Conservatives love to pretend that handling mental illness is the key to ending mass shootings, but they’re way off base (as usual). The truth is that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence rather than the perpetrators—and if there’s one large problem about their access to guns, it’s that it’s overwhelmingly used for suicide. Unfortunately, people on the right have become decreasingly concerned about peddling dangerous lies to advance their own agenda and to protect their own.
Perhaps the scapegoating is part of a larger plan to distract us from a core part of the United State’s problem with mass shootings: unchecked white male rage. And it’s that same type of rage that fuels online white nationalists rise. Amanda Marcotte over at Slate makes the connection after a Washington Post published a profile of Jesse Osborn, who attempted a mass shooting at an elementary school when he was only fourteen years old:
But what struck me is how much Osborn — like many other mass shooters, including Nikolas Cruz, the shooter in Parkland, Florida — reminds me of the army of right-wing trolls that has grown online: The ones who call themselves “edgelords,” who decorate their profiles with Pepe the Frog and who call Donald Trump their “god emperor.” Like mass shooters, “alt-right” trolls are predominantly white men of various ages, but leaning young, fueled mainly by a belief in their own superiority and resentment that the rest of the world doesn’t seem to respect it.
I can’t help but think of Donald Trump when I read that last part. Doesn’t his career seem driven by an overinflated sense of self and resentment that a majority of the world doesn’t see it?
That similarity between the entitlement and anger of Trump (and his supporters) must make us look at how folks on the right are enabling these unhealthy and dangerous attitudes—while arguing against any and all regulations that’d make it more difficult for these angry white men to access guns that can cause a lot of irreparable damage.
Mass shooters should be understood, it seems, as the radical edge of a larger trend of celebratory sadism spiked with right-wing politics — a great boiling-over of rage from young and disaffected white men who believe they are victims and take great glee in trying to dominate, abuse and even assault others. This brings up extremely serious questions about the role the larger conservative movement is playing in allowing this toxicity to fester and grow.
That glee in causing chaos for the sake of it has been particularly apparent in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting. Soon after news of the event broke, “alt-right” trolls did not waste time spreading racist lies and misconceptions to confuse people, empower their racist base, and distract from the reality that mass shooters are likely to be one of their own.
It’d be one thing if their rhetoric stayed on the fringes, but these angry white men online are often defended by the right-wing establishments from the NRA to Fox News. And let’s not forget how Trump said that the Nazis are “some very fine people” after they killed someone and hurt many in Charlottesville, Virginia.