Friday, February 13, 2015


On Twitter yesterday, David Waldman posted a grim joke about Craig Stephen Hicks, the man charged with three murders in Chapel Hill this week:

It was appropriate for Waldman to repurpose dialogue from George Zimmerman's famous 911 call on the night he killed Trayvon Martin, because, as The New York Times and The Washington Post tell us, Hicks had a Zimmermanesque vigilante self-image:

From the Times:
Neighbors knew Craig Stephen Hicks. He was the angry man on Summerwalk Circle, they said -- irritated about noise, irascible about parking, hostile to religion. And armed.

Mr. Hicks was such a disruptive presence in the Finley Forest condominium complex that last year, residents held a meeting to talk about him....

“I have seen and heard him be very unfriendly to a lot of people in this community,” said Samantha Maness, a resident of the complex. She said that Mr. Hicks had displayed “equal opportunity anger” and that “he kind of made everyone feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”

Ms. Maness said Mr. Hicks would often seek to have cars towed from the complex’s lot, either because they did not have stickers or because he did not recognize them. And she said he would complain about noise -- he was upset when she and her friends were playing a card game and he thought they were too noisy, and he was again upset when she pulled into the lot with music playing loudly in her car.
He became angry not only when other neighbors parked in ways he didn't like but when this woman and her friends violated his personal noise standards while playing cards -- just as, according to Amina Ata, a friend of the murder victims, he became upset when they were animated while playing Risk.

And he seemed compelled to police everything he saw, like Zimmerman:
The Chapel Hill police released a report about a 2013 incident in which he apparently called them to complain that someone had allegedly grabbed a tow-truck driver’s arm while he was trying to tow a car. And just last month, he wrote on Facebook that he had called the police because he saw a couple having sex in a car in the parking lot.
He had a favorite movie, as the Post notes:
His ex-wife, Cynthia Hurley, who divorced Hicks about 17 years ago, said his favorite film was “Falling Down,” in which a disgruntled and unemployed defense industry worker played by Michael Douglas goes on a shooting rampage.

“That always freaked me out,” Hurley told the Associated Press. “He watched it incessantly. He thought it was hilarious. He had no compassion at all.”

In both stories, we're told that Hicks was an equal-opportunity antagonist. And yes, it seems clear that he menaced people of more than race or creed. But as we see from Zimmerman, when you think everyone in the world apart from yourself is a potential miscreant, people of certain groups can seem more, um, miscreant-y than others, and their membership in a suspect group becomes one more crime against your personal moral code. In the case of Hicks, spoiling his complicated vision of platonically ideal parking in his neighborhood counted as one violation; making noise counted as another. And if your wife and her sister and friends wore hijabs? I guess that raised what these poor kids did to a capital offense. It must have been like Zimmerman seeing a hoodie.

Hicks was a gun nut, and all of this reveals a huge problem with the gun nuts' worldview. The gunners want you to believe that they're armed for self-defense, or for defense of a commonly agreed-upon notion of the community. But too many gun owners decide that they're the ones who get to decide what community values are and what crimes are. They're like anti-vaxxers: They don't care what professionals or people with expert knowledge think, and they don't care what the rest of the community thinks; they're going to make unilateral decisions, and to hell with what impact this has on the community. Sorry, but you can't trust people who think that way with the power of life and death over others.


mlbxxxxxx said...

You often hear gunlovers say things like "everybody'd be more polite if we were all armed." That's not civility, that's intimidation. In other words, they advocate using guns to intimidate others into conformity. Intimidation is a slippery slope and pretty soon you're killing people over parking spaces.

Glennis said...

There don't seem to be many details about this crime in the news, but apparently he confronted the three inside their own home and shot them there. That takes a special kind of entitlement.

Very sad story all around.

Victor said...

Even we Agnostics and Atheists aren't immune from murderous gun-nuttery.

This ammosexual, homicidal, terrorist dick taints every non-believer!

Yes, I think it was hate crime, and an act of terror.

Ten Bears said...

Again with the "atheist" dog-whistle. Nothing but "hostile to religion" in an otherwise as usual excellent post yet there it is in the headline, "angry atheist", a dog-whistle to the christian reich.

No fear. Contempt, but no fear.

Steve M. said...

I'm an atheist. I just have no patience for atheists who think atheists have cornered the market on morality, and I have no patience for anyone who uses atheism as an excuse for targeted anti-Muslim bigotry that complements the wingnuts' Muslim demonization.

Curt Purcell said...

I hope most atheists don't think they've "cornered the market on morality." There are a lot of cases where religion compels otherwise good people to hold repugnant views that can lead to immoral behavior, and I think it's fair and warranted to say that at least atheists are free of that corrupting influence.

I completely agree with you, though, about the anti-Muslim bigotry. My first exposure to Hitchens was as an Iraq-invasion cheerleader, so I've always kind of despised him and never looked to him as any kind of atheist role model. When Sam Harris emerged on the scene with END OF FAITH, I was shocked at some of the horrible stuff he advocated, and ripped him for it in my Amazon review. As for Dawkins, I'm just sad at some of his stumbles over the past few years on any number of topics.

Ten Bears said...

I have long been disturbed by the publicity. Those people don't speak for me. This isn't a club. It's not a faturnity, or an organization, political party or religion. It's what the word means: no-religion. No "book", no dogma. These scribblings leave the theists cover to suggest othetwise.

At issue Steve, with all due respect, is We are already dispised more than even the Muslims. Hell's Belles, they can get elected. If the mainstream narrative is to paint atheists with the same broad brush as Muslim extremists, to foster and enflame hatred upon yet another "other", then ongoing reference to his alleged atheism, or "New Atheism", as the case may be, serves as a dog; whistle, it plays into "their" narrative.

I'm an Old Atheist. Atheist when atheism wasn't cool. Dispise them all with equal aplomb. And it's nobody's god-damned business but my own.

Ten Bears said...

On March 29, 2009 I wrote [somewhat updated for timeliness]:

Unknown said...

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

It's time to take the 2d Amendment back. I constantly read and hear folks say they have the right to bear arms to protect themselves. It's pretty clear that the Amendment is addressing a corporate right to self defense against aggressors, not a right to have a concealed carry permit because someone might rob the local 7-11.