Links, Notes, Bookmarks And Briefs For October 3, 2017
An open thread and (almost) daily notes to myself; feel free to eavesdrop, join in or start a conversation, or drop a relevant link in the comments. Updated throughout the day.
Records are made to be broken
At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 (!) wounded in Las Vegas on Sunday night, the deadliest mass shooting in US history. The perpetrator? Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, 64, who was, like the vast majority of mass killers in the US, a white male. Almost immediately, he was labeled a “lone wolf”, “disturbed”, a privilege seemingly reserved for white terrorists.
Paddock, like the majority of mass shooters in this country, was a white American. And that simple fact changes absolutely everything about the way this horrible moment gets discussed in the media and the national discourse: Whiteness, somehow, protects men from being labeled terrorists.
The privilege here is that the ultimate conclusion about shootings committed by people from commonly nonwhite groups often leads to determinations about the corrosive or destructive nature of the group itself. When an individual claiming to be a Muslim commits a horrible act, many on the right will tell us Islam itself is the problem. For centuries, when an act of violence has been committed by an African-American, racist tropes follow — and eventually, the criminalization and dehumanization of an entire ethnic group.
And in The Atlantic James Fallows writes of “Two Dark American Truths from Las Vegas“: that once again nothing will be done to prevent the mass shooting –which we all know– and that such an act of terror, when carried out by a white man, will be treated much differently than had it been carried out by someone with a “more-foreign” name or appearance.
Here’s the other dark truth about America that today’s shooting reminds us of. The identity of the shooter doesn’t affect how many people are dead or how grievously their families and communities are wounded. But we know that everything about the news coverage and political response would be different, depending on whether killer turns out to be “merely” a white American man with a non-immigrant-sounding name.
That’s who most mass-shooters turn out to be, from Charles Whitman at the University of Texas tower back in 1966 onward. And from Whitman onward, killers of this sort are described as “deranged” or “disturbed” or “resentful,” their crimes a reflection of their own torment rather than any larger trend or force. They are “troubled” youths, like the white teenaged boy who shot up classmates in West Paducah, Kentucky, in 1997, or the two white teenaged boys who shot up classmates in Columbine, Colorado, two years later, or the white teenaged boy who carried out the atrocity in Newtown, Connecticut. Or troubled older people, like the white man in his 60s who shot up the congressional baseball game this summer, or (on initial reports) the white man in his 60s who murdered so many people today. A report on the congressional-baseball shooter described his “descent into rage.”
These people are indeed deranged and angry and disturbed, and the full story of today’s killer is not yet known. It is possible that he will prove to have motives or connections beyond whatever was happening in his own mind (as Graeme Wood explains). But we know that if the killers were other than whites with “normal” names, the responsibility for their crime would not be assigned solely to themselves and their tortured psyches.
– If they had Arab-sounding names, this would be a new episode of jihad. How often has Donald Trump invoked “San Bernardino” in his speeches, as shorthand for the terrorist threat in our heartland? – If they were Mexican, they would demonstrate the perils of immigration, and that Mexico is “not sending its best people.” – If they had been illegal immigrants, they’d dramatize the need to crack down harder, right now. – And if they had been black, I shudder to imagine the consequences.
The Spanish government’s violent, and largely failed, effort to suppress the illegal independence vote on Sunday left officials in Brussels flummoxed, caught between their obligation to support Madrid and the rule of law, and an inescapable imperative to condemn the violence against unarmed citizens seeking to exercise their democratic right to freedom of expression.
After more than 24 hours of silence from senior EU leaders — a striking delay in the era of live-tweeting and nonstop news cycles — Brussels came out solidly on the side of the Spanish government and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. They called the vote “not legal” and branded the dispute “an internal matter,” while at the same time calling for dialogue and an end to confrontation.
EU officials, however, did not suggest any ideas for how to defuse the tensions and pointedly warned officials in Catalonia they would find themselves expelled from the EU if they seceded from Spain.
About 15,000 are taking part in a general strike in Barcelona today where schools and universities are closed. The Guardian.
More than 700 people were injured on Sunday, mainly by police in riot gear who beat peaceful protesters with batons, fired rubber bullets to disperse crowds, dragged voters from polling areas by the hair or throw them down stairs In case you missed them, the pictures from Sunday were ugly: BBC, Washington Post.
By Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet, No. 1 on this month’s WMCE World Music Charts Europe, this is Eh Ya Ye. Splendid.
Rainer Weiss, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Kip Thorne and Barry Barish, both of the California Institute of Technology, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for the discovery of ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago but had never been directly seen.
In announcing the award, the Royal Swedish Academy called it “a discovery that shook the world.”