Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Faulty Thinking Linking Mass Shootings, Mental Illness, and Liberal Partisan Politics

Better funding of background checks so as to provide data to the NICS data base help prevent the dangerously mentally ill from obtaining legal guns from  FFL licensed sources.  We still have the problem of the dangerously mentally ill obtaining legal guns through other means, and of course, we have way too many illegal guns available in our society as well.

But when we have the radical right wing nuttery trying to equate partisan  political affiliation with mental illness, and/or fraudulently and factually inaccurately trying to categorize all mass shootings as having a mental illness causation, we need to object.  We must push back against this faulty thinking, this profoundly flawed analysis, and this crackpot right wing belief.

We must push back because what this really represents, above and beyond attempting simply to disparage the opposition by the right, is that this claim attempts to redefine gun control arguments and focus.  We see some acquiescence to this change of focus by Sen. Blumenthal, in his appearance on Face the Nation, this past Sunday (CBS).

So for example, the excellent article in the Examiner debunked a widely circulated belief on the right, one that occurs across the right wing echo chamber/bubble, that mass shootings are by registered democrats, or at the very least, "lefty leaners".

The idea that recent mass shooters are mostly registered Democrats is a myth

Based on the assertions of Roger Hedgecock a right-wing radio show host, the meme that the five worst recent mass shootings were committed by registered Democrats is making its way through e-mail chains and social media. Hedgecock asserts, without providing any evidence or sources, that the Ft. Hood shooter, the Virginia Tech shooter, the Aurora Theater shooter and Adam Lanza of Sandy Hook infamy were all “registered Democrats”. He acknowledges that Klebold and Harris (the Columbine Colorado shooters) were too young to be registered voters but asserts, again without providing any evidence, that Harris and Klebold’s parents were progressives or liberal Democrats.
In another forum, the radical righties insisted that, ok, so this author debunked the last five mass shooters --- but those OTHER shootings were all by lefties! No. Wrong. Factually false.

1. Elliot Rodgers the most recent mass shooter was proclaimed a 'lefty' because he subscribed to the youtube feed from the Young Turks. THAT does not define someone as a lefty; I follow Fox News on Facebook, it doesn't make me a right wing nut. What does appear to show a larger and more valid claim to political orientation and affiliation however is the links to the ultra-conservative male-dominionist men's rights movement expressed in his videos and manifesto, and supported apparently by his reported internet history.

2. Another example claimed -- that James Holmes was a member of Occupy San Diego. That is also factually false. At no time was Holmes involved in any way with Occupy San Diego, nor so far as I can find, did he have any political opinion. He appears to have been apolitical. We don't know definitively yet if Holmes was mentally ill, or if he was, that mental illness had any causational role in his actions. In contrast, we know that Jared Loughner suffered from severe schizophrenia, but that appears to be the exception to the rule, not typical of mass shooters.

3. Claims that Karl Pierson was a 'lefty' also don't hold up well to scrutiny. The basis for that claim appears to be that he was an advocate for Keynesian economics, and that one student at his school variously claimed he was a communist or a socialist. What is not at all clear is if the student who made those claims even knew Pierson, much less knew him well. There are Keynsian economists and advocates or proponents across the political spectrum; being a Keynsian is not even remotely the same thing as being a 'commie' or a 'socialist'. There appears to be zero factual basis for the claim that Pierson was a socialist, 'commie' or in any other way a 'lefty'. What is clear from the way those words lefty and commie and marxist are used on the right, however, is that most of those who use those terms casually and interchangeably have no clue what the terms mean. Rather they lob them like bad-word grenades to name-call people with whom they disagree, without regard to actual definitions.

4. Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter has been incorrectly identified over and over on the right as a 'lefty' and a registered Democrat. He was not a lefty, and not a registered voter. If he was mentally ill, we have no diagnosis of it sufficiently chronologically proximate to the shooting, nor do we know if his mental health had any direct causation on his actions. What we do know is that he seemed to share his mother's ultra-conservative views, and that she was a right wing prepper crackpot, of the variety that believes the rubbish promoted by the likes of Glenn Beck.

5. Jared Loughner -- yup, he was severely mentally ill, and yup, that had a direct causational role in his mass shooting. But no, he was not a lefty, and to refute some of the claims made on the right, he was never a volunteer working for Gabby Giffords. What we do know is that he had some vague left-leaning political notions while he was still sane, but that as he became increasingly erratic and his mental illness worsened, he began to visit extremist conservative crackpot web sites, and the ideas from those right wing websites were repeated in communication to Giffords and the Gifford campaign, and that he appears to have targeted Giffords for rejecting those ideas (or at least, not supporting them).

Some mass shootings ARE political in nature, but those are NOT also mental illness caused attacks. Those mass shootings have been, consistently, by radical right wingers.

From the same article:
Interestingly, Hedgecock and those on the far right have conveniently overlooked a number of cases where ideology is clearly right-wing. The acts below are instances of right-wing violence that are unequivocally committed by people who are openly hostile to liberalism. While this does not mean these killers are Republicans, it is quite clear that they are RIGHT-WINGERS and that they have far more in common with Mr. Hedgecock, Alex Jones and the other gun-toting conspiracy nuts on the right than with any evils associated with the Democratic Party or liberalism. In addition, to the list below is the obvious case of Timothy McVeigh, who I have not included because his crime was not committed with firearms. It was however, committed by a right-winger and the carnage was on a massive scale.

For example, on July 18,84 James Oliver Huberty, who told his wife he hated “children, Mexicans and the United States” opened fire inside the McDonald’s Restaurant in San Ysidro, CA using a Browning P-35 Hi-Power 9mm pistol, Winchester 1200 pump-action 12-gauge shotgun, and an Israeli Military Industries 9mm Carbine (Uzi) – all legally acquired. He killed 21 and injured 19 before he was shot dead by police.

On Aug. 10, 1999 White supremacist Buford O. Furrow, Jr., fired 70 rounds with an Uzi-type submachine-gun inside the lobby of the Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, CA wounding three children, a teenage counselor and an office worker. He then carjacked a woman’s Toyota at gunpoint, dumped it behind a motel and murdered US Postal Worker Joseph Santos with a Glock 9mm handgun.

On July 27, 2008 Former U.S. Army private, Jim David Atkinsson, who hated Democrats, liberals, African Americans and homosexuals, using a Remington Model 48 12-gauge shotgun, murdered two people and injured seven others inside the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN.

The day after Obama’s inauguration, white supremacist Keith Luke went on a killing spree in Brockton, Massachusetts. His goal was to kill as many Jews, blacks and Hispanics as possible. When questioned by investigators, the deranged gunman who had stockpiled hundreds of rounds of ammunition, proclaimed that he was fighting the extinction of the white race.

A little over a month later, Dannie Baker, a former Republican campaign volunteer shot five Chilean immigrants in Florida. Those who knew him said he was obsessed with the fear that illegal immigrants were taking over the country.

In April of 2009, Richard Popalowski, a white supremacist in Pittsburgh, shot and killed three police officers following a domestic disturbance call. He apparently thought that Obama was part of a government conspiracy to seize all guns, and he feared the government would take his guns away.

Later the same month, a Fort Walton Beach Florida man who thought the Obama administration was conspiring against him, shot and murdered two sheriff’s deputies.

On May 31, 2009 Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his own church by a right-wing “pro- life” gun man who decided to express his belief in the sanctity of human life by executing a medical doctor.

Eleven days later a right-wing white supremacist and Holocaust denier walked into the National Holocaust Museum and killed an African-American security guard. Two weeks later, three Neo-Nazis were arrested for bombing a diversity office in Scottsdale, Arizona.

On April 20, 2010 a member of the Sovereign Citizen movement was arrested after a failed attempt to take over a Tennessee county courthouse.

Exactly one month later, in West Memphis Arkansas, Sovereign citizens Jerry and Joe Kane murdered two police officers before they themselves were shot and killed in the ensuing shoot out with police.

On July 18, 2010 Byron Williams, an angry unemployed man, was arrested by police after they discovered a car full of weapons and ammunition that he had planned to use to kill progressives. He was on his way to the non-profit Tides Foundation Center, a favorite target of vitriol from Glenn Beck’s radio show.

On Jan. 8, 2011 22-year old Jared Lee Loughner killed six people, including a judge and a nine-year old child, and wounded 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), using a 9mm Glock 19 pistol during a public meeting in a supermarket parking lot near Tuscon, AZ.

On Aug. 5, 2012 Wade Michael Page, a 40-year old white supremacist and U.S. Army veteran murdered six people and wounded four others inside a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI with a Springfield XD(M) semi-automatic pistol.
We have very real mental health issues in this country that need better funding, and emphatically we need better mental health reporting to the NICS. Those do not negate the need for effective gun control however, to reduce the frequency and carnage of mass shootings. This remains a GUN issue, not a mental health issue. It is imperative we do not let the definition and discussion be altered to equate mass shootings with mental health -- or to let the gun huggers mislabel shooters with false political partisanship either.

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