Over the last few weeks I have had a number of requests to comment and prognosticate about the active killer events that have taken place in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton.
There certainly have been a number of people on both sides of the political aisle willing to step up to the national microphone and engage in public acts of verbal diarrhea.
I loathe to speak too early about these incidents, primarily because of a lack of facts. We can certainly despise the killer, or killers… as we should.
Becoming too specific about the motivations of these individuals too early is extremely dangerous. When new information comes out that does not fit the supposed narrative, often that information is suppressed… or, worse, the whole event becomes stricken from the public record. The media clearly has an agenda… and if the trajectory of a story does not advance the agenda, then it is easier to prune the branch than to analyze the entire tree. This, clearly, does not give us a greater illumination on the human condition.
Now that we have had a bit more time, we know even less about the motivations or agenda.
El Paso left a manifesto… so I guess that is something.
He was first reported to be a “Right-Wing White-Supremacist” killer. Then, after reading the actual manifesto, it became obvious he was more of a socialist and radical environmentalist than polite society would like to admit.
So he is now simply a “white-supremacist”.
What we have had is a near universal condemnation not of the killers… but of President Trump. For it was not the actions of the individual, rather it was the rhetoric of a U.S. President.
I thoroughly reject this argument (and most of you know I am not a particularly big fan of President Trump’s oratory style) and, instead, think we must look closer at a sacred cow of modern liberalism for the root cause of this violence.
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)
For years we have experimented in what I would refer to as “zero sum tribalism”. This is a natural manifestation of modern liberalism and identity politics.
When we engage in tribalism we need to remember that there are numbers on both sides of the equal sign. For years few would argue that there was generally an Anglo majority in the United States. The glorious idea of the Constitution is that minority rights are guaranteed, regardless of the political passions of the majority. In a simple democracy this would not be the case and political and/or racial minorities would inevitably find themselves voted out of existence. That said, the minority groups that existed in the United States never posed an existential threat to the majority. This was not because numerological demographics would challenge the dominance of the white power structure… rather, all groups generally were well educated in economics, something that has been sorely lacking since the 1930s.
An economically successful African-American may not be invited to his white girlfriend’s parents’ dinner party in Atlanta in 1950, but he did have the ability to sell products to white customers. The more successful he became, the less relevant his skin color was… even to the racist. People generally realized that economic prosperity bred economic prosperity… for whites and minorities alike.
Then something happened.
We began to think of economic advancement as a zero-sum game. If I make a dollar, then, by definition, your net worth has been reduced by a dollar. This is obviously a false narrative… but one that has been promulgated since Roosevelt.
Then we come to the advent of “identity politics”. Entrepreneurial activists have sought out client groups for which to advocate. It is always far easier, and economically more rewarding, to have a large group of potential clients (and donors) than a single individual… so we saw a natural movement towards something I call “tribalism”.
Tribalism has always existed, literally since the first clans crawled out of the ooze. Tribalism absolutely requires a threat to the tribe to reinforce tribal legitimacy. In America we saw this manifest early on in our individual states. Virginians thought of themselves as a Virginian first, and an American second… and had very little cultural affiliation for, say, a Pennsylvanian. It took a common enemy… British tyranny, and an uncommon leader, General Washington, to create a broader tribe: The United States.
As the concept of modern tribalism grew, so, too, did the idea that any gain of an individual tribe would come at the direct expense of another.
Economic rationalism be damned. If the other tribe is going to get something, it means, by definition, I am not.
This is further reinforced in modern academia. Colleges (and now high schools and elementary schools) have adopted the idea of the “victimized class”. Integration is no longer a relevant discussion. Now tribes are self selecting for segregation. Hyphenated students… (and boy do the hyphens grow long with race, gender, economic, sexual orientation, or lack of sexual orientation all being tribes and sub-tribes!) are all opting for separate areas and tribal exclusion.
Yet, in any group of people, while there are certainly going to be moderates, there are also extremists.
The moderates cause the root problems… It is the extremists that cause the headlines, from Islamic fundamentalists who use violence to promulgate a religious ideal, to white nationalists who use violence to seek “racial purity,” to radical environmentalists and animal rights activists who have no problem slaughtering humans, as long as they feel it benefits Madre Gaea.
The list above is by no means exhaustive.
Every tribe has its malcontents who seek to advance the cause through the deaths of opposing tribes.
Tribes feed on the messaging that comes from their advocates, and force their extremism to comport with the battle cries of their less militant public tribal advocates, for theirs is a belief that their actions are just, a natural extension of the diplomatic efforts their tribal leaders do in a more polite setting.
So… what makes the extremist? A lot. There is, of course, the standard mental illness, the delusions of grandeur… but, I think, the biggest motivation for semi-rational killers is a complete lack of empathy towards the individual.
They have grown comfortable in the narrative of tribalism and see people not as individuals, but as organic components of a competing tribe. The El Paso Manifesto even goes so far as to suggest that family reintegration is a benefit of his horrific actions. Hispanics will inevitably leave Texas and return to their homes south of the border as a result of what he suspects will be repeated violence against them and, as such, have a more fulfilled life.
As the manifesto of the Christchurch killer stated, they do not seek the extermination of a group as the Nazis sought to exterminate Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals; they seek separation.
If a few bodies are necessarily sacrificed on the altar of their utopian society… so be it.
They see themselves as soldiers… but soldiers who are devoid of classical military theory.
For most of our history when nation-states went to war we targeted counterforce targets. Counter-value targets were generally off limits. Counterforce are the enemy’s forces… think armies, navies, and supply lines. Counter-value, are the enemy’s people, and targeting them was fraught with problems. If the ultimate goal was to use the enemy’s economic resources, then destroying their people meant a loss of labor; specifically targeting them also sowed the seeds for inevitable rebellion.
During the Cold War, we had a massive change in strategic thought, specifically as a result of our mass weapons systems development. We, specifically, targeted counter-value targets as a means of deterring aggression among combatants. Ironically, it worked. We survived the Cold War without a nuclear exchange… but, with the shift of strategic thought, came a mindset that the “enemy’s population” was now no longer off limits.
To be sure, we (and when I say “we,” I am talking about humanity in general… not “we” as the United States) have done a number on civilians in the past. Sherman marched through Georgia and made war on everyone and everything, a concept of “total war” that would force quick capitulation of the enemy, and non-state actors have used violence as a tool of asymmetric warfare for years… but rarely was the common civilian seen as a legitimate target in military theory.
With the idea that an entire population was now a “tribe,” that non-military tribal assets were now legitimate targets, we see the violence against innocents as a common occurrence.
So, who is to blame?
Well, if we are to be intellectually honest, then the whole system is the “blame”. As long as we continue to accept the narrative that a tribe needs special benefits from a centralized state, and those benefits can only be achieved through the forced relinquishment of benefits currently enjoyed by another tribe, then we are doomed.
Every tribe will have its maladjusted, and for the foreseeable future there are no great pharmacological solutions to the issue of mental health and lack of individual empathy. We can talk about it all day long, we can societally ostracize those who would do harm to others… as we should… but that will not make it go away.
We need a fundamental restructuring of the way we see ourselves before we can begin to once and for all allow individuals the ability to live in peace and individual dignity.