July 9, 2018

Mass Shootings and Extremism

By Melissa Ryan

Mass shootings and the subsequent targeting of survivors have become a tool of the extreme right. That's something that puts us all at risk.

This week I was struck by an editorial in the Capital Gazette, written just a few days after the paper’s newsroom staff were the collective victims of a mass shooting. Much of the conversation concerning the editorial revolved around a line aimed at Trump but I’m more interested in this passage immediately above that:

“Here’s what else we won’t forget: Death threats and emails from people we don’t know celebrating our loss, or the people who called for one of our reporters to get fired because she got angry and cursed on national television after witnessing her friends getting shot.”

This is the reality for survivors of mass shootings and the victims’ families. It doesn’t matter if they’re parents grieving their children, students speaking out for their right to be safe at school, or reporters at a local newspaper. Extremists online will organize attacks against them online, and in the case of the recent Annapolis shooting, celebrate the fact that they were attacked. Americans accept this reality just as easily as we accept mass shootings now. On Twitter, Waldo Jaquith made a similar point but he went a step further.

When somebody survives a mass shooting now, they are subjected to weeks or months of death threats. This shows that the shooters aren’t really lone attackers, but part of a network of perhaps-unwitting coconspirators, collectively commuting acts of terrorism, a societal cancer.

— Waldo Jaquith (@waldojaquith) July 1, 2018

Last year Jennifer Fiore wrote a piece for this newsletter about the similarities she saw between pro-gun activists and the alt-right saying:

“Gun extremists are now part of the alt-right coalition, embraced by none other than Milo Yiannopoulos. It makes sense: both use the same tactics and have the same outsized effect on politics. Their use of digital tools to amplify their message is consistent, as is their misogyny, racism and penchant for political destruction. Finding a way to counter their narrative is critical to progress on a slate of political issues and, generally, stabilizing our democracy.”

More and more I’m realizing we’re not looking at mass shootings as holistically as perhaps we should. They’re a tool of the extreme right in America. And whether we’re talking about Congress, tech platforms, or the White House, little is being done to stop them. It’s time we had a deeper conversation about this. You can’t talk about extremism in America without talking about guns and you can’t talk about mass shootings without talking about the American far right.

 


This piece was originally published on July 8, 2018 in the Ctrl Alt-Right Delete newsletter. To read the full July 8 Ctrl Alt-Right Delete in which it appeared, click here.