Category Archives: Nikolas Cruz

Nikolas Cruz: So Many Red Lights Ignored

Those who were permitted to act appropriately throughout their childhood – ie with anger – to the pains, wrongs, and denial inflicted upon them . . . will retain this ability to react appropriately in late life too. When someone wounds them as adults, they will be able to recognize and express this verbally. But they will not feel the need to lash out in response. this need arises only for people who must always be on their guard to keep the dam that restrains their feelings from breaking. For if this dam breaks, everything becomes unpredictable . . . [they] will experience occasional outbursts of inexplicable rage . . . or will resort repeatedly to violent behavior such as murder.
— Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, November 14, 2002.

There is seldom ever any one single cause for such an outrageous act of violence as a mass murder, especially when aimed at school children. In the case of Nikolas Cruz, as in others, there are multiple complex causations – including both environmental (nurture) and genetic (nature) – that come together, and then often one event that lights the fuse.

Cruz’s public defender described the perpetrator of The Valentine’s Day Massacre as a “deeply disturbed, emotionally broken” young man who is coming to grips with the pain he has caused.

What made Nikolas Cruz go on the murderous rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida killing 17 and injuring 15?  What can we learn to prevent future tragedies?

Timeline of Warning Signs

Cruz has been described by those who know him as “weird,” “troubled,” and a “volatile” teen who threatened and harassed his schoolmates, talked about killing animals, posed with guns in disturbing photos on social media, and bragged about target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.  An aunt of Cruz reported that as he grew up Nikolas developed emotional issues. He had been doing community service after getting into some sort of trouble.

Cruz had two Instagram accounts featuring weapons and photos. In one picture he is wearing a kerchief over his face and a Make America Great Again hat, and he dons the same cap and gun in a video. According classmates and individuals who knew him, he was actively hostile towards Jews, black people, and Muslims in particular throughout high school.

He was allegedly part of a white supremacist organization called Republic of Florida Militia that self-identifies as a “white civil rights organization” that fights for the “ultimate creation of a white ethnostate.” Nikolas was a member of the ROF and participated in one or more of their “training drills” to prepare for the possibility of an attack by people of color and Jews against white people.

He had been expelled from the same school he launched his attack on for threatening students and, in particular, had threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend in a series of foreboding texts.

It’s been reported that law enforcement was called to Nikolas’ home more than 30 times over the years, that he showed signs of emotional disturbance, and a neighbor claimed he was diagnosed ‘autistic.’ Nikolas allegedly testified he ‘heard voices’ telling him to execute his horrific plan. It has also been reported that Cruz was prescribed Ritalin for ADHD.

In August 2016, Florida’s child welfare agency investigated Cruz after he cut himself in a video.  “Mr. Cruz was on Snapchat cutting both of his arms,” the Florida DCF abuse hotline was told in. “Mr. Cruz has fresh cuts on both his arms. Mr. Cruz stated he plans to go out and buy a gun.” Yet, they found him stable, according to state records.

The following year, September 2017, still prior to the November 1st death of Cruz’ adoptive mother, the FBI received a tip about Cruz from Ben Bennight, a 36-year-old YouTube video blogger from Mississippi, who noticed an alarming comment on a video he’d posted. “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” read the comment, left by a user with the name Nikolas Cruz. Bennight told CNN he immediately contacted the FBI at the time, in September of 2017, five months before the mass shooting.

Bennight emailed a screenshot of the comment to what he thought was an FBI tip line, but the email address was invalid, he said. Bennight said he followed up with a phone call to the FBI. The comment on YouTube has since been removed.

According to Bennight, agents from the FBI’s field office in Mississippi contacted him and came to his office to conduct an in-person interview the next morning. CNN reported that Bennight told the agents he didn’t know anything about the user.

Nikolas and his brother were left in the care of a family friend after their mother died. His brother, Zachery, stayed but around Thanksgiving Nikolas Cruz asked to move in with a friend’s family in northwest Broward County.

Then on January 5th, just five weeks before the fatal shooting, a second tip was received by the FBI. A caller provided information about “Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.” The information should have been assessed as a “potential threat to life,” the bureau said.

But the bureau did not appropriately follow established protocols. The tip should have been forwarded to the Miami field office and investigated. But that didn’t happen, the FBI said in a statement: “Protocols were not followed.” The Miami field office did not receive the tip, and “no further investigation was conducted at this time.”

Winnie Dabroski Cabelus raises some issues for discussion:

One of the questions we should all be asking is how was he not captured by his school district’s obligation to ‘child find’ ‘at-risk’ kids?  He should have been evaluated and recognized as having needs due to his acting out behaviors, and in an emotional support program and supported instead of eventually expelled for his many increasingly strange and concerning behaviors. Does your school district have an emotional support program in place for students? We need to demand they exist to support and protect ALL of our students.

We stink at addressing mental health in this country. Many mental health issues can be averted with early intervention before monsters are created. I strongly feel our society did this to Nikolas by ignoring the signs, by failing to provide adequate supports to his family and him. The system also failed the 17 children who perished on Valentine’s Day. More will perish if we don’t do more to ‘child find’ and do something about guns.

Guns, Gun Safety, and Assault Weapons

The outcry is growing. In Florida and in Washington DC,  students are protesting.

Mental illness exists worldwide. So why is it these mass murders and school shootings are only being seen – in these enormous numbers – in the USA?  One need only to look as far as Australia to know why. In 1996, Australia enacted strict gun laws and hasn’t had a mass shooting since.

Is it our constitution with its “right to bear arms” provision or are the reported kickbacks to legislators from the National Rifle Association (NRA) the real root of the problem?  What about our constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in movie theaters and in schools?

Do we lock down schools like prison fortresses and arm teachers? Is that really the answer?

The argument that guns protect us from violence falls flat in the face of statistical comparisons to other nations. According to CBS News:

Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries, a new study finds.

Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the United States’ gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. And, even though the United States’ suicide rate is similar to other countries, the nation’s gun-related suicide rate is eight times higher than other high-income countries, researchers said.

The study was published online February 1 in The American Journal of Medicine.

Overall, our results show that the U.S., which has the most firearms per capita in the world, suffers disproportionately from firearms compared with other high-income countries,” said study author Erin Grinshteyn, an assistant professor at the School of Community Health Science at the University of Nevada-Reno. ‘These results are consistent with the hypothesis that our firearms are killing us rather than protecting us,’ she said in a journal news release.

These are questions that are being debated and solutions demanded.

Among the many facets of this gun violence issue in America, the current case raises yet another.

Adopted and then Orphaned

There has been speculation that 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz might have been born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FASD). But, as with most adoptions, we really don’t know what genetic medical history may have been a contributing aspect. Nor do we know if the two brothers were voluntarily placed by their original family or removed by the state for allegations of abuse or neglect.

All that is known thus far is that both Nikolas and his brother Zachery, 2 years younger, were adopted together by an elderly couple, Lynda and Roger Cruz.

Was it a “wonderful, idea” as neighbors told the Sun-Sentinel for “two older people to have two little boys to look after”?

Is the purpose of adoption to bring joy to adopters – as one might take up golfing upon retirement or purchase an aquarium – or is the purpose of adoption to help children in need be placed with families who can be there for them?

Roger Cruz, died of a heart attack when Nikolas was only six, leaving Lynda to raise the two boys alone. Lynda died of pneumonia at 68.

Zachary, who is turning 18, was removed from the home he had gone to in the days after the shootings and taken to a mental health facility for treatment under the Baker Act, which allows minors to be held for up to 12 hours.  It’s unclear if he has been released.

Is Adoption an Issue or Not?

The adoption community is of mixed feelings about the extent to which adoption should be mentioned as a contributing factor. Adoptive parents object to Cruz’s mother being labeled anything but his mother, while adoptees such as one who identifies as “One Black Girl,” express concern that reporting a shooter’s adoptive status casts a negative light on all adoptees.

Katherine S. Newman writes:

When a premeditated massacre occurs – such as the terrifying carnage in Las Vegas or the heartbreaking murders in the Sandy Hook elementary school – journalists, politicians and millions of ordinary people turn their attention to the families that raised the killers, the siblings that shared their childhoods, and the wives or girlfriends who lived with them.

Adoptive mom, Sarah Mouracade, was so incensed she claimed in vast exaggeration that adoptees are “only” seen as superheroes or mass murders, negating all the other stereotypes that go along with being adopted from being “lucky” and “grateful” to be alive and not aborted to being “chosen” and a “gift” to name a few.

Recognizing and reporting adoption as one aspect of a perpetrator’s life casts no dispersions on anyone else who also happens to be adopted. It is a fact just as that all school shooters (except for one) were boys between the ages of 17 and 48 and white males far outweigh females or those of other race or ethnicity.

Referencing the gender and race of mass murders such as Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, in 1995, killing 168 people and injuring more than 680 – and seeing the trends –  does not casting any dark shadows on all white males or imply that all white men have murderous tendencies, but it does perhaps help us understand what drives some people to deal with their anger or frustrations.

In fact, adoption is not the only cause of feelings of abandonment. Many of the school shooters and mass murderers were fatherless by various causes. For instance:

  • Evan Ramsey, 1997, who shot and killed two people and wounded two others at Bethel Regional High School Alaska was a foster child.
  • Adam Lanza, 2012. Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, killing 28, was a child of divorce.
  • Stephen Paddock, 2017. Shooting into a crowd of approximately 22,000 concertgoers attending a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, killing 58 people and injuring 851 more. Paddock’s father, a Las Vegas gunman, was a grifter, a con artist, a bank robber and a jail-breaker who spent years on the F.B.I.’s most-wanted list and absent for much of Stephen’s life

Adoptee “One Black Girl” is quite angry:

…as an adoptee myself—a transracial adoptee, at that, what you will not do is exploit our experiences to get white terrorists off the hook. Cruz’s adoption literally has nothing to do with what he did. I don’t give one, two, three or four f*cks, when he was adopted, who adopted him or where he was adopted, because it doesn’t matter. Yes, adoption has many complications, and many of us adoptees experience mental health issues and trauma, but it does not turn you into a racist mass murderer.  Being Adopted Does Not Turn You Into A Mass Murderer: This isn’t an adoption issue, don’t make it one, “One Black Girl”.

While we cannot and should not place blame for Cruz’s actions on adoption, it is an equally extreme position to declare that it is has “nothing to do” with it.  Why would a thorough evaluation of the mitigating circumstances – with an effort to find solutions –  ignore such a dramatic life-altering legal, social, and psychological event as relinquishment and adoption as an underlying part of this young man’s, or any adoptee’s, life and psyche?

More accurately, it is not the adoption placement, per se, but the initial mother/child separation which is documented to cause trauma – as even recognized by “One Black Girl.”  This trauma is known as a primal wound. Every adoption is the result of a loss and separation that causes feelings of abandonment, identity confusion, and rejection which can weigh heavily on some.  Loss, which too often goes unrecognized and undealt with in adoption, can have a detrimental effect on the lives of adoptees, as Alice Miller describes.

Some of us are better able to withstand life’s difficulties with more resilience than others. The hurts, the feelings of rejection and abandonment that underscore being adopted are well managed by the vast majority of adoptees. For some, however, the trauma combines with other factors (in Cruz’s case other losses such as the breakup with his girlfriend and the death of his adoptive mother which were no doubt triggers of those feelings once again) and light an existing fuse.  We cannot totally negate the harm such early trauma causes, whether one acts out and makes headlines or suffers in silence having difficulty in relationships or other aspects of life or is aware of no ill-effects whatsoever.

David Kirschner, psychologist and author specializing in adoption, is working on an article detailing how almost every school and mass shooter was in treatment prior to and during killing events. Kirschner notes that Cruz was in treatment and prescribed medication for ADHD which in his opinion was a misdiagnosis and that a proper diagnosis of Adopted Child Syndrome (ACS) and meaningful therapy might have helped prevent the tragedy that occurred.

Cabelus, describes her adopted brother as:

…very wounded by adoption, felt he was worthless. Was obsessed with Hitler, swastikas, and firearms. Was also self-destructive. In the end, slept with two illegal firearms under his pillows. Illegal because he had a felony charge for threatening someone with a firearm, the two under his pillow were straw purchases made by my bullied, elderly adoptive mother.

I think in a minority of cases, adoption abandonment, and being asked to accept a new, false identity without knowing the old one, can be the cause of mental illness. My adoptive brother was dead by 47, self-destructive causes.

Based on her experience and that of other adoptees, she disagrees with “One Black Girl,” noting recently on Facebook:

While adoption itself does not turn someone psychopathic, many adoptees struggle with what adoption means and asks them to do: namely become someone else, forget their first families, their origins, and whatever traumas may have put them there to begin with.

I was a teacher in an in-patient mental hospital. At one time, fully 100% of my 10+ students in the high functioning autism wing were adopted. No one seemed to make the correlation, except me: an adoptee, with a self-destructive, abusive, adoptive brother . . . My adoptive brother threatened to shoot me more than once. He threatened to shoot someone else, too, (had a felony charge) and routinely abused my elderly parents. He felt worthless; after all, he was a throw-a-way kid. He took the anger and hurt he felt over his early abandonment out on everyone around him in his family. Perhaps Nikolas felt this way too.

We also need to learn and accept that adoption is not a magic wand that erases or loves away the tragedy upon which it is built.  We owe it to adoptees who are charged with crimes to be honest about the role their relinquishment or termination loss creates. We must face the painful side of adoption as well as the advantages and strive to decrease the vast number of unnecessary mother/child separations to meet a demand instead of promoting it as a win-win.

In the meantime, since we cannot go back and change a shooter’s past, let’s try to remove the one element we can: guns, especially assault rifles.

It has been reported that Cruz stands to inherit as much as $800,000 from his deceased adoptive parents when he turns 22. This could be money the families of the deceased students can seek through civil suit, since it likely will not help his defense.

Arming Educators: Trump, Gun Violence and Schools

It had been in the works.  Instead of engaging in the traditional revulsion associated with a mass shooting, or even digesting the grief of outraged students and grieving parents, US President Donald Trump’s solution to guns violence was elementary.  To target the perpetrator, it was necessary to arm instructors, mount the barricades, and raise the stakes.

His address of February 15 was hackneyed but drew the lines of barriers and defence.  It was a description of a dysfunctional environment, one further bloodied in the wake of the shootings in Parkland, Florida.

No child, no teacher, should ever be in danger in an American school.  No parent should ever have to fear for their sons and daughters when they kiss them goodbye in the morning.

A week later, he had met some of the survivors of the shootings at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, adopting the familiar pose as radical agent of change, a person who would do things differently from his impotent or indifferent predecessors.  At the very least, he would do something.

I listened to their heartbreaking stories. I asked them for their ideas, and pledged to them that we will take action, unlike, for many years, where people in my position did not take action.  They didn’t take proper action.  They took no action at all.  We’re going to take action.

In fact, he claimed confidently, work was already being done by his administration to target guns – and criminals. Little distinction here is made between the armed gangs he boastfully targets, or the ill individual who prefers to resort to using weapons in a fit of disturbance.  “So we’re working on getting violent offenders off the streets and guns out of the hands of the dangerous criminals.”  He also promised firmer background checks, the removal of such incidents of the problem as bump stocks.

One of the more telling aspects of Trump’s latest approach to guns is his insistence on how best to deal with the “sick guy” behind the trigger.  Nikolas Cruz had “so many sides” befitting a mental patient. But alas, communities in the United States had taken a stance over the years against the mental institution, citing costs and in some cases the liberty of the patient, as reasons for mass closures.

So, we’re going to be talking seriously about opening mental health institutions again.  In some cases, reopening.  I can tell you, in New York, the governors in New York did a very, very bad thing when they closed our mental institutions, so many of them.

Not that Trump is particularly enthused by a model of care and compassion.  The sick of the United States are not to be treated in tender fashion but subjected to something amounting to pseudo-incarceration.

You have these people living on the streets.  And I can say that, in many cases throughout the country, they’re very dangerous.  They shouldn’t be there.

And what of the school children themselves?  They would be protected by their guardians and teachers at school, not by discouraging the use of weaponry but encouraging competent armed responses.  Arm, for instance, up to 20 percent of teachers.  Security guards, alone, were inadequate.  They did not, like deputy Scot Peterson of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, “know” or “love the children”.

This arming strategy would also be selective.  On Friday, the President suggested that not all pedagogues would be anointed with the task, merely those “that have great ability with weaponry, with guns, those are the only people I’m talking about.  They’ll protect the students.”  An environment of true, trigger conscious mayhem.

In this regard, Trump’s proposal is not drawn from a crazed air.  Sponsorship programs in various US states exist encouraging gun loading and training for administrators and teachers.  The phenomenon of the armed educator has taken root in very troubled soil.  FasterColorado does just that in Colorado, a confession that guns are less to be controlled than embraced with care.

Laura Carno, co-founder of Coloradans for Civil Liberties, is one figure Trump speaks to.  It was Carno who, in a brainwave of inspiration, brought the Ohio-based Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency (FASTER) program to Colorado.  The language of the program is not that of schooling but urban warfare.

In the fantastically grim voice of security public relations:

FASTER training enables teachers, administrators and other school employees to stop school violence quickly and administer medical aid immediately.

Carno’s sociological vision is primitively fatalistic.  The enemy can be defeated – with force.

We need to talk about fortifying doors.  We need to talk about a lot of things, but we also need to talk about arming staff, because everything can be defeated.

For Trump, a crude deterrence theory passes muster.  The person behind the gun is a coward who, on knowing that there are no gun free zones, will resist temptation.  Such apocalyptic scenarios remain the stuff of gun policy in US debates, and suggesting a crude irony at work: to keep people safe, they must be reassured they are in gun zones.

With such a stance, the right to bear harms remains unabridged and unchallenged.  What matters is the mentality behind using them.  Given that such individuals are often broken on inflicting carnage, rational appraisals of deterrence seem weak.  What Trump’s America looks like after the Florida school shootings is a more militant, and militarised space rife with suspicion and pathological insecurity.

Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…

Since the FBI never inspected the DNC’s computers first-hand, the only evidence comes from an Irvine, California, cyber-security firm known as CrowdStrike whose chief technical officer, Dmitri Alperovitch, a well-known Putin-phobe, is a fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank that is also vehemently anti-Russian as well as a close Hillary Clinton ally.
— Daniel Lazare, Consortium News

The masses did not mistakenly choose fascism. Rather, there is a more fundamental nonidentity between class consciousness and mass movements. Fascism was not a Falschkauf (mistaken purchase) followed by buyer’s remorse. The people fought for it, fiercely and stubbornly—though this desire for fascism is also a desire for suppression, a “fight for servitude,” if you will, or an “escape from freedom,” as Erich Fromm put it in the title of his 1941 book.
— Ana Teixeira Pinto, E-Flux

This week an angry dead end kid named Nikolas Cruz took his legally purchased AR 15 and walked into a school and opened fire. The FBI knew about Cruz because he had been reported to them. Cruz had been reported to the school, too. But nobody followed up. Cruz himself is one of those unpleasant looking young men that are visibly angry, and who exhibit, even in photographs, a quality of emotional disturbance. But nobody followed up. The FBI is too busy writing narrative fiction about Russia. The FBI is more concerned with constructing terrorist threats and then busting various patsies and making a big show of their success. This same week the US has continued to bomb Yemen alongside Saudi Arabia. This same week Mike Pence stomped around the site of the Winter Olympics and managed to insult most every foreign leader in attendance, but most acutely the hosts of this event. But then Pence is a vulgar rube from the hinterlands of Indiana. A fundamentalist Christian whose knowledge of the world is even smaller than his boss, the President.

The Hill reported….“Approval of the FBI has increased among Democrats and decreased among Republicans since President Trump took office, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.” So, uh, Dems and liberals are fawning over the FBI because, presumably, Mueller is after Satan-in-Chief The Donald, while Republicans are pouting because, presumably, the FBI isn’t dropping the fictitious investigation of Russian collusion. Meanwhile, the FBI, famed for various cluster fucks like Waco and Ruby Ridge, not to mention COINTELPRO and countless undercover surveillances on journalists and dissidents of all kinds, is being embraced by liberal America. (COINTELPRO, as a reminder, attacked the Black Panther party, and among its victims were Fred Hampton, Geronimo Pratt, and Mumia Abu Jamal. And it was J.Edgar Hoover who wrote letters that described Hampton as the ‘new black messiah’ — one that needed to be dealt with). That is your virtuous FBI.

Now part of this is just the desire among liberals for the status quo. At all costs. It is liberals far more than Republicans who want a Norman Rockwell America. The arch conservative wants something closer to gated communities of whiteness and armed privatized security roaming the streets keeping their property safe. It is the liberal Democratic voter who WANTS TO BELIEVE in the goodness of America. Who wants to believe in all that progress in civil rights and gender equality. But both will in the end default to authoritarian political control. They always have.

Joseph Kishore over at WSWS wrote back in 2016 already:

… the Times’ article set the tone for a wave of war-mongering commentary in the American media. Lipton was interviewed on the cable news channels and the Public Broadcasting System’s evening news program. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin declared on MSNBC that the US had been “attacked by Russia.” He called for an independent commission, citing the bipartisan panel set up after 9/11. CNN commentator Jake Tapper referred to Russia as the “enemy” and openly wondered, in the course of interviewing former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, whether President-elect Trump was “siding with the enemy.

But most Democrats believe in Russian evil doing. They believe Putin is a tyrant. They WANT TO BELIEVE. Now, the logic of Crowdstrike and all those US security experts on cyber warfare is that only the most sophisticated hackers could have penetrated the protections of the U.S. government, while at the same time only the most unsophisticated cyber hackers, revealing their amateurish clumsiness by leaving a variety of Russian language clues in the meta data, could have done such a thing. It is the same logic that posits Taliban or ISIS commanders, cunning…evil geniuses..who plot the overthrow of western civilization..but who are also simultaneously primitives living in caves. The Russians are also evil geniuses but also primitives.

On one level the U.S. loves the uneducated. America has never trusted intelligence or education. But they have to at the same time be the best. The best at everything. The best killers. The most violent soldiers. Etc. But not the most educated. Trump’s approval ratings climb as he cuts funding to libraries and the arts. Such actions have always been an electoral winner in the USA.

Edward Luce had a cogent piece at Financial Times of all places. He wrote

America’s elites have stored more wealth than they can consume. This creates three problems for everyone else. First, elites invest their surpluses in replicating their advantages. Kids raised in poorer neighbourhoods with mediocre schools stand little chance. Their parents cannot match the social capital of their wealthier peers. The drawbridge is rising. The gap between the self image of meritocratic openness and reality is wide. Psychologists call this “self-discrepancy”. Economists call it barriers to entry.

This is an important observation. He also added:

…Social capital is about knowing what to say to whom and when, which is a sophisticated skill. Technical learning is for others. Children of the elites are learning how to raise money for philanthropic causes. Economists define this as a positional good. Sociologists call it virtue signalling. Mr Trump calls it political correctness.

And finally, Luce points out that the new bourgeoisie (not his word) are suffering from a loss of even the appearance of a meritocracy. Too few jobs for what are now the over-educated (well, over degreed). And Luce concludes with a particularly astute insight. The bourgeoisie are finding they need Trump. Without him there is no distraction. And then he poses the question for these aspiring classes; do they really love the highly educated as they claim? Do they deserve admiration because of their degrees?

And here we touch upon the core issues at work socially in the Trump phenomenon. Trump is easy and even enjoyable to make fun of. He IS a distraction. But Trump also serves a very clear purpose for the 1%. Those who reign above the haute bourgeoisie. For Trump is still implementing the same policies that Hillary Clinton would have. The same wars, by and large. The same military build up. All the right people are still making money. The difference is in Trump’s less important appointments. The difference is Jeff Sessions for one. And the various minor cabinet hacks and flunkies he has installed in positions of limited but not insignificant power. He is normalizing in a way unprecedented, the weaponized ignorance of the Christian right.

And this includes, of course, the open racism and xenophobia on display and perhaps crystalized in Mike Pence’s boorish crassness at the Olympics. Pence suffers no doubts. The new Christians of televangilism never do. These are creationists and believers in the rapture. That they are barking mad has been known for a while now, but never before have they entered the corridors of power. The 1% carry on as before. So does the Pentagon and CIA — though the infilitration of the Christian extremists in the Air Force is well documented. Remember, all Presidents must have prayer breakfasts for fuck sake. They must go to Church. They get a dog, and they put on leather bomber jackets for photo ops. And they have a spiritual advisor. There is a whole laundry list of must do’s. What is different now is that stupidity is being not just normalized but accepted as, perhaps, a virtue. Beevis and Butthead go to Washington. Bill & Ted’s excellent adventure on Capital Hill. How different, really, was George W. Bush? (the newly rehabilitated GWB, in a curious charm make over…but I digress…).

So, no, the aspiring haute bourgeoisie do not REALLY love education. The hard work of studying is for proles. For Asian kids and social climbers and those quota scholarship kids. The idea of learning having some inherent value is now fully gone from the public imagination. Socrates who? He played *soccer* for Brazil, no? Literally nobody reads. I mean book stores are closing en mass. The Gutenberg era is over. I wrote recently on my blog about Hugh Kenner. I used to sneak into his lectures at UCSB in the early 70s. There are no Hugh Kenners anymore. Erudition is to become an obsolete word.

The state of Minnesota is taking Huckleberry Finn off high school reading lists. Harper Lee is being taken off, too. No doubt others will follow. Hurtful. Twain’s epic novel is, apparently, “hurtful”. I am coming, I have to admit, to just not care about who has hurt feelings.

All those social correctives that looked to rid the culture of racist images and language are now appropriated for other purposes. For narcissistic vehicles for anger. For America is as angry a society as the world may have ever seen. All that I see now, the new McCarthyism, the Russophobic propaganda that is swallowed wholesale, and not just swallowed but used as a kind of narcotic — is carried along and draws energy from a deep reservoir of rage. The old Puritan consciousness that wants nothing more than to chastise and shun is alive in the U.S. today. All these hurt feelings are expressions of the narcissistic desire to believe in our own uniqueness and specialness. And such subjective manufacture helps distract from the increasing sadism of American society overall.

The real violence of a system based on inequality is buried. It is obscured. The violence of capital, of wage slavery is mystified. All relations under capitalism are coercive. And when the early Capitalist class collaborated with the Church to burn a few hundred thousand women as witches in the early 1700s, across Europe, they were setting a structural dynamic in motion. The Inquisition and witch burning were not the result of magic, but of the need for scapegoats and for ridding the system of autonomous women and small craftspeople. It set up a class war, essentially, one mediated in that case by a deep hatred of women. And fear. The destruction of various celebrities (mostly) for sexual *misconduct* has already been appropriated by NATO and CAA and even Paul Kagame got in the act (see Emma Watson and the Rwandian war criminal share a dais…all to *help* women in war torn areas, or something. I mean who knows. But its mind numbing how quickly such things are activated). Angelina Jolie, who never saw a country she didn’t want to bomb or quarantine (see marriage and honeymoon in Namibia) is also is out stumping for NATO aggressions under cover of protecting women in war zones. No mention of stopping war zones from being created, of course. MeToo became, as quick as you can write hashtag, a vehicle for the exact opposite of that for which it began. And this was predictable.

Today the system has other scapegoats and other needs than it did during the witch trials in Europe. But the violence of capital is alive throughout the carceral system, alive in black communities where cops operate as anti insurgency soldiers bent on pacification. Fallujah or Baltimore, there is not a lot of difference. And the violence of Nikolas Cruz will cause great oceans of tears and hand wringing. Get rid of guns. Okay, how about those in the hands of cops — or those in the army or marine corps? Those are OK, because they don’t shoot up schools. Well, not *our* schools, anyway. There is a sort of pattern recognition in the public now. Shoot up a school is a certain class of irrational violence. People will posit notions about anti depressants or whatever. And it might have some truth to it. Maybe a lot, but I can guarantee that few will read anything about the beliefs of these *sick* shooters. That they all, like Anders Breivik, adhere to classic fascistic values and ideology. They do not fall out of the sky. They are the product of a vast number of forces, but they also kill not just because they suffer humiliation and are frustrated and emotionally disfigured. Or, rather, that emotional disfigurement creates the fascist sensibility. They do not think it is wrong, what they do. Cruz had a history of aggressive behaviour toward women. He was a member of ROTC and posted constantly on social media with various guns and weapons. Those who knew him said he was obsessed with guns. The chilling photos of cops in SWAT attire arresting a kid who wanted to be just like them. There is a strange closed loop of morbid mimetic activity on display.

The U.S. today creates enemies. It often seems the primary activity of America, the manufacturing of global enemies and threats. Of late it is Putin and Kim Jong Il. But they are only the latest in a long line. U.S. police departments, heavily militarized, and increasingly trained in Israel for counter insurgency, are no longer in the policing business but rather in the soldiering business. They are militia, not peace officers. The dysfunctional extreme for what this produces is Nikolas Cruz. But how far is Cruz from the Florida cop who murdered a begging man, on his knees, on video? How far from George Zimmerman? One suspects those three might enjoy a beer together and share many of the same values. I am always struck when reading about these alleged lone wolf shooters how NOT alone they are. Klaus Thewelit’s seminal work Male Fantasies should be required reading.

But if male-female relations of production under patriarchy are relations of oppression, it is appropriate to understand the sexuality created by, and active within, those relations as a sexuality of the oppressor and the oppressed. If the social nature of such “gender-distinctions” isn’t expressly emphasized, it seems grievously wrong to distinguish these sexualities according to the categories “male” and “female.” The sexuality of the patriarch is less “male” than it is deadly, just as that of the subjected women is not so much “female” as suppressed, devivified.
— Klaus Thewelit

Theweleit didn’t see genocide as the thwarted expression of inhibited sexual energies. His point was rather that the production of gender and sexuality are intimately tied to the content of anti-Semitism and overt racism—both before, during, and after the fall of the Weimar Republic. Fascist sexuality is not so much repressed as it is ideological: it idealizes virility and fertility as political imperatives.
— Ana Teixeira Pinto

The cultural post-modernism of today, at least in the U.S., is technologically sophisticated and socially hyper conservative. The neoliberal system might marginalize white nationalists but they cultivate their symbolism and much of their rhetoric. A Nikolas Cruz desired completion as the captain of capitalist manhood. His failures, his lack of productive labor, his relative poverty, escalated his hatred of those he saw as responsible — and at the head of that list one would guess would be women. But the indoctrination of men like Cruz, or boys, begins earlier. As Theweleit writes: “No man is forced to turn political fascist for reasons of economic devaluation or degradation. His fascism develops much earlier, from his feelings; he is a fascist from the inside.”

The violence of the U.S. military, globally, inflicted on the most defenseless nations and people cannot be separated from cops in Chicago or Baltimore or Los Angeles, nor from Fallujuh and Libya and Syria. I mean, the U.S. has occupied Afghanistan for sixteen years. The U.S. military metaphorically rapes these countries. And it is a kind of re-colonializing. Sylvia Federici called the World Bank and IMF “the new Conquistadors”. Nor can it be separated, finally, from Harvey Weinstein or James Toback. Nor from the lynch mob hysteria that has coopted the entire #metoo* phenomenon.

Nikolas Cruz sensed he was broken, and his longing for restoration was reflected back at him by those men who would later capture him. Kevlar and weaponry, helmeted faceless phallic superbodies. He could only merge with his fantasy through mimetic approximation. Cruz may be seen as insane, but he was not *only* insane.

The anti-Russian propaganda that is spewed out daily by mainstream media is an insidious and destructive force that also cannot really be separated from the tidal swell of violence on the streets and in the institutions of U.S. society. Manufacturing contempt for North Korea or Yemen or Libya is not *only* propaganda. It has consequences to the psyches of the people that must absorb that inculcating assault.

(Go back and read Ben Judah’s bizarre and lurid anti Putin piece at Newsweek,July 2014 — the one with Putin in shades on the cover, his eyes reflecting a burning …we presume…America. Read it now and just try to digest that this is what passes for *real* news as opposed to fake news).

In March of last year Brian Cloughly began an article on this massive anti Russian propaganda this way…

On January 30 NBC News reported that “On a snowy Polish plain dominated by Russian forces for decades, American tanks and troops sent a message to Moscow and demonstrated the firepower of the NATO alliance. Amid concerns that President Donald Trump’s commitment to NATO is wavering, the tanks fired salvos that declared the 28-nation alliance a vital deterrent in a dangerous new world.

One intriguing aspect of this slanted account are the phrases “dominated by Russian forces for decades” and “vital deterrent” which are used by NBC to imply that Russia yearns, for some unspecified reason, to invade Poland. As is common in the Western media there is no justification or evidence to substantiate the suggestion that Russia is hell-bent on domination, and the fact that US troops are far from home, operating along the Russian border, is regarded as normal behaviour on the part of the world’s “indispensable nation”.

This is just one example of out of literally hundreds and hundreds. One could find the same against Maduro and Venezuela and against the DPRK. It hardly needs pointing out that Hollywood produces endless paeans of love for militarism and male destructiveness. Capitalism produces economic inequality and as such cannot exist without political and social oppression. The contradictions of Hollywood’s endless fascist product and its equally endless hand wringing over sexual harassment or gun control should be obvious. The sexual harassment in Hollywood goes back to Shirley Temple. It is built into a system in which all parties are there to monetize themselves. It is also true that men with power must punish those beneath them. They cannot exist without subordinates. What Theweleit wrote of the *soldier male* (his term for the prototype ur fascist) that the most urgent task facing him…“is to pursue, to dam in, and to subdue any force that threatens to transform him back into the horribly disorganized jumble of flesh, hair, skin, bones, intestines, and feelings that calls itself human.” Hollywood produces narratives that make the non human heroic. The first Terminator was a watershed moment in that respect. A film whose message was that an android…no, a ‘killer’ android…made a better parent that the human version.

Propaganda that creates phantom enemies is justified because Trump is now the perfect villain. And as such, is a tool of the ruling class. He is the justification for the abandonment of all notions of integrity and honesty, compassion or honour. One case of harassment I know of included a woman who had signed a non disclosure agreement and took payment of tens of thousands of dollars. She disclosed anyway and was applauded as heroic. It is not heroic to break your word. To take a payoff and then snitch anyway. But punishment is its own justification. Trump’s vulgarity is a kind of pride in ignorance trope. He intentionally chooses to be crude, because that is what his base desires. They may not admit it, those suburban small businessmen and managerial white class — but they do. A sense of shunning the soft and sensitive. Stories about escorts and golden showers only adds to his appeal. Those guys wish they could afford escorts. Trump is the grandson of a whore house owner, after all. He never sold himself as Adlai Stevenson.

So, Mark Twain is hurtful. Libraries are being shuttered across the country. Book stores are closing. The U.S. poverty levels have exceeded those of many developing countries. The compulsive hatred of Putin by many who have almost zero idea about Putin or Russian history is disproportionate to any rational analysis, but not surprising. Trump and Putin are like weird doppelgangers in the liberal imagination.

For the propagandists of the exceptional and indispensable nation the by-product of their creative activities is Nikolas Cruz. Trump shares with the far right parties growing across Europe the open disdain for democracy and free speech. Cruz was wearing a Trump cap in one of his Instagram photos. He wasn’t wearing a Che t-shirt. He wanted to kill antifa. He was not an isolated mentally disturbed killer. He was a fascist killer. He wanted to be made whole and inviolate. The way all fascists want to be whole, but cannot.