Indoctrinating and radicalizing mass murderers
By Mark Alexander
After three decades of researching the pathology of mass shooters, I'm convinced that four primary factors are almost universally associated with these murderers: a sociopathic predisposition; a history of violent media saturation that indoctrinates and desensitizes them; an opening to be self- or group-radicalized within an echo chamber of ideological influencers; and the means and opportunity to commit a mass attack. Most of the political and media focus has, predictably, been on the fourth factor — removing the means and opportunity. But this ignores the urgency and the systemic nature of the first three factors — the cultural factors.
More on these cultural factors after a brief summary of the two most recent attacks and the political response.
The mass murders in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, should concern all Americans. But our concern should be tempered by the reality that such attacks, while evoking highly emotive responses, are extremely rare in a country of 330 million people. Fortunately, they represent just a tiny fraction of our nation's violent crime.
According to the FBI's uniform crime reports on violent crime in 2018, the incidence of murder is declining, as are most other categories of crime. However, the public perception is that violent crime is on the rise and that "mass murders" are an almost daily occurrence. That perception is the result of the commercial wall-to-wall mass-media replays of sensational tragedies.
The FBI defines "mass murder" as four or more victims killed by one assailant. But what about "mass shootings" — incidences of violence in which four or more people are shot but not necessarily killed? This, after all, is the term that leftist politicians and their media enablers are focused on.
As a percentage of all mass attacks, so few involve semiautomatic rifles, or what the Left collectively and incorrectly refers to as "assault weapons," that the FBI doesn't even categorize it.
And despite MSM assertions to the contrary, in the 2019 mass shootings thus far, the majority of assailants are not white. In fact, 37 were black, 21 were white, and 14 were Latino or of other ethnic groups.
Of course, in cases of mass mayhem, the weapons are not always firearms. Last weekend, a Latino gang member in Los Angeles murdered four people with a knife — a "mass knifing" that received little media attention. Also last weekend, the FBI arrested a sociopath in Las Vegas who was in possession of bomb-making materials and preparing for attacks. (Notably, the most devastating mass murder at a school — the Bath, Michigan, attack that killed 38 elementary schoolchildren and six adults and injured 60 others — did not involve a firearm, but a bomb.)
These rare and terrible high-profile assaults notwithstanding, the vast majority of murders and other violent crimes are gang- and drug-related, and they occur primarily in Democrat-controlled urban centers across our nation. If you're not associated with gangs or drugs, your chances of being murdered in the U.S. are in line with those in Western European nations, where firearm possession is highly restricted.
Regarding the two most recent mass murders, the El Paso attack was committed by a racist sociopath, which predictably inspired "dog whistle" Democrats and their Leftmedia propagandists to immediately blame Donald Trump and claim that his political rhetoric inspires mass murder. Leftists have been working overtime to cast Trump as a "racist," most recently in reference to his disputes with Demo race-baiters Elijah Cummings and the congressional Gang of Four.
As political analyst Dennis Prager notes, America is awash in "the Left's lies about Trump." Of course, the Democrat political platform is built on fomenting fear, anger, and division among its constituents.
As for the El Paso murderer, he was arrested by police and now faces the death penalty. But we can be certain that the race-hustling Demo gun confiscators will be fundraising on the bodies of his victims through the 2020 election.
On the other hand, the Dayton attack was committed by a leftist sociopath supporter of Elizabeth Warren and the "antifa movement" of self-styled anti-fascists fascists, but the Leftmedia has been strangely silent about his political affinity.
Unlike the Democrats' politicization of the El Paso attack, Republicans haven't been fundraising on the Dayton assailant's political affiliation. But as House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, who was critically wounded during an attempted mass murder of congressional Republicans by a Bernie Sanders supporter, rightly declared, "The president is no more responsible for that shooting as your next guest, Bernie Sanders, is for my shooting. The shooter is responsible."
Fortunately, the Dayton assailant was killed by a good guy with a gun.
As a result, conservatives are doing what they should do: focusing on the cultural issues in an effort to protect Liberty and the American people from the whole spectrum of sociopathic killers, from rare mass murderers to the far more prevalent gang- and drug-related assailants.
Meanwhile, leftists are doing what they always do: using mass assaults as political fodder for their fundraising and for their incremental "boil the frog" strategic objective to deconstruct and repeal the Second Amendment followed by firearms confiscation.
For his part, President Trump called on Congress to review measures that would, ostensibly, help prevent violent crimes. Unfortunately, criminals, by definition, don't obey the law.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded, "The president called on Congress to work in a bipartisan, bicameral way to address the recent mass murders which have shaken our nation. Senate Republicans are prepared to do our part."
The second area of consideration is implementation of some form of so-called "red flag" protocols and mandates to identify individuals considered "high risk" for assaulting others. But there are serious flaws associated with red-flagging individuals. In the El Paso case, the assailant's mother alerted police to her concerns, but no action was taken. (This is sadly similar to the dozens of early warnings local authorities had about the Parkland (Florida) High School perpetrator.)
There will, of course, also be calls for another "assault-weapons ban" similar to what Bill Clinton's Democrats passed in 1994 — with dubious results. Even The New York Times editorial board notes it is too late to pass such a ban and Democrats should "deal with the world as it is."
What both assailants, and almost all other murderers regardless of the number of victims, have in common is this: They are sociopaths and disregard the law.
A sociopath, or person with antisocial personality disorder, is broadly defined as a person who has a pathological lack of conscience and empathy for others, which manifests in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and can result in violent actions against others.
So what causes their pathology to manifest in horrific instances of mass murder?
Many mass assailants come from broken and dysfunctional families, are isolated from others, have been treated for psychiatric issues, and have a history of fantasy saturation with media violence.
It is this latter factor that I believe is a primary influencer of those committing mass assaults — and the influencer that the Left most aggressively denies.
In 2006, I penned a condemnation of the Left Coast's "entertainment" industry. Under the title "Entertainment as Indoctrination: Garbage In — Garbage Out," I noted, "Young people who do not have the sturdy character foundation that only time and good parenting can provide are at very high risk of political, cultural, and environmental indoctrination through entertainment media. This is even more troubling given the increased saturation of young minds with imagery of unmitigated violence."
Last year, responding to the Left's political theatrics after the Parkland murders, in my column "Violence Is a Culture Problem, Not a 'Gun Problem,'" I noted, "Until Democrats reverse their statist policies that have devastated American families and communities, violence will continue to rule the day." Indeed, as political analyst Ethan Epstein notes, based on the number of murders committed without a firearm, "The United States would still have a higher murder rate than more than 70 other countries."
Addressing the root causation of many sociopathic predispositions — disintegrating families and the resulting trend of cultural devolution, —has far-reaching implications that, if not addressed, threaten the very foundation of Liberty. The most significant cultural degradation is the result of leftist secularization, as columnist Thane Bellomo points out: "We killed God, family, and community — and now it's killing us."
The Left has built its political fortunes on that harmful disintegration, while conservatives are invested in restoring the basic tenets of family, faith, and freedom, which have made America great.
Again, let me reiterate the four factors I believe are common to most mass killers: a sociopathic predisposition; a history of violent media saturation that indoctrinates and desensitizes them; an opening to be self- or group-radicalized within an echo chamber of ideological influencers; and the means and opportunity to commit a mass attack.
It is the second of these factors, violent media saturation, that requires far more attention — and neither conservatives nor liberals are taking on the massive entertainment complex responsible for it.
It is patently ludicrous to insist that saturating sociopaths with endless hours of violent "entertainment" and video-game "fantasy violence" does not influence their behavior. Idolizing violence desensitizes the emotionally unstable individual's sense of right and wrong. There is also peer-reviewed research finding that "exposure to gun violence in the mass media" desensitizes young people to the danger of firearms and increases the chance they will use one.
For the record, media advertisers spend billions of dollars on 15-second TV ads and clickbait online ad images to influence those who view them. The entire commercial mainstream-media industry is funded by brief glimpses of ads designed to influence the behavior of those viewing the ad, so to argue that saturating a sociopath's mind with violent images has no negative effect is absurd.
Further, the entertainment and gaming industry already utilizes content rating systems and age restrictions — a tacit admission that content does influence its consumers and thus should only be viewed by an appropriate audience. Thus, the purveyors of this harmful content are already on record in agreement that certain content is inappropriate for certain groups.
So how can they argue such content is not a contributing factor when sociopathic consumers of their violent content who are desensitized to such violence act on what amounts to entertainment indoctrination?
Anecdotally, firearms availability and ownership was as prolific 50 years ago as it is today. What was not prolific 50 years ago was mass media saturation of violent content on an epidemic scale.
Notably last week, in the wake of the El Paso and Dayton attacks, Comcast/Universal Pictures postponed the release of "The Hunt," billed as a "satirical horror film" based on a group of wealthy elites who capture and then release "deplorables" in order to hunt them. While the film ultimately condemns these twisted "hunters," the postponement is indicative of the concern about what it might trigger in a sociopathic viewer. And that indication is tantamount to an admission that violent media can move an unstable consumer to commit violence.
Finally, Elizabeth Warren has taken the position that gun manufacturers should be held liable for how an individual consumer uses their products. This is like suggesting a car manufacturer is responsible for manslaughter associated with reckless or drunk driving or blaming Ben & Jerry's for the obesity and heart disease associated with consuming too much ice cream. Warren should go after spoon and fork manufacturers for how consumers use their products.
But the notion of holding media producers liable for influencing and indoctrinating consumers with unmitigated violence is a very different standard for liability, and conservatives should counter the "gun problem" leftists with congressional hearings and significant legislation regarding liability for violent indoctrination. Ironically, the argument leftists make against restricting violent content is constitutionally using the First Amendment, while ever endeavoring to undermine the Second Amendment.
Mark Alexander is the executive editor of the Patriot Post.