OPINION: John Hawkins
After the El Paso and Dayton shootings at the end of last week, a friend of mine was asking how we can “pull young men out of the 4chan/8chan toxic cesspool.” It seems like a natural question since the El Paso shooter was the third mass murderer linked to 8chan. This has led to numerous people calling for 8chan to be shut down, as if someone wouldn’t just create a similar forum. The same types of comments come up in one form or fashion whenever a mass murderer is connected to white supremacists, incels or conservatives (but not when the mass murderers, like the Dayton killer, are connected to liberals of course).
The problem with this kind of thinking is that there are certainly toxic forums out there, but they’re just toxic pools down river from our toxic culture. I challenge you to listen to the kind of common rhetoric coming out of college campuses (“Hearing words I don’t agree with is violence”), places like Twitter (“It sure would be a shame if something happened to your kids”) and our standard political discourse (“You’re a Nazi” for wearing that hat.) and tell me that they’re not toxic as well.
As a matter of fact, the Dayton shooter WAS on Twitter and guess what? After reading through his feed, he sounds just like a million other angry young leftist accounts, which incidentally was exactly the same thought I had after reading the Facebook page of James Hodgkinson, the Bernie Sanders fan who attempted to murder a number of Republican members of Congress at a softball game. So should we shut down Twitter and Facebook? Honestly, it would probably be a better world if we did, but then the toxicity would just spread elsewhere.
Similarly, I read the manifesto of the El Paso shooter and after noting that it seemed like a less intellectual version of the Christ Church shooter’s manifesto, my first thought was, “There’s nothing in here that gives any rational explanation for why he walked into a Wal-Mart and started shooting people.” As Graeme Wood notes at the liberal Atlantic, the ideologies discussed in his manifesto aren’t all that unusual,
“Many of these ideas, including some of the most stupid and craven ones, come not from the right, as traditionally conceived, but from the left as well. … But past experience with jihadism is instructive here. Jihadists believe many things that many ordinary, peaceful Muslims believe; they take those beliefs and pursue them with extreme intellectualized violence. How do you police an ideology shared in part by millions of law-abiding citizens? Given that Americans are supposed to enjoy freedom of conscience, how do you police an ideology at all? …As we learn more about the perpetrator, we will doubtless discover that he said vile and alarming things, online and off, long before he started killing. In retrospect, all these statements will feel like tragic missed opportunities to straitjacket a young man and save both his life (he will soon face Texas justice, after all) and the lives of at least 20 others. But keep in mind how commonplace, on a sentence-by-sentence level, portions of that manifesto are. Just how many straitjackets can our society afford?”
I wonder how many people have considered that it may not be some negative influence causing these shootings (like violent video games, an Internet forum, some radical whispering in a person’s ear) so much as the sickness and toxicity of our culture having a greater impact on the people at the furthest fringes.
We don’t know all the details yet in these latest shootings, but we do know that 26 out of the 27 deadliest mass shooters grew up without a father in the house. We do know that Christianity, which condemns these kinds of shootings in the harshest of terms, is on the decline in America. We can see the sort of over-the-top rhetoric that has become common in both parties even at the highest levels of government in the social media era. We can see a world we’re creating that robs people of their purpose — a world without a belief in a higher power where you are a meaningless cog in the wheel of some corporation instead of running your own small business, where young men are less likely to have real world friends, less likely to get married, less likely to stay married if they do and even much less likely to have sex at all.
C.S. Lewis rather famously said, “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”
Well, today, we teach young men that they have many rights, but few responsibilities, that they have no purpose except to please themselves and that character is to be laughed at while they should obsessively seek fame. Then we immerse those men in an ugly world where people they disagree with are vilified with the sort of propaganda that nations commonly hurl against each other during a war and we’re surprised that there are mass murders?
I am surprised that we don’t have mass murders every day. Certainly, if people believe the rhetoric we hear on college campuses and social media, we WOULD SEE mass murders every day. Why don’t we? Sadly, I suspect that the biggest thing keeping us from a never-ending cycle of mass murder is that most the disturbed people inclined to do so would rather be around tomorrow to play another video game, watch another YouTube video or work their way through the Game of Thrones box set one more time. Maybe we should stop pretending that everything is all right in our broken culture instead of looking for scapegoats after these bloodbaths.
Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of BizPac Review.
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