Some Thoughts on How Mass Shootings have Become Normalized in USA
Over the past two decades, occasional and sensational mass shootings have become a familiar part of the American social and media landscape. While countries with much stricter gun laws and lower rates of firearm ownership, such as Brazil or Mexico, often have far higher rates of ‘homicide by guns’ than USA- mass shootings in USA out for a very peculiar reason. See.. in almost every other countries, the person who commits homicide almost always knows the person or people being targeted. In contrast, mass shooters in this country seldom know their victims beforehand. In other words, there is often no previous connection between the killer and his victims. And the shooter is almost always a man who is usually white and between 16-50 yrs of age.
As many of you might have heard by now, a few days ago another mass shooter went on a shooting spree in a school in Uvalde, Texas and killed 22 people and injured about 17 more. The shooter, Salvador Ramos, was 18yrs old and from the same city and we still do not know the precise reason he decided to shoot up a school. About ten days before the Texas school shooting, another 18 year old named Payton Gendron, shot up a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. In contrast to the Texas school shooter, this guy wrote up a manifesto which suspiciously sounds like something ghostwritten by the FBI. However, as you will soon see, all of the reasons given by mass shooters to explain their actions are far less relevant than what MSM pressitutes like to pretend.
As I have written in many posts on this topic (on a previous blog), mass shooters are driven by a combination of social alienation, poor prospects for jobs or decent sex life and a general dislike for society. In other words, the reasons found in manifestos of most mass shooters are ex post facto attempts to rationalize their pre-existing severe and prolonged disconnection with contemporary American society. Many features of contemporary American society such as profound social atomization, loss of stable jobs and careers through financialization of economy, the effects of 3rd and 4th wave feminism and general neoliberalization of society are what drives these men to go on mass shooting and killing sprees. Some of you might wonder why such incidents do not occur with any regularity in other developed countries. Well.. the short answer is that USA is a rich third-world country, which is a nice way of saying that it does not have a decent social safety net or pathway for non-rich people to eke out a basic, but meaningful and socially connected existence.
Have you ever wondered about how, over the past two decades, mass shootings have become a normal part of the American cultural landscape. While I am sure that some of you will attribute it to the big bad NRA, the mysterious "gun lobby" or some other boogeyman, the real reasons are much simpler, if more unpleasant to accept because of the light they cast on contemporary American society. So let us go through them, and as you will notice, there is considerable synergy between them.
1] Remember how establishment democrats and partisan voters kept telling everyone else that Trump's election in 2016 and his subsequent unstable behavior would cause economic depression, WW3 or some other catastrophe within a year? Well.. how did those predictions work out? As it turned out, Trump ended up behaving just like your typical Republican president (except on a couple of issues), but without the ability to politely dog-whistle racism and use “respectable language” like his predecessors. The fact that he maintained a 40-45% approval rating after everything democrats and the media threw at him tells you how little most people in this country trust institutions.
But the part relevant to this post is that his entertaining tweetstorms and behavior became so commonplace that only the "news" media seemed to care about them. As far as most people are concerned, his tweets and behavior did not affect his ability to do his job (whatever the fuck it was). Similarly, the majority of people in this country have gone through over two decades of almost weekly news reports of mass shootings without any significant impact on their life, one way or the other. Hence, they simply discount each new instance of this phenomenon as something unfortunate, but which nevertheless keeps happening to a few people somewhere else- not unlike tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes in certain parts of USA.
2] It does not help that successive American governments in the neoliberal age have been unable and unwilling to do anything to solve the major problems faced by their voters. We still don't have anything even remotely approaching universal healthcare, the cost of attending university keeps increasing by multiples of inflation every year, houses keep becoming more expensive as do rents while paychecks either stagnate or disappear. Jobs are precarious and poorly compensated, and social atomization means that there is no real sense of community or fulfilling relationships. It is therefore not surprising that the vast majority don’t see mass shootings as something worth caring about. These occasional incidents, if anything, inject a bit of drama and excitement in their otherwise drab, unsatisfying and miserable lives.
Approaching the 53rd anniversary of the first moon landing, it is worth noting that the Apollo program was probably the last time most people in USA still believed that government could accomplish something big and important. Some of you might recall that many of the other big things achieved by government (New Deal, Social Security, electrification of rural America, building Interstate Highway system, Medicare etc) occurred between 1933 and 1973. But how does any of this this matter in a post about public acceptance of routine mass shootings in post-2000 USA? To put it bluntly, the majority of Americans simply do not believe that the government is capable of doing anything which would improve their lives.
3] Which brings us to the issue of social safety nets in USA, or more precisely, their lack. People in other developed countries such as Germany, Japan, France etc will go often along with some stupid ideas of their political class because the overall system (social safety net, infrastructure, healthcare, education, housing etc) seem to work for them and have not been totally financialized. Contrast that to the situation in USA, where being anything other than rich is often costly and criminal. We do not have decent social safety nets, new infrastructure, universal healthcare, taxpayer funded education or affordable housing. It is therefore not surprising that people who own guns have no incentive to play along with the stupid ideas of the 'ruling' class.
To make matters worse, many segments of the population lack interest in any gun control. For example, a significant percentage of black people in this country are far more more engaged in dealing with the problems caused by being forced to live in deliberately impoverished neighborhoods. Those problems range from high rates of crimes, gang-related shootings and extrajudicial executions by cops. Why would you expect black people to care about mass shootings by white guys who target mostly white people? The same is true, albeit to a lesser extent, for Hispanics. They have much bigger problems in their own lives than occasional mass shootings.
So.. do most white people care about mass shootings? The simple answer is- no! Even though most victims of mass shootings are white, the aggregate number of deaths is so tiny that the vast majority can go through their entire lives without knowing even a single person killed or injured in such incidents. Furthermore, they also have much bigger and pressing problems- ranging from inadequate health insurance, shitty job security, massive student loans, inability to service personal debt and many more which are emblematic of being part of the rapidly disappearing middle-class.
To summarize, mass shootings and their aftermath in USA are largely media-driven spectacles. These events are a source of temporary distraction and entertainment for most people who have far bigger problems in their own lives. The vast majority do not believe that the government is trustworthy or even capable of fixing this relatively minor problem, and they are fine with it- even if they won't say so openly. And that is why mass shooting after mass shooting has no worthwhile effect on public policy or attitudes, regardless of the dumb gun control campaigns run by discredited corporate media outlets. I never said that reality was pleasant or capable of restoring your faith in humanity. But things are what they are, regardless of what one wants to believe.
What do you think? Comments?