Rising signs of hate in the US

Three alarming incidents in the past week in the US – the pipe bombs sent to a number of individuals and companies, two black people shot in a grocery store, and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting – have raised concerns that hate crime is on the rise.

President Donald Trump has inevitably been included in discussions in reaction to these incidents. It is difficult to judge how much Trump may have encouraged this sort of hate violence, but how he responds may make a difference – and while he has played lip service to outrage and condemnation, his actions continue to be troubling.

This apparent rise in hate crimes, the tip of a large iceberg of online intolerance and hate, is happening on Trump’s watch.

NY Times editorial: The Hate Poisoning America

What is going on in this country? Can’t we be safe in our homes, in our schools, in our most sacred places? Once again, Americans are left to ask each other these sorts of questions, after a gunman burst into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on the Jewish Sabbath and opened fire on families in the contemplation of their faith.

The attack came a day after a man was arrested in Florida for mailing pipe bombs to politicians and journalists across the country. In both cases, the suspects had nourished their animus online, on social media platforms where they could easily connect with people who shared their hatreds.

After the attack on Tree of Life, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Times, “I’m afraid to say that we may be at the beginning of what has happened to Europe, the consistent anti-Semitic attacks.”

Alongside anti-Semitism, anti-black hatred appears to be rising. It has been expressed recently not only in incidents in which white Americans have harassed black Americans for gardening, coming home, swimming, working or campaigning for public office, but in deadly attacks like the one by a bigot who shot two black people at a Kentucky grocery last week, after he tried but failed to enter a black church.

At least some of the hate behind attacks like this is fomented online.

The suspect in the Pittsburgh killings, Robert Bowers, had found a home for his hate on Gab, a new social network that bills itself as a guardian of free speech, unlike somewhat less permissive platforms like Twitter. There his online biography read, “Jews are the children of Satan,” a statement of personal values that he evidently expected to earn him not opprobrium but followers.

Mr. Bowers’s hatred of American Jews was apparently motivated in part by the generosity and empathy many of them have shown for non-Jewish refugees of conflicts worldwide. In their humanity, he found cause to dehumanize them. “It’s the filthy EVIL jews Bringing the Filthy EVIL Muslims into the Country!!” he wrote online.

Gun laws come up again after mass shootings, but little ever seems to change. And guns are just tools of extreme merchants of hate, many of whom build their bravado online.

What can be done? Certainly, common-sense gun safety regulation might make attacks like the one on Tree of Life synagogue less deadly— universal background checks, red-flag laws that take guns away from the mentally unstable, bans on high-capacity weapons like the AR-15 rifle that the alleged killer wielded.

Measures like these would help contend with the hardware of hate. It is far harder to disable the software, the ideas that now spread so readily.

It is difficult to confront online hate. Some of it ferments in protected bubbles.

Leadership that is unequivocal about condemning intolerance and hate would help.

Good speech may not be enough in itself, but that doesn’t mean that American society couldn’t benefit from much more of it today, particularly from its leaders.

So it was reassuring to hear President Trump condemn the attack in Pittsburgh, as he did the pipe bombs. And it was disappointing to see him immediately head back out on the campaign trail, as he did on Saturday, to disparage his opponents and critics all over again.

Until next week’s mid-term elections it seems that hate and division as tools of politics will continue.

It isn’t simply a Trump issue, but as the leader and commander-in-chief of the country he must take some responsibility for the escalations and do more than speak out of both sides of his mouth.

But there are alternate views, like this opinion from Steve Hilton from Fox News who blames it on Barack Obama: Trump and his supporters are being blamed for a climate of rage and hate – but here’s the truth

Predictably, the establishment is blaming President Trump and his supporters for a climate of rage and hate.

But let’s be honest, a lot of Americans have had a lot to be angry about for an awful long time.

This anger we’re seeing, it didn’t start with Donald Trump. I think it goes back at least a decade.

In 2008 you saw the elite bail themselves out while working people paid the price for their recklessness and incompetence.

And you saw a new tone enter our politics.

Reagan, the Bushes, Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton perhaps a bit too much – they weren’t haters. You got the sense they loved everybody.

But then we saw something new. A cultural elitism came in. Condescension. Even contempt.

Remember when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama said on April 6, 2008, “They get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion.”

How about when his wife Michelle said this on February 18, 2008; “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country.”

We saw hate and divisiveness — from the top. And remember, from the left, not the right. From the elitists, not the populists.

What he claims is debatable (very much so) but there is one truth that can’t be denied – the current levels of division and hate are happening on Trump’s watch.

Shooting at Florida video game tournament in Florida

There has been another mass shooting in the US, this time at a national video game tournament that was being live streamed. Two people have been murdered, and the gunman also killed himself.

Reuters: Multiple fatalities in shooting at video game tournament in Florida: sheriff

There was a mass shooting at a video game tournament that was being streamed online from a restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida, on Sunday, and the local sheriff’s office said there were multiple fatalities.

“Stay far away from the area. The area is not safe,” the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter. “We can’t stress enough to stay away. Many blocks away.”

Local media, citing police sources, said four people were killed and about 10 wounded.

The sheriff’s office said one suspect was dead at the scene and that it was unknown whether there was a second suspect. “Searches are being conducted,” the sheriff’s office said.

The shooting took place at a restaurant at Jacksonville Landing, a waterfront dining, entertainment and shopping site in downtown Jacksonville, according to local media.

The business was livestreaming a tournament for a Madden football video game when several shots rang out, according to video of the stream shared on social media.

This will no doubt reignite debate over gun laws in the US, in a now familiar pattern of outrage, subsidence, another shooting, outrage and so  on with nothing much changing.

This particular attack is also likely to prompt further debate on the possible effects of gaming – which often involves shooting – on people’s attitudes to shooting people for fun, despite this tournament being focussed on football.

The Gun Violence Archive current statistics for 2018:

  • Number of deaths: 9,501
  • Mass shootings: 234

Incidents in 2018

“…so thanks for your prayers, but I couldn’t give a fuck about them if there’s nothing else

There’s been a lot of the usual ‘thoughts and prayers’ offered after the Annapolis shooting, but they are little more than saying ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’, well intentioned but meaningless.

One Capital Gazette staff writer, Selene San Felice, put this into more meaningful words in a CNN  interview today.

I have heard that President Trump sent his prayers. I’m not trying to make this political, alright? But we need more than prayers. I appreciate the prayers. I was praying the entire time I was under that desk. I want your prayers, but I want something else.”

“I just don’t know what I want right now. Right?” she said. “But I’m going to need more than a couple days of news coverage and some thoughts and prayers, because … our whole lives have been shattered. And so thanks for your prayers, but I couldn’t give a fuck about them if there’s nothing else.”

Sadly, if this shooting is like last week’s shooting and last month’s shooting and all the other US mass shootings, after a few days of saying something must be done there will probably be nothing else that will change anything.

More from CNN in Capital Gazette staff writers say they need more than prayers

Capital Gazette staff writer Phil Davis questioned society’s response to mass shootings.

“If we’re going to have a position in our society where all we offer each other is prayers, then where are we? Where are we as a society, where people die and that’s the end of that story”.

He said he heard the gunman shoot through a glass door on the first floor. Davis, a crime and courts reporter, said he wondered if they were all going to die when he heard the gunman reload. He said The Capital’s employees were just doing their jobs and had no motive to hate the gunman.

“It makes you feel powerless. It makes you feel helpless. It removes all control from every facet of your life within only a few seconds once you understand what’s happening”.

There were US wide protests and demands after a school shooting a while ago. Until the next shooting.

Someone needs to show some leadership and make real change in the US. But I don’t see that happening.

It’s easy to say ‘thoughts and prayers’. But the US needs something else.

More: https://edition.cnn.com/us/live-news/maryland-newspaper-shooting/index.html

Newsroom shooting in Maryland, USA

Another shooting in the US with reports of multiple being shot in the Capital Gazette, an Annapolis, Maryland newspaper office .

Fox News: ‘Multiple’ deaths, suspect caught after reports of shots fired outside Maryland newspaper office, sheriff says

A suspect was apprehended following reports of shots fired and multiple fatalities in Annapolis, Maryland, Thursday afternoon outside the Capital Gazette newsroom, Anne Arundel Sheriff Ron Bateman told Fox News.

The Baltimore Sun, which owns the Annapolis newspaper, says a reporter told them of the shooting.

This story is just unfolding.

This from two days ago may or may not be related: Milo Yiannopoulos Jokes of Death Squads Murdering Journalists

With his career now in decline, he’s taken to continuing with his inflammatory comments, including hoping for violence against any news outlet that bothers to call him.

“I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight,”.

 

Florida school shooting

Another horrific mass shooting in the US, this time at a school in Florida.

Reuters: FBI was warned about alleged Florida gunman, could not locate

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was warned last year about an ominous online comment by the 19-year-old man accused of killing 17 people in his former high school but was unable to locate him, an agent said on Thursday.

Authorities said the ex-student, identified as Nikolas Cruz, walked into the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, near Miami, on Wednesday and opened fire with an AR-15-style assault rifle in the second-deadliest shooting at a public school in U.S. history.

Cruz may have left warning signs on social media. A person with his name wrote a comment last year under a YouTube video that read “I‘m going to be a professional school shooter.” The man who posted the video, Ben Bennight, a Mississippi bail bondsman, was alarmed and contacted the FBI, according to a video he posted online late Wednesday.

Wednesday’s shooting was the 18th in a U.S. school this year, according to gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. It stirred the long-simmering U.S. debate on the right to bear arms, which are protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

President Donald Trump addressed the shooting in a White House speech that emphasized school safety and mental health while avoiding any mention of gun policy.

“It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference,” Trump said at the White House. “We must actually make that difference.”

The big question is, given the number of guns and the lax gun laws in the US – how? There is no obvious answer that the NRA lobby and politicians they fund are likely to accept.

Las Vegas shooting – many dead and injured

The death toll from shooting at a concert in Las Vegas is now 58, with hundreds injured. It is reported that a single gunman using at least 10 weapons fired on the crowd from the 32nd floor of a resort.

Motive for the killing appears to be unknown at this stage.

Fox News: Las Vegas shooting: At least 58 dead in massacre Trump calls ‘act of pure evil’

A gunman turned a Las Vegas concert into a killing field Sunday night from his perch on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, using at least 10 guns to rain down a steady stream of fire, murdering at least 58 people and injuring more than 500 others in the deadliest mass shooting in modern United States history.

The gunman, who fired down on the Route 91 Harvest Festival from a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound just as police made entry to the room, according to LVMPD undersheriff Kevin McMahill.

The suspect was identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, a resident of Mesquite, Nevada. Federal law enforcement sources told Fox News that Paddock “was known to local authorities” in Vegas.
paddock01

Alleged killer, retired accountant Stephen Paddock

Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said an “excess of 10 rifles” were found in the room, but did not immediately reveal a motive. Paddock had been in the hotel room since September 28, according to Lombardo.

A horrible act in a country awash with firearms.

The question inevitably asked is whether there are wider terrorist links.

At this time, federal officials do not see any connection to international terrorism and little is known about Paddock’s motivation, sources said. The Islamic State terror group took credit for the Las Vegas shooting, saying the gunman converted to Islam months ago, but provided no evidence back up the claim.

FBI Special agent-in-charge Aaron Rouse said at a news conference the agency has “determined to this point no connection with an international terrorist group.”

This is by far the worst massacre in the US for some time, but here are statistics for the year to date from the Gun Violence Archive:

Gun violence  and crime incidents are collected/validated from 2,500 sources daily – incidents and their source data are found at the gunviolencearchive.org website.

1: Actual number of deaths and injuries
2: Number of INCIDENTS reported and verified

Police recently visited Whangarei killer

In a new development in the Whangarei shooting, in which two female property inspectors were shot dead and a maintenance man injured, the police have revealed that they visited the property last month.

RNZ:  Whangarei shooting: Police recently visited killer

Quinn Patterson killed property manager Wendy Campbell, 60, and her 37-year-old daughter Natanya on Wednesday morning when they visited his home with a contractor to install smoke alarms. The contractor was also shot, but managed to escape and raise the alarm.

Northland District Commander Superintendent Russell Le Prou said police investigated a structure being built there last month, and were told it was to be used for target practice.

Police decided it was a tenancy matter, rather than one for them.

Police said the visit to the property formed part of the ongoing investigation into Patterson’s background.

There have been reports that Patterson, aged in his 50s, had multiple guns and other weapons, including grenades and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

People using firearms in rural areas is common. There can be many legitimate and innocent reasons for using them.

I wouldn’t mind if police asked to see my firearms license just as a check.

Perhaps if there are any checks on rural properties it should include a check of whether firearms are present and whether there are firearms licenses.

Northland shootings

The killing of two women and injuring of a man in Northland looks like a tragic and sad mix of mental illness and firearms.

It was known that the murderer was a frequent user of firearms.

It seems to have been known that he suffered from mental illness and depression, and he had a record of violence.

He didn’t have a firearms license but had somehow acquired a lot of weapons.

RNZ:  Gunman had multiple weapons – reports

Police are refusing to discuss how a convicted criminal who shot two women was able to collect firearms without a licence.

Quinn Patterson killed property manager Wendy Campbell, 60, and her 37-year-old daughter Natanya on Wednesday morning when they visited his home with a contractor to install smoke alarms. The contractor was also shot, but managed to escape and raise the alarm.

There are reports that Patterson, aged in his 50s, had multiple guns and other weapons, including grenades and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Police have confirmed he did not have a firearms licence.

He served 18 months in prison for stabbing a police officer multiple times with a 33cm hunting knife in Hamilton in 1983.

Patterson’s only sister, Gloria, says her brother’s mental and physical health deteriorated rapidly this year and she had urged him to seek help.

NZ Herald: Northland shooting: A portrait of killer Quinn Patterson

Friend Leah Cameron said Quinn’s father brought his children up with a “Doomsday” mentality.

“He was fatalistic about the world, that it was not a good place. He could have been classed as being a bit of a fanatic”.

He made his children dig graves with him and he and his wife apparently wrote a book about UFOs.

Patterson liked guns despite friends saying he did not have a licence and was not a hunter. Neighbours would often hear him shooting in his backyard.

“He just shot in his back lawn by the sounds of it, you could hear it from here, you could hear it from everywhere,” Walters said.

“They were big guns. we’re talking automatics, semi-automatics, big calibres. They sounded like cannons, you could hear them going off with, like, 16 rounds.

“He was just sort of a law unto his own.”

He became paranoid and started to accumulate several weapons. A friend told Newshub he had grenades, shotguns, rifles and hand guns. He had “barricaded” himself in the property with bars on the windows.

He was becoming more and more depressed and paranoid, friends said.

He had taken several types of medication over the years, including sleeping tablets and had tried natural medication, vitamins and exercise in an attempt to get better.

There are some obvious questions that need to be asked about all this.

Fox promotes the violent left

Fox news has been pushing quite a bit on ‘left bad, right good’ following the shooting of Republican House Whip Steve Scalise by a Bernie Sanders supporter.

This is all on their current twitter feed:

That’s toned down?

They do have the occasional attempt on balance and conciliation:

But the division goes on. just tweeted:

Levels of rhetoric, division and violence look likely to continue unabated, despite what should have been a wake up call for politicians on both sides of the chasm.

Scalise shooting – unity and recriminations

It is no surprise to see condemnation of the shooting of the republican House Majority Whip Steve Scalise from across the political divide.

CNN: GOP House Whip Steve Scalise remains in critical condition

But there have already been political swipes.

Dan Balz: After the shootings, calls for unity amid recriminations and finger-pointing

In the charged environment of 2017, it took only a few hours for a baseball diamond to be transformed from a peaceful practice field to a horrific crime scene and then to a vivid symbol of the tensions between the angry politics of our time and the better angels of the American people.

From President Trump to congressional leaders of both parties to ordinary citizens came calls for prayers for the victims of the shootings in Alexandria, Va., praise for the Capitol Police officers who prevented an even worse tragedy and, above all, words of reconciliation and unity.

But barely on the edges of those remarks was another round of recriminations and a renewed debate about what has brought the country to a point of such division, what is to blame for what happened on that baseball field shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday and what, if anything, can be done to lower temperatures for more than a few minutes.

Large taps of anger can’t be just turned off, even after wake up calls as serious as the shooting of a politician.

The country has been in this place before, perhaps too many times after violence that has left Americans feeling shaken and insecure. At those times, elected officials have reached across the aisle, embracing one another in friendship and unity. Ordinary citizens have rallied behind those leaders as one nation, vowing to put aside partisanship and recalling what it means to be an American.

The 911 attacks united and galvanised the country, for a while.

Trump spoke as other presidents have done in times of tragedy or terrorism, saying, “We are strongest when we are unified and when we work for the common good.”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) called on his colleagues to set an example. “Show the world we are one House, the people’s House, united in our humanity,” he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) implored her colleagues to make the Congressional Baseball Game an occasion “that will bring us together and not separate us further.”

But their are too many people in the US with their own entrenched agendas.

But with past as prologue, other voices and other emotions threatened to drown out the words of the nation’s leaders. Six years ago, after the shootings that left then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) badly wounded and six others dead, it was the political right that was on the defensive.

Those on the left charged that the incendiary rhetoric aimed at then-President Barack Obama and his supporters during his early years in office gave rise to a climate that made violence possible.

But the sides have changed.

On Wednesday, it was the political left that became a target from some on the right. The gunman, James T. Hodgkinson III, who was pronounced dead at a hospital after the shootout, was a longtime critic of the Republicans and a particularly harsh critic of the president. His Facebook page included angry and vulgar words aimed at Trump.

Some Republicans viewed the shootings as evidence that the president’s critics have crossed the line of decency in their opposition and fostered a climate that could produce what happened on Wednesday morning.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich and a strong supporter of Trump:

Speaking at midday on Fox News Channel, decried what he called “an increasing hostility on the left,” whether from comedians, from artists, from politicians or from ordinary citizens posting their views on social media.

“You’ve had a series of things that send signals that tell people it’s okay to hate Trump,” he said. “And now we’re supposed to rise above it?”

Some major irony there as he justifiably condemns hostility from the left against Trump, but ignores Trump’s own record of hostility against opponents and critics, notably but not only directed against Hillary Clinton – and also Trump’s deliberate efforts to stir up hatred against Clinton and promoting some fairly extreme consequences.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), whose many past statements have inflamed the debate about illegal immigration, was near the Capitol when the shootings took place.

Without referring to the shooter, he said critics of the president have created a climate of hate that threatens the country. He pointed to the massive demonstrations in Washington and elsewhere the day after Trump was inaugurated, and protests that have continued since.

Without referring to the shooter, he said critics of the president have created a climate of hate that threatens the country. He pointed to the massive demonstrations in Washington and elsewhere the day after Trump was inaugurated, and protests that have continued since.

“America has been divided, and the center of America is disappearing and the violence is appearing in the streets and it’s coming from the left,” he said.

Some of it is certainly coming from the left, but division and intolerance has also come from the right as well.

Just last week: Fearing for her life, Iowa Democrat abandons race to unseat GOP Rep. Steve King

The Democratic candidate running against anti-immigrant Republican Congressman Steve King (IA) announced Saturday that she is dropping out of the race for her own safety.

In a Facebook post published Saturday night, Kim Weaver wrote, “Over the last several weeks, I have been evaluating personal circumstances along with the political climate regarding this campaign. After much deliberation, I have determined that the best decision for me is to withdraw my candidacy for the US House race in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.”

She explained that beginning during her 2016 campaign, she has been receiving threats of physical violence and murder, and said that “recent events at my home” were forcing her to re-evaluate her decision to run against King.

“While some may say enduring threats are just a part of running for office, my personal safety has increasingly become a concern,” Weaver said.

King didn’t mention this when criticising hostility from the left.

Back to the Balz article:

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), whose district cuts across central Illinois to the Mississippi River just above Hodgkinson’s home town of Belleville, was on the baseball field when the shootings took place.

Davis condemned what he called “political, rhetorical terrorism” practiced by both sides. He appealed passionately for everyone to step back and find a better way to hash out and then resolve their differences.

“Is this America’s breaking point?” he asked on CNN. “It’s my breaking point. We’ve got to end this.”

But when it again becomes a blame game between left and right the end looks nowhere in sight.

Wednesday’s shootings can act as a temporary circuit breaker to some of the hostilities, and Thursday’s Congressional Baseball Game can become an emotional and poignant coming together.

But will that be enough to prevent a swift return to the kind of debilitating political conflict that has become so accepted as the norm? History shows how difficult that could be.

Some of the reactions to yesterday’s shooting also show how difficult it could be.