The White Privilege of the “Lone Wolf” Shooter – Shaun King | The Daily Star

The White Privilege of the “Lone Wolf” Shooter

Shaun King | The Daily Star

On October 3, the United States experienced the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. At least 58 people were killed and over 500 more were wounded. No, that’s not a typo: More than 500 people were injured in one single incident.

As tens of thousands enjoyed a music festival on the streets of Las Vegas, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, was perched 32 floors above them in his Mandalay Bay hotel room. Paddock had 19 rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammo — supplies that are plentiful in a nation that has more guns than people. A few minutes after 10 pm, Paddock opened fire on the unsuspecting crowd. They were sitting ducks. 

No expensive wall along the Mexican border would’ve prevented this. No Muslim ban stopping immigrants and refugees from a few randomly selected countries from reaching our shores would’ve slowed this down.

Paddock, like the majority of mass shooters in this country, was a white American. And that simple fact changes absolutely everything about the way this horrible moment gets discussed in the media and the national discourse:

WHITENESS, somehow, protects men from being labelled terrorists.

The privilege here is that the ultimate conclusion about shootings committed by people from commonly non-white groups often leads to determinations about the corrosive or destructive nature of the group itself.

When an individual claiming to be Muslim commits a horrible act, many on the right will tell us Islam is the problem. For centuries, when an act of violence has been committed by an African-American, racist tropes follow — and eventually, the criminalization and dehumanization of an entire ethnic group.

Privilege always stands in contrast to how others are treated, and it’s true in this case, too: White men who resort to mass violence are consistently characterized primarily as isolated “Lone Wolves” — in no way connected to one another — while the most problematic aspects of being white in the USA are given a pass that nobody else receives.

Stephen Paddock’s whiteness has already afforded him many outrageous protections in the media.

While the blood was still congealing on the streets of Las Vegas, USA Today declared in a headline that Paddock was a “Lone Wolf.” And yet an investigation into his motivations and background had only just started. Police were only beginning to move to search his home and computers. His travel history had not yet been evaluated. No one had yet thoroughly scrutinized his family, friends, and social networks.

Paddock was declared a “Lone Wolf” before analysts even started their day, not because an exhaustive investigation produced such a conclusion, but because it is the only available conclusion for a white man in America who commits a mass shooting.

“Lone Wolf” is how Americans designate many white suspects in mass shootings. James Holmes was called a “Lone Wolf” when he shot and killed 12 people at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado. And Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who walked into a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and shot and killed the pastor and eight other parishioners, was quickly declared a “Lone Wolf.”

For people of colour, and especially for Muslims, the treatment is often different. Muslims often get labelled as “TERRORISTS” before all the facts have come out.

Just consider President Donald Trump. This morning, Trump tweeted, “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!” That’s fine, but Trump doesn’t even seem angry. It’s peculiar that he didn’t call the shooter a “Son Of a Bitch,” like he did the NFL players who took a knee during the national anthem. He didn’t create an insulting nickname for Paddock or make an immediate push for a policy proposal.

Compare that to how Trump treats incidents where he believes the assailants are Muslims. After a bomb exploded in the London subway, Trump tweeted that the attackers were “Loser Terrorists” — before British authorities had even named a suspect. He went on to immediately use the attack to push his Muslim ban.

We must ask ourselves: Why do certain acts of violence absolutely incense Trump and his base while others only elicit warm thoughts and prayers? This is the deadliest mass shooting in American history! Where is the outrage? Where are the policy proposals?

What we are witnessing is the blatant fact that white privilege protects even Stephen Paddock, an alleged mass murderer, not just from being called a terrorist, but from the anger, rage, hellfire, and fury that would surely rain down if he were almost anyone other than a white man.

His skin protects him. It also prevents our nation from having an honest conversation about why so many white men do what he did, and why this nation seems absolutely determined to do next to nothing about it.

I spoke to two people this morning, one black and the other Muslim. Both of them said that, when they heard about this awful shooting in Las Vegas, they immediately began hoping that the shooter was NOT black or Muslim.

Why? Because they knew that the blowback on all African-Americans or Muslims would be fierce if the shooter hailed from one of those communities.

Something is deeply wrong when people feel a sense of relief that the shooter is white because they know that means they won’t suffer as a result.

White people, on the other hand, had no such feeling this morning, because 400 years of American history tells them that no such consequences will exist for them today as a result of Paddock’s actions.

It is an exemplar of WHITE PRIVILEGE: not just being given a head-start in society, but also the freedom from certain consequences of individual and group actions.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On 10/05/2017 at 8:12 pm

    When Do We Get to Call Someone a Terrorist?

    There’s a compulsion to keep mental ledgers of the jihadists and non-jihadists.

    But what can these statistics really tell us?

    Graeme Wood | The Atlantic

    Police say the Las Vegas killer was a white American named Steve. Two days later, we still know almost nothing else about him. But for some, those facts answer the most important questions:

    Race, nationality, likely religion. For some, those are the most important questions about anyone.

    The top priority, as soon as blood spills, is to open the ledger, and see whether to add to the column of WHITE rampage killers with names like Steve or Curtis, or the column of OLIVE-HUED foreigners with names like Omar or Abd al-Rahman.

    Ah hell, who am I kidding? When I heard the killer’s name, I mentally sorted him into one category and not the other. Maybe you didn’t. But I bet you did.

    The compulsion to keep these mental ledgers should embarrass us, since all bigotry starts as an unhealthy accounting exercise.

    (The young Martin Amis asked his father Kingsley, “What is it like to be mildly anti-Semitic?” Kingsley replied: “Very mild, as you say. … If I’m watching television I might notice the Jewish names in the credits and think, ‘Ah, there’s one! There’s another one!’”)

    But worse than keeping a ledger is keeping one without knowing it, and worst of all is keeping a crooked set of books.

    On one side, there are hyperventilating charlatans who see every Islamic State stabbing as a sign of a coming Shariah tsunami; when a white guy shoots up a black church, they dismiss him as a head-case, with no broader relevance to politics or race or religion.

    On the other side is a near photo-negative of the same impulse: Every Muslim homicidal maniac is unhinged, and his rage is unrelated to his religion, whatever his own protests to the contrary.

    Megan McArdle of Bloomberg conducted a scrupulous audit of New America’s terrorist incident database, which purported to show that radical right-wingers killed more people than jihadists in the period from September 12, 2001, to the middle of 2015.

    (New America has updated its statistics since then to show that jihadists have pulled ahead in the standings, but because the report was released in 2015, it is typically quoted — including just yesterday by Vox — for its now-outdated numbers.)

    New America counted as right-wing extremists several killers whose politics were eclectic, to say the least.

    Andrew Stack, who flew a plane into an IRS building, seems mostly to have cared about “the 1986 revision to Section 1706 of the tax code, which governs the treatment of technical contractors.”

    Other inclusions on the right-wing side of the ledger look random, while a number of the omissions on the other side (such as the Beltway snipers — professed jihadists who shot 13 people in and around Washington, D.C., 15 years ago this week) are unexplained.

    Nor did New America choose the starting date for the data set — September 12th, 2001 — randomly.

    It counted exactly 48 deaths at the hands of right-wingers between that date and mid-2015, compared to 26 killings by jihadists.

    Almost 3,000 people were killed by jihadists on September 11th alone, and 49 by an Islamic State sympathizer in one night last year in Orlando.

    (Would the 59 dead in Las Vegas count as victims of right-wing terrorism, absent further evidence about the killer’s motivation? If so, any killing by a white person would probably count.)

    The same Vox article that uncritically accepted the New America statistics made a further claim, that non-jihadist WHITE MEN are a “bigger domestic terrorism threat” than “Muslim terrorists.”

    As evidence, the author, Jennifer Williams, cited the Las Vegas massacre, four murderers by three clearly bigoted white men, and the attempted murder of a Republican congressmen in June.

    She then points out, correctly, that the most severe jihadist attacks since 2001 have been perpetrated by Americans, permanent residents, and lawful immigrants.

    By now it should be clear that the ledgers on religion and mass killings require more fastidious accounting — and, more to the point, fuller consideration of what we should conclude from any of these small numbers.

    Law enforcement officers, according to one study, worry more about “sovereign citizens” (Americans, mostly white, who do not recognize the authority of the state) than about jihadists.

    That is only sensible: Why should we be surprised that non-Muslim whites, who constitute 61 percent of the American population, account for more of its murderers than Muslims, who constitute less than 1 percent?

    Nor can we conclude much from the example of three racist killers, plus one prolific mass murderer whose views on video poker are well known but whose views on race and religion remain, as of this writing, completely opaque.

    Even if Stephen Paddock turns out to be a raving white supremacist, in raw numbers his body-count won’t match that of the two largest jihadist attacks in recent years, 14 in San Bernardino and 49 in Orlando.

    These statistics are, as you can see, a great steaming mess, and they are invoked overwhelmingly for dubious political ends.

    Would it be better to begin the New America data set from 9 a.m. on September 11, and conclude that jihadist attacks have killed 60 times as many people as right-wing terrorist attacks?

    The starting point would be equally arbitrary. The numbers are, in either case, so small, and so contentiously categorized, that one doubts whether any confession they might yield under torture will be worth much at all.

    Whether white racists or jihadists are ahead in the standings is less disconcerting to me than the fact that one group may have the SYMPHATHIES of the White House, and the other would perpetrate a Las Vegas-style mass murder every day if it could.

    As David Graham wrote yesterday, among the most vexing aspects of the Las Vegas killing is that the killer appears to have left his motivation a mystery.

    The bizarre claim of credit by the Islamic State leaves our pens hovering indecisively over the ledger, unsure on which side to count the 59 lives, and whether to feel (according to our politics) secretly embarrassed, or secretly and much more shamefully relieved.

    I am haunted by a tweet from Walter Kirn, who proposed that the killer killed for “that most chilling and empty of all-American motives: to set a record, to be number one. That’s it.”

    Maybe he counted bodies like others count frequent flyer miles, and blew his brains out only when he was sure he broke the record and achieved platinum status.

    The raw simplicity of that potential motive is such that it would leave no traces, no manifestoes; it would be like a diamond, burning without ash.

    As one habituated to a two-column ledger, what I find the most disturbing is the thought that there are other columns – just as deadly as the first two – that we have not even contemplated.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 10/06/2017 at 9:20 pm

    Comparing the Las Vegas Attack With Daily Gun Deaths in U.S. Cities

    Larry Buchanan, Troy Griggs, Jasmine C. Lee, Karen Yourish | The NY Times

    On Sunday night in Las Vegas, 58 people were killed in a single mass shooting, one of the deadliest in American history. How does that compare with the daily gun deaths in cities across the United States?

    In Chicago, 58 people were killed by guns in a span of 28 days; counting back from Sept. 29, two days before the Las Vegas attack.

    Many shootings were of one person, not mass attacks. In Baltimore, there were 58-gun deaths in 68 days. In Houston, it was 118 days.

    Saint Louis there were 58-deaths in 70-days; Philadelphia reported 58-deaths in 105-days; Miami only 58 deaths in 185 days; Baton Rouge, Louisiana just 58-deaths in 198-days; Nashville 58-deaths in 226-days

    The gun deaths, all from 2017, were tracked by the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit organization that catalogs episodes of gun violence.

    Note: To illustrate the same number of gun deaths across cities, in some instances, the number shown for the earliest day does not reflect the complete toll. For example, on Sept. 2 in Chicago, two people were killed by guns, not one. Suicides are excluded because they are not consistently tracked by day.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 10/11/2017 at 3:10 pm

    From the Netherlands

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