It is terribly important whenever an atrocity occurs to scour the internet for information — however specious — that proves you were right all along about something. It is best to do this before the authorities have made their official statements about the outrage, but also while they are doing it and afterwards. But speed is of the essence — if you can do it while people are still bleeding to death, so much the better.
And so it was with the Las Vegas shooting. There was palpable disappointment expressed online by right-wing people at the apparently incontestable fact that the perpetrator was white. Not a Muslim at all. (Although some right-wingers do subscribe to the notion that Stephen Paddock was photoshopped, or something, by the CIA. Or the FBI. Whatever.)
The left, meanwhile, found it difficult to control its delight. Not just whitey, but well-off whitey, an accountant, a handmaiden of the capitalist system. Humorous memes began to circulate on social media sites — perhaps all accountants should be treated as potential mass murderers, ha ha ha. Because that’s what you do to Muslims, isn’t it? Treat them all as suspects.
The skin colour of Mr Stephen Paddock placed the ball firmly in the left’s court and before the blood had dried on the festival field, the BBC was giving out all the details it never gives out when the perpetrator is Islamic — and also lecturing the nation sententiously about the USA’s stupid gun laws. Its reporters were puffed up with happy self-righteousness. The connections between cause and effect, which they never make when it’s an Islamic atrocity, were spelled out very clearly, along with the requisite digs at the President. Gun control and being nice to Muslims are left-wing concerns, and they were indulged to the full.
The right sulked for a bit, but not for too long. It started tapping away, feverishly, at its laptop. Paddock had sprayed his machine gun at people enjoying a country music festival, and people who enjoy country music are usually conservative. (Tell that to Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Billy Ray Cyrus etc.) And in a right-wing city — Las Vegas. So rather slender straws had suddenly appeared, and were eagerly grasped at. A photo purporting to be of Paddock attending an anti-Trump rally emerged, and, crucially his T-shirt was pink and he was wearing one of those vagina hats popularised by the demented left to show solidarity with people who have vaginas, i.e. largely women but also men who have had their todgers lopped off and replaced with vague but accommodating cavities. Hats which actually don’t look anything like vaginas, or at least not like any of the vaginas I’ve ever encountered.
Further, a rumour emerged from somewhere that the police had discovered Antifa literature in Paddock’s hotel room. Aha! Antifa is the agglomeration of truly unpleasant leftie SJWs who turn up to visit violence when someone they disagree with — which means almost everyone — is speaking at an event. So it would seem that this was perhaps a fundamentalist left-wing attack upon normal US citizens and patriots. And the ball was now back down at the other end of the court.
The BBC didn’t mention any of this latter stuff, not a word. It kept schtum. Perhaps rightly. Although this sensible refusal to speculate didn’t stop the corporation banging on about gun control and smacking Trump around the head.
Were we always like this? With this desperate desire to be proved completely right about everything, immediately, no grey areas, no room for discussion or nuance or anomaly? And when we can’t quite find the evidence to support our point of view, willing to fabricate it, or to buy into a patently ludicrous fabrication because it suits our political opinions?
I don’t remember us having been like this for ever. I suppose it is something to do with the internet, and perhaps 24-hour news — but especially the internet. Whereas before, when something of import occurred in the world we were left to ponder and gradually form our opinions as information trickled out over the space of several days, now everything is instantaneous. Something happens, and our first recourse is to seek out corroborating evidence to support our prejudices and to stick to them, no matter how absurd it might seem to everybody else.
The internet was intended to be empowering and enfranchising, allowing us to participate in the stuff of society and of governance. But when horrible or momentous events occur we do not approach them with the scientific detachment of William of Occam or Karl Popper. Instead we dive right in, anxious to be wholly justified; and no matter what fatuous opinion we hold, it will be justified because there is always a tranche of other imbeciles spewing out the same nonsense. It’s a marketplace of ideas, sure, but we are very loyal to our own brand. And the dead, lying in that field in Las Vegas? Oh, them. I had quite forgotten about them.
Should the USA reform its gun laws? I think so. Maybe. I’m not absolutely certain because those gun laws are tied up with important constitutional rights which simply don’t pertain over here. I am fairly confident that it’s not only Muslims who try to kill lots of western infidels. Rogue nutters do it too, from time to time. But nonetheless, the jihadis subscribe to a coherent, if maniacal creed, which makes Islamist atrocities of a different order to isolated acts of deranged psychopathy. And Stephen Paddock? Some on the right suggested he’d converted to Islam shortly before he picked up his cache of weapons. I think some on the right wish for that with a longing that is problematic to explain.
The argument continues online.