Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mass shooting targeting Republican members of congress, injuring 4.

The scene of the shooting. Reuters. 

A mass shooting targeting Republican members of Congress has injured four and ended with the death of the shooter. Reuters. The attack occurred at a practice for a bipartisan charity baseball game. The suspect, James Hodgkinson, of Illinois, approached Jeff Duncan (R, South Carolina) and asked him if the practice was for the Democrats or Republicans and when he was told that it was the Republicans he returned to his vehicle and opened fire. He injured Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who remains in critical condition, a congressional aide, a former congressional aide and a Capital Police Officer. The Capital Police, who was part of Scalise's security detail shot the suspect, even after being injured, who later died in the hospital. 

The suspect was a Bernie Sanders supporter who had a very large social media presence. He was members of Facebook groups critical of President Trump and the Republican Party. Some of these groups include "The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans," "Terminate The Republican Party," and "Donald Trump is not my President". For their part, the Democratic Party and Bernie Sanders have denounced the attack. 

My Comment:
I am late on this story, but when I heard the news this morning I was in no condition to write up anything. This news story has made me more mad than any other news event in recent history. Even the Paris attacks, the Nice attack or the Pulse shooting didn't result in such an emotional response. I was enraged and I decided that it would be better to wait to write something up after I had calmed down and more information was available. 

At the time I suspected that this was an attack by someone on the left done for political reasons. It turns out I was right. The suspect, James Hodgkinson was a Bernie Sanders supporter and had a very large social media presence filled with anti-Trump and anti-Republican propaganda. It's very clear that this was, if not a direct assassination attempt, a politically motivated attack. Hodgkinson hated Republicans and those of us on the right politically. 

I consider this to be a terrorist attack. This attack fits the classic definition of terrorism. His goal was to silence people on the right and he did so doing violence. Terrorism isn't just something that radical Muslims do, people of all political stripes do so. The far left has a long history of political violence and terrorism and this is just the latest example. 

I also think that the mainstream media and the Democratic party has some responsibility here. The suspect was radicalized by the social media bubble he was in. He was a fan of leftist pundits like Rachel Madow and John Oliver and member of Facebook anti-GOP groups. I have no doubt that he never heard anyone that ever had anything good to say about Republicans.

The left has very openly suggested that it is ok to attack Republicans. Not all of them do but enough that it is making an impact. They have called Donald Trump and Republicans "literally Hitler" long enough that people actually started to believe it. They have encouraged violent groups, like Antifa and Black Lives Matter to attack Republicans. They have suggested that the election that resulted in President Trump was not legitimate and completely falsely implied that he was in collusion with the Russians, literally accusing him of treason. 

And they have even begun to suggest that assassination is an acceptable political tool. Remember, last week we were talking about how Kathy Griffin had held up a fake decapitated head of our President. Her defense was that she was the one under attack, unjustly, after pretending to assassinate the President of the United States. Plus there was the New York production of Julius Caesar that cast Trump as Caesar and then showed him being killed. Though I do respect free speech, it seemed that the message in all these cases was "it's ok to assassinate Republicans because Trump is mean". That's a message that I won't ever defend. 

Is it any wonder that someone caught up in this propaganda picked up a gun and tried to murder a bunch of Republicans? When you convince someone that one party is the party of evil, is it any surprise that they try to take action against them? When you pretend to assassinate Republican politicians, is it any surprise that anyone attempts it? 

For their part, the Democratic Party has denounced this attack. Bernie Sanders himself seemed fairly disgusted with this and many Democratic members of Congress joined the bipartisan condemnation. I think in some cases that condemnation is genuine, and in some cases it isn't. I won't speculate on who falls into which category but I will say that there are voices in the Democratic Party that wanted something like this to happen. Do I think they are responsible for this attack? Not directly, but I do think that the rhetoric probably contributed to Hodgkinson doing what he did. But I don't blame the entire party for this attack and I am happy that the powers that be are finally condemning violence. 

Does the right deserve any blame for this attack? I don't think so. Most of us on the right have been speaking out against political violence for quite some time. Indeed, that's one of the reasons I decided to openly support candidate Donald Trump. I was sick of the political violence targeting him and his supporters. We have very loudly condemned the actions of Black Lives Matter and Antifa and warned that the rhetoric coming out of the left could result in this kind of violence. 

Sure there are voices on the right that are unhinged. I don't really remember too many of them preaching violence though. We do have nutjobs like Richard Spencer, but I don't think even he has suggested violence, and if he has the fact that I haven't heard about it is evidence of the difference. On the right we don't have influential voices like Kathy Giffin or Madonna calling for violence. Everyone that has is already marginalized to the point of obscurity. 

There is a chance that this attack could reignite the gun control debate. It's too early to speculate how Hodgkinson got his weapons, but he probably passed his background check. Background checks don't do anything to stop mass shootings. Period. 

But I doubt the gun control movement will get any converts from this attack. Listening to the news today and the common theme from the GOP politicians is that they wish they had been armed. And you are never going to convince Republicans to give up their weapons when people on the left are shooting them. It just isn't going to happen. Hell, I'm worried that my handgun isn't enough to defend myself anymore and I am considering buying a rifle for self defense. I've publicly stated my support of the President and I think that I could be a target too. If so, I'd like to be prepared. 

I also have to point out that despite the fact that the gunman had a high powered rifle and the cops only had pistols, the only person to die in this attack was the shooter. It goes to show that just being armed with a gun doesn't mean that you will kill a bunch of people. The suspect was apparently a bad shot and might have been further handicapped by his old age. The well trained and heroic Capital Police officers were able to stop this attack with just pistols, showing the importance of training and expertise. 

I think this attack will be a turning point. The question is what kind of turning point it will be. On the one hand this might finally be the thing that stops the left from demonizing the right. People might finally realize that things have gotten too far and that they should distance themselves from the radical voices on the left. Pundits that are responsible for this radicalization could lose their jobs and people calling for violence will be loudly condemned. 

But I am not that hopeful. Indeed, I think things will just get worse. There will likely be more copycat attacks targeting Republicans. The pundits and blue checkmarks on Twitter will double down on their rhetoric and will be embolden, not humbled. Groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter will still have their views and actions tolerated. 

Why am I so pessimistic? Because we have seen this kind of thing before. We have had massive terrorist attacks caused by ISIS, including the Pulse nightclub shooting, and it did nothing to convince the left that radical Islam is a major problem. We had multiple attacks targeting police officers due to Black Lives Matter and nothing changed there either. And nothing will change of this attack as well. 

What I do fear is that we could be heading to a cycle of revenge. I fear more attacks from the left and possible retaliation attacks from the right. If that happens then it could be civil war. Folks, I shouldn't have to say that would be a horrible thing and it should be something that we avoid at all costs. I think people on the right and the left need to get together now and denounce political violence and those who support it. We don't have a choice anymore... 

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