Is public outrage leading to government action becoming a thing of the past?
Just the facts: On Sunday night, at least 58 people died and more than 500 hundred people were injured when shots were fired from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort into a crowd of 22,000 attending a nearby music festival.
Stephen Paddock, age 64, was found dead by Las Vegas police in the room believed to be the site from where the shots were fired. Official reports say there were 10 rifles in the room.
This year has already seen 273 mass shootings (defined as four or more individuals being shot or killed in the same general time and location), according to the Gun Violence Archive. The slaughter in Las Vegas holds, for now, the all-time record for casualties in a modern-day mass shooting.
According to USA Today, shares of gunmakers jumped 5% in early trading Monday following the shooting.
I’ll spare you any suspense about what will happen in response to this event beyond “warm condolences” and praise for first responders: nothing.
The National Rifle Association would like you to believe nothing can be done except– maybe– buying more firearms to counter this ‘evil’ threat.
Lately, the NRA has produced a series of videos criticizing liberal and the mainstream media, with language that tiptoes right up to the edge of inciting violence. Using the hashtags #counterresistance and #clenchedfistoftruth, the group promises a “shot across the bow,” and says the gun-rights group is “coming for you” and warning of “elites … threaten our very survival.”
President Trump has already signed legislation making it easier for mentally ill people to purchase firearms. This week Congress is scheduled to vote on repealing restrictions on gun silencers and allowing concealed carry across state lines.
Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, denounced the attacks and the gun lobby’s latest efforts. NRA supporters hit back, calling her comments “ignorant.”
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy issued a statement saying, “Nowhere but America do horrific large-scale mass shootings happen with this degree of regularity. This must stop. It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic. There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference. It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.”
— Philip Bump (@pbump) October 2, 2017
Meanwhile, the Disinformation Apparatus run by the kooks on the right kicked into high gear, misidentifying the shooter, claiming his politics to be leftist, and/or a recent convert to Islam.
They successfully gamed social media platforms and search engines to rapidly spread this misinformation.
As those claims are debunked, next up will be the conspiracy theories (already being spread by Alex Jones) claiming the Las Vegas shooting was a “false flag” operation.
These false narratives serve an important purpose for those people intent on destroying democracy. A sense of helplessness or fear or uncertainty undermines the possibility of collective action, encouraging apathy and uncertainty.
And this leads me to a larger point. Contemporary right-wing ideology, whether it’s expressed as populism, prosperity theology, or libertarianism, is driven by a belief in the absolute supremacy of the individual (and his property) over the role of the state in protecting the common interests. An important corollary to this tenet is white male supremacy.
As my SDFP colleague Jim Miller points out in his essay on “Democracy in Chains,” the forces of free-market primacy are leading us to a “Social Darwinist nightmare where the obstacles of empathy, the collective interest, and the public good are nothing but quaint relics of the past.”
A careful look at virtually every aspect of the current administration validates this claim, whether it’s healthcare, education, the environment, or emergency relief for Puerto Rico. Donald Trump is the clown sent in to entertain us while the assets of the United States are stipped off and sold to the highest bidder.
— The Hill (@thehill) October 1, 2017
WOW: U.S. Senator Ron Johnson tells group of high school students that food, health care and shelter are all “limited resources” that should only be given to those that have earned the “privilege” and can “afford those things.” https://t.co/dv50EcTrzv
— Jud Lounsbury (@JudLounsbury) September 30, 2017
Pushing back against the odious acts of the Republicans is a good and necessary thing. It needs to be accompanied by a drive to restore the legitimacy of the common good as a motivation for governance.
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