There has been another mass shooting in the United States -- and though American Exceptionalism is in many ways a myth, in terms of the number of times that guns are used to kill multiple people, the country is exceptional in its appalling rates of gun violence.
Christopher Harper-Mercer's massacre at Oregon's Umpqua Community College is just one more installment in an ongoing American tragedy. This most recent event will likely have the same (non) resolution as the events that preceded it. Despite the fact that the majority of the American people want reasonable and sensible gun control policies enacted, nothing will be done, because the National Rifle Association and its lobbyists have American democracy in a chokehold.
While talking about the mass shooting in Oregon, President Obama was visibly frustrated and upset by having to (again) discuss mass murder committed by someone armed with multiple guns. Obama knows that (like most presidents before him) he is impotent before the gun lobby.
(Obama may be one of the most powerful men on planet Earth, possessing the ability to wage war and launch nuclear weapons to immolate a target of his choice, yet there seems to be little if anything he can do to stop wanton gun violence. Obama can issue the order to kill Osama bin Laden, but somehow he is unable to deter America’s gun lobby.)
Ultimately, despite what the United States Constitution may read, “We the People” has in fact been subverted by “We the Gun Fetishists and Gun Lobby.”
In the Age of Obama, the United States is highly politically polarized. A culture of illusion, spectacle and fantasy reigns supreme. To that end, rabid right-wing ideology has possessed and corrupted the rational thinking of many millions of Americans. Therefore, the Republican Party is no longer acting as a responsible party in government that is invested in “normal politics.”
Authoritarianism is increasing its pull on American political life—especially among conservatives.
As a function of this dynamic, the Republican 2016 presidential candidates have offered up a human zoo of delusional thinking on a wide range of issues including nativism and racism, Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive rights, the economy, the faux “Benghazi” scandal, global warming, the separation of church and state, and international relations.
Mirroring that dream world, the right-wing media, led by Fox News, will distort, obfuscate and misrepresent the facts about Thursday’s mass shooting in Oregon.
Pursuant to historian Richard Hofstadter’s worries about the “paranoid style” in American politics, and Goebbels’ principles of propaganda, America’s right-wing media will seduce its public with the following distortions and lies about the real and true nature of things surrounding Christopher Harper-Mercer’s accused mass murder of nine people in Oregon.
- Christopher Harper-Mercer’s murder spree will be presented as part of a “War on Christians.” While the vast majority of social, political, and economic power in the United States is held by those who identity as “Christian,” somehow there is a “war” on them. Moreover, the Republican Party’s candidates, almost to the one, are Christian theocrats who believe that the United States ought to be ruled by “Christian principles.” Muslims and atheists are two of the most disliked groups according to recent public opinion polls in the United States. Yet, “Christians” can somehow imagine themselves as “victims” in America.
- Christopher Harper-Mercer is a self-identified “conservative.” The right-wing media will of course deny his statement of political agency and identification. In that move, Christopher Harper-Mercer will be transformed into a “liberal” or “progressive.”
- Christopher Harper-Mercer is a right-wing mass shooter and domestic terrorist. His behavior is part of a broader pattern where right-wing domestic terrorists have been identified as the biggest threats to the American “homeland” in the post-9/11 era. This fact is inconvenient for the American right. It must be twisted into something else for their worldview to remain internally consistent.
- Unlike “Muslim terrorists,” Christopher Harper-Mercer will likely be identified as some type of “lone wolf” with “mental health issues” or who is on “drugs.” There will likely be no soul searching about the right-wing reactionary online and other media that helped to motivate Christopher Harper-Mercer to kill nine people.
- Gun violence is a public health crisis. The United States leads the “developed world” in mass shootings and gun violence. Yet, this event will be twisted by ammosexuals and the National Rifle Association as an example of how it is actually more, and not fewer guns in schools, colleges, and universities, that will deter mass shootings. This is Orwellian Newspeak logic mixed with 1980s hyper-masculine action movie dreams. In an example of twisted and backwards thinking, somehow more firearms are imagined to be a cure for gun violence and mass shooting events, as opposed to removing firearms from circulation.
- The Umpqua Community College shooting is a “false flag” operation. right-wing conspiracy websites almost automatically default to fantastical explanations for gun violence and murder when Occam’s razor will suffice. No elaborate explanations are needed: a heavily armed person with a grievance of some sort, and who was armed with multiple guns, decided to commit an act of mass murder. The facts are not that complicated.
In the days to come, Thursday’s mass shooting in Oregon will reveal the intersection of conspiracy theories, Hofstadter’s “paranoid style,” a right-wing propaganda machine that is devilishly effective in duping its public, as well as Henry Giroux’s analysis of the influence of the culture of cruelty, austerity, and neoliberalism on contemporary American life and society.
Ten people are dead in Roseburg, Oregon. There is something horribly amiss when this can be described as a good thing for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential candidates.
But alas, this tragedy primes the fears and anxieties of paranoid and fearful authoritarian voters, feeds the “War on Christians” narrative, and is red meat for movement conservatives who instead of responding to mass shootings with human empathy and reason about smarter gun policy, instead decide to hold their guns even closer to their hearts and groins.