If Only Stephen Paddock Had Shouted ‘Allahu Akbar!’

Ok, allow us to admit, up front, that we are not Thomas Friedman fans. That has nothing (or at least very little) to do with Friedman’s opinions or world view and more to do with the fact that Friedman, generally speaking, is not what we would call a “great” writer. That’s just our opinion and clearly, we are in the minority because the man has sold a lot of damn books.

With that as the disclaimer (which should inoculate us to some degree against the likes of Matt Taibbi, a perennial Friedman critic who, for all his own pretensions to journalism, has a less-than-sterling reputation) we did want to print the following Op-Ed because although the points it makes are self-evident, they are important and if what it takes to get people to listen is Thomas Friedman writing about it for The New York Times, well then so be it.

By  for The New York Times

If only Stephen Paddock had been a Muslim … If only he had shouted “Allahu akbar” before he opened fire on all those concertgoers in Las Vegas … If only he had been a member of ISIS … If only we had a picture of him posing with a Quran in one hand and his semiautomatic rifle in another …

If all of that had happened, no one would be telling us not to dishonor the victims and “politicize” Paddock’s mass murder by talking about preventive remedies.

No, no, no. Then we know what we’d be doing. We’d be scheduling immediate hearings in Congress about the worst domestic terrorism event since 9/11. Then Donald Trump would be tweeting every hour “I told you so,” as he does minutes after every terror attack in Europe, precisely to immediately politicize them. Then there would be immediate calls for a commission of inquiry to see what new laws we need to put in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Then we’d be “weighing all options” against the country of origin.

But what happens when the country of origin is us?

What happens when the killer was only a disturbed American armed to the teeth with military-style weapons that he bought legally or acquired easily because of us and our crazy lax gun laws?

Then we know what happens: The president and the Republican Party go into overdrive to ensure that nothing happens. Then they insist – unlike with every ISIS-related terror attack – that the event must not be “politicized” by asking anyone, particularly themselves, to look in the mirror and rethink their opposition to common-sense gun laws.

So let’s review: We will turn the world upside down to track down the last Islamic State fighter in Syria – deploying B-52s, cruise missiles, F-15s, F-22s, F-35s and U-2s. We will ask our best young men and women to make the ultimate sacrifice to kill or capture every last terrorist. And how many Americans has the Islamic State killed in the Middle East? I forget. Is it 15 or 20? And our president never stops telling us that when it comes to ISIS, defeat is not an option, mercy is not on the menu, and he is so tough he even has a defense secretary nicknamed “Mad Dog.”

But when fighting the N.R.A. – the National Rifle Association, which more than any other group has prevented the imposition of common-sense gun-control laws – victory is not an option, moderation is not on the menu and the president and the G.O.P. have no mad dogs, only pussycats.

And they will not ask themselves to make even the smallest sacrifice – one that might risk their seats in Congress – to stand up for legislation that might make it just a little harder for an American to stockpile an arsenal like Paddock did, including 42 guns, some of them assault rifles – 23 in his hotel room and 19 at his home – as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition and some “electronic devices.” Just another deer hunter, I guess.

On crushing ISIS, our president and his party are all in. On asking the N.R.A. for even the tiniest moderation, they are AWOL. No matter how many innocents are fatally shot – no matter even that one of their own congressional leaders was critically wounded playing baseball – it’s never time to discuss any serious policy measures to mitigate gun violence.

And in the wake of last month’s unprecedented hurricanes in the Atlantic – that wrought over $200 billion of damage on Houston and Puerto Rico, not to mention smaller cities – Scott Pruitt, Trump’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency, also told us that it was not the time to discuss “the cause and effect” of these superstorms and how to mitigate their damage. We need to focus on helping the victims, he said. But for Pruitt, we know, it’s never time to take climate change seriously.

To take ISIS seriously abroad, but then to do nothing to mitigate these other real threats to our backyards, concert venues and coastal cities, is utter madness.

It’s also corrupt. Because it’s driven by money and greed – by gunmakers and gun sellers and oil and coal companies, and all the legislators and regulators they’ve bought and paid to keep silent. They know full well most Americans don’t want to take away people’s rights to hunt or defend themselves. All we want to take away is the right of someone to amass a military arsenal at home and in a hotel room and use it on innocent Americans when some crazy rage wells up inside him. But the N.R.A. has these cowardly legislators in a choke hold.

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2 thoughts on “If Only Stephen Paddock Had Shouted ‘Allahu Akbar!’

  1. I am surprised that Friedman’s discussion of this incident were so poorly informed and considered. I have found some of his writings much more informed. I do agree with his assessment of unconscionable politicization of this tragedy, but I think he fails to acknowledge the commercialization of it – like to augment his own book sales. His discussion seemed to conveniently forget the recent past mass violence incidents where airplanes, cars and or trucks were used for mass murder – and those in several countries where public firearms ownership is highly restricted or illegal all together. Most of all he fails to acknowledge that mass violence is a far more complex, broader and growing problem than is represented by firearm crime and abuses.

    Where we fail in stopping violence – is failing to focus on the actual causes of violence and not getting caught up emotionally in trying to just control it’s symptoms. Guns are not causes of violence. The cause of the violence is independent guns or other tools of violence. Guns are certainly violence enablers – but so are many other mechanical things. If we stopped politicizing violence, marketing sensationalism of violence, and worked harder on understanding the types of mental conditions and circumstances that produce violence – we would be far more successful in limiting violence in general. Focusing on the symptoms and artifacts of violence, rather than its causes is actually contributing to more mass violence. Not understanding the complexity of mass violence before attempting solutions – can only produce more of the same ineffectiveness.

    There are more than 10,000 laws regulating the sale and use of firearms in municipal, state and federal registers. They did not prevent Paddock from committing mass violence with his legally purchased guns and it’s hard to imagine that a few more gun laws are going affect the causes of gun violence. Let alone affect criminals that acquire and illegally own guns. Given the number of firearms registered, and particularly unregistered – in the US (perhaps orders of magnitudes above its population), it is far too late too effectively make firearm ownership illegal. Legally restricting the purchase of additional new firearms won’t stop firearm violent crimes, but it will produce another black market – one for firearms equal to the illegal drug black market. How’s that War on Drugs working out? I recently was correct in calling it a war – because all wars eventually end. If you think firearm restrictions in the US are an effective solution to mass violence you are grossly misinformed about the problem and your ability understand it – proportionately diminished.

    Paddock did not fit any of the 56 profiling classifications that the FBI uses to flag potential violent people. Being white, a multi-millionaire, in his 60s – Paddock didn’t even fit the broadest violent criminal demographics. Paddock’s higher age than most violent offenders is of note – in that several recent violence incidents have been committed by older white males. What kind of trend is this? Are older white males now more subject to mental illness than before, or are they just so damned frustrated with failures – incompetence, corruption and irresponsibility of American governance to effectively resolve its citizens’ many problems – and that the resulting rage in rare cases overwhelms intellect?

    It may be determined that Paddock was under treatment for mental illness, but this is unlikely considering that we have yet to modify the laws effectively that cover Doctor/Client privilege with a clause that negates those privileges when public safety is at stake nor do they require mental health experts to report patients that might represent a violent threat. Perhaps a flaw in our legal system of more significance than how we govern firearms. It’s just another complex privacy and freedom issue that relates to the broader issues in our on-going healthcare problem solving incompetencies – of both R’s and D’s – a widely acknowledged and general CF – which is certainly a contributor to that anguish, frustration, rage and potential sources of mass violence.

    An autopsy may determine that Paddock was the victim of a causative brain abnormality or pathology that was not identifiable prior to this tragedy. It may not. What if investigative authorities identify no cause for Paddock’s mass violence? (Likely some cause will be assigned – as it often has in the past and – one that will relieve pressure on law enforcement and politicians to solve our mass violence problem.).

    At some point don’t we also have to consider that no matter the cause of Paddock’s actions, as the planet continues to be overpopulated by humans, mass violence is going to be (I would say that it already is) a growing fact of life. That as growth/opportunity and economies necessarily decline with physical critical resource depletion continues – there will actually be less resources to prevent violence than there is now. Resource competition and resulting violence logically will continue to increase. (It’s hard to logically deny that resource/economic competition is at least a component of most, if not all the current global conflicts – i.e. oil in the ME.) Mass violence is probable to increase until we solve our unsustainable global overpopulation, critical resource sustainability problems – or that human overpopulation biologically solves itself – as it does in lower species under a resource depletion based population collapse. Clearly, Paddock did not seem to be resource depletion stressed living a wealthy life style. That doesn’t necessarily mean he wasn’t and especially if we consider him a stress sensitivity outlier of the norm in the human population. We do know that apparent non-causative mass violence is on the increase. We know very little about how modern humans behave under repeated or constant crowding, and or other modern negative stimulation stresses.

    I’m not sure if we will ever know how much of Paddock’s behavior was based on response to stresses – overcrowding or otherwise. He did have multiple homes and could have chosen to live in almost anywhere – crowed cities or the less crowed country side. Numerous experiments on animals over many years – have shown that under the stresses of overpopulation crowding and critical resource restriction/depletion (not necessarily just food) that animals instinctively resort to atypical behavioral violence. This would be unprovoked violence, including infanticide and cannibalism to stabilize their population at sustainable levels. Should we consider if this is what we are seeing in mass violence in general? Is the Paddock mass violence tragedy representative of some kind of subtle and unknown overpopulation stresses – a contributing factor, if not direct or indirect – perhaps cumulative, as well including other recent mass violence. Could we define the economic shrinkage of the US middle class as a form of fiscal cannibalism related to resource competition and or opportunity limitations? Perhaps there is a genetic safety valve programmed to effect behavior that automatically attempts to limit overpopulation behaviorally – before population critical resource depletions limit the respective overpopulation through near irreversible species collapses from starvation and or disease.

    The bottom line here is the complexity of the mass violence problem, and the proven ineffectiveness of gun “control” or even the entire elimination of guns – in preventing mass violence in humans. Second Amendment preservation proponents accurately point to the repeated historic precedent of national civilian firearms disarming prior to and the subsequent enabling the greatest mass violence events in those nations and to humans the planet has ever experienced.

    The election of Donald Trump – a demonstrable racist with fascist admiration, alliances and an enabler of his KKK, neo-nazis portion of his social conservative base – only reinforces the reality of the risks and validity of concerns that a growing fascist culture now has great influence, if not control of the government of the US and at its highest executive point of authority. It is simple minded, uninformed and generally ill-considered to think that we can solve our mass violence problem – by focusing on the removal of just an artifact of those symptoms and not effectively address the actual causes.

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