July 21 2015.
Twice I have posted, during the past two months, my refusal to join in the rituals of the Shooting of the Month club, as not only does incidents of shootings of a mad or terroristic sort seem like a regular monthly occurrence, but then the successive news cycle is also filled up with 1) finding out who the shooter was, and what his motivation was; 2) determining if there was a link to terror, if so then to ISIS, and how Anti-American he was; 3) finding out that he was a “loser” who through various means had lost in the game of life; 4) identifying and glorifying the lives of the victims, going through bios, pictures, picture albums, if military, all the better; 5) covering the funerals and eulogies for said victims; 6) covering Presidential remarks praising the victims, and 7) a stern and stalwart conviction that we will not let this incident change the way we live.
It is a dreary spectacle, month after month after month. The way in which the press turns a shooter into a star of the moment, a topic of conversation, a subject of probing articles as to his motivation (and, then, if he survives, to go through it all over again in a trial, which now has both trial and sentencing phases, dragged out endlessly, the sentencing phase also allowing victim survivors to have their say against the killer, as if he cares) and basically lives off of the story for at least seven days per month, strongly indicates that coverage of the shooter of the month is now one of the staples of news, and one of the major ways in which ratings are generated. This leads to the terrible suspicion that enabling the Shooting of the Month, by lax gun laws, and coverage of the Shooter of the Month, has become yet another surreptitious All American exploitation economy, that is, people making their living off of these events.
The main problem with all of this coverage, and the obvious fact that it has all now become routine and conventionalized (with some interesting, but even more intense, differences if the black church is involved) is that once sometimes becomes routine, it becomes more or less acceptable as “the new normal” and people learn to just live with it, and some to live off of it The process itself thereafter becomes a repeat-generating process with a life of its own, generating, in its coverage and even in its fate, future participants in the cult of death. It may seem, when mourning occurs, and fallen heroes are praised, that we fight back, but, in fact, we give in, and we make something that should be abnormal normal.
The deeper problem in these rituals of the shooting of the month club is that they only reinforce the deep down reasons which generated the occurrence of the shooter in the first place. All social hate of the sort that generates a desire to take revenge on society as a whole by randomly shooting a bunch of strangers is rooted in us-them group anthropological pressures. When an us group forms a group, then the them group becomes the enemy, on the other side of the line. The us group solidifies its power by demonizing the space between it and the them group, and the them group members itself. In times of war, this demonization becomes violent, and can extend all the way to a determination once and for all to exterminate the problems caused the us group by the them group. In times of peace, more common us-them group dynamics include various labelling strategies including scapegoating, bogeymanning, stereotyping, stigmatizing, etc etc., all of which entails magical thinking based on antiquated miasmic theories of the contagiousness of human values and traits. While level one racism is a firm conviction, from deeply ensconced in the us group, that the us group is human, and all thems outside of it less so, and that therefore members of the them group are less than human, level two racism simply engages in any number of the apotropaic border-protecting rituals that keep the fence between the us and them strong.
In the rituals of the coverage of the shooting of the month club, we see, in the event, a sudden rupture of the us space of the us group, by a member of the them group. Too often the them shooter is in fact a member of the us group who has by bullying and ostracism, pushed out of the us group, to become part of the most dangerous group, marginalized or them’d us group members. These marginals are particularly dangerous because in the mindset of their counterreality, turned away from the world they rejected, they have not really rejected it, and exist as it were still within its gravitational grip, meaning that any effort made on their part to set out into the world and create a new life will snap back to be taken out as revenge against the us group. They simply do not have sufficient reality, to build a new reality, and, in trying to do so, inevitably sour, and curdle, and snap back to revenge against the original group which ostracized him.
If this happens with an immigrant, in the case of the shooter of the month club of the present moment, young Muslim-original men, now American, trying to make a go of it in American life, then if there is a loss of way or failure to assimilate into American life, or even into the enclave created by their immigrant group to host their further climb on the shoulders of others into American life, the failure of their counterreality may entail a snap back to the old country, which they know nothing of, and an immigrant’s idealization of the old country as a place of truth and belonging and commitment and history. It is this snapback undertow, more than, specifically, the name of ISIS, that calls back the disenfranchised to foreign Islam, far from their American Islam mainstream life.
That is, however, the shooting was an incident in which the them group attacked the us group. It would seem that the best way to preclude such a thing happening again would be to find out what the dynamic of the them group is vis a vis the us group, and adjust the parameters of us group living, so that them group persons are more welcome. Only by making them’s into us’s over does us-them negative group dynamics give way. Only when the us group erases the lines between us and them, is progress made. It is therefore a serious problem that the immediate response of the police, news, cultural, and ritual worlds in response to a shooting, is to circle the wagons, to reinforce the safety and power of the us group, at the expense of the them group.
The police act for the us group to take revenge on the shooter, very often, in most cases, by shooting him. This makes us immediately safe, because the shooter is no longer on the loose. But then the news immediately alienates him from the us group, by finding scapegoat reasons why he might have done this. All coverage along the lines of why he did this all lead to the fact that he is part of the them group, and rejected the us group. And the attitude of the coverage is, his rejection is incomprehensible, therefore he is an enemy of the us group, by this reporting to be further ostracized by the us group.
To turn everyday folks doing their everyday jobs into heroes of us group defiance against chaos is also a wagon-circling tactic. That all the victims tend to be part of the us group, and have lives that are so similar they make all us-groupers feel like ‘it could have been my daughter, “ as the president has said several times, reinforces the defense mechanism against his threat. The glorification of the victims as heroes, only adds meaning to everyday life where it did not exist, before the shooting. This glorification is particularly problematic with military careers, where soldiers seem to receive the best treatment possible only when they are shot. Major funeral coverage of shooting victims quite literally demonstrates bee-hive circling of the wagons of one us group against the outside them groups (this dynamic made somewhat strange when the us group of white America has to peek over the shoulder of the us group of black church America, which sees itself as a peaceful adjunct of white America, its them group status counteracted by a strong enclave-originating us group ethos, when in fact it is often them group dynamics going on in the church).
To then seek for reasons for the killing by the investigation into his dark them life in the midst of the us world of the internet, meant to heighten in us fear of hacking and other sinister forms of invasion from without, only further stigmatizes the shooter as an outsider, revictimizing him in the public arena, and making it almost impossible for him, should he survive, like the film star made so much of in Boston (one wonders where the book deal is), to have no choice, for the cameras, for the ritual, for the meaning of his life, to extend his themness to more extreme forms, to irritate the us group public enough that a long drawn out punitive trial is demanded. The whole court proceedings of the us group today serve only to reaffirm the power of normal us group life. Even the provision of allowing for shooting victims to have their say in court, devised by some idiot modern psychology that such venting was good for you, or good for society, serves to further push the them out from the midst of the us group (and then for those spouters of hatred against the shooter—even worse the us-groupers who disguise their rage as forgiveness, the ultimate us group condescension against the them group’s inhumanity—to then step before the TV cameras at a press conference and hold forth with their grief and rage, all of this is all just spectacle to pat the us group on the back that it will be OK, and we are fine, they are the sick ones. (again, the participation of the criminal justice system in all this is further muddied when there is a perception of us-them group dynamic between black and white in racially tense American communities: in this case, jailhouse protest, demands for autopsies, reports on them, report responses by officials, endless press conferences, various trials, findings, the almost mob mentality of court results being listened to be active crowds in the street under the presumed threat that there will be trouble if the verdict does not go their way, all of this is a further elaboration of the problem that is even more problematic. The mere operation of these mechanisms may make young persons of one us group, white Americans, seek to erase what they see as them activities, by sentimental, affirmation-based solidarity and support, usually no more difficult that 140 characters on Twitter, or even a Tweet to a hashtag, or give in to what appear to be wider divisions aligning black and white to us-them group dynamics, making them adopt more polarized views of racism in America, as has in fact happened as a result of racial us-them dynamics related to police shootings in the past year. The new fundamentalism, or new polarism, that arises out of the heat of the moment, then would only serve to reinforce us-them dynamics in an older form. That said, each generation in the push-pull us-them dynamics of their times works out a wiggle room in which to live with some agency, they find an I-can-live-with-that middle ground, in the present time; their accommodations and compromises are, needless to say, entirely, deeply contextual, and all but incomprehensible to persons of another generation, who have to negotiate those borders and terms all over again.
This circling of the wagons, revictimizing the thems, and setting up a spiral that guarantees repeated occasion of this shooter-generative process, is finally codified by comments by the wagon-circler in chief, who countenances the whole process as valid by declaring that the way of life that was attacked in this shooting was good, and the people who were shot were good, and what the shooter did was a very evil thing, though we should try to understand him, because we, the us group, are understanding. All in all, top to bottom, beginning to end, alpha to omega, the rituals of the Shooter of the Month operates like an exploitation economy, exploiting the collateral side effect of the freedom of access of guns in the US, and thus in a way even supports the ‘way of life’ that guns makes, by making death by shooter part of the ritual of contemporary life. For me, it is all exploitation, a collateral, unconscious form of suicide by shooter, a ritual of social cannibalism, a monthly act of human sacrifice by a frightened society which each month needs another scapegoat to confirm for them how very frightened of them they are.
PS how to solve the problem of the coverage of the Shooter of the Month club? First, it makes no different what the shooter is, what he believed, who he hated, how sick he was, see my manifesto; the only thing that counts is that, for all that, he still would not have been able to have killed, had he not been able to get a gun in his hand: the gun in the hand is the reality-forcer that has the power to turn a counterreality into a reality, IT is the instrument of overriding of reality, by a new reality. IT is the linchpin of the process, and must be controlled. Second, pictures of shooters should be embargoed from the air, and from all media. Any one who gives the shooter what he wants, his fifteen minutes of even suicidal fame (which exists as regret in those he knew and met him, even his own bitter posthumous smirk, fantasized on by him pre-decease, at the idiot neighbor who says he seemed like a nice guy!), is in the business of generating shooters. Three, study of motives etc. is pointless outside of a criminal case. Four, all criminal cases should be closed to the public, and no images of the shooter allowed. Five, funerals, testimonials, TV interviews, magazine coverage, anything that negatively ‘makes sense’ of the event by glorifying survivors, or honoring victims, must be curtailed, or at least returned to the private realm. But most of all, six, the dynamics of us-them life must be better understood, they are all magical forms of thinking, they are not rational, and the continued rational discourse that deplores any us-them action as ‘irrational’ and something to be silenced by liberal consideration is leading to further leakage and contagious spread of the very behaviors reason seeks to stem.
Ps, on a larger scale, I believe that the only way to overcome us-them violence is to diminish and reduce tension along us-them lines, and even, hopefully, eradicate us-them differences. In the dynamics of daily life, if you keep on talking about race in black and white terms, by the terms of your debate, if you are white, you are us, they are them, and no progress can be made. It is only when you find, and here I segway from Allport’s contact theory, which supports the reaffirmation of Brown v. the Board of Education in the Supreme Court in 1984, to horizontally argue, it is only when you find common grounds in which a person from an us group and another from a them group can on equal footing form a new us that us-them dynamics recede into the background. The only way to overcome racism is by reducing us-them dynamics, and, on a personal level, find various forays of us-them dynamics vis-à-vis black persons, if you are white, and white persons, if you are black, where white and black form into a new authentic affiliation (again, Allport’s contact theory) that is us. This is the only way I have ever found to overcome race in America, and to stop talking about race, and to be real and authentic in the company of persons of another race: find the us, and live within that.
I only state this at present because one of the most problematic outcomes of recent strife on police-race matters is that it appears that being white per se is now being re-reified as essentialistically privileged, and white writers are therefore being prevented from talking about others whom they have committed some form of imperialism against. This is only a new age group trying to work out their terms: whereas older age groups have worked out their us-them terms as they have, and from that feel free to write about whatever us they want, if that includes African American issues, so be it.