Friday, August 09, 2019

Conspiranoid claptrap & manipulative manifestos cloud narrative about El Paso & Dayton shootings

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, which these days doesn't seem to be a bad idea at all, you know about the mass shootings in the US over the weekend of August 3-4, 2019: the first in
El Paso, Texas and the second in Dayton, Ohio. In other words: just another weekend in Trumpistan. And with those shootings have come another hundred rounds of conspiranoid babble to distract from the real problems of gun violence, right-wing extremism/hate-mongering, and, of course, "the Trump effect." Meanwhile, politicians, police, pundits, and the public are hyper-focused on manifestos and social media posts that raise far more questions than they answer.

Dueling conspiracy tales: pick one or both
From the moment that the stories of the shootings first broke, the fake news -- and I mean the actual fake news, not "fake news" by Trumpian definitions -- was out in force on the Interwebz.
Rolling Stone published a pretty good summary on August 5, noting that toxic tongues on the right really commenced wagging when it came out that the Dayton shooter had appeared to be a leftist.
Based on these reported leftist bona fides, right-wing pundits immediately began speculating that the Dayton shooter was a member of antifa. But aside from a retweet of an antifa account, his Twitter does not contain any references to antifascist activity; nor did he appear to engage in any local antifa action, which would be expected in Dayton, an antifascist hotspot, says Emily Gorcenski, a far-right researcher and creator of First Vigil, which tracks far-right extremism in the United States. “Typically what we see is antifascist activists in they’re mostly focused on their local issues. The folks in Portland they talk about Portland; the folks in D.C. talk about D.C.,” says Gorcenski. “He didn’t talk about any antifascist activities.”
On the same day that the Rolling Stone piece was posted, BuzzFeed News published an article along the same lines, summarizing the disinfo and noting that it's part of an ongoing pattern.
During a breaking news situation, there’s often a scramble to understand what happened, and details can change as more information comes to light. But there’s little doubt that campaigns to misinform the public during a critical time are intentional and use similar tactics from year to year.
From what I've seen in my rudimentary research, there have been two main categories of conspiranoid codswallop regarding these two shootings. Neither narrative is in any way original. Some folks lean towards one, some folks prefer the other, some enthusiastically embrace both. In conspiracyville it's always a free-for-all. But like pretty much all conspiracy tales, what both of these have in common is that they are an expression of a stubborn refusal to accept anything that the mainstream news media report (Donald Trump seems to be making this phenomenon much worse and more widespread, though the problem precedes and transcends Trump). This utter refusal to accept the "official" story is generally accompanied by a fierce desire to turn every horrible event into a whodunit.

Theory 1: Antifa done it (per Alex Jones, Dan Patrick, and random Trumpsters (not to mention Trump himself))
I've blogged a bunch about conspiracy-porn purveyor and right-wingnut
Alex Jones, who resides in my fair state of Texas but spreads his toxins all over the world via the Internet. He's pretty consistent and quite predictable with his responses to mass shootings, almost always declaring them to either be a false flag (to advance the interests of gun control advocates and other demonic liberals), or an outright hoax (for the same purposes as the alleged false flags), or both. Although he has gotten himself in a lot of legal hot water by mouthing off about the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre being a hoax, that hasn't stopped him from continuing to spew in the wake of subsequent mass shootings. (For that matter, his legal troubles apparently haven't stopped him (or possibly his legal team) from allegedly harassing some of the Sandy Hook parents.)

Jones did not disappoint when responding to the El Paso shooting, and in fact he and another right-wingnut and shame of the Lone Star State,
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, sounded a lot alike in their rhetoric, as noted in an August 4 piece on Media Matters. Not only had they often used language about immigrants of color that is similar to language used in a white-supremacist manifesto attributed to the El Paso gunman, but they also tried to use upcoming antifa protests in the city to derail the story of the shooting.
According to ABC News, the gunman told law enforcement after being taken into custody that “he wanted to shoot as many Mexicans as possible.”

But in the wake of the shooting, both Patrick and Jones pivoted to the boogeyman of “antifa” to distract from
the obvious fact that the gunman was inspired by right-wing rhetoric about Latinos and immigration.

Even while media reports on the mass shooting remained hazy, Patrick
called into Fox News on August 3 and said, “You know, I was looking at a story recently…where Antifa is posting, you know they want to come down to El Paso and do a 10-day siege. Clear message to Antifa: Stay out of El Paso.” Andy Ngo, an editor of right-wing website Quillette, has recently drawn attention to the upcoming anti-fascism protests, which call for the abolishment of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Jones, who is based out of Austin, TX, pushed similar claims in a video posted to his Infowars website on August 4. After suggesting that the El Paso mass shooting was
possibly a false flag attack carried out by leftists -- typical fare for Jones in the wake of violent tragedies -- the Infowars host suggested the shooting may have been staged to help the anti-fascism protests [video link is in the article ~ CC].
"Antifa" -- short for "anti-fascist" -- has become one of the favorite scapegoats of the right, ranking right up there with Black Lives Matter and George Soros. But "antifa" is not a unified organization, any more than Black Lives Matter is. And George Soros is neither the antichrist nor the universal funder of everything that the wingnuts claim he is. Antifa (and BLM, and Soros) are all just convenient scapegoats used by lazy or cynical right-wing conspiranoids who don't want to face up to real problems and threats -- in this case, the perennial problems of gun violence and racism (or possibly misogyny, in the case of the Ohio shooter).

None of these nuances and complexities have stopped the amateur analysts on social media from positing an antifa false-flag conspiracy behind both the Ohio and the Texas shootings, with some claiming to have predicted such a thing years ago, when the word "antifa" first popped up on their radar. According to some of these narratives, antifa, like suicide bombers, willingly sacrifice a few of their own to the greater cause.

Theory 2: The Deep State done it (per Mike "The Health Ranger" Adams and random Trumpsters)
I've also churned out tons of content about conspiracy peddler, alt-right ranter/Trump fan, and alt-health frauducts pusher
Mike "The Health Ranger" Adams. Not surprisingly, Adams has expounded on the latest mass shootings, which he suggests are an FBI plot. Here's a link to the lunacy. Let's unpack it a bit.

Adams opens by claiming that the El Paso and Dayton shootings follow the pattern of "FBI terror plots" that he says were documented by the New York Times and the Kansas City Star as being created and carried out by FBI agents. He doesn't really do justice to his argument by citing stories from both of those papers about FBI mock terrorism drills. But he does attempt to bolster his premise by writing that the two shootings were initiated in the hours following the "bombshell revelation that the FBI conspired with Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration to destroy Clinton's email hard drives as a means to eliminate any evidence of Hillary Clinton's prosecutable crimes." The source for the claim about the "bombshell revelation" is
an article on the rabid rightwing online mag, Frontpage, which links to no other external sources. Frontpage is listed on the Media Bias site as a questionable source with extreme-right bias. It has failed numerous fact checks and is a great promoter of conspiracy theories, particularly those involving Islam.

Adams continues:

Former FBI director James Comey is now known to have run multiple criminal schemes to illegally frame Trump administration officials while clearing Obama-era officials as part of a treasonous deep state plot to overthrow the United States of America, defeat President Trump and frame Trump supporters as domestic terrorists.

It now appears abundantly obvious that the FBI is the most prolific terrorist organization in America, and this fact has been confirmed by the New York Times. Under the treasonous command of Barack Obama and James Comey, the FBI was radicalized and weaponized into a treasonous crime syndicate that routinely plotted and carried out acts of terrorism against the United States of America, all while covering up the damning evidence of criminality and treason that should have sent Hillary Clinton to prison.

The FBI is running a massive, coordinated psyop on America. The goal is to demonize all Trump supporters, paint illegals aliens as victims and enraged
[sic] the mind-controlled Left to the point of a mass armed insurrection led by Antifa terrorists (i.e. civil war). The deep state knows it is about to be exposed by Trump, Durham and William Barr, so it is running every “Hail Mary” operation imaginable to try to control the minds of the masses and depict Trump supporters as enemies of civil society.
All righty, then.

Just to show that he's really an on-the-ball, cutting-edge thinker who refuses to believe what the "fake news" media tell him, Mikey poses
a list of "simple questions" that he claims blow apart the official accounts of the El Paso shooting. He acknowledges that the shooting was real, and that people really were shot and killed, but insists the narrative surrounding the tragedy is "almost all fiction."

Several of the questions Adams asks are based on dodgy premises, such as this one:

If the shooter is on a suicide mission, why does he bother to wear both eye protection and ear protection? Answer: Because he knows he will survive his “mission” and be taken into custody after surrendering to police. It wasn’t a suicide mission at all. Eighteen months from now, the world will have forgotten the name of the shooter, and the media will never report anything about him again. (He will likely be relocated under the witness protection program, living under a new identity after having completed his “mission” for the deep state.)
There's no indication that the El Paso shooter was actually on a suicide mission. The writer of the four-page manifesto (who may or may not have been the shooter) said he would most likely die in his efforts to take back his country from the "invaders," but he didn't express a desire to die, and in fact cautioned his fellow warriors against attacking well-armed opponents such as police. He said it was better to go for the low-hanging fruit -- unarmed immigrants, for instance -- so that one could live to fight another day.

Adams also takes issue with apparently contradictory early accounts of the number of shooters. But news media, always anxious to be Johnny-on-the-spot (or journo-on-the-spot) often get details wrong in the initial confusion surrounding an event like these shootings.

Adams also writes:

If you hate illegals and want to protect America, why would you mass murder Americans shopping in an American store? Wouldn’t you theoretically want to target illegal aliens if that’s who you want to destroy? Nearly all the people who were shot were Americans. It makes no sense to hate illegals and then turn around and mass murder Americans.
Well, now, that's either gaslighting, trolling, or just plain lack of comprehension. I would hate to think that Adams is actually as stupid as he thinks his readers are, because that would mean that I am making fun of stupid people, which isn't nice, not that this has ever stopped me. Anyway, the manifesto indicated a dislike of Hispanics regardless of whether or not they were US citizens. The shooter himself (who, again, may or may not be the person who wrote the manifesto) is reported to have told law enforcement that he was out to shoot as many "Mexicans" as possible. He seemed to have deliberately traveled to an area with a majority population of Hispanics, and to a store that was frequented not only by Hispanics who are US citizens but also by Mexican citizens traveling over the border to shop. Ethnicity rather than citizenship appeared to be the main criterion for the shooter.

Adams also expresses suspicion about a MyLife profile on the shooter that "leftists" supposedly changed from "Democrat" to "Republican/Trump supporter" etc.
Here's the skinny on that. It appears that the suspect in the El Paso shooting didn't even have a profile on MyLife until one was created after the shooting, and then it appears that the public started playing games with the profile.

Adams concludes:

In summary, the official narrative doesn’t add up. In fact, it’s all a “staged violence” event which combines real violence with a fake narrative to achieve a specific political purpose. In this case, the goal is the complete disarmament of the American people, blaming Trump for everything and positioning illegals as “victims” of a mass shooting when, in reality, it was Americans who were actually shot.
Straw man, Mikey: nobody is positioning "illegals" as vics of the shooting. They're positioning innocent people of all ages, most of whom were Hispanic, as the victims of a shooter who could very well have been influenced by hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric. Big difference.

There's one thing that Adams got correct, though... well, sort of. I think he was right to be skeptical about both the provenance of the four-page manifesto widely attributed to the El Paso shooter, and its possible correlation to the actual shooting.

Forensic manifestering
That four-page manifesto, posted on the hate forum 8chan around the time of the El Paso shooting (but still, to my knowledge, not 100 percent proven to have actually been written by the man who is in custody for the shooting) has played a part in all of the journalistic coverage and online nattering about the incident, and certainly it has played a role in at least some of the conspiracy theories that are swirling around both the El Paso and the Dayton shootings.

As was the case with a 74-page manifesto, also posted on 8chan and widely attributed to
the crazy who murdered 51 people in a couple of mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand this past March (but still, to my knowledge, not 100 percent proven to have actually been written by him), the four-page memo appears to express some ideologically contradictory views. On the one hand -- the right hand, let's call it -- both docs contain strong expressions of racism, xenophobia, white/European supremacy, and a desire to fight the "invasions" of non-white-European immigrants. On the other hand (okay, the left one), the writers seem to be upset about the destruction of the environment, as well as some of the misdeeds of big corporations.

Since this past weekend I have been involved in several lengthy discussions about this matter, mostly about the screed believed to have been written by the shooter in El Paso. These discussions have been fraught with political partisanship "from both sides."

Trump critics point to the blatant racism and xenophobia (in the El Paso case, the hatreds and fears around the so-called "Hispanic invasion" of America and particularly Texas). They point the finger of blame, at least in part, at Trump, for his own divisive rhetoric and policies that encourage these fears and hatreds.

Trump defenders triumphantly point to the gripes about the environment and corporate America, claiming that that these are proof that the document is largely a leftist/liberal/socialist message, and that therefore the El Paso shooter was motivated by leftism/liberalism/socialism. They claim that the "fake news" media have deliberately glossed over those aspects of the document in order to lay the blame at Trump's feet and advance a false narrative of racism and white supremacy.

Some stalwart Trump defenders have even declared that the manifesto -- especially in conjunction with the fact that (as mentioned above) the late shooter in Dayton had expressed Democratic, liberal, and even socialist political views -- offers proof of the wingnut assertion that "liberalism is a disease and socialism kills."

That's quite a stretch -- especially since the El Paso shooter has not, to my knowledge, described himself as a liberal or a leftist or a socialist. And if you'll pardon a momentary digression from my spiel about manifestos, to which I promise to return momentarily, the Ohio shooter, to whom no manifesto has been credited but who left a social media trail,
had a long and troubled history that had nothing to do with politics. He was obsessed with violence and mass murders. As well, he sometimes claimed to "hear voices," he was troubled by "dark thoughts," his behavior indicated misogynistic tendencies, and he even infamously posted "hit lists" of high school classmates that he wanted to kill or rape.

Although his social media postings painted him as left-leaning (and, judging by one single tweet, an Elizabeth Warren supporter), police are at this time still trying to figure out a motive for the shooting. I personally think it had something to do with the shooter's long personal history of sick obsession with violence, combined with a twisted obsession for his sister, Megan, who was one of his victims -- but who, in a complicated twist, was apparently a transgender male who had taken on the name of Jordan Cofer, but who had not yet come out to his family or to most of his friends. I don't think that the sibling-dynamics aspect has been properly examined yet, but I assume that if there's a "there" there, it will all come out eventually. As of now, it is unclear whether or not the Dayton shooter knew about his sibling's gender issues, and it does not appear that he was motivated by transphobia.

It does appear that
the "violent ideologies" angle that the FBI is now exploring as a possible motive aren't focused on antifa or leftist organizations or forums, but rather on forums and groups of so-called incel (involuntarily celibate) men, who personify the term "toxic masculinity" and can indeed be violent. But again, the true motive(s) for the Dayton shooting are still a mystery, to both investigators and probably most of the people who knew the late shooter.

Trump and various rightist ranters are now pointing fingers of blame for the Dayton shooting at Elizabeth Warren and the Democrats -- which at the very least is absurd false equivalency, since unlike Trump, neither Warren nor the Dems have been systematically and repeatedly spreading vile rhetoric that emboldens racists and xenophobes and violent actors in general. It isn't Warren or any Democratic presidential candidate who are constantly holding fascist-style rallies where impassioned throngs chant about a Muslim congresswoman, "Send her back!" or, in response to a question about how to handle illegal immigrants, yell, "Shoot 'em!" while Trump laughs. It isn't Warren or the Dems who encourage their supporters to beat up on protesters. The Dems and liberals are the ones speaking out against hatred and violence -- and against unfettered access to guns, for that matter.

In short, it isn't liberalism that's the disease and socialism that kills. It's hate that is both disease and killer, and these days it's far-right hatred more often than not. And hateful rhetoric (including Trump's) isn't blameless. Furthermore Trump's occasional attempts to ameliorate the effects of his hate-mongering not only sound insincere, but ignore the real problems.

Take those visits and photo-ops in Dayton and El Paso this past Wednesday, which seemed characteristically tone-deaf -- particularly the incident where he posed, grinning and thumbs-upping, as Melania cradled a two-month-old infant who had been orphaned in the El Paso shooting, and whose family brought the child back to the hospital for the meeting. In my view, the indecency of that moment with the infant and his family is only slightly mitigated by the fact that the child's uncle, Tito Anchondo, said that the child's late father was a Trump supporter, and that Tito himself wanted to have the meeting so he could talk to Trump and see if he was "genuine" in his condolences.

Speaking to NPR, Tito said that his family has always been Republican conservatives, and while he characterized some of Trump's comments as being "in bad taste" and said he could understand why people were linking Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric to the xenophobic manifesto attributed to the gunman, he believes that overall the public is "misconstruing" the president's ideas. Sounds like faint praise to me, but maybe I'm just projecting. In any case, Tito apparently did not come to any firm conclusion about whether or not Trump's condolences were in fact "genuine."

* * * * *

But let's get back to the manifestos. I could probably write several long posts refuting the argument that some seemingly "leftist" sentiments in both the four-page manifesto and the 74-page one prove that they are liberal/socialist docs, and that therefore the shooters who supposedly wrote them are leftists/liberals too. But that would be a waste of time on two levels. First, these manifestos are actually written to manipulate and to keep everyone guessing; it's just a form of entertainment for the sickos who write them (more on that below). Secondly, others have beat me to some specific refutations, so I'll just provide a few links.

I'll begin with the environmental issue, which is the big smoking gun, so to speak, that jumps out for right-wingers trying to pin the manifestos, and the shootings, on leftist/liberal/socialist influences. As
this August 5 opinion piece on The Intercept site points out, environmental extremism actually exists on the right as well as the left. A genuine concern for the environment and for the human-fueled climate crisis should not be a partisan matter, but it has become one, and in the US is more commonly associated with "liberals," because "liberals" are the ones who are pushing initiatives to address the problems. And by and large environmental advocates and activists are not extremists, though left-leaning eco-extremists do of course exist. But right-wing eco-extremism -- eco-fascism, if you will -- is actually a thing too. From the Intercept article:
Against the perilous climate change denialism typical of U.S. conservatives, environmental decimation is broadly seen as a liberal and left concern. But eco-fascism has seen a notable reemergence among far-right groups and festering corners online in the U.S. and Europe. While campaigning for the European elections, Marine Le Pen of France’s far-right National Rally party promised to make the “first ecological civilization” of a “Europe of nations,” claiming that “nomadic” people with “no homeland” do not care about the environment. Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer wrote in a 2017 manifesto, “We have the potential to become nature’s steward or its destroyer.”
And corporation-bashing? Well, the writer of the manifesto attributed to the El Paso shooting seemed to be pissed off at American corporations not because they are capitalistic (which would be a gripe that you'd expect from a socialist), but because (1) they are replacing many human workers with automation, cutting down on the number of good jobs available (not an invalid complaint, actually); and (2) for many years they have taken advantage of cheap labor from undocumented immigrants (mostly Hispanic immigrants in Texas and several other states), and therefore are as culpable for the so-called "Hispanic invasion" as anyone else.

But one toxic and very clearly right-wing/white nationalist thread runs strongly through both the four-page and the 74-page manifestos, as well as similar messages on the hate forums:
the "great replacement theory." This is the white nationalist article of faith -- so central that the writer of that 74-page document titled his work, "The Great Replacement" -- that insists leftist "elites" are plotting to repopulate majority white countries with foreigners, usually Muslims or Hispanics, in order to gain a political advantage.

This poisonous brew of hatred and fear has
seeped from the fever swamps into the right-wing mainstream. In fact the Trump campaign is not above exploiting the theme for its own means, using the volatile word "invasion" as the focal point, as Trump himself has on numerous occasions in his speeches and tweets. The point is that the invasion/replacement tropes are a major theme, if not the main theme, of the hateful manifestos -- and that is not a leftist, liberal, or socialist construct.

But there is an even more important point that too many of us (me included) seem to have overlooked in all of our own passionate exchanges: manifestos lie. They're written by people who are just yanking our chains. I don't mean to suggest that the writers are actually open-minded, tolerant, love-filled liberals who are champions of diversity and equality. Quite the opposite seems to be true. But they are having fun at our expense, keeping the press, politicians, the public, and investigators guessing.

Whether you see the two screeds attributed to the New Zealand and the El Paso shooters as rabid rightism or lethal leftism, the important thing to know is that these documents and those like them are above all manipulative, and even if poorly written they are crafted to give maximum exposure to the loathsome ideas therein. For all practical purposes there is a formula for these missives.

They are often rambling and, as I noted above, appear to be espousing ideologically contradictory ideas, which prompts both amateur and professional forensic "investigators" to cherry-pick and assign blame to "the other side" -- but very often, that's exactly the point. The writers want attention. And discussions/arguments equal attention. Even if their ideas are presented in the harshest and most critical light... that's still attention.

Complete silence is not the answer; people deserve to know what may be going on in the background. But widely publishing the screeds in their entirety isn't the answer either. So journalists have to walk a fine line between informing the public and giving the writers (and possible actors) too much of that coveted attention. And I imagine that law enforcement officials and investigators have to be careful not to read too much -- or too little -- into the writings, especially if there is still some doubt about whether or not the writer of a given document was actually the person who committed a given violent crime.

Both the public and law enforcement have a need for clear answers; investigators want to close cases, of course, so that justice may be done, and people in general want an answer that somehow makes sense, even if it makes sense in a totally crazy way. That's why journalists as well as investigators -- not to mention the rest of us bewildered souls who are watching all of this unfold -- grasp for answers and often jump to conclusions. We need to be aware that the manifestos written by crazies are only a piece of the puzzle, and sometimes a deceptive one at that. Here's
a cautionary note from Wired, published August 4.
There’s inherent danger in covering [the manifestos] at all, and even more so at face value.

“It’s not a good-faith document. It isn’t information that is sincerely offered. It is manipulation that is deliberately forwarded in the hopes that journalists will report it verbatim, will dissect it for days and weeks and months and years,” says [Syracuse University researcher Whitney] Phillips. “There’s an awareness of the audience, and that should make us very, very suspicious of anything that’s in those documents.”

It’s not that the alleged shooters are insincere in their hatred. But the contours of that hate are irrelevant, Phillips argues, and often for show.

Those cautions apply not only to the media, of course, but also to anyone who encounters these postings...
And here's a Vox piece, published just after the New Zealand shooting, that offers further insight into these manipulative manifestos. From that piece:’s also worth mentioning that a lot of the document is akin to what’s known as “shitposting” — intentionally throwing out red-meat content to readers to distract them or draw them deeper into the same online pits where [the writer] himself was radicalized.

For example, the Christchurch shooter mentions a popular YouTube personality and a popular American right-wing figure before joking that he was radicalized in reality by the game Fortnite, which taught him to “floss on the corpses of my enemies” (flossing being a dance move that the game helped popularize.) He also describes himself as an expert in “gorilla warfare.” Many people reading the manifesto jumped on those mentions immediately, which is, as Robert Evans, a journalist and expert on far-right terror communication argued,
exactly the point.

While “shitposting” is a common thread in
far-right online culture — meme-ing racism and anti-Semitism is how white supremacists hope to spread their ideology — jokey characteristics of the manifesto are in line with similar language used in older far-right groups as well.

In short, everything in the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto is what the Christchurch shooter wants us to know about him. Like Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber who killed three people and injured 23 others in a nationwide bombing campaign from the 1970s to the 1990s, or even Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, published in 1925, the point of these manifestos is not to be factual or realistic about the inner worlds of their authors. In Mein Kampf, Hitler portrays himself as a talented artist and lover of architecture. In Kaczynski’s manifesto, he portrays himself as a man profoundly concerned about the material problems of industrial society. Manifestos aren’t honest. Manifestos are for mass consumption.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful for people who study terrorist movements, particularly white nationalism. Rather, connections between manifestos and the terrorists who write them — what they say, how they say it, and who they mention — tell us about the international flow of white nationalist ideology.
Yes. And not to belabor the point, but as Zak Cheney-Rice (apparently working under the assumption that the El Paso shooter did indeed author the 4-page document) wrote in the New York Intelligencer column on August 6:
Crusius’s motive seems clear and aligns neatly with its execution. But warnings have materialized since that suggest looking for meaning in the manifesto is folly. The online forum 8chan — which hosted both the Christchurch killer’s and Crusius’s alleged missives — has been written about extensively as an insular network fueled by in-jokes and obscure references aimed at an audience of fellow 8chan users. As such, the argument goes, attempts by journalists to extract a coherent political ideology from such documents are playing the killers’ game: incorrectly ascribing motives for their behavior to high-profile social or political entities, thus generating arguments and finger-pointing, and maximizing exposure for the perpetrators. “The first mistake people are making is to assume the creep meant anything he said in his manifesto,” tweeted Epoch Times columnist Brian Cates, in a series of posts to this effect amplified by conservative activist Candace Owens. “Part of the ‘fun’” for the Christchurch killer and his copycats, a group that Cates suggests includes Crusius, was “that they knew the authorities were going to treat his contradictory, absurd manifesto as if it were ‘real.’” Our new reality, Cates added, is “[mass] shootings done for ‘fun’ as the ultimate troll where these shitposters write confusing manifestos and then sit back [and] watch the fun as both sides claim he belongs to the other.”
That's something we all need to remember, no matter where we fall on the political spectrum. And I'm lecturing to myself as much as I am to anyone else.

Even so, it would be a huge mistake to underestimate
the Trump effect and the larger issues of white-right terrorism and the re-emergence of fascism. And it's an even bigger mistake to give serious consideration to the cynically conspiranoid histrionics of Alex Jones or Mike Adams, or the equally cynical and blatantly political declarations of Dan Patrick, when trying to puzzle out why madmen go on rampages with high-powered weapons that they never should have been allowed to get their hands on in the first place.

* * * * *
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