Wednesday, May 23, 2018


A young Atlantic writer named Elaina Plott informs us that the conversation on guns has changed after the Santa Fe massacre:
In the wake of mass shootings in America, Republicans and Democrats migrate to their respective marks as though urged on by a stage director. They read from their respective scripts, Democrats amping up their calls for gun control and Republicans stressing the need for more effective mental health care.

Friday’s mass shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, in which a teenager murdered 10 people at Santa Fe High School, appeared to represent a break in that script.
I'm ignoring the bothsiderism of that lede and focusing on the assertion that the usual GOP "script" after a mass shooting consists exclusively of Republicans talking about mental health. That strikes me as an oversimplification, to put it mildly. But go on, Elaina. Tell us what's different now.
Conservative pundits and lawmakers alike have floated several different reasons behind the shooting, from trench coats to the school’s excess of doors to ADHD medication. The array of diagnoses suggests a couple of things: one, that Republicans remain steadfastly unwilling to consider the merits of gun control, even as the number of mass shootings steadily climbs; and two, that as many Americans demand a more immediate response to gun violence from Washington, Republicans feel pressured to reach for new causes, however incongruous they may seem.
What? Republicans are "reaching for new causes" (or alleged causes) for school shootings? And these "new" scapegoats include trench coats and prescription drugs?

Yes, that's what Plott is saying -- Republicans have never talked this way before.
National Rifle Association president Oliver North offered [a] potential cause: Ritalin. In an interview with Fox News Sunday, North said with regard to mass shootings, “We’re trying like the dickens to treat the symptom without treating the disease.” He said that American youth are “steeped in a culture of violence,” and ADHD medication exacerbates that violent culture, he argued....
Elaina, have you been paying attention? Republicans have been blaming school shootings on prescription drugs at least since Sandy Hook. Here's Jerome Corsi with a 2012 World Net Daily articled titled "Psych Meds Linked to 90% of School Shootings." Tennessee congresswoman (and possible future U.S. senator) Marsha Blackburn blamed Sandy Hook on meds in a CNN interview a month later. In 2015, GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry suggested that meds led Dylann Roof to kill nine people in Charleston, South Carolina.
Conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt suggested that teachers stay vigilant about identifying “the creepy people” in their schools. What’s Hewitt’s tell-tale sign for a “creepy” person? Trench coats. “To the teachers and administrators out there, the trench coat is kind of a giveaway,” Hewitt said on his popular talk-radio show on Monday. “You might just say, ‘No more trench coats.’ The creepy people, make a list, check it twice.”
Plott treats this as a new idea. She makes no mention of the fact that trench coats were (erroneously) scapegoated after the 1999 Columbine massacre; many kids at the time were subject to trench coat bans in schools.
And then there was Texas Senator John Cornyn, who tweeted a Wall Street Journal story about the killer—highlighting the father’s quote that his son was “a good boy” who had been “mistreated at school.” After a barrage of angry replies, Cornyn attempted to clarify the tweet: “Not sending a message, crediting claim, or excusing murder,” Cornyn wrote. “Just noting the fact he said it. That is what news does.”
Bullying? Does Plott really believe no one's ever blamed school shootings on bullying before? That Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were bullied was one of the most persistent myths about Columbine.

Plott writes, in horror:
Perhaps the most notable aspect of these responses, taken together, is that they didn’t come from fringe figures. Cornyn is the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, for example, while Hewitt has long been one of the right’s most prolific commentators.
Yes, it's shocking! No Republican senator in the past ever engaged in this kind of blame-shifting!

Um, well, maybe Senator Jeff Sessions did after Columbine when he said this about school shooters on the Senate Floor, in his capacity as chairman the Senate Judiciary Committee' Subcommittee on Youth Violence:
They are able to hook into the Internet and play video games that are extraordinarily violent, that cause the blood pressure to rise and the adrenaline level to go up, games that cause people to be killed and the players to die themselves. It is a very intense experience. They are able to get into Internet chat rooms and, if there are no nuts or people of the same mentality in their hometown, hook up with people around the country. They are able to rent from the video store ― not just go down and see “Natural Born Killers” or “The Basketball Diaries” ― but they are able to bring it home and watch it repeatedly. In this case, even maybe make their own violent film. Many have said this murder was very much akin to “The Basketball Diaries,” in which a student goes in and shoots others in the classroom. I have seen a video of that, and many others may have.

In music, there is Marilyn Manson, an individual who chooses the name of a mass murderer as part of his name. The lyrics of his music are consistent with his choice of name. They are violent and nihilistic, and there are groups all over the world who do this, some German groups and others. I guess what I am saying is, a person already troubled in this modern high-tech world can be in their car and hear the music, they can be in their room and see the video, they can go into the chat rooms and act out these video games and even take it to real life. Something there is very much of a problem.
Plott writes that this strange and unprecedented wave of GOP scapegoating is something that "even fellow Republicans find unnerving." But the only Republicans she can find who are upset are strategist Steve Schmidt and former RNC chair Michael Steele, both of whom are persona non grata in the contemporary Republican Party. (Both, however, were in good standing when Republicans first began this sort of blame-shifting.)


I'll tell you a little bit about Plott. She's young. She was a William F. Buckley Fellow at National Review. Before signing on with The Atlantic, she wrote for Washingtonian, where one of her pieces was titled "I Was a Teenage Ann Coulter Fangirl!" In it, Plott talks about her excitement at seeing a Coulter appearance at Yale -- and then a sense of letdown a couple of years later when Coulter began promoting Donald Trump.
Idols lose their luster, and at some point we grow up and the curtain is jerked back and we wonder whether they changed or we did. What I mean to say is that Ann Coulter was once inextricably tied to my vision of conservatism and the Republican Party. And when those two institutions broke down this year, with the advent of a nominee who seems devoted to neither, I was jarred to see Coulter proudly tout her role in the crackup.

... I don’t have a great answer as to what changed my mind. Though I can remember every detail of times I’ve listened to and watched Coulter in the last several years—sitting on the couch watching Fox News after school, staring up at her behind a podium in that college auditorium—I don’t have the faintest idea of what she said. It was never about what she said, after all. It was about the hair, the dresses, the rhetorical shutdowns. But when there’s a Republican presidential nominee amplifying her words, and to such frightening influence, those gaps in memory vex me. Did I really just never listen?
If, in Plott's fangirl years, it never occurred to her that Coulter was a hatemongering rabble-rouser -- if that never dawned on her until the Trump campaign -- then I guess she wasn't listening, just as she hasn't been listening all these years as her party-mates blamed mass shootings on everything except guns.

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