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“It’s Not About Mental Illness”: The Big Lie That Always Follows Mass Shootings By White Males

I get really really tired of hearing the phrase “mental illness” thrown around as a way to avoid saying other terms like “toxic masculinity,” “white supremacy,” “misogyny” or “racism.”

We barely know anything about the suspect in the Charleston, South Carolina, atrocity. We certainly don’t have testimony from a mental health professional responsible for his care that he suffered from any specific mental illness, or that he suffered from a mental illness at all.

We do have statistics showing that the vast majority of people who commit acts of violence do not have a diagnosis of mental illness and, conversely, people who have mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.

We know that the stigma of people who suffer from mental illness as scary, dangerous potential murderers hurts people every single day — it costs people relationships and jobs, it scares people away from seeking help who need it, it brings shame and fear down on the heads of people who already have it bad enough.

But the media insists on trotting out “mental illness” and blaring out that phrase nonstop in the wake of any mass killing. I had to grit my teeth every time I personally debated someone defaulting to the mindless mantra of “The real issue is mental illness” over the Isla Vista shootings.

“The real issue is mental illness” is a goddamn cop-out. I almost never hear it from actual mental health professionals, or advocates working in the mental health sphere, or anyone who actually has any kind of informed opinion on mental health or serious policy proposals for how to improve our treatment of the mentally ill in this country.

What I hear from people who bleat on about “The real issue is mental illness,” when pressed for specific suggestions on how to deal with said “real issue,” is terrifying nonsense designed to throw the mentally ill under the bus. Elliot Rodger’s parents should’ve been able to force risperidone down his throat. Seung-Hui Cho should’ve been forcibly institutionalized. Anyone with a mental illness diagnosis should surrender all of their constitutional rights, right now, rather than at all compromise the right to bear arms of self-declared sane people.

What’s interesting is to watch who the mentally ill people are being thrown under the bus to defend. In the wake of Sandy Hook, the NRA tells us that creating a national registry of firearms owners would be giving the government dangerously unchecked tyrannical power, but a national registry of the mentally ill would not — even though a “sane” person holding a gun is intrinsically more dangerous than a “crazy” person, no matter how crazy, without a gun.

We’ve successfully created a world so topsy-turvy that seeking medical help for depression or anxiety is apparently stronger evidence of violent tendencies than going out and purchasing a weapon whose only purpose is committing acts of violence. We’ve got a narrative going where doing the former is something we’re OK with stigmatizing but not the latter. God bless America.

What’s also interesting is the way “The real issue is mental illness” is deployed against mass murderers the way it’s deployed in general — as a way to discredit their own words. When you call someone “mentally ill” in this culture it’s a way to admonish people not to listen to them, to ignore anything they say about their own actions and motivations, to give yourself the authority to say you know them better than they know themselves.

This is cruel, ignorant bullshit when it’s used to discredit people who are the victims of crimes. It is, in fact, one major factor behind the fact that the mentally ill are far more likely to be the targets of violence than the perpetrators–every predator loves a victim who won’t be allowed to speak in their own defense.

But it’s also bullshit when used to discredit the perpetrators of crimes. Mass murderers frequently aren’t particularly shy about the motives behind what they do — the nature of the crime they commit is attention-seeking, is an attempt to get news coverage for their cause, to use one local atrocity to create fear within an entire population. (According to the dictionary, by the way, this is called “terrorism,” but we only ever seem to use that word for the actions of a certain kind — by which I mean a certain color — of mass killer.)

Elliot Rodger told us why he did what he did, at great length, in detail and with citations to the “redpill” websites from which he got his deranged ideology. It isn’t, at the end of the day, rocket science — he killed women because he resented them for not sleeping with him, and he killed men because he resented them for having the success he felt he was denied.

Yes, whatever mental illness he may have had contributed to the way his beliefs were at odds with reality. But it didn’t cause his beliefs to spring like magic from inside his brain with no connection to the outside world.

That’s as deliberately obtuse as reading the Facebook rants of a man who rambled on at great length about how much he hated religion and in particular hated Islam and deciding that the explanation for his murdering a Muslim family is that he must’ve just “gone crazy” over a parking dispute.

Now we’ve got a man who wore symbols of solidarity with apartheid regimes, a man who lived in a culture surrounded by deadly weapons who, like many others, received a gift of a deadly weapon as a rite of passage into manhood.

He straight-up told his victims, before shooting them, that he was doing it to defend “our country” from black people “taking over.” He told a woman that he was intentionally sparing her life so she could tell people what he did.

There is no reasonable interpretation of his actions that don’t make this a textbook act of terrorism against black Americans as a community.

And yet almost immediately we’ve heard the same, tired refrain of “The real issue is mental illness.”

Well, “mental illness” never created any idea, motivation or belief system. “Mental illness” refers to the way our minds can distort the ideas we get from the world, but the ideas still come from somewhere.

One of the highest-profile cases of full-blown schizophrenia in history is that of John Nash, who, unlike the vast, vast majority of mentally ill people, really did develop a whole system of delusions entirely separate from reality. And yet even then the movie A Beautiful Mind whitewashes what those beliefs actually were–when he came up with an all-powerful conspiracy that was monitoring his every move, that conspiracy by sheer coincidence was a conspiracy of the world’s Jews.

Was it just sheer bad luck for Jewish people that a random genius’ random fertile imagination made them into demonic villains? Or did he get that idea from somewhere?

Misogynistic rants that exactly match Elliot Rodger’s are just a Google search away, if you have a strong stomach. So are racist threats that exactly match Dylann Roof’s. Are all those people “mentally ill”? And if so is there some pill you could distribute to cure it?

Dylann Roof is a fanboy of the South African and Rhodesian governments. As horrific as Roof’s crime was, the crimes that occurred over decades of apartheid rule were far, far worse, and committed by thousands of statesmen, bureaucrats and law enforcement officials. Were all of them also “mentally ill”? At the risk of Godwinning myself, John Nash wasn’t the only person to think the Jews were a global demonic conspiracy out to get him–at one point in history a large portion of the Western world bought into that and killed six million people because of it. Were they all “mentally ill”?

Even when violence stems purely from delusion in the mind of someone who’s genuinely totally detached from reality–which is extremely rare–that violence seems to have a way of finding its way to culturally approved targets. Yeah, most white supremacists aren’t “crazy” enough to go on a shooting spree, most misogynists aren’t “crazy” enough to murder women who turn them down, most anti-government zealots aren’t “crazy” enough to shoot up or blow up government buildings.

But the “crazy” ones always seem to have a respectable counterpart who makes a respectable living pumping out the rhetoric that ends up in the “crazy” one’s manifesto–drawing crosshairs on liberals and calling abortion doctors mass murderers–who, once an atrocity happens, then immediately throws the “crazy” person under the bus for taking their words too seriously, too literally.

And the big splashy headliner atrocities tend to distract us from the ones that don’t make headline news. People are willing to call one white man emptying five magazines and murdering nine black people in a church and openly saying it was because of race a hate crime, even if they have to then cover it up with the fig leaf of individual “mental illness”–but a white man wearing a uniform who fires two magazines at two people in a car in a “bad neighborhood” in Cleveland? That just ends up a statistic in a DoJ report on systemic bias.

And hundreds of years of history in which an entire country’s economy was set up around chaining up millions of black people, forcing them to work and shooting them if they get out of line? That’s just history.

The reason a certain kind of person loves talking about “mental illness” is to draw attention to the big bold scary exceptional crimes and treat them as exceptions. It’s to distract from the fact that the worst crimes in history were committed by people just doing their jobs–cops enforcing the law, soldiers following orders, bureaucrats signing paperwork. That if we define “sanity” as going along to get along with what’s “normal” in the society around you, then for most of history the sane thing has been to aid and abet monstrous evil.

We love to talk about individuals’ mental illness so we can avoid talking about the biggest, scariest problem of all–societal illness. That the danger isn’t any one person’s madness, but that the world we live in is mad.

After all, there’s no pill for that.


By: Arthur Chu, Salon, June 18, 2015

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Emanuel AME Church, Mass Shootings, White Men | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If Not Now, When?”: Charleston Church Massacre Is Yet Another Wake-Up Call For Gun Control

This will be short. I am tired of politicians and pundits telling us after horrible gun tragedies that now is not the time to confront our “gun problem.”

Many of us remember when John F. Kennedy was murdered with a mail-order rifle; Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by an easily-bought Remington .30-06 rifle; and Robert F. Kennedy was killed with a cheap handgun. That was a half century ago.

We have watched as gun violence has continued to consume us as a nation. And yet, our leaders do not act; our culture does not change. The National Rifle Association and other groups, pardon the expression, have a gun to our heads.

When threats to our society confront us we act: Trans fats are banned because they have harmful health effects; smoking is prohibited on planes, in restaurants and in public places; air bags and seat belts are mandated because they save lives; billions are appropriated to combat terrorism, which is deemed a threat to our nation.

But where is the courage to embrace control of guns? Where are the common sense solutions that nearly every other civilized, developed nation has put in place? Why have we not responded to this threat, to this reality? If not now, when?

We can grieve and act at the same time. We can mourn and call for solutions to our gun problem, to our racial problem, all at the same time.

In 2013, the Congressional Research Service determined that there were 78 incidents of mass shootings over the past thirty years killing 547 people – incidents such as occurred at Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and now in Charleston.

That same year, Pew Research Center reported that 37 percent of American households have guns, and that there were between 270 and 310 million guns in the United States, nearly one for every man, woman and child.

We acted in 1968 to pass gun control legislation. We acted under President Bill Clinton. But not nearly enough time, effort or courage has been exhibited by our leaders or our citizens to confront this problem.

We are terrorized by our own love affair with guns. It is long past time to get over it. It is time to recognize that acts like the Charleston massacre should change attitudes and change laws. The longer we wait, the more people will die.


By: Peter Fenn, Political Strategist and Head of Fenn Communications; U. S. News and World Report, June 19, 2015

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Emanuel AME Church, Gun Control, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Longer May It Wave!”: If It Were Up To Me, This Emblem Of Treason And Racism Would Be Pulled Down, Permanently

So there’s a reason for the grotesque fact that even as the US and South Carolina flags were lowered to half-mast in recognition of the murderous terrorist attack on Emanuel AME Church, the Confederate Battle Flag in front of the Statehouse continued to fly at its full height (per Schuyler Kropf of the Charleston Post and Courier):

Officials said the reason why the flag has not been touched is that its status is outlined, by law, as being under the protected purview of the full S.C. Legislature, which controls if and when it comes down.

State law reads, in part, the state “shall ensure that the flags authorized above shall be placed at all times as directed in this section and shall replace the flags at appropriate intervals as may be necessary due to wear.”

The protection was added by supporters of the flag to keep it on display as an officially recognized memorial to South Carolinians who fought in the Civil War.

So it would take a full act of the legislature to bring the Confederate flag down.

I tell you what: If I were in charge of the Statehouse grounds, I’d be real tempted to bring down that flag to half-mast and defy anyone to do anything about it. But then if it were really up to me this emblem of treason and racism would be pulled all the way down, permanently, and consigned to a museum. We’ve just witnessed another deadly data point for burying the Lost Cause beneath a mountain of opprobrium so high and so heavy that it will be no more acceptable an emblem for gun-toting “loners” and “drifters” than a swastika.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is demanding that step as a small token of historical honesty in the service of long-delayed justice for African-Americans. I’m demanding it even more basically as a gesture of southern self-respect. No, we cannot ensure that people like Dylann Roof won’t find inspiration in the Confederacy for the evil in his heart. But we can deny him respectable company. That’s particularly important in South Carolina, where the disastrous moral and material failure of the Confederacy began.

UPDATE: WaPo’s Justin Moyer adds two details to the flag story: (1) the law protecting the Confederate Battle Flag stipulates that it can only be repealed by a two-thirds vote (!); and (2) the flag on the Statehouse grounds is not raised and lowered daily on pulleys, but is permanently affixed to the flag pole.

This doesn’t move me much. Just as the flag was attached to the pole at some point, it can be unattached, and if the whole rig doesn’t allow for half-mast displays, the people of South Carolina can do without a Confederate Battle Flag for a few days or weeks.

As for the law: again, who’s going to enforce it if Nikki Haley orders the flag down? There’s also something inherently screwy about legal protections for a symbol of rebellion and lawlessness.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 20, 2015

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Confederate Flag, Emanuel AME Church, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Continued Tragedy Of Gun-Free Zones”: Clearly, This “Christianity” Stuff Is A Threat To The Second Amendment

You knew this argument would emerge the moment the news broke of a terrorist gun massacre in Charleston. Wonkette is all over it:

That was fast! It only took a few hours for Fox to toss up an editorial explaining that the best explanation of why six women and three men were shot to death in their church Wednesday night is that nobody in the church was packing heat like they should have been.

Professional gunhumper and columnist John R. Lott explains:

The horrible tragedy last night that left nine people dead at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., probably could have been avoided. Like so many other attacks, the massacre took place in a gun-free zone, a place where the general public was banned from having guns. The gun-free zone obviously didn’t stop the killer from bringing a gun into the church.

It has the look of a ready-made editorial that, like a prewritten obituary for an aging celebrity, was just waiting for the next mass shooting — because in U.S. America, there’s always a “next mass shooting” on the way. The Charleston massacre is mentioned only in the first and last paragraphs, and the rest is boilerplate about how Bad Guys always choose “soft targets” where they know no one will be shooting back at them. There’s not a single word about the fact that it was allegedly a white racist murdering people in a black church. If the shooting had taken place at a school or a mall, everything else in the editorial would be identical, explaining that until it’s legal for everyone to carry a gun everywhere, we can look forward to more mass killings, and also the liberal media never covers the brave heroes with concealed weapons who do stop mass shootings all the time. (Since he could only find a few examples, he had to link to the same incident in at least two different spots in the editorial.)

Now the idea that we need to encourage people to bring instruments of deadly force into churches consecrated to the worship of the Prince of Peace, who taught loving one’s enemies and turning the other cheek to the hateful, is one that used to be considered a mite strange. Not any more. Next door to South Carolina, in Georgia, a law was recently passed that our friends in the gun lobby considered a bit of an impure compromise, stipulating that churches and bars could choose to permit concealed weapons on their properties. The gun lobby has been thwarted, even in Georgia, in extending this “right” to schools. But I’m reasonably sure if Republican rule in the South continues, eventually a ban on “gun-free zones” will be made universal. Because guns don’t kill, it’s their absence that is lethal. And clearly, any lilly-livered Christian minister who doesn’t keep a roscoe close at hand during services needs to be discharged. After all, you never know when some Christian-hater like Dylann Roof will show up seeking to deny worshipers their religious liberty.

Clearly, this “Christianity” stuff is a threat to the Second Amendment.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 20, 2015

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Charleston SC Shootings, Christianity, Emanuel AME Church | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Contemptible Congeries Of Con Men”: Ambassador Chris Stevens’s Friends Are Tired Of This Benghazi Nonsense

My friend Sid Blumenthal was deposed yesterday by the House Benghazi committee. Yep, my friend. For 20 years or so, since before he joined the Clinton White House. You have a right to know that as I say that he had no business whatsoever being dragooned before that contemptible congeries of con men, because he was a private citizen who had absolutely nothing to do with the events that led to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the three other Americans who died in that consular attack, the investigation of which is—or, as we’ll see, was—the ostensible reason the body was empanelled.

I know what much of Washington thinks of Sid. But I don’t go around dumping friends of longstanding because they get thrown headlong into the news cycle, so yes, you bet I will defend him. He had no “business interests” in Libya, and all he did was pass on intelligence assessments—not just about Libya, but about all kinds of places—from a friend of his who once ran the CIA’s European operations to another friend of his who happened to be the secretary of state.

But here’s the thing: You don’t have to like Blumenthal. In fact for all I care you can think he’s Rasputin and Albert Bacon Fall (look him up) and Bobby Baker (look him up too) all rolled into one. But the fact is he went before that committee for one reason and one reason only: because its real job is not to investigate those four deaths, which in any case have been investigated eight times by seven congressional committees and once by a State Department review board, none of which found any wrongdoing on Hillary Clinton’s part.

No, this committee’s real job is to get Clinton.

Let’s mention high up what is the main point here. This “investigation” now constitutes openly and defiantly urinating on the grave of Amb. Stevens. Many diplomats and friends of Stevens’s are aghast at this. “It’s a desecration of Chris’s memory,” says his old friend Daniel Seidemann, the American-born and Jerusalem-based peace activist who got to know Stevens during the latter’s time in Israel. “That this should be the ‘reward’ for the finest American public servant I ever met is a sad commentary on the decay of political culture in the United States. Shameless.”

Robert Ford, the courageous former ambassador to Syria, told me: “Chris Stevens cared deeply about the people of the Middle East and North Africa, and about helping them build better futures for themselves and their families and about building better relations between them and the United States. Those goals weren’t Republican or Democratic. Using his tragic death, and the deaths of his dedicated colleagues, for partisan, tear-down political gain minimizes the importance of their deaths and the issues with which they were grappling. It’s really an insult to demean them this way.”

Daniel Serwer, who was a special envoy to Bosnia in the 1990s, didn’t even know Stevens but feels similarly. “There really isn’t anything to be investigated about the incident itself until they get someone who was personally responsible for the attack on the U.S. facilities,” Serwer says. “In the meanwhile, they are going after Hillary Clinton. Does anyone think they would be doing that if she were not a candidate for president?”

The committee’s motivation has always been obvious, but it became undeniably so on Monday, when Politico ran a piece  headlined “Beyond Benghazi.” The gist of it was that committee chairman Trey Gowdy has now expanded the scope of the probe to include “the administration’s entire policy toward Libya, not just the brief period before and after the Benghazi attacks of September 11, 2012.” Why would Gowdy be doing this? Gowdy told Politico, referring to the White House and State Department: “They believe we’re supposed to be Benghazi-centered, looking at a couple of days on either side of the Benghazi attacks. But the language of the [House] resolution is pretty clear: We’re to examine all policies and decisions that led to the attacks.” “All policies” can include virtually anything—the decision under NATO’s banner to intervene in Libya in the first place, and everything that happened thereafter.

In other words—Gowdy’s investigators have come up empty on the consular attack itself, but their assignment, undoubtedly never spoken but equally undoubtedly always understood, is to find something that will keep Clinton out of the White House. And so the net will now be cast far more widely.

It wasn’t so long ago that Gowdy was singing from a very different songbook. Here is an April 15, 2015, letter, made public by the committee’s Democrats, from an assistant secretary at State to Gowdy. Click on it and jump to page seven. There, you will see that the letter quotes from a letter Gowdy had written to Clinton attorney David Kendall on December 2, 2014, in which Gowdy wrote that the “Committee has no interest in any emails, documents, or other tangible things not related to Benghazi.”

More recently, in March of this year, Gowdy said on Face the Nation: “We’re not entitled to everything. I don’t want everything…There are three tranches [of what we need to know]…Why did we have a facility that didn’t meet any security specification whatsoever?…Our military response, where were our assets located?…And then, thirdly, the aftermath. I continue to naively believe that people have a right to expect their government to tell them the truth in the aftermath of a tragedy.”

As I said above, and as Serwer noted, those three questions have already been answered many times over. We know exactly where our military assets were, and everything else. But the answers to these questions have not been to Republicans’ liking, so Gowdy wants different answers. And now, fearing that he’s not going to get them, he’s changed the whole basis of the probe.

Now, all of Libya policy is fair game. Did Clinton make a policy recommendation—even one—that turns out to have been bad in retrospect, thus proving her utter lack of foreign policy clairvoyance? Did she make any misjudgments? Why, this of course would be unforgiveable; after all, Libya is a very easy country to apprehend and master, so there’s no excuse for misjudgments of any sort! The thinking now is clearly this: Well, if we can’t nail her to the wall on the attacks, at least we can raise questions about her foreign policy judgment.

Which returns us to Blumenthal. He spent nine hours—nine hours—being deposed yesterday. About half an hour was spent on the Benghazi attack. He wasn’t even asked by Republicans about the attacks until around 6 p.m., seven-and-a-half hours after he sat down in the chair.

The Republicans didn’t even seem to know that Blumenthal didn’t write these intelligence assessments, that they were written by the former CIA operative, Tyler Drumheller, not Blumenthal, who was just passing them along. At one point, Darrell Issa—not a member of the committee—sauntered in, but not being a member of the committee was escorted out by Gowdy himself. “It seems obvious that my appearance before this committee was for one reason and one reason only,” Blumenthal told me Tuesday night. “And that was politics.”

The point of all this was obvious: It was to see if they could lure Blumenthal into saying one thing that might in some way contradict anything Clinton has said publicly or will say to the committee. The committee’s staff knows very well that the media will pounce on any inconsistency, happily keeping the grassy-knoll narrative about Blumenthal as the Clinton whisperer bouncing along, without pausing for a moment to examine Gowdy and the committee’s actions and motivations, or God forbid to demand that these people stop spending taxpayer money—$3.5 million so far, with an estimate that it could run up to $6 million—on this obviously political hunt for scalps, or one particular scalp.

There’s a scandal going on here all right. It’s just not the one the press thinks.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 17, 2015

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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