The Magabomber and the Tree of Life Shooter are Symptoms, Not the Disease
(Note: I was in the process of posting this article on October 27, 2018, when I learned about the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, where 11 people were killed in a clearly anti-Semitic hate crime. In the following article, I predicted that further acts of violence would follow Cesar Sayoc’s attempt to kill Democratic party leaders. It took less than 24 hours.
We must be clear about this. Donald Trump has legitimized hate groups by refusing to reject their support. He has created an environment in which it seems acceptable to attack and murder Jews simply because they are Jews.
In the next few days, we will discover that the shooter, Robert Bowers has been associated with groups that disseminate hate literature aimed at the Jewish people. These groups supported Donald Trump and Donald Trump has accepted their support. There is no longer any room to question whether or not Donald Trump is an anti-Semite. He is an anti-Semite by association and the fact that his daughter is a convert to Judaism, or that he has Jews in his cabinet, doesn’t change that fact.
Now, as a Jew, I believe it has become incumbent on the Jewish people who are currently serving in any capacity in the Trump administration to resign those positions and disassociate themselves from Mr. Trump. In this way, and only in this way, can they adequately atone for their roles in helping Donald Trump to create the fear and division that now exists in the United States.)
Cesar Sayoc, the man now alleged to have been the “angel of retribution” who mailed 13 pipe bombs to Democratic party leaders, is prima facie evidence of what happens when an unhinged president makes repeated, unsubstantiated accusations against public figures and urges his followers to do something about them.
Sayoc is clearly mentally ill on the basis of the background stories about him that are now appearing across the media. That’s going to be the excuse that the reactionary spin masters will now use to distance themselves from responsibility for phenomena like Cesar Sayoc: “Cesar Sayoc is a nutcase. Don’t judge us on the basis of his behavior. “
The more conspiratorial nutcases will attempt to brand Sayoc as a covert left-wing operative who created a right-wing persona for the express purpose of embarrassing President Trump through some subsequent missions on behalf of his covert handlers.
No, seriously. The shit is really getting that deep.
That’s the tone the rhetoric will take. The Republican party and its anointed president will absolutely refuse to accept responsibility for Cesar Sayoc. They will refuse to concede that they — the president, his henchmen and henchwomen, and the entourage of fellow travelers who aid and abet them — have created the atmospheric environment that creates, spawns and triggers such unstable people to do such heinous things as to mail pipe bombs to public figures.
Sayoc will not be the last person to act upon the impulses that Donald Trump has set in motion with his inflammatory rhetoric. Others will follow. We can surmise this from the clearly identified pattern of spree killers spawning further episodes of spree killings, most of them taking place in schools, churches, and other public venues.
Donald Trump is a very smart man. Anyone who doesn’t realize this by now is very, very stupid. He understands exactly what he has been doing by inflaming his followers against his political adversaries. What he does not understand is that he doesn’t have the power to calm down the people he has inebriated with his rhetoric.
There are technical reasons for this related to what happens when you take a population of mild to moderately depressed people — which is an apt description for the kinds of people who fall under the sways of demagogues — and feed them inflammatory incitements while giving them the impression that they are part of a righteous movement. They quite literally get high off the association with the political movement and, like anything else you get high on, it’s highly addictive.
Happy people do not join movements of any kind. (They also do not get addicted to things as a general rule.) They are too busy being happy to waste their time joining movements.
Depressed, angry, frightened people join movements. This is one of the reasons that the liberals are going to be incapable of reversing the psychological damage that Trump and others of his ilk have inflicted upon society.
Liberals were generally optimistic people. Wanting to change things indicates a belief in the ability to change things, which is an optimistic point of view. They have been getting more and more depressed since Trump took office.
Conservatives are generally more pessimistic than liberals are. This may no longer be true, because liberals are becoming as depressive as conservatives. Conservatives want to keep things the way they are, or roll the country back to some previous social milieu where they believe they would have been happier and less afraid of the future.
The weapon of choice for this class warfare is the internet. The internet is a feedback machine. It concentrates impressions of civilization generated by millions of people, and feeds the concentrated impressions back to the same people who are generating those impressions. It amplifies everything, but it excels at amplifying negativity. What is, isn’t news, which means that the current status quo doesn’t generate clicks. Therefore, the internet gravitates toward the sensational.
Example: Every time there’s a hurricane, all we see are the shattered buildings. What we are not shown are the blocks and blocks of buildings that suffered little or no damage because a building that hasn’t been damaged doesn’t generate clicks.
It’s all about generating clicks.
Everyone is afraid, today. We are afraid of each other, which means that we are afraid of ourselves, because the emotions we attach to others are projections of the emotions we feel about ourselves.
The internet feedback machine amplifies statements that create fear and the people who are using the internet feedback machine to control us are themselves terrified of the monster they have let loose among us.
There used to be a filtration system that filtered out content that was injurious to our collective mental stability. The filtration system consisted of the editors and publishers of books and periodicals who had, first of all, strong moral compasses based on specific philosophie and, secondly, a sincere dedication to increasing circulation and improving profits. Within that context, there was room for a wide diversity of opinions, but there was also a felt, collective responsibility to tell the truth and maintain civility…most of the time.
Then, a curious thing happened. As the number of information outlets increased, the civilizing function of the editorial funnel was circumvented. Anyone — regardless of credentials, status, mental health, or evil political agendas — could jump into the public conversation, find an audience, and make money doing it, hence the proliferation of fact-less, biased and inflammatory public conversations.
The results are people like Cesar Sayoc, who are unstable to begin with, and who are therefore susceptible to bizarre ideations, such as the belief that killing a dozen political figureheads would have the desired effect of killing the ideas those people represent.
There’s an old saying, “When you see one cockroach, you can assume that there are others around the house.”
Far from being a cautionary tale that will dissuade others from following in Cesar Sayoc’s footsteps, it is inevitable that others will follow in his footsteps and, eventually, one or more of them will be successful with their “infernal machines”
The Republican echo machine has been hard at work, attempting to spin Cesar Sayoc’s bomb run as a “false flag” tactic employed by the “liberals” to support their allegations that Donald Trump is creating a dangerous and unstable social environment in the United States.”
The Republican mouthpieces have been repeating this slander. They have been telling themselves and each other that Republicans don’t do this kind of thing, conveniently forgetting things like Oklahoma City where Timothy McVeigh demonstrated that right wing nut jobs are fully capable of heinous acts.
The FBI did a curious thing when they apprehended Cesar Sayoc. When they impounded what we believe to be his vehicle — a white window van — they covered the van with a tarpaulin in a vain attempt (pictures of the van had already been posted on the internet) to hide the Republican stickers all over the van…because they did not want the public to see evidence of the right-wing leanings of the suspect they had just apprehended.
We’ve all seen pictures of vehicles that were associated with crimes being towed away. Have we ever seen those vehicles covered with a tarpaulin before? It would be interesting to backtrack that order to find out where it originated, because it was definitely an attempt to obfuscate the political motivations of the suspect.
If you don’t think this is ever going to happen again, you should join The Optimists. As a confirmed pessimist, I believe that it is inevitable, and I suspect that there are unhinged people on the left who are just as likely to do something like this as there are on the right.
There’s a reason that we envelop our industrial titans — as well as our political leaders — with multiple layers of insulation from the public. Our political leaders all know that they are targets and so do our corporate elite. That’s why they live on enormous, heavily protected estates, fly in private jets, travel in armored vehicles, and party on billion dollar yachts.
The political contest between the Democratic and the Republican parties has always been portrayed as a David and Goliath struggle in which each side portrays themselves as Davids and the other guys as Goliaths. The Democrats have positioned themselves as the party of the people. The Republicans have positioned themselves as the liberty lobby, by which they mean reduced taxation and reduced regulation.
As long as the people believed that at least one party was on their side, there was some reason to hope for a civil society. Now that it has become increasingly apparent that the Democratic and Republican parties are basically the two wings of the same party — and that there is no party capable of taking power that actually represents the will of the people — insurrection becomes inevitable.
This will not be the patrician-led, middle class revolution of 1776. It will be the chaotic, blood-thirsty class warfare of the French Revolution of 1789 and, just like the French, we are now heading toward class warfare that, like the French Revolution, will almost inevitable result in a military dictatorship, as the French Revolution did when Napoleon seized power from the collapsing revolution
That class warfare has already begun. The repeated, unwarranted shootings of people of color by police officers — almost none of whom are ever punished for their crimes — are not simply about racism. That’s the easy answer. The truth is that the black people who are being murdered are representative of the under-class that police officers are employed to protect society against. Because they are black or Latino or Asian or Middle Eastern, they are more clearly identifiable than a white person who happens to be a member of the under-class, and are therefore assumed to suspect. Are there unwarranted shootings of white people? Of course, there are. How many of them are upper class citizens?
The political battle will be fought over Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social welfare programs favored by the left, and tax cuts, increased military spending, and privatization schemes on the right. These two sets of policies are inimical to each other: We can’t have both.
Here is what’s going to happen. (Please note: I am predicting not promoting these events)
As the debates over “entitlements’ versus “personal responsibility” reaches a fever pitch, senators and congressmen will be assassinated to take them off the board. Governors are next on the list, because they have the power to appoint replacements for the assassinated legislators. Supreme Court justices are next on the shopping list. If you don’t like the Justices that are sitting on the court now, taking them off the board creates opportunities for new appointments….
Yes, this could be the future we are sliding toward. We are also sliding toward increasingly militarized civilian police forces, and the use of federal troops in domestic squabbles. Increased repression always generates increased resistance.
Can we avoid this dystopian future? George Orwell didn’t think so. Aldous Huxley didn’t think so. Sinclair Lewis didn’t think so. Ray Bradbury didn’t think so. Robert Heinlein didn’t think so. Even Ayn Rand concurred, although you have to dig deep to find that message in her writing. These people thought seriously about the future and didn’t like what they saw coming.
The world we are living in today is so close to the worlds that Orwell and Huxley predicted that it is almost as if we were following their game plans.
Thomas Jefferson once famously wrote that, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
Unfortunately, he wasn’t simply predicting this. He was inviting it to happen. He expected new revolutions every twenty years or so. Jefferson wasn’t a really a small-r republican. He was an anarchist, and those who worship his memory are worshipping an anarchist every bit as inimical to the status quo as Tom Paine was.
Blood has already been spilled in this upcoming civil war. More blood will be spilled before we regain our equilibrium, if we ever do.
(Postscript: While more information is now available about the bomber and the shooter, I have chosen to publish this story as it was originally written. I have also chosen not to insert the likenesses of the accused on the grounds that I do not believe we should give them that kind of visibility.)