How do you get ordinary people so crazy they start killing each other?
How do you turn simple, quiet young men into mass murderers?
You convince them that someone is jumping ahead of them in the line.
Capitalism is an aggressive and predatory method of distributing goods and services. “It’s the most efficient economic system,” its supporters say. And that’s true, if you don’t consider the costs of human pain and suffering or the mess that it makes that the rest of us have to clean up. Capitalism is driven by immediate, short-term profits. A capitalist makes more money if he can pay his workers less than his competitors and if he doesn’t have to worry about environmental regulations. If a worker asks for more money, the capitalist will say they could get a woman or a person of color to do the job for less, or they might say they could move the plant to Mexico or China.
The capitalist is clever. Instead of the worker fighting the capitalist, the worker is convinced to fight other workers. Blacks are a threat to his job. Women are a threat to his job. Foreigners are a threat to his job. He has to do whatever it takes to protect his white male privilege. He’s got to make sure that no one steps in front of him in the line.
But what if you can’t find the line? What if you’re confused about where the line starts or what’s at the end of it, and all the time you see other people moving ahead in the line: black people, women, immigrants? “You have to be the hero.” “You have to stop the train.” “Everybody is getting on the train except you.” “People who don’t deserve it.”
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“This has to stop.”
Supposedly, Dylann Storm Roof, as he was murdering nine black people in Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, said, “You are raping our women and taking over the country.”
A website owned by Dylann Roof shows him posing with weapons, waving a Confederate flag and visiting Southern historic sites and Confederate soldiers’ graves. He says: “I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is the most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”
Dylann Roof’s action was deliberate and it was political. It was a terrorist act meant to reassert white male privilege and to intimidate black, women and immigrant workers.
Dylann Roof didn’t fit in. He couldn’t find a way to make meaning out of his life. He couldn’t find a job. His profile is like that of almost every other white male mass murderer.
Jared Lee Loughner was suspended from college and lost his job walking dogs. He had often said that women should not hold positions of power. On Jan. 8, 2011, he shot and injured 13 people (including Congresswoman Kathy Gifford, his intended victim) and killed six others. She was getting ahead of him in the line.
In Norway, Anders Breivik had failed in two businesses and had no declared income in 2009. He blamed socialists and their multiculturalism for his failures. In June of 2011 he blew up a government building killing eight people and then went to a socialist youth camp and killed 69 children. It was a terrorist act meant to intimidate the left and cultural minorities. They were getting ahead of him in the line.
James Eagan Holmes flunked out of a Ph.D. program in neuroscience at the Univeristy of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. His grant was cut off in June. On Jul
Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. They were getting ahead of him in the line.
An event happened in North Charleston earlier this year that first angered blacks and then enraged white racists. On April 4, North Charleston white police officer Michael Slager stopped black Walter Scott for a faulty taillight. They fought. Scott ran away. Slager fired eight shots at him. Scott was hit three times in the back and one bullet pierced his heart. In his police report Slager lied and said they were struggling and Scott took his taser. But someone had recorded it on their phone, and it was clear that the officer had shot Scott in the back as he was running away. Officer Slager was indicted for murder, and white racists were furious.
Reverend Clementa Pinckney of Mother Emanuel Church helped lead efforts by Black Lives Matter to get justice in the killing of Walter Scott. As a state senator, Clementa Pinckney had publicly campaigned for police officers to wear body cameras.
When Dylann Roof entered Emanuel AME Church on June 17, he asked where Reverend Pinckney was, and he sat down next to him. Pinckney and his people had been getting in front of him in the line. It was time to push those people back and reassert white male privilege.
Where did Dylann Roof get his ideas? Most directly, he admits on his website, he was educated by the Council of Conservative Citizens, a direct descendant of the White Citizens Councils that formed in reaction to the Brown v Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court to integrate schools in 1954: “We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called ‘affirmative action’ and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.”
Charles and David Koch have given over $100 million to right-wing advocacy groups. They raised more than $400 million in the 2011–2012 election cycle. They will probably spend a billion dollars supporting right-wing Republican candidates in the 2016 cycle.
Marco Rubio is one of their favorite candidates. In a speech to Congress on Dec. 16, 2011, Rubio defined the American Dream: “We have never been a nation of haves and have-nots. We are a nation of haves and soon-to-haves, of people who have made it and people who will make it. And that’s who we need to remain.”
The American Dream is a dangerous delusion. Your odds on winning the lottery are one in 175 million, and, unless you’re born with money, your odds are about the same for striking it rich with a new business. The system is rigged, and the rich keep it rigged with tax breaks for themselves and more taxes for us. But the pressure to make it, to succeed in America, is so great for young white males that when they realize they are not going to make it, they can go berserk.
There have been twice as many deaths from white male, right-wing terrorists than there have been from Islamic terrorists since 9/11, and, yet, we’ll spend more than $3 trillion in 2015 fighting Islamic terrorism but hardly anything on counseling young men how to adjust to a highly competitive and aggressive capitalist society. Young white males going crazy and killing people is the price we will pay for that indifference.
Bob Dylan summed it up more than 50 years ago. It’s a shame Dylann Roof never got the news:
A South politician preaches to the poor white man
“You got more than blacks, don’t complain
You’re better than them, you been born with white skin” they explain
And the Negro’s name
Is used it is plain
For the politician’s gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.