are three times more likely to be born with ADHD.  There are also several neurological diseases that display earlier and more severely in males: OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder are three following that pattern.  Later in life, males are twice as likely to exhibit symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.  None of these conditions are twined to a misanthropic nature, but they do indicate the presence of neurological instabilities that are closely associated with males.  That these recognized expressions exist provides reason to suspect the existence of other less conspicuous volatilities; predispositions that trigger some of our male associated acts of violence.

What Lies Beneath?

Brain Wave (by Poul Anderson) was a 1953 science fiction novel that posited the earth finally passing out of a stellar radiation field that had dampened cognitive function for eons.  Suddenly, every earthly animal with neurological activity became five times more conscious.  Humans, along with all animal species, were no longer cognitively suppressed (leading to human/non-human ethical complications).  Could something in that fiction be relevant to our nonfictional reality?  We like to think of ourselves as being completely aware, with an unimpeded rational thought process.  Maybe we’re not really so free and unimpeded.  Maybe evolution (rather than cosmic radiation) has bent us towards behavior patterns of which we take little notice.  We (males) have a shown proclivity to exhibit risky, bizarre, and violent behavior, yet are inclined to see ourselves as being completely cool and rational: “I’m totally okay” (even when it’s clear that some of us aren’t).

It might be comparable to alcohol.  In the history of the world, has any man in any bar, ever felt unable to drive home safely after two drinks?  We look around and observe others who are clearly inebriated and pose danger on the road, but see ourselves as completely unimpaired.  We might shake our head when another with five or eight drinks loudly declares himself still fit to drive; we ourselves have had two, yet clearly have it all together.  We’re under the influence, but don’t admit or even feel it.  We might drive home a thousand times without a mishap, but the two drinks have sent alcohol to our brain and have made our travel less certain.

Our male propensity for risk and violence is like that: we’re all at least “two drinks” along, but feel sober (and those further along than just two are equally confident).  Individually we think we pose no danger, but in fact have always been under the influence.  We’ve never known sobriety; two drinks minimum is our only plane of reference; our condition feels normal and unimpaired.  It’s not always a fixed plane; our level of impairment is multiplied by external events: humiliation, a terminated relationship, substance abuse, loss of employment, financial setback, etc.  From whatever baseline, we jump ahead and are suddenly more than just two drinks under and are no longer even close to “okay”.  We’re in a heightened state of flux and not quite predictable.  After an eruption, it’s not uncommon to hear: “He didn’t seem like the type.” or “I didn’t see it coming.”

So there’s a biological “drunkenness” that leaves males more inclined to exhibit risky, aggressive, and even misanthropic behavior with little pause for reflection.  It’s not the boldness, but various expressions of violence that arouse concern, especially in this era of lethal weaponry when an individual gone amok can reek havoc on so many.  When it happens, the easily available weapon of choice is usually a gun.

It took sober minded mothers (MADD) to arouse awareness and activate meaningful DUI regulation.  Recently, it’s activist children (Parkside) trying to motivate the nation to meaningful confrontation of another glaring danger: the proliferation of guns.  There’s something telling in that it took our mothers to awaken us to the drinking/driving/death reality, and it’s now taking children to shake us from the stupor of a nation’s infatuation with guns.

So Many Guns

We’ve a long history with guns. They’ve been present through all of U.S. history and the prior European conquest of America.  In some form or another, hand held guns have killed for more than 500 years.  That’s a lot of years, but just a blip on the historical time line of humans killing one another; guns have simply made the process more efficient and impersonal.  As with other human innovations, firearm refinements have come incrementally.  Bit by bit, they’ve morphed into incredible deadly machines.  Guns of today have visual resemblance (triggers and barrels) to early predecessors; beyond that, the similarities fade.  It’s now “rate of fire” per second rather than “rate of fire” per minute. While the lethal power of our weaponry has continuously advanced, human nature hasn’t.  Our mental/emotional soundness is as fragile (or inebriated) today as it was ten thousand years ago; we’ve armed our Stone Age mindset with 21st century killing machines.

Throw a dart at the calendar.  The gun statistics (U.S.) for that one single day will likely include the following: 135 gun related incidents, 37 murders (7 children), and 63 injuries.  Mention of a particular mass shooting will probably be old news, because one happens about every 30 hours.  Nearly everyone of these gun related acts of violence will be perpetrated by a male.

Gun ownership appears ubiquitous and nearly religious (“a god-given right”).  The U.S. adult population (15 & above) is roughly 265 million.  There are approximately 310 million civilian owned firearms in the USA.  That’s more than enough to arm every adult (except that 3% of all gun owners own 50% of the guns).  At least 39% of adult males claim to own guns, while female gun ownership is pegged at 22%.  About 42% of all homes have at least one gun present.

So Little Need

It’s a bizarre reality: so many guns and so little need.  Law enforcement has a need (much of it to deal with the 310 million civilian guns in circulation).  Some ranchers, farmers, and rural dwellers can claim a legitimate need for livestock protection and pest control.  Far on the fringes, there might still be some for whom a gun is needed to provide food and protection.  For the vast majority, though, that time has long past.  We have no survival need to hunt; shooting animals has become little more than a traditional exercise or an entertainment venue.  Most gun ownership for protection is delusional; the presence of a gun actually increases the likelihood of both personal and household victimization.  Why then, the infatuation?  At least a few reasons present themselves: tradition, machismo, fear, and NRA/weapons industry marketing.  We (especially males) have been targeted by gun makers, and our BUI mentality provides an easy mark.  The NRA’s marketing campaigns have always nurtured ego enhancement through conflation of gun ownership and ideals of strength, independence, and patriotism.  Invariably, the Second Amendment is called upon to portray weapon ownership as an expression of patriotic fervor.  Posing private gun ownership as protection from tyranny or foreign invasion is obsolete by about a century.  It’s now little more than a “two drink” fantasy; a passionate hustle aimed at those of us under the influence.

The birth of our nation occurred in the flint-lock musket era of small arms development.  It was state of the art technology that required 20 seconds of practiced reloading time.  A skilled and calm soldier (or civilian) could fire up to three rounds a minute, if aiming time was minimal.  Armies were without airplanes, tanks, helicopters, missiles, etc.  Aside from rather bulky cannons, soldiers armed with muskets provided the essence of battlefield might.  Anyone with tradable goods or financial means could acquire a musket and be as well armed as any soldier in any army.  The Second Amendment of 1791 provided the authorization for a state to reach an armed equivalency to federal or foreign armies (protection from tyranny): “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  In 1791, “well-regulated Militias” were today’s National Guards, and armed equivalency required only muskets.

Second Amendment Fog

The Second Amendment is now cited as providing the Constitutional right of all citizens to own virtually any type of hand weapon.  They’re no longer “three shots per minute” muskets; with today’s modern machines, a semi-automatic rifle enthusiast can easily fire 60 deadly bullets in a minute (without aid of a “bump stock”).  However incredible the fire power, our armed citizens lack equivalency to National Guard troops, the U.S. military, or supposed foreign invaders.  In whatever imagined standoff, automated rifles would provide but token resistance to the array of weaponry available to state supported military forces.  Citizens armed with modern rifles afford no significant protection from tyranny; they have meaningful significance only to the non-military victims they’ve come to target.

The NRA and arms industry is undeterred by that reality; they continue to market weaponry as the patriotic expression of constitutional rights.  The ad campaigns have evolved and spiraled into themselves: guns for patriotism, guns for sport, guns for self enhancement, and guns to protect against people with guns.  The circle of death is complete: with a population already saturated with weapons, gun ownership is now promoted as necessary protection against the success of previous marketing campaigns (imagine the tobacco industry promoting active cigarette consumption as protection against second hand smoke).

Dire Straits

Our situation needs acknowledgement: born under the influence and guns all around.  The statistics are undeniable; we (males) are prone to acts of audacious behavior that are often violent and even misanthropic.  It’s obvious we need some separation from the weapons that magnify the repercussions of our instability.  It’s a need resisted; we’re under the influence, yet sure of our clarity.  We look about and all is normal.

It’s normal; we accept forty thousand gun deaths a year through murder and suicide.  It’s normal; we accept the marketing and political manipulation.  It’s normal because we provide the votes.  It’s normal because we purchase the guns.  It’s normal because we’re under the influence.

A Passage Through

If meaningful regulation is ever to occur, it will likely come through those least under the influence: female activists and legislators.  Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) did it in 1980 (but faced less resistance).  Perhaps the recent influx of female representation in the legislative body will be the catalyst to sustained effort.  There are some positive signs: the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), revival of industry accountability, the curbing of bump stocks.  To be meaningful and lasting, true gun regulation will necessitate actual reduction of weapons in circulation; both number and type.  True regulation will remove the most egregious weapons that make mass killings easy, and will attempt to keep guns from the hands of those demonstrably under the influence.

The industry, its political sycophants, and those most under the influence will howl about loss of freedom, liberty, and constitutional rights.  It’s obfuscation; the only thing truly lost will be a quick and easy route to murder and mass killings.  Even if erring on the side of caution, nothing more than this will occur: accessibility to a machine whose sole function is to kill will be lost to one deemed most likely to use it.  The “loss” is really a freedom gained.  It would allow for passage through a dangerous period of instability: someone under the influence will not become a murderer, and those who might have died will still be alive.  Regulation means only that and nothing more (when under the influence, it’s easy to feel otherwise).

• Photo can be viewed here

Republicrats: Begin Anew!

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

— Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863

Lord, what fools these mortals be!

— Puck, in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream

We have not yet reached the horrific insanities of the American Civil War…but we seem hell-bent on approaching that precipice and tumbling over like lemmings following manic “leaders,” disguised as politicians, “educators,” celebrities, journalists and the commentariat, et. al. We are not yet engulfed in Civil War, but we are certainly “testing” whether our nation, “or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”  If it were to come to actual Civil War, given a population that is 10 times what it was 158 years ago, given our dependence on our modern “grid,” our reliance upon drone weapons, and a vulnerable WorldWideWeb where deadly information spreads like cyclonic fires, the horrors we are facing could be many times what America’s soldiers/patriots/and misguided citizens faced back then.

Since the 2016 election, we have been passing through what Kierkegaard might have called “the long night of the soul.”  Accusations and counter-accusations have flown like blind, maddened bats out of the caves of our collective hells, collective guilts.  As we pause at the precipice now (if we are wise and steady enough to pause), we may wonder: What next?  What have we learned?

Though he did not frame it so, the great experiment Lincoln admonished we were “testing” was just what angels-and-demons-wrestling Milton had speculated about two centuries before: “the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to my conscience.”

But, in our age of Information Overload (or Overkill!), when our news and information is managed and mangled by a handful of media magnates and mega-corporations, their retinue among subservient “noble” (and highly remunerated) classes of attendants/scribes/and lawyerly mouthpieces…how can we hope—no matter how “conceived” and “dedicated”—to grasp and hold such “liberty”?

Dostoyevsky wrote that it was necessary to enter a nation’s prisons to understand its culture.  I taught in prisons for two years and I’ll vouch for Fyodor that it’s still true; but in our day a more handy entry point is through a nation’s media—MSM or “social.”  TV dramas and their sibling newscasts are the muezzins of our popular culture, calling us to a shared, created universe.  How to emerge from Plato’s cave to sunshine?

Is it too much to hope for commonsense and honesty?  Civil discourse to temper civil derangement?  Guidance based on the wisdom of the ages—Socratic, Confucian, Jobian, Sufi (take your pick or mix judiciously)?

In The Ornament of the World, her neglected, modern classic, (unfortunately published about the same time as the headline-engulfing 911 horror), Maria Rosa Menocal describes a “golden age” of medieval Spain, “where for more than seven centuries Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together in an atmosphere of tolerance…where literature, science, and the arts flourished.”

Seven centuries!  They translated each other’s books; they recognized each other’s human rights; they practiced what they preached.  They learned each other’s languages; participated in the “commonwealth,” respected each other’s traditions, worked towards mutual respect and understanding, intellectual and physical security.

We are all “entangled”!  The scientists describe “quantum entanglement”—how once united quantum particles, though worlds apart, respond correlatively when one part of the particle is “spun” or manipulated in a certain, measurable way.  If true in the quantum world, how not true in the human?

There are two crises that have confronted generations of Americans for decades; crises that metastasize, cost more innocent lives, year after festering year.  The Republicratic factions divide and joust over these crises while innocent Americans are victimized by rapes and killings, drug addictions, fear and loathing.

There is no “manufactured crisis” on our southern border.  Nor is there a “manufactured crisis” about our antiquated gun laws.

If we want to help our neighbors to our South, we can do so in a reasonable, measured way.  Remember John F. Kennedy’s “Alliance for Progress”?  That would be one sort of sensible approach.  Help them “over there” so that they are not victimized by drug cartels, wanting to breach the US borders and cause havoc here.  Who profits from such havoc?

Nor was it a “manufactured crisis” that macerated 17 young lives and traumatized countless others at that Parkland, south Florida high school.  Have we forgotten already?  And the 58 massacred during an outdoor concert in Las Vegas—forgotten?  851 injured by gunfire or the ensuing panic!  “Collateral damage” in our political-media wars?  And how many other thousands and hundreds of thousands of victims?

Our Republicratic factions had better start working together!  $5 billion dollars for a “border wall” is nugatory compared to the tens of billions wasted “controlling” drug addiction here, wasted on poor food quality, the fig leaf of healthcare protection, air and water pollution.

As for our gun laws—where in the 2nd Amendment is there any mention of AK-47s and other mass-killing “automatic” weapons?  The 2nd Amendment is about a “well-regulated militia.”  Is the national government prepared to delegate such power to “well-regulated” militia units?  Can it possibly be right/moral/sensible to delegate such power to individuals?

Let us remember: when our Constitution was written, we were a nation of under 4 million hunters, gatherers, and farmers.  Our weapons were primitive, ball and powder 1-shot affairs!  We lived in small communities where people knew their neighbors.  If the “village idiot” was suddenly roaming about aiming his gun haphazzardly—people sounded the alarm.

Republicrats—walk and chew gum at the same time!  Unite the factions around the principles of safety and common sense.  Stop the anarchy in the nation’s gun laws; stop the anarchy on our southern border!  Reporters and commentariat, Hollywood “celebs,” “educators,” et. al., you need not be “fools” and you must not treat the citizenry as fools.  Begin the renewal!  Secure our sacred “liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to my conscience” and honed understanding.

“That this nation…shall have a new birth of freedom.”

“Freedom from fear.”  Freedom to lead.  Freedom to be the best we can be.

Death in New Zealand: The Christchurch Shootings

Five weapons were said to have been used, all inscribed with symbols, numbers and insignia.  The individual charged with the shootings at two Christchurch mosques that left 49 dead was an Australian with, it is alleged, a simple purpose: inflict death, and on specific communities in worship.  Even as the carnage became clear, Christchurch was already the epicentre of twenty-four hour news television, supplying a ghoulish spectacle.  Saturation coverage followed, and continues to do so, a point that will warm the attacker’s blood (his entire effort was streamed on live video on Facebook).

The alleged perpetrator, one Brenton Harrison Tarrant, left an unstirring piece – to call it a manifesto would be far-fetched – for those interested before the attack. It is a document of banality and off target assumptions. “Who are you?” he asks himself, suggesting an inner voice in need of reassurance and clarity.  “Just an ordinary White man, 28 years old.  Born in Australia to a working class, low income family.”  Stock: “Scottish, Irish and English”; a “regular childhood without any great issues”.

He did not like education, “barely achieving a passing grade.”  Universities did not offer anything of interest.  He invested money in Bitconnect, then travelled.  A sense of cognitive dissonance follows; Tarrant had recently worked part time “as a kebab removalist”.

No criminal record, no watch list, no registry.  Nothing to suggest a tendency towards mass murder, disrespect or mania.  What Tarrant did have was a desire to avenge individuals he felt a kinship for, suggesting that the dull witted are just as capable of killing as the charismatically ideological.  The “radical”, rooted nature of violence lies dormant in many; all that is required is a match.

The simple language of the note resembled that of various European populist platforms, albeit trimmed of deep historical flourishes: fear the Islamic invader; take to the barricades to repel the forces of Allah.  Interestingly enough, Tarrant leaves the detail of the invaders unclear, given that European lands have received all manner of invasions over its existence, of which the Ottoman and Islamic is but one stream.  The broad statement strikes a note of nonsense: “To take revenge on the invaders for the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by foreign invaders in European lands throughout history.”

Other statements of motivation follow: the “enslavement of millions of Europeans from their lands by the Islamic slavers”; “the thousands of European lives lost to terror attacks throughout European lands”.  Rather conveniently, and in manipulative fashion, the spirit of young Ebba Åkerlund, who died in 2017 in a terror attack in Sweden, is also channelled.  It was not sufficient to merely mention her; the eleven-year old inspired the shooter to name rifles after her.  “How the hell,” expressed stunned father Stefan Åkerlund, “can we ever get to mourn in peace?”

The problem with any such event is the risk of immoderate response.  Sensible comments have been noted: the risks posed by non-Islamic terrorists have tended to be neglected in budgets and rhetoric, though US President Donald Trump is, unsurprisingly, insisting that militant white nationalism is fringe worthy rather than common. Under the John Key government, the overwhelming focus of funding intelligence and security efforts was directed at the phantom menace of Islam, burrowing deep into the suburbs.  Watch lists of suspects were constantly noted; the fear of returned “radicalised” fighters was constantly iterated.  To add a greater sense of purpose to the mission, New Zealand troops were deployed to Iraq to fight the troops of Islamic State.  “Get some guts!” exclaimed Key to his opposition counterpart, Andrew Little, who seemed somewhat half-hearted in committing to the effort.

Other policy recommendations, still embryonic and possibly never to fly, are making their errands.  There are suggestions of deploying around the clock security personnel to mosques in various countries, something that risks militarising places of worship.

Vengeful rebuke can also find room in legislative and executive action.  In New Zealand, reforms to gun laws are being promised.  (These are already strict, and it is by no means clear if safety would be improved by such changes.)  In Australia, Tony Burke of the Labor Party suggests punishing hate speech and denying visas to certain right wing advocates of the white supremacist persuasion.  Australia’s immigration system is sufficiently intolerant and erratic enough to deny visas to those who might interfere with the false tranquillity of its society but a suspicious paternalism remains the enemy of free speech. Debate, in short, cannot be trusted.

The move to further push tech companies to reign in violent content will also receive a mighty boost.  The response from such companies as Facebook thus far is one of optimism: last year, some 99 percent of content linked with terrorism content promoted by Islamic State and al-Qaeda was successfully purged by artificial intelligence. Calls to do the same for other sources of inspiration are bound to follow.

There is also a stark, uncomfortable reality: no one is safe.  The entire field of terrorist and anti-terrorist studies is replete with charlatan impulses and the promise of placebo styled security.  There are fictional projections and assessments about whether an attack is “imminent” or “probable”.  There are calls to be vigilant and report the suspicious.  Political leaders give firm reassurances that all will be safe, a point that, quite frankly, can never be guaranteed.

The actions of Friday demonstrate the ease with which an act of mass killing can take place, the damage than can arise from attacking freely open spaces where people commune.  Extremism is said to lack a face or an ideology, but on Friday, it manifested in an all too human form.

That Single Line of Blood: Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah

As the frail body of 12-year-old Nassir Al-Mosabeh fell to the ground on Friday, September 28, history was repeating itself in a most tragic way.

Little Nassir was not just another number, a ‘martyr’ to be exalted by equally poor refugees in Gaza, or vilified by Israel and its tireless hasbara machine. He was much more than that.

The stream of blood that poured out from his head wound on that terrible afternoon drew a line in time that travelled back 18 years.

Almost 18-years to the day separates Nassir’s recent murder and the Israeli army killing of Mohammed Al-Durrah, also 12, on September 30, 2000. Between these dates, hundreds of Palestinian children have perished in similar ways.

Reports by the rights’ group, B’tselem, are rife with statistics: 954 Palestinian children were killed between the Second Intifada in 2000 and Israel’s war on Gaza, the so-called Operation Cast Lead in 2008. In the latter war alone, 345 child were reportedly killed, in addition to another 367 child fatalities reported in Israel’s latest war, ‘Protective Edge’ of 2014.

But Mohammed and Nassir – and thousands like them – are not mere numbers; they have more in common than simply being the ill-fated victims of trigger-happy Israeli soldiers.

In that single line of blood that links Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah, there is a narrative so compelling, yet often neglected. The two 12-year-old boys looked so much alike – small, handsome, dark skinned refugees, whose families were driven from villages that were destroyed in 1948 to make room for today’s Israel.

Young as they were, both were victims of that reality. Mohammed, died while crouching by the side of his father, Jamal, as he beseeched the Israelis to stop shooting. 18 years later, Nassir walked with thousands of his peers to the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel, stared at the face of the snipers and chanted for a free Palestine.

Between the two boys, the entire history of Palestine can be written, not only that of victimization and violence, but also of steadfastness and honor, passed from one generation to the next.

“Who will carry on with the dream,” were the words Nassir’s mother repeated, as she held a photograph of her son and wept. In the photo, Nassir is seen carrying his school bag, and a small bottle of rubbing alcohol near the fence separating Gaza and Israel.

“The dream” is a reference to the fact that Nassir wanted to be a doctor, thus his enthusiasm to help his two sisters, Dua’a and Islam, two medical volunteers at the fence.

His job was to carry the alcohol bottle and, sometimes, oxygen masks, as his sisters would rush to help the wounded, many of them Nassir’s age or even younger.

In a recent video message, the young boy – who had just celebrated the achievement of memorizing the entire Holy Quran – demonstrated in impeccable classical Arabic why a smile can be considered an act of charity.

Protesting the Israeli siege and the injustice of life in Gaza was a family affair, and Nassir played his role. His innovation of taping raw onions to his own face to counter the tears induced by the Israeli army tear gas garnered him much recognition among the protesters, who have been rallying against the siege since March 30.

So far, nearly 200 unarmed protesters have been killed while demanding an end to the 11-year long blockade and also to call for the ‘Right of Return’ for Palestinian refugees.

Nassir was the 34th child to be killed in cold-blood since the protests commenced, and will unlikely be the last to die.

When Mohammed al-Durrah was killed 18 years ago, the images of his father trying to shield his son’s body from Israeli bullets with his bare hands, left millions around the world speechless. The video, which was aired by France 2, left many with a sense of helplessness but, perhaps, the hope that the publicity that Mohammed’s televised murder had received could possibly shame Israel into ending its policy of targeting children.

Alas, that was never the case. After initially taking responsibility for killing Mohammed, a bogus Israeli army investigation concluded that the killing of Mohammed was a hoax, that Palestinians were to blame, that the France 2 journalist who shot the video was part of a conspiracy to ‘delegitimize Israel’.

Many were shocked by the degree of Israeli hubris, and the brazenness of their mouth-pieces around the western world who repeated such falsehood without any regard for morality or, even common sense. But the Israeli discourse itself has been part of an ongoing war on Palestinian children.

Israeli and Zionist propagandists have long claimed that Palestinians teach their children to hate Jews.

The likes of Elliott Abrahms raged against Palestinian textbooks for “teaching children to value terrorism”. “That is not the way to prepare children for peace”, he wrote last year.

In July the Israeli army claimed that Palestinian children deliberately “lure IDF troops”, by staging fake riots, thus forcing them into violent confrontations.

The US-Israeli propaganda has not just targeted Palestinian fighters or factions, but has done its utmost to dehumanize, thus justify, the murder of Palestinian children as well.

“Children as young as 8 turned into bombers, shooters, stabbers,” reported one Adam Kredo in the Washington Free Beacon, citing a “new report on child terrorists and their enablers.”

This is not simply bad journalism, but part of a calculated Israeli campaign aimed at preemptively justifying the killing of children such as Nassir and Mohammed, and thousands like them.

It is that same ominous discourse that resulted in the call for genocide made by none other than Israel’s Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, where she also called on the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”

The killing of Nassir and Mohammed should not then be viewed in the context of military operations gone awry, but in the inhuman official and media discourses that do not differentiate between a resistance fighter carrying a gun or a child carrying an onion and an oxygen mask.

Nor should we forget that Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah are chapters in the same book, with an overlapping narrative that makes their story, although 18 years apart, one and the same.