A tragedy in Las Vegas: 5 Lessons Learned

I first heard the news when I surfed the web. A shooting was happening. My stomach lurched as I thought of how bad this was going to be. My heart dropped when I saw some of the pictures and videos coming through. From the initial reports (on reddit and elsewhere) it sounded like automatic fire into a large crowd of people. Doesn’t take much in such a situation to On reddit, the subreddit news was filled with people both helpful and unhelpful. Some people were wondering about loved ones, others about who the gunman was.

As usual people tried to blame Islam for what was going on. Without any thought, other than the idea that a country music festival had been targeted.

My Twitter feed and Reddit comments trying their hardest to tie everything into the religion of Islam

Nevermind what this implies: that country music should only have one enemy (a brown one). Nevermind that after the FBI confirmed that this had nothing to do with international terrorism (or, you know, the brown kind) people on the right were still trying to pin it on the left—anti-fa—or deciding that ISIS was indeed trustworthy and believe what their claim that it was their act. [1] Nevermind that it seems that many people in our country lack basic empathy and only directly experiencing something horrible will make them rethink their worldview. [2] Nevermind that it seems that only certain victims gain what appears to be heartfelt sympathy from our POTUS. Nevermind that the right is still clinging to their bumpersticker as policy debate points and refusing to actually care about Americans. Nevermind that even the media seemed to tone it down—aka mental illness—as soon as the shooter was found to be white. Nevermind that we all know what would have happened if the shooter was not white and had a different name or skin tone; there would be no calls for unity and only pogroms. I know glee when I see it and the right was filled with it, just hoping to fill their narrative and to hurt other people [3].

The right trolled on: r/theDonald was out in force with the usual right-wing talking points.

Nevertheless, despite all this, I’ve gathered some things I’ve learned from this situation.

  1. We need better gun control. At this point a measure of “what can you do?” seems to have settled in many people’s hearts. That the shooter targeted a country music festival seems to have shaken some people the right. Let’s hope that some gun control sense comes through. Mind you that I’m on the left and think there needs to be a measure of gun control, not an outright ban. And I also find the focus on assault rifles and not handguns to be a little odd, given that handguns still account for the bulk of such homocides. Yeah, I’ll do ahead and say it: that the victims of one kind of shooting—as presented by the media—are usually of one kind of color while the mass shootings have another color associated with them. But I’m willing to say that our gun problem is bad and kills 33,000 people in different ways and needs to be better controled. Access, amount, everything. “Well regulated militia” means just that. So too should the side issues. I’m aware that 2/3s of the people who die from gunshots, do so by their own hands. Let’s examine that. Let’s examine our poor neighborhoods where these guns flow in and think of other solutions. Let’s improve our mental health system and have it available for more people.
The average, crappy, comment on Reddit. It was not a good day.

2. Some on the Right will always be hateful mendacious people. No, this isn’t all of them, but that so many were looking for a Muslim to blame was apparent as the crisis unfolded. That this would allow them some room to commit violence on “the other” was obvious. Once it was apparent that it was a white male who shot these people (and the last gasps of blaming brown people died—though who knows, someone out there is surely still trying) the defensiveness started and the usual right wing talking points were trotted out. Now, I wouldn’t want us to only focus on assault rifles, as I stated above. But this is the only right wing talking point worth a damn and one that only means that full on gun control is the only way forward.

But the other talking points: that more guns present would have helped, do not pass the smells test. You’re telling me the random joe would be able to point out the window, then aim with precision? Where would they get such great training? It would have to be a full time job… While also making sure that no one else knew he was the shooter? So in addition to training, they would have to wear some kind of uniform to make sure no one confuses them… so essentially it would be a paramilitary group patrolling our streets… Right. Please stop peddling this tripe. It may make you feel better, but it’s not helping anyone. Just say you want the guns, consequences be damned.

Trump being heartfelt… for the right color victims.

3. What media to trust? Not social media. Where does one get their news from? Especially live unfolding news? Note that I don’t have a TV. I have used reddit before and was able to use it well in 2015. But now? It was filled with shills clamoring to push certain points and fewer live witnesses than before. This was still better than what I remember TV being, but it wasn’t optimal. Even Twitter was filled with tripe at best. In the end, I managed to find an MSNBC link that had the Las Vegas Sherrif giving an update. That proved to be the most useful link of the night.

Don’t get me wrong, from some of the Reddit comments, I managed to figure that the death toll would be 50+ when all the normal news outlets were still reporting 2+ (then 20+ later on in the night, after the Sherrif gave his brief). Nevertheless, it appeared that there was a huge drop in quality and most of it was shilling (or webbots). So now I’m thinking that since Google and Twitter and Reddit are failing, that there has to be something else out there, or at least a market for solid news. Note that though the MSNBC link was useful, the likes of NYTimes provided no such feedback. Maybe I’m wrong and the internet search I conducted was as good as it gets, but I’m betting that there is a market for good live ananlysis.

4. The media, though technically the center and still better than right-wing media, is still pretty white-spuremacist. Note how quickly the talk about the shooter became about how great of a guy he actually was and how this was surprise. Some people were looking at his brown girlfriend for a person to blame. Then there were hints at his mental illness, because, of course, there has to be something different about him with which we can use to wash our hands. Again, is anyone calling for all suburbanites or some other group he’s a part of to be banned or harrassed in some other way? Nope. Not one attempt. But we all know what would have happened if he was Muslim. There would be no end to calls for the murder of other innocents if only to feel a little giddy from the revenge—nevermind the solution.

5. What all these lessons point to is a very certain sickness in society. All the talk about mental illness avoids the social illness that allows guns to be so prevelant as to be easy to access. [4] Not only that, but the thinking behind many people who want guns is to feel safe. Much of this is paranoia, and even if it’s personal rather than the types who are waiting for some coming war, it’s still a sickness. Note that I’m not talking about the mental illness that would allow a man to fire on innocent people trying to enjoy music, I’m talking about something much more pervasive in our society.

I’ve written about this before, but it should be clearer now than ever that there is a siege mentality that’s eating away at a section of our society and it needs to stop. Certainly, we’re all apes and need to remain vigilant, but there’s a limit to allowing people’s fevered dreams of constantly being attacked (usually by dark people) or wanting some end of times war drive our policy.

All the talk about mental illness lets us off the hook, because this is about more than one individual and until we see that, see that the white-supremacy-based-paranoia that allows sections of our country to be so scared as to stock up tens of guns without people knowing or caring, see that the need to have an enemy—especially if they are dark, and thus “terrorists”—is tearing us apart, we will continue to suffer in more ways than we already have. [5]

To do this we will have to be completely self-aware and willing to care and show tough love so as to move forward into a future worth living.

[1] Perhaps they do have reason to trust the group and I’m not seeing it?

[2] Here we have a country music star now finally rethinking their view on guns. Here is a Fox News Analyst saying the same.

[3] Oh, yes, I know that the right throws this at the left too. But they are ever great at projection, if nothing else. Indeed, if anyone on the left was worried, it was that Trump and his racist ways would call for a no restraint attack on Muslims, had the shooter even touched a Quran recently.

[4] Note this is even growing on the left as we see civil rights being torn apart. Now liberals are wondering if they should protect themselves.

[5] If it’s not clear, I’m tying together the white-supremacy that allows a section of the country to have guns (because they are scared of dark people in their streets and overseas), as well as the reaction to the shooter not being the preferred color (brown) that allows that paranoia to be acted upon and to the right wing’s non-thinking reactions that all roads lead to more guns and more feelings of safety even if the latter point isn’t really the issue. The internet is now allowing this paranoia to be uncovered through its natural rumor mill state and though I may hate it, it has proven to be valuable.

some good reads (let me know what to add): Gun Violence in America.

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Nelson Lowhim

Nelson Lowhim

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Writer, Artist, Immigrant, & Veteran observing our mad dance of apes. Check out my Patreon & show some love: https://www.patreon.com/nlowhim