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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Unknown Unknowns

Here we are yet again.

Another nut with a gun and score to settle.

Another mass shooting, more dead Americans.

Another journalism feeding frenzy.

And social media has again gone mad with rage and rumor and accusations of blame like enraged monkeys with fangs bared flinging fistfuls of shit at each other.

Yesterday, I cautioned my audience:

Facebook: You'll note that at the moment the ONLY thing you know for certain is that the shooting is proof positive of whatever political or religious position you hold, no matter who you are or what that position might be. And tomorrow when the facts begin to emerge, a whole bunch of people are going to look either stupid for what they've said today or they're going to bull it out and look like assholes - or both.

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Frankly,  I don't think I'm out of line to say I Told You So.

It's now been a bit more than a day since a nut with a gun barricaded himself inside a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic and started shooting people.

Here's what you actually know as I write this: Nothing.

Here's what you actually know about the shooter today: Nothing.

Here's what you actually know about his motivation: Nothing.

Here’s what you actually know about his political and religious positions: Nothing.

In fact, you don’t even actually know if Planned Parenthood was his intended target, or just a target of opportunity.

And yet, exactly as I said, despite the fact that you actually know nothing, most of you are firmly convinced that this guy is proof positive of whatever political position you hold, Left or Right or something on the howling libertarian fringe.

 

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Whoever this guy is, whatever his motivation, whatever his mental state, whatever his political position, whatever his target, the only thing anybody knows for certain is that he represents whatever political, religious, and social point they hold dear.

 

Shooter, terrorist, madman, murderer, hero, whatever you choose to call him, his ultimate utility to our society is as gleeful confirmation of our own beliefs and as a condemnation of those we oppose.

 

While the shooter was still barricaded in Planned Parenthood, actor and raging conservative extraordinaire Adam Baldwin told me that the shooter was a transgendered leftist member of the Marxist "Socialist Workers Front." So AH HAH, in your face liberal scum!

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As proof of his position, Baldwin linked to a website called The Gateway Pundit, a rightwing political blog run by a member of the Tea Party.  The Gateway Pundit published what it alleged to be court and voter records which showed the shooter to be female, despite rather obvious male characteristics in the attached booking photo with the caption, “That’s weird.” 

The obvious implication being the shooter was the T in LGBT, and therefore a “lefty” since by definition in Adam Baldwin’s mind all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered people are ipso facto liberals.

The Pundit post ended with “[the shooter] also lists his party as UAF” – though the article provides no source or proof of this affiliation other than a vague reference to “voter records.”

UAF?

Baldwin helpfully broke out “UAF” to mean “Socialist Workers Front.”

Other sites gleefully latched onto this supposed “fact” and ran with it, identifying “UAF” as the political movement “Unite Against Fascism” which some allege to be a Marxist leaning movement.

 

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Only one problem, in the Colorado voter registration system “UAF” is a designation meaning “unaffiliated” or “independent” and Unite Against Fascism is a British fringe political party that is neither active in Colorado nor does it have a designator in that state’s voter registration system.

As of this morning, it appears today Baldwin deleted his original tweet – at least I can’t access it despite being able to see all his other messages on Twitter.

The Gateway Pundit stands by its post – as one would expect from a source that crows about its award for “Breitbart Accuracy in Journalism.”

Baldwin’s partisan confirmation bias and public rumor mongering sets the tone for this entire miserable affair (though to be honest, given his track record on Twitter, I’m somewhat surprised at his mild tone when talking to me – especially since the conversation began with me calling him a “dimwitted goon,” which in retrospect makes me somewhat of an ass).

Planned Parenthood meanwhile claims the shooter was mumbling about “no more baby parts” and was violently opposed to abortion:

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But again, what you’re looking at here is opinion.

Somebody else said the shooter was opposed to abortion, the shooter didn’t say that.

And his alleged statement about “baby parts” is as yet unconfirmed and at best hearsay.

Donald Trump called the shooter “a maniac.”

President Obama said, “Enough is enough!”

Mike Huckabee called it a case of “domestic terrorism.”

Carly Fiorina assumes the mantle of martyrdom and blames “Leftwing Tactics” for the blowback she’s  facing over her previous comments supporting widely debunked Planned Parenthood videos.

Pro-Life LifeNews condemned Hillary Clinton for “exploiting” the shooting after Clinton issued a series of comments on Twitter in support of Planned Parenthood. LifeNews then predictably goes on to exploit the shooting in order to push their pro-life agenda.

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Conservative media site The Daily Caller angrily denounced the liberal media for “rushing to blame Christians, Republicans for Planned Parenthood Shooting.”

Progressive media site Vocativ angrily denounced the conservative media while “Hundreds Cheer Planned Parenthood Rampage As GOP Stays Silent.”

 

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Glen Beck’s The Blaze with grim predictability managed to tie Clinton, the shooting, abortion, and Black Lives Matter all up together and dismounted in triumph apparently defending the lives of black children which the same outfit commonly refers to as “thugs” and against which its readers loudly feel they need to be armed.

 

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The Shooter’s neighbors called him weird and angry and disturbed.

He might have been in trouble with the law once or twice, or more, much more. He might have abused animals.

The word “loner” is being bandied about on both sides of the political divide,  often with a raised eyebrow and a knowing look. Ah, of course, a disturbed loner with mental problems. Sure. Sure.

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The word “terrorism” has been thrown out on both sides of the political divide, though who the actual terrorist is when a bearded lunatic kills a cop while shooting up a controversial medical facility is open to interpretation.

 

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A number of people have noted that despite killing a cop and actively shooting at the police for five hours, the white shooter was calmly taken  into custody and walked out of the building apparently uninjured.  And somehow, so far, he hasn’t died in custody. And what exactly  does that say about our society in light of other recent events where people of color weren’t nearly so lucky – despite, you know, not having killed a cop.

 

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And of course, there’s the perennial American Gun Argument:

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In the end, I suppose when it all shakes out it’s possible that the shooter will turn out to be an introverted transgendered pro-life Tea-Party Marxist Muslim extremist, but at the moment what you actually know about him (or her) is nothing.

And yet, exactly as I said, despite the fact that you actually know nothing, most of you are firmly convinced that this guy is proof positive of whatever political position you hold, Left or Right or somewhere out on the howling fringe.

 

You know, when I was growing up, it was the atom bomb.

 

We were sure, sooner or later, the world would end in nuclear fire. We built shelters we knew would be no use. We built great engines of war which we hoped would defend us from our enemies but which we secretly knew would only ensure no shred of civilization survived the holocaust – we even had a name for it, we called it MAD. We signed treaties and prayed to the gods and fearfully watched the skies for the first sign of the falling warheads.

Somehow, by luck mostly, we survived.

Somehow, the Doomsday Clock was reset, the hands moved away from midnight instead of ticking down to our doom.

Now, when the learned men speak of that dark time, they sigh and say, well, you know, civilization dodged the bullet.

And yet, looking back, I wonder.

I wonder if nuclear Armageddon was half the threat to civilization the internet and the 24-hour news cycle are.

Sooner or later, if we are to survive, we human beings of the Information Age are either going to have to evolve filters and critical thinking skills, both mentally and technologically, as a society or watch our civilization fall into utter chaos and ruin around us.

As the man said, some people just want to watch the world burn.

The simple obvious truth of the matter is that we, most of us, are not yet equipped to deal with the deluge of information which floods our senses every single day. Our social systems, our mental filters, our sense of propriety, our ability to judge truth and falsehood, right and wrong, are all overwhelmed. All of our very worst traits, confirmation bias, fear, hate, bigotry, ignorance, stupidity, selfishness are exaggerated and amplified and all of our best traits, love, understanding, empathy, patience, courage, are lost in the fire.

Like frightened chimps we bare our fangs, screeching in rage, and fling shit at each other.

Today, right now, whoever this guy is, whatever his motivation, whatever his mental state, whatever his political position, whatever his target, the only thing anybody knows for certain is he represents whatever political, religious, and social point they hold dear.

And that, that  right there, is the whole damned problem.

104 comments:

  1. Well written, well thought out, and well said.
    If we are to trust the official statements of the police involved, however, he did say 'no more baby parts' as they were arresting him.
    And he does, indeed, have a long record of arrests and convictions for a variety of offenses.
    I have no political horse in this race.
    I do think one important question that needs to be asked is how a man with multiple convictions and arrests was legally allowed to purchase so many weapons.

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    1. Because. Guns.

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    2. Jim Wright always nails it straight up!! Love his rational!

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    3. Is that an official statement? I thought it was an unnamed source cited on NBC.

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    4. It wasn't an official police statement at all. It was a supposed police source speaking on condition of anonymity because s/he wasn't supposed to be saying ANYTHING concerning an ongoing investigation. I have to wonder at the motivation of such anonymous sources, and the news media who pass their unofficial, unconfirmed words on to us.

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    5. Last 7 paragraphs are worth their weight in gold.

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  2. This is the most articulate expression of what I have been trying to figure out I have ever read.

    We know so little, and when we are in fear and crisis, what we don't know immediately gets filled in with the worst case scenario. And the less people know, the more stubbornly and assuredly they know it. You said it perfectly: our worst traits are on display, and as a society, we either better start figuring out some critical thinking skills or die out when the folks who don't have them get access to The Button.

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  3. You stated my position clearly in your first paragraph where you called him a "nut." My political position: we lack adequate mental health care in America.

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    1. If I may, I work with people with mental illness as I have for over 25 years. I also have a mental illness, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and I feel driven, compelled if you will, to the word, "nut". Most of us, the large majority with mental illnesses hold a real fear of hurting another person. We have a disease of the brain as others may have a disease of the heart or a disease of the pancreas. If all the gun violence brings about better access to mental health care, wonderful but don't fool yourself for a second that it will end gun violence. People who kill other people seldom fall under the realm of mentally ill, Often they have personality disorders which are not treatable nor seen as "disease". Aggression, hate, racism, none of these are symptoms of mental illness and yet these are often the motivation of violence.

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    2. Well said, Sheila. Another OCD sufferer for 40 years. As Peter Kramer said in his book, "Against Depression", someday mental disorders will be seen as treatable diseases like any other disease, as you also ably point out. Of course, success in diagnosing and treating mental disorders is widely variable, so this may be in the far future.

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    3. I grew up with a bipolar parent. Entirely non-violent throughout my childhood. I've been surrounded by the system my entire life.

      With that having been said, I don't believe it is rational, or logical, or sane to go into a public place and shoot people for no apparent reason. If this violent type of antisocial behavior is NOT now considered a form of insanity, perhaps it needs to be. And yes, we need more mental health care for ALL of the sufferers of all the troubles we currently call mental illness. Whether it be the community-based approach that was envisioned when the asylums were closed, or building a few more asylums for the relatively few who need them, (And please, can we try to get the mentally ill OUT of the prison system, too?) there needs to be something done to address this problem.

      And yes, I ALSO believe that true responsibility is the very basis of gun ownership and use. Not simple, or quick, or easy, but if we could agree to begin, I think it's actionable.

      Gretchen in KS

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    4. Keeping in mind that we don't know the motives for this particular shooter I'll be speaking more in a general sense.

      Is it really even possible to honestly say that in a case like this the shooter did it for 'no apparent reason'? If we look at the surface of any of the issues surrounding Planned Parenthood I think the 'reason' becomes fairly easy to see. When the media, politicians, and lots and lots of people consistently push the storyline of PP being an inhumane, murderous, evil place then it's hard to be surprised when someone decides to kill the 'killers' before they hurt anyone else. From their point of view it may be no different then killing the killer when it's someone walking around a walk-mart shooting random people. They are acting on their hate, fear, and anger.

      Now, I'll agree with you that random shooting where the motive really was just to cause fear certainly are horrible and perhaps insane. But really you can have VERY sane people who make VERY poor decisions for all kinds of reasons. And many times you will find that there is an underlying obsession or a motive of hate and fear.

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  4. I think most would agree the dude has crazy eyes.
    Those folks should be on a list or locked up somewhere.
    [fling] !

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  6. as one who lives in Colorado Springs...thank you for keeping things real. The REALIST in me appreciates this.

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  7. Mr Wright, I am new to your blog. You sir, are a very gifted writer and thinker. Thank you for sane words and thoughts in the midst of chaos.

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  8. Nit-picking -- second try after fixing MY typos. Something wrong near 'triumphant':

    ... dismounted in triumphant apparently defending ...

    Now back to reading your essay.

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  9. Hell, the only reason that (on FB) I linked an article where Huckabee called this domestic terrorism is that I was hard pressed to remember the last time J. Random Whiteguy got called a terrorist.

    *sigh*

    Yeah, that doesn't mean he is a terrorist, though. Fucked in the head, I think we can agree on, though.

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  10. It is the nature of humans to try and make sense out of chaos. As you mentioned growing up with the perpetual nuke pointed at our houses, those of us growing up in the 50's through the 80's had to work out how to make sense of that. Today 'making sense' means reaffirming our entrenched beliefs without taking time to think, to listen, to learn. I agree with your assertion that the information age is kind of at a crossroads, will people find the skills to muddle through the limitless amount of information, will they seek out truth instead of affirmation, will they try to learn? I'm skeptical.

    Bryan Williams
    Colorado Springs

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  11. I couldn't get past "Breitbart Accuracy in Journalism" award! Still howling!

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    1. Yeah, awaiting the day they give that to Rachel Maddow...has hell frozen over yet?

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    2. I would think that the only entity capable of winning such an award would be Faux Noise.

      (still hoping for Disqus logins being available)

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  12. Always need a stable view in all this muck, Thanks!

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  13. I've been singing the same tune for years. Today, I cannot and will not, watch the live news. Just can't stomach the bias. It's everywhere. And, over the years things have changed. "I wonder if nuclear Armageddon was half the threat to civilization the internet and the 24-hour news cycle is." No truer words have been spoken. Great piece!

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  14. I want to jump up and down and screech and fling feces.

    I'm holding on, but my heart breaks for the families of those killed. We used to be better than this.

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    1. We still ARE better than this; it's just that the voices of political bloodsport are getting louder, have a well-funded venue and know how to sell their flying feces as though it were compulsory. This devisiveness is a product being sold to us as though it were a team sport; it is NOT. It is designed to outrage us, compel us to pick a "team" and then fight amongst ourselves. Resist the urge!

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  15. A 20 year veteran police officer in Westmoreland County, PA was the first responder to a domestic dispute and was shot and killed. From this and the Colorado incident, I conclude that it's too easy to get guns.

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  16. All I know is this: An officer with 2 small children and a young woman with three small children as well as one more unidentified person were murdered apparently by a person who is now in custody. If he is guilty, he should be punished to the full extent of the law. That's all I have to say on the matter.

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  17. Makes you wonder why we keep letting in introverted transgendered pro-life Tea-Party Marxist Muslim extremists, doesn't it?

    Seriously, though, you're right on the money: Everybody is immediately sure that every story "proves what I've been saying all along."

    I hope I can learn to be better about withholding judgment myself. If I forget that, I need to come back here and read this again.

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    1. "Everybody is immediately sure that every story "proves what I've been saying all along." "

      Also to pin it on the "other side". Because you know, it couldn't possibly "one of us!"

      Another great one Mr Wright, thanks.
      bd

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  18. "Sooner or later, if we are to survive, we human beings of the Information Age are either going to have to evolve filters and critical thinking skills, both mentally and technologically, as a society or watch our civilization fall into utter chaos and ruin around us."

    I believe that you have summed up 2015 in a single sentence.

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  19. The Gateway Pundit is Jim Hoft, designated by Wonkette and about a million other bloggers as "The Stupidest Man on the Internet." Here's a column reporting an example of the reasoning behind said award: http://wonkette.com/504595/jim-hoft-finally-officially-designated-as-the-dumbest-man-on-the-internet-with-reed-irvine-award

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  20. The Gateway Pundit guy and other conservatives claimed this guy robbed the bank that is 800 feet away, then "ducked in" to Planned Parenthood to escape...heard it over the police scanner they claimed. I don't know for certain he did not, but that seems highly unlikely to me.

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  21. I am guilty of citing my biases on my FB timeline, but only became emphatic after the "no more baby parts" came into play. Posted a comment on Carly's most recent FB prayer post about what I thought of her hypocrisy.

    Thanks, Jim, for being the voice of reason once again.

    (And you cite the Adam Baldwin from Firefly, right? Does Nathan Fillion need to apologize for him?)

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  22. "Breitbart Accuracy in Journalism" Well, THAT sets the bar pretty low, doesn't it?

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  23. "But again, what what you're looking at...."

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  24. Hmm. I haven't unplugged the internet, but quit Facebook after a few months, and figured Twitter was for a crowd I could do without. At least it keeps them busy. Feel free to consider the same. Too bad authors feel like they must use those nowadays. It must be a pain.

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  25. I do know this - too #*!^# many people have too #*!^# many guns. From my professional training in the mental health field I can tell you that "crazy" is not a diagnosis and with the right type of brainwashing, indoctrination and propaganda otherwise normal people can be whipped into a barking mad frenzy of fear and paranoia and just itching to grab their gun and shoot the place up because, you know ... the Muslims, Mexicans, refugees, thugs in hoodies and gubmint agents in black helicopters are comin' for us. 30 years ago one had to really look hard and dig deep to find that level of crazy. Now it's as close as the nearest computer, smart phone, radio or TV. I'm not a naturally fearful person but what scares me is seeing the dark side of the "information age".

    JZ in FL

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  26. Measured. Thoughtful. Brilliant, as usual.

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  27. Much as the farmer must first get the mules attention, leave it to Jim to apply one firm thwack between the eyes with his handy-dandy lathe spun 4x4 'attention getter'.

    truly a master piece sir. truly.

    thank you, I too needed that thwack of reality, thanks!

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  28. You are absolutely right Jim. The political point that I hold dear is "too many good people die due to gun violence in the USA". This story, and all the others prior reek of this. Yet, everyone wants to focus instead on the possible motivations, mental state, political views of the criminal(s) who carry out the crime. Even worse, some will actually try to substantiate his actions based upon whatever political viewpoints either he or his victims held.

    When did we get so cold and accepting of mass killings that we actually debate their substantiation. And that right there, might be "the whole damn problem".

    Yes, you are right. My political viewpoint has "again" been reinforced. "Too many good and innocent people are dying of gun violence in America". And I'm comfortable expressing that without ever knowing anything at all about the shooter, or his political motivations. Quite frankly, I don't want to know. I don't give a damn!

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  29. Essay about lying, plagiarism and click bait.

    https://www.facebook.com/gorillapigspage/photos/pb.355529917878147.-2207520000.1448847597./859276570836810/?type=3

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  30. Spot on. I can remember a time not all that long ago when the news fact checked before they published or broadcast. And I mean checked 'facts' not opinion, insinuation, assumption or rumor.
    Faux and other opinion mongers have worked studiously to lower the level of independent thinking. The better to control the masses.

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    1. I have a thought on our "news" sources, I may be wrong, but I will put it out there.
      It used to be called "reporting" now it is "journalism". Journals hold opinions from the writer'so point of view, reports are fact based & at times less than engaging.

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  31. I'm stuffing all my political, religious and social viewpoints into a canvas duffle bag and boarding my own personal Stonekettle Reality Check Express. I'll listen to the clack of the wheels on the track, look out the window at the scenery and ponder the baggage I'm hauling. Smart phone? Laptop? Leaving 'em home on the kitchen table. Thank you, Mr. Wright, for the route map.

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  32. Stuart in CincinnatiNovember 29, 2015 at 6:00 PM

    Given the things we don't know, and the fact that we have 75% of the death toll, surely the Congress can spring for ONE little investigation. I mean, if it was good enough for Benghazi..

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  33. But, but, but... it's been days. Thousands of journalist hours. How can we not know everything? Who is running this conspiracy?

    [sarcasm]

    Dr. Phil

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  34. Great essay.
    Interesting article in Rolling Stone. America is too Dumb for TV News http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/america-is-too-dumb-for-tv-news-20151125

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  35. I think that is what bothered me the most was that everyone commenting seemed so happy, manic, almost hopped up on their righteous joy juice of opinion. To me they all missed the point. A few weeks before Christmas and at least three families have huge holes blown in them. I spotted zero compassion on either side just lots of indignation. That is when I decided I have to step away from the internet, take a break, take a walk, read a book.

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    1. I'm going to look for peace keeping my hands busy in my workshop, make music, pet my dogs and weep. The internet is a horrible, vile place; I'm going to step out for a bit. Hang in there, friend.

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  36. The speed at which people jump on their respective political bandwagons is becoming frightening. The call for more critical thinking couldn't come at a better time.

    Thanks for another well written piece.

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  37. Jim,

    I have thought for some time that human beings were not ready for the Information Age. We are the same species, unchanged, for 40,000 years. We still worship unseen gods. We still are an easily frightened, tribal animal prone to violence and cruelty. How on earth are people supposed to deal with a deluge of information when most of them cannot process simple instructions? How are we intelligent people supposed to counter others who believe Jenny McCarthy over a planet of credible physicians? How are thinking, feeling people going to overcome the mass of lunatics who are controlled by deranged puppeteers such as Rush, Trump, and Hannity?

    It’s insane! We are all running around screaming at each other. And it’s only going to get worse.

    Peace
    Chris in S. Jersey

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    Replies
    1. Well, Chris, you said it yourself. Science. This is how evolution works, adapt or die. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority tend to the latter.

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  38. Jim,

    We've got a long row to hoe.

    Chris

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  39. It's said that "men are afraid that women will laugh at them; women are afraid that men will kill them," and that's absolutely true from my point of view. Every day of our lives, women have to keep a wary eye out, even to remain safe and unassaulted in public places in broad daylight.

    We may not know very much about the CO Springs incident, but we DO know that this was an enraged, heavily-armed, middle-aged white man, shooting people in a Planned Parenthood clinic. How much more do I need to know, beyond those undeniable facts, to legitimately call him a terrorist? He's causing terror and he's harming people. He's MY enemy.

    In many online fora, just saying that would set off an avalanche of snotty, condescending diatribes against me -- many of them saying essentially, "WOW, you must be cowardly and paranoid, and i feel sorry for you...." But that's the way life is. The world IS a dangerous place, and being in America doesn't exempt us from being in danger of significant harm -- far from it.

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    1. This is more or less what I was thinking. No, I can't know for a fact that this particular shooter was taking direct aim at Planned Parenthood. Fact is - even if a jury trial found him guilty of doing that - I still would not know. I'd be placing my faith in the criminal justice process in this country at best. In theory this process is more thoroughly investigative and more fact-based than the talking heads on the TV or Internet. But from the outside looking in, that is not always the case.

      One fact that seems reality-based is that he was found holed up in a PP clinic. Shooting at people and hitting them - enough to kill 3 and wound several more. Now, true, it could be this was merely a target of opportunity. I don't see how my personally estimated probability at 40% is really all that bad. Provided of course that I have the humility to revise my estimates should more relevant and better information come to my attention.

      Does my estimate make this perpetrator a terrorist? By definition, If he did deliberately attack this clinic with violence in an attempt to influence public policy and/or government action, then he is a terrorist. My guess is this is a 60% probability. Subject to revision as more information comes to me. Mental illness only comes into play when mitigating the severity of punishment should he be convicted.

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    2. Tess, thank you for saying exactly what I was thinking.

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    3. I have zero faith in the criminal justice system these days. I've seen a prison guard go all psycho crazy just because I argued with him in a retail setting. Considering the lack of indictments , or convictions, for cops who have shot and killed unarmed black youths in recent months/years you have to wonder just what it will take to get honest justice. The most egregious is Cleveland and the 12 year old boy, there don't appear to be any honest DAs in this land anymore. Its all about winning, not justice.

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  40. When did news, factual and documented news, devolve into mere consensus? Like many people, I *do* tend to make leaps of...faith, I guess? That what I read somehow reflects my personal beliefs and values. I still do, however, somehow retain an iota of reason that advises me: wait, don't make that conclusion until you actually *know* something. Sometimes I really have to dredge the patience and rationality to remember that but I haven't gone completely over to the faux-side yet.

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  41. Possible typo - you quote President Obama saying "Enough is a enough" but that 'a' seems unnecessary.

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  42. “…our mental filters, our sense of propriety, our ability to judge truth and falsehood, right and wrong, are all overwhelmed.”

    What you described above is what were once called Virtues or what some might call a Moral Compass, a metaphor you not along ago poopooed as “Bull Shit”.

    So I would argue that it is not that we are victims of information overload but that valuable lessons have truly been lost. We have created what CS Lewis called “Men without Chests”.

    Our "compass" has been replaced by a moral subjectivism (which you gave a full throated defense for) that has resulted in the elevation of what you also correctly describe as “our very worst traits…”

    Congratulations, ye really do reap what ye sow.

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    1. Ah, you again.

      That's not what I said. You, as usual, are arguing a position I didn't make, neither here, nor there. Instead you're attempting to impose your religion on me - and please, do us both a favor and don't pretend you're not, the C.S. Lewis reference is a dead giveaway even without the bit regarding virtues.

      And your last line, seriously? You're going to blame Colorado and social media on me? Nice. Listen, if I really were to reap what I have sown, then I'd be reaping prudent caution and reason at the moment instead of listening to people shout conspiracy theories at me.

      Shove off now, you're done.

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  43. I found myself getting caught up in the us vs them mentality. I felt ashamed because I lost my moral compass. Who cares what side he was on, his motivations and/or his mental health was. What difference does it make? Three people are dead and nine others are wounded. It's not about us and our biases, it should be about the victims.

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  44. Gee Jim.....I feel bad now about jumping to conclusions about Mr. Dear, his personal and social traits and motivations. I am guilty of forcing the very few pieces of information at hand to fit my pre-concieved "standard" of the 5 W's of multiple murder events at women's health care facilities.

    RE your comparison of relative "existential threats" - Growing up with schoolroom "duck and cover" drills, civil defense advisories and serving during the Reagan years, I was also relieved that we successfully avoided immolating ourselves in nuclear fire. (So far) I even had a front row seat (afloat in the Med) as the USSR collapsed, unsure of how the Kremlin coup leaders and military would act out. But, the 5th Flot sailed home and that was that.

    It does seem though that the subsequent development of immediate worldwide communication and unlimited bandwidth has not resolved itself into the hoped for elevation and enlightenment of mankind to a higher plain of "Be excellent to each other!" Pretty much the opposite.

    Saying that, I think the Rude Pundit nails it: http://rudepundit.blogspot.com/2015/11/notes-on-act-of-domestic-terrorism.html

    Watch out for each other, and be safe.

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  45. Thank you for this article. I too have noticed how there is a lot of speculation (to my mind, propaganda) flying about this event and very little verifiable fact. Don't feel too bad about having insulted Adam Baldwin, I went several rounds with him on a message board (one of the POTUS campaigns; possibly Obama's first term but I don't offhand remember now) several years ago myself and I would just chalk it up to him getting some karma back lol. The dude is a (pardon my language) total ass clown. I say give him hell; he has a lot of karma to collect on lol.

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  46. Here we are several days out from the shooting, and we really don't know much more as actual fact than we did the day it happened. The shooter has had a court appearance, we now know he was most recently living in an isolated location in Colorado, in an RV off the grid (very, very common here), there may or may not have been a woman living with him, and he has murdered 3 people. We know that 3 families have lost someone important to them and have to grieve with the press vultures circling around. We still know nothing of his motives, intentions or mental state. Conjecture and rumors have gone totally berserk, but honestly, do we really know? The whole "baby parts" quote has still not been confirmed as fact or BS. If his voter registration is UAF, then he is exactly the same as me. I, too, am a registered unaffiliated voter because both parties SUCK. I have been glued to the local news feeds as they have been working overtime to come up with some facts so those of us who call Colorado home can attempt to deal with this. Nothing new, so far. "Investigation continuing".

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  47. Jim, does it ever get lonely up there on your pedestal? I really like most of what you write, I really do, but damn... the smugness can be a bit overwhelming at times. A simple "hey, you don't know all the facts yet, so slow your roll" would have been sufficient. You sent out that tweet on the 27th, then intentionally sat back and wrote nothing for several days just so you could gather enough information to write this condescending piece. Submitting as "Anonymous" 'cause I don't want you to unfriend me. Like I said, I like most of your work. And also Shopkat.

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    1. Lonely? No. From the comments here and on Facebook and Twitter, it would seem I have plenty of company.

      It's not smugness. I spent the vast majority of my life in uniform, my job was to lead by example. I do my best to live up to that ideal out of uniform as well, even when it's not a popular thing to do - perhaps especially when it's not a popular thing to do.

      You know what the greatest danger of this job is? You. People like you, i.e. readers, fans, fame. You people, your admiration and flattery can become addictive, and somebody in my position can fall into their own bellybutton very, very easily. And then? Then you find that you're writing for the crowd, that you're saying things you know will get "likes" and shares.

      That's when you lose your soul, right there.

      I could have easily written what you wanted to hear. And then I'd be no different from Glenn Beck or Ann Coulter or Ted Cruz or Donald Trump.

      I've said here and elsewhere many, many times, if you want a better world, you have to be a better citizen. It's about leadership, not about pandering to the lowest common denominator.

      On a final note: If you think I would unfriend you for your comment, you really don't know me at all.

      Delete
    2. Dang it! I had a really long winded response to this but when I hit Publish it just disappeared. I don't feel like writing it again, but let me tell you mister, it was frickin' awesome. So consider yourself schooled. You'll have to take my word for it.

      Delete
    3. Okay, I thought this conversation was over. I was willing to let it drop with what I thought was a humorous way of bowing out without escalating it. And then you decided to post my comments to facebook, to the great adoration of your fans. You know, the ones who give you all that admiration and flattery that can cause you to lose your soul.

      So let me clarify, since you missed my point.

      First, the point of my comment had nothing to do with me agreeing or disagreeing with what you had to say. For the record, I agree. My point was this article was smug and condescending and you waited to write it purposely so you could have one of your better-than-thou moments. Deny it if you want, but you can be pretty condescending.

      Second, you assume I’m upset because you didn’t write what I wanted to hear. If that were true, I would have told you that I disagreed. Of course I follow you because I enjoy your writing, but I get my news from several places on the left and right and form my own opinions. Just like you. I’m not a stupid minion incapable of critical thinking.

      Third, yes, I know you’re a retired warrant. You’ve mentioned it many times. I also spent a career in the military as a leader and commander. I’ve also tried to lead by example. Being condescending to my troops wasn’t my style. That’s more of a crusty warrant officer thing.

      Fourth, “Humble” is an antonym for “Smug”. Google confirms this.

      Finally, you say you wouldn’t unfriend me over my comment, but you sure as hell didn’t hesitate to throw it out there for your minions to jump on. You know, the ones who give you all that admiration and flattery that can cause you to lose your soul.

      Delete
    4. You called me smug and condescending ... and you, what? Thought that was a humorous way of bowing out? Well, okay, if you say so.

      My point was this article was smug and condescending and you waited to write it purposely so you could have one of your better-than-thou moments.

      That is utterly incorrect and I did no such thing. I wrote this article the same way I write every other article. I use the information around me and trending events and write as I am inspired. This article was no different - though I'm not really sure why it would matter. What if I did do as you say? So? Being right then makes me condescending? If you say so, Hoss. But if that's true, then I wonder why I called myself an ass with regards to the Adam Baldwin reference? Odd, don't you think?

      As to your beef, if you read what I write, as you say you do, then you damned well know I use comments as a jumping off point for other posts here and on Facebook. I assumed because you deliberately choose to remain anonymous, and in fact made a point of it, you fully expected me to use your comment in exactly that manner. If you didn't, you haven't been paying attention. And since you are anonymous you're hardly a target unless you choose to make yourself one - and that's entirely up to you, I didn't ask you drop your anonymity and I don't expect you to do so. However, that said, if you were expecting respect for a guy who claims to like what I write but is afraid of putting his name on his criticism for fear of losing his place in line, well, again, you really haven't been paying attention.

      Finally, the minion thing. You claim to be part of the group, in fact it's important enough to you that you aren't willing to risk being booted out of it, but you sneer at the rest of my readers as "stupid minion incapable of critical thinking." Tell, me, Anonymous, who was the condescending one?

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    5. It's not that I'm afraid to put my name out there, but I'd rather not become a target for your fawning fans. I've seen how they react to people who disagree with you. I'll unfriend/unfollow you should I feel the need. Guess we'll have to agree to disagree on your condescension. As for me being condescending? Yeah, I suppose I can be. The minion comment was probably unnecessary.

      Delete
  48. I promise that if this PP shooter is proven to be a liberal, gay, vegan atheist, I will accept it. However, I will not accept that he is transgender; number one because I refuse to agree with Ted Cruz on just about anything and, number two, it is easy to make a clerical error on a voter registration card.

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  49. "Some people just want to watch the world burn." True enough and some people like to carry around matches, lighting the fuel wherever they find it. I happen to think that civilization has already fallen into chaos and is well on the way to ruin. The thing is, one school of thought struggles to save it & impel it forward while the other school of thought seems to be hell-bent on dragging it into the abyss of the past. The internet has made it easier than ever to hunt and pick whatever it is which buoys YOUR argument; whether or not it's the truth is irrelevant. It gives everyone a voice which, instead of cooperating, helping, discussing, celebrating, or supporting each other, is used for trolling, accusing, arguing, spreading hate and intolerance, and generally dragging the whole experience through the gutter of one's personal worldview. Top it off with the awful state of the media today and the rush to judgement is done at the speed of light, which is to be expected when people absolutely refuse to accept a fact as FACT. Far too many of those people around these days. Critical thinking is an endangered concept; as "de"-volved as we've become, I think even mental filters are a lot to hope for. I'm not a Luddite but I still maintain all this wonderful technology will be the undoing of civilization for just the reasons you state. A great and important post, JIm. Thank you for saying it.

    Pam in PA

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  50. Jim,

    It doesn't look like you're going to be able to update your essays fast enough to keep up with the daily news. New location. New whack jobs. Same shit. Media fueling the speculation. Never ending experts describing endless possibilities. Waiting for the 'we need more guns - we need less guns' crowds to start their rant. Nothing will change except for the decreasing time period between shit like this happening. I have no answer and can't even think of one.

    If I wasn't so old and it wasn't so cold, I would consider moving back to Canada.

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  51. Just happened - Fourteen reported murdered and a further dozen wounded (so far) at a disabled care facility in San Bernardino CA. Up to three possible gunmen sought. Actual FBI/Police quotes: “They came in with a purpose, they came in with an intent.” and “We do not know if this was a terrorist incident.”

    I have absolutely minimal information about the attack at this point, but WHAT THE FUCK WOULD YOU CALL IT EXCEPT A "TERRORIST INCIDENT" FUCKING FBI MAN??? Who gives a shit what color the perps were or if they wore turbans or stetsons? I'm fairly positive that the victims were properly terrified while getting slaughtered "with a purpose"!

    What the hell is going on in this country?

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    Replies
    1. Heinlein called these the "crazy years" back in the early 50's. How right he was: it led straight to the prophet Neimiah Scudder, ted Cruz anyone?

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  52. How many more deranged gunmen are out there, just this side of their own personal tipping point?

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  53. Hi,

    I have been wandering by your site on and off for a year, though this is my first post. I have always found your writing to be insightful, wise, and bitingly amusing. But this latest post was particularly profound. Something about the modern world (probably the 24 hour news cycle and the internet, as you identified) has either increased people's likelihood to engage in 'thoughtstoppers' (a term I ran across on the blog of John Michael Greer, another insightful, if rather alternative/fringe, commentator. Caveat: He's an actual Archdruid - as in head of a religious order - and also a type of doomer, which probably just made most folk run screaming away from his writings, but really, he is a very thoughtful and surprisingly sensible man, within those parameters!) and has either reduced critical thinking skills or amplified the impact of those that already lacked them.

    This is possibly a root cause of many problems and definitely prevents meaningful dialogue. Thanks for pointing that out.

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  54. Virtual ink hardly dry on this post and now another mass shooting, this time in California.

    The country will wring its hands, again, and do nothing. Again.

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  55. Mr Wright, I've been reading your writings for more than a year (directed here by a dressage forum, of all places), and, while I'm from South Africa, your attitudes and opinions really hit home. Thank you! Critical thinking is in short supply, no matter what country you're from.

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  56. Sadly, you can copy-paste the first five lines on this post to start the next one. And the Republican Presidential candidates can keep retweeting their hollow prayers...

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  57. Sorry Jim, I'm with you on quite a bit, but not on this one. The facts of the matter are that abortion clinics are under attack across the country since the fake "baby parts" video came out and right-wingers have been out there calling for Christian martyrs, so it's not a leap to recognize a pattern, especially since the right-wing anti-choice brigade has a long history of documented anti-abortion violence - these aren't random targets. Neither was the black church in Charleston or the Black Lives matter protesters recently shot by Tea Party white supremacists. Now, when it comes to other shootings, like the recent one near downtown Colorado Springs, San Bernardino or a school or a movie theater or a military base, we can only wait and see where the evidence leads us and acknowledge the facts and motives once we have them, buts there's a difference between random and non-random targets. I'm not into letting my wits shut down for the sake of people who'd like to pretend domestic terrorism is produced in a vacuum. It isn't. And there happens to be a direct link between Tea Party fundamentalist lawmakers trolling for assassins and the escalating right-wing violence. I won't pretend otherwise.

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  58. In reference to Tommy D's comment above: It does matter what we call mass murderers. It matters because our lizard brains require us to assess, categorize and manage future risks and dangers. We feel a need to sort these horrible events into neat categories so we can try to deal with them. I'm sure James Holmes' victims in that Aurora, CO movie theater felt terrorized too but we don't view him as a "terrorist". Whether the guys with the guns (sorry, fellas) were deranged lonely publicity seekers (ie. James Holmes, Columbine killers, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech), revenge fueled (guy who was fired, bullied, wife left him, etc. so shoots the place up while targeting his tormentor) or ideologically inspired terrorism. I'm sure each and every victim felt "terrorized" regardless of the perpetrator's motive. Identifying a killer's motive helps us deal with how to respond, how to grieve, how to keep ourselves safe and how to get closeure. It's one reason law enforcement works so hard to identify a motive and why we feel so frustrated when killers like Sandy Hook's Adam Lanza and the killers in San Bernardino destroy their computer hard drives. Also, like the San Bernardino killers, the whole thing totally defies anyone's definition of logic. It doesn't fit neatly in any specific category. The couple had a 6 month old baby daughter for Pete's sake and he wasn't reported to be having any troubles with the co-workers he just murdered. I wish the perps weren't Muslim because all Muslims will have to bear the brunt but now as more intel is gathered it's looking as if it was extremist ideology driven terrorism. But we also have to accept that a guy who shoots up a Planned Parenthood clinic and then is heard BY THE ARRESTING OFFICERS to mutter "no more baby parts" was also an extremist ideology driven terrorist. As was sovereign citizen Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City. And the jihadi killers at Ft. Hood and the Boston Marathon. And Dylan Roof's attempt to start a race war in Charleston. There's ideology and then there's extremist ideology. The ideology on the right relating to abortion, government over-reach and racially based fear was taken to extremes in OK City, Charleston and many Planned Parenthood clinics, not just the one in Colorado Springs. I'm just not sure where ideology on the left has been taken to extremes by unstable true believers with lots guns and ammunition. Anybody???

    JZinFL

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  59. "I'm just not sure where ideology on the left has been taken to extremes by unstable true believers with lots guns and ammunition. Anybody???"

    These come to mind:


    Symbionese Liberation Army
    Red Brigades
    Red Army Faction
    Shining Path

    But terrorism hasn't been limited to any particular religious or political ideology.

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    Replies
    1. Irgun and the Stern Gang had political ideas that would now be considered very far to the left. They also used terrorists tactics, and if fact called themselves terrorists long before anyone else was using the word. And were very successful in achieving their objectives using classic terrorist tactics.

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    2. Should have noted the Weather Underground also.

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  60. I think we were mainly discussing groups that pose or posed an active threat in the US (not Peru or Italy) and whose ideology is just a more extreme version of the conservative or progressive political movements in the US. So ..the Symbionese Liberation Army? About 22 people. Active for only 2 years and only in California. And can anybody say what their "political goal" was? Not exactly the Left's answer to the Ku Klux Klan now are they?
    JZinFL

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    1. Should have mentioned The Weather Underground. USA based and a LOT more than 22 members.

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  61. OK, so we're comparing current US terrorists on the right vs terrorists on the left.

    And on the Left, we have:

    The Weather Underground? Fist of all, they're sooooo 30 years ago and we're talking about current affairs. And how many people did active members of the Weather Underground murder? As far as I can tell that would be a grand total of ... none. Yes, their protests involved blowing stuff up but they notified their targets first to make sure the buildings were vacated. Pussies. Number of years active? About 10. Main focus of their rage: the Vietnam War. The Weather Underground ceased to exist when the war ended.

    And on our right we have:

    The Ku Klux Klan: Active 1865 - present. Main focus of rage: Non-white and non-Christian people living right here amongst us in the good old USA. Number of victims murdered: who the hell knows - we've lost count by this time. BTW, they are but one of scores of right-wing white pride groups currently active in the US.

    Sovereign Citizens: Currently active. Most famous "inspired" member OK City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Main focus of rage: the US government, well, exists.

    Anti-abortion groups: Active from 1973 (passage of Roe V. Wade) to present. Their most "inspired" members blow up women's health clinics and murder doctors, nurses, patients, clerical staff, innocent bystanders and law enforcement officers. Main focus of rage: women, who always have and always will find a way to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, can now do it safely and legally. Ironically, many of these folks support the death penalty.

    So, current, active, progressive / left leaning groups whose most inspired members actually murder people in the name of their cause right here in the US?

    Anybody?

    I'm still waiting .......

    JZ in FL

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  62. Also: Irgun and the Stern Gang? Also known as Lehi, these militant paramilitary Zionists operated in Palestine prior to the birth of the nation of Israel. Main source of their rage: they wanted a Jewish homeland. Outcome: they got one.

    Significant relevance to question of current-day politically inspired groups or movements that threaten US citizens: None that I can figure out.

    BTW, currently their biggest fans are the ultra-conservative Israeli government so I'm not sure how were they supposed to be an example of a progressive of left-leaning movement. From what I could tell they would have "gotten into bed" politically with absolutely any leader or movement, right, left or center who could possibly support their goal of a Jewish state.

    JZ in FL



    JZinFL











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    1. JZ, Irgun and Stern, or Lehi, at the time, if you'd asked them, had collectivist goals. But that's somewhat by the by if you are going to change your question to what leftist terrorists are operating NOW. Which is not what I understood your question to be a couple of days ago.

      Thing about terrorists is they will always arise, if they do, from groups which feel they have no other access to power except by violence. Go back in history a bit and when you find polities tightly controlled by reactionary right-wing regimes that allowed little or no legal opposition or dissent and you will invariably find left-wing groups resorting to the kind violence we now call terrorism. Sure as night follows day. And right now, if you are the kind of group that wants to work for more fairness and equality of outcome and redistribution of wealth, then anywhere in the west at least you will make far more headway working within established political structures rather than resorting to violence. Because nowhere in the west is an extreme right-wing regime in power outlawing oppostion and dissent. That could of course change, and if if changes left wing terrorists will inevitably start to crop up.

      Right now the groups who feel marginalized -and rightly so I'd say, are the racists and the extreme monothesists who seek to force their religion on the rest of us, and they can be, at the moment, pretending to be, or even mistakenly believing themselves to be, followers of either Christ or Muhammad. The people who blow up abortion clinics and the people who gun down innocents in the name of ISIS are all the same: fanatical groups who feel they have no way to enforce their extreme views except by violence.

      There is nothing I can see more intrinsically peaceful about extremists from the left or the right in the long view and the global view. Lenin was a leftist extremist who caused one way or another the slaughter of millions. Also Mao. But if you want to limit your consideration just to the U.S. and only to the current period, then of course you will only find rightist terrorists. Because they are the ones excluded, at the moment, from excercising power over the rest of us. If that ever changes, then the flavor of violent 'political' action is bound to change.

      Delete
  63. It seems you didn't explain "MAD" in the post (I also don't see it explained in the comments). It's an actual acronym: Mutual Assured Destruction.

    The idea behind it was that the Superpowers of the Cold War had enough nuclear bombs to destroy each other multiple times over, so that no one would dare to start "The War". The assumption was backed up by believe that any of the two could reliably determine whether the other side "send in the bombs".

    Then the following was revealed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_Soviet_nuclear_false_alarm_incident allegedly in the 1990s

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  64. Anonymous - you make some excellent points. I recall seeing a diagram years ago showing the continuum of political views not on a straight-line from right to left but rather on a circle with the moderate centrists on one side, then right and left split off from there until the extremist views from both factions converge on the far side of the circle. I guess the point is that moderate Democrats and moderate Republican have more in common with each other than with their fringe-y counterparts - and that the extremist fringe actors, the folks blowing stuff up and wreaking murder and mayhem have a lot in common, right and left - with each other. One thing I find frustrating is that when a right-wing extremist goes on a murdering rampage, he's not a terrorist - he's just a crazy person. And yes, there have been plenty of left-wing "terrorists" in the past, especially in areas overseas controlled by fascist regimes. I was thinking here in the US in the present time but didn't make that clear. Also, I suppose there must be some centrist Republicans out there but I just don't hear of them and they sure don't seem to be responding to pollsters.

    JZinFL

    JZ in FL

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  65. JZ It's me again. I agree I don't hear from many centrist 'cloth coat' Republicans in the national debate anymore, either. But remember: all politics is local politics. And at the local level the Republicans -across the country- have been taken over by extremists. Be they Tea Partiers or Evangelicals or extremists of whatever stripe, they have done for the cloth coats. Many of who will still hold their nose and vote for the Republican on polling day, in kind of the reverse way to how many committed progressives will hold their noses and vote for right of center Democrats like Hilary Clinton or, as it turned out, Obama.

    As for why they don't respond to pollsters: I don't find that hard to understand at all. All the pollsters are finding that the only people who stay on the phone when they call are the fanatics, from whatever party. Not so many years ago pollsters used to say that if the proportion of people they called ever dropped below 60% then their data would become worthless. But now almost every poll is based on a sample in which fewer than 6% stayed on the line. In other words 94% or more of people called by pollsters now hang up. I'd wager good money that most people in the center on both sides of the aisle hang up early and often when pollsters call. Given the idiot questions pollsters tend to ask (I have been called a number of times, and not hung up, at least not until about halfway through) who can blame them? But ask any pollster and if she or he is honest he or she will tell you: their conclusions are getting less and less reliable. What matters, and really the only thing that matters, and what will either keep this country afloat or sink it into misery, is getting the good and decent people in the middle off their asses to the polling station on election days. Not just now and then, but every single damn time. If we don't figure out how to do that, and soon, we are shit out of luck.

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  66. Sometimes people are getting crazy when starting political discussions. I'm not the biggest expert in the world of politics, so I'm trying to be aside of such discussions. One friend of mine broke up with his girlfriend just because she told him that Trump has some good ideas, and he might be a good president; she doesn't mean all thoughts and positions, just some of them, but the result is they don't speak for more than a month.

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  67. Anonymous: Regarding polls, even the pollsters think it's nuts that the RNC bases their decision on which candidates will and will not appear on a debate stage based solely on poll results.

    JZ IN FL

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