The horror in Dayton, hours after El Paso, will renew debate in America about “guns” and a lot more.
There will be scant discussion of the impact of violence in movies and music, and especially in pervasive video games, and the assorted synergistic causes that transcend competing political agendas and simplistic remedies.
And despite CNN’s obsession with “angry, young, white males” as violence-prone mass shooters, what about a general decline in the culture and pluralism, and the sanctioned ridicule of religious values? This has been concomitant with the coarsening of language and pervasive disrespect and incivility: even on our most prestigious college campuses, rampant and promiscuous name-calling (“racist,” “sexist”) long predate Donald Trump. The demonization (e.g., “The Deplorables”) was not a consequence but a cause of Trump’s ascendancy.
In our public schools, the focus on “diversity” is pabulum, as the profitable and self-serving multiculturalism industry feeds a grossly exaggerated narrative of “hate in America.” A daughter of Holocaust survivors, herself a self-proclaimed “progressive,” told me the Holocaust is why she’s for “inclusion.” I patiently explained that Jews had long been included as part of the advanced German nation; the problem was simply Jews were murdered solely because they were Jews, by Hitler, a self-described “national socialist” who presided over the kind of powerful central government she and progressives favored. She looked shocked.
Perhaps most importantly, what underlies the violence? A loss of community, a feeling of alienation, and an individual’s mental illness, genetic-based or developed, are all too often ignored or untreated. The way the media simplifies, a bunch of deranged Caucasian boys, groomed by “white nationalist” Republicans, feel threatened by “people of color” — a term itself that might include a conscientious objector to sunblock, or more likely, say, a Sephardic Jew; but instead includes even a fair-skinned person of dormant, but mixed racial heritage, however ambiguous. (Think of “native American” Elizabeth Warren.) These presumably high-testosterone guys (“white lives matter”?), whose bitterness and hatred are sometimes unknown to their parents, family, friends, teachers, fellow students, and the principal too busy filling out federal forms, and whose mental illness is undiagnosed (all too often, sadly, this is true), lie in wait, like a “Manchurian candidate,” until, per no less an authority than Don Lemon, a Trump tweet stirs them to kill. (And what animates the young men “of color” in predatory gangs to kill others “of color”?)
For this weekend’s terror, I do not blame the purveyors of race ideology, in which public discussion revolves endlessly around the legacy of slavery and reparations, “white male privilege,” the supposed animus toward nonwhites, the “marginalization of ‘underserved’ people of color,” and the preoccupation with quotas and preferences in the guise of diversity. But I really believe — I know it sounds corny — that we’re all in the human race, and here in our nation, we’re all Americans, not hyphenated. Besides, racial distinctions are increasingly meaningless, as so many in our society are truly multiracial.
In Dayton, daring first responders almost immediately killed (Israelies would say “neutralized”) the body-armor clad murderer (Americans would say “suspect”), thus avoiding a much greater death toll. We’ll learn more, but so far, it appears that this 24-year-old homicidal maniac (politically incorrect value judgment?), whose victims included his own sister, had no significant criminal record and purchased his weapon legally, nonetheless prompting calls for “tougher laws … ‘with teeth’ to challenge the ‘gun lobby.’ ”
Courageous first responders in El Paso were able to take into custody “without incident” the 21-year-old “troubled youth” whose shooting rampage apparently leveled mainly Latino shoppers at a target-rich Walmart. Even if the killer bought his weapon illegally, there will be the pleas for ambiguous iterations of gun control, regardless of the demonstrated ability of Bad Guys to get weapons nonetheless. Sen. Sherrod Brown wants Mitch McConnell to bring back the Senate immediately to pass “background check” legislation, as if we do not have plenty of federal, state, and local laws, and in so many past cases, the mass shooter would have passed a background check.
Hysteria is rampant, not entirely for humanitarian reasons, but also for politics, especially fanned by the partisan demagogues at CNN. In one interview, presidential candidate and usually childish Beto O’Rourke blames El Paso on the “hatred on Fox News.” This calumny is hardly surprising, since what often passes as Orwellian-infused “hate speech” can simply be different viewpoints.
CNN’s so-called news anchors and reporters recite predictable talking points as well as ask leading questions, preparatory to, for example, the outburst that “Donald Trump is responsible” for the mass shootings, as the once-temperate Cory Booker proclaims, as did O’Rourke, in the endless bidding war among Democrat candidates, for far-left ideologue.
The “alleged shooter” in El Paso did post a manifesto on Twitter, the language escalating from controversial political discourse (“immigrants invading”) to repulsive racism (“race mixing”). In a nation in which the incendiary, long-inflammatory Al Sharpton, a proven master of inflammatory language, is now mainstream, who then defines the fine line between provocative language and hate speech and even inciting violence?
We can recall postmortems of terrible incidents of terrorism, foreign-inspired or domestic-inspired, that retrospectively identify predictive clues, notably in the killer’s public social media.
If only we knew! But we do know.
Consider the award-winning and tested Artificial Intelligence Maintaining Safety (AIMS). (Full disclosure: I’ve advised AIMS developers.) The AIMS platform can monitor public social media to identify “persons of interest” (POI) who may be a danger to themselves or to others.
AIMS uses AI/machine learning to distinguish between controversial discussion and what truly is consequential “hate speech.” It can, in real time, alert law enforcement to a possibly imminent threat. Take, for example, the Poway shooter who attacked at the Chabad Center three months ago; he telegraphed his intention on social media. He could have been stopped.
Instead of our news conferences praising courageous and competent first responders and then offering the customary “thoughts and prayers” for the victims while politicians predictably play the blame game, we should focus instead on what we know the Department of Justice, the FBI, and law enforcement proactively can do to prevent terror.