Marlette cartoon: America First! (in mass shootings)
[Source: pnj.com]

Media pundits and politicians blame lax gun laws, social isolation and mental illness for mass shootings, but ignore the advent of a fascist culture that venerates the U.S. military.

In the wake of a barrage of mass shootings, the media have offered a variety of explanations centering predominantly on the social isolation and mental illness of shooters and their easy access to military-style weaponry due to lax gun regulations.

These factors are significant but almost all media pundits avoid the gorilla sitting in the psyche of the American mind—that of the huge military budget and culture of military veneration, which is reminiscent of fascist cultures.

In a July 8 column entitled “Why Shooters Do the Evil They Do,” New York Times columnist David Brooks characteristically cites mental illness, loneliness and the need for recognition and power as lying at the root of recent mass shootings.

Portrait of David Brooks
David Brooks [Source: nytimes.com]

What is missing is any discussion of American-style militarism, something Brooks has whitewashed throughout his writing career.

According to David Swanson, Director of World Beyond War, 36% of mass shooters have been trained by the U.S. military—when only one percent of Americans serve in the military.

[Source: commons.wikimedia.org]

Many of the mass shooters also have used military-style weapons and have worn military-style clothing.

Teenager enters supermarket in Military uniform, kills over 10 in mass  shooting
Buffalo mass shooter Payton Gendron dressed in military fatigues being arrested. [Source: sanatancharacters.blogspot.com]

Jillian Peterson and James Densley recently published a detailed study of mass shooters sponsored by the the National Institute of Justice entitled The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic, which has been widely cited by the media.

The book casts light on many dark corners of American life but characteristically ignores among the darkest—the military-industrial complex.

The Violence Project - How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic - Our Book
[Source: theviolenceproject.org]

Peterson and Densley found that, of 172 mass shooters, only four were women. Most bought guns legally, had previous issues with violence or mental illness and experienced feelings of hopelessness. The authors also noted that many of the shooters were under 25 years old and that their prefrontal cortex, or brain, had not fully developed.

About Us - Mass Violence Research Think Tank | The Violence Project
Jillian Peterson (left) and James Densley’s well-funded study ignores the obvious. [Source: theviolenceproject.org]

The authors fail to consider, however, how a 20-year war waged by their own country might have had a negative influence on the behavior of some of the mass shooters, or how some may have been broken by their time serving in Afghanistan or Iraq—which we know to be the case.

Esteban Santiago is taken from the Broward County main jail for transport to the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Jan. 9, 2017.
Floridian Esteban Santiago is one of many mass shooters who is a military veteran. Media reports said that the Iraq War veteran had returned from his 2011 combat tour a “changed man.” [Source: sandiegouniontribune.com]

Kids in the U.S. are taught in school to honor their country each morning as they recite the pledge of allegiance and to venerate veterans on Memorial Day and other holidays. Might the stories of their national military killing people around the planet have some influence on young people already suffering from an increased exposure to violence on television and in the movies?

A U.S. soldier showing his nine-year-old son how to fire M249 light machine gun. [Source: wikipedia.org]

The year 2019 was deadly for young shooters. The same year, not coincidentally, saw President Donald Trump pardon and lionize Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher, who murdered an Iraqi teen and was known as a psychopath among his platoon mates.

U.S. Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher charged with war crimes in Iraq reunited  with his wife | Daily Mail Online
(Left) Eddie Gallagher with his wife, Andrea; (Right) Gallagher as a sniper in Mosul, Iraq, where he was accused of war crimes; (Center) Donald Trump, one of Gallagher’s admirers. [Source: dailymail.co.uk]

In 2015, Pope Francis addressed a Joint Session of Congress charging the arms industry with having blood on its hands. Many applauded him, but since that time, the U.S. military budget has increased over $116,000,000,000 as violence at home has only increased.

PHOTO:Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol, Sept. 24, 2015, in Washington.
Pope Francis speaks before Joint Session of Congress; members, however, failed to heed his message. [Source: abcnews.go.com]

In his famous speech against the Vietnam War—given one year before his assassination on April 4, 1968—Martin Luther King, Jr., called the U.S. the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” Why then should it be any surprise that the target of violence should increasingly be Americans?


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18 COMMENTS

  1. I would add that 99% of mass shootings are perpetrated by males. Is that a coincidence? Is it a coincidence that the suicide rate for males is 4x what it is for females? What have we taught young men in this society? If you’re going to express any emotion, make sure it’s of the manly type — like anger or rage. And when someone is welled with these emotions there are two outlets — inward or outward. Walk by almost any Pee Wee football game and you’ll likely witness another generation of emotionally constipated men being produced with admonishments of “No fear!” “Suck it up!” This may appear to be teaching inner strength, when in reality it’s only teaching young men to suppress — creating a pressure cooker and a perfect storm for those prone to violence, to erupt. I think a conversation needs to be had on how we help young men be more emotionally available to other young men, or just more emotionally available, period.

  2. I thought a mental deficiency, feeling of inadequacy, anger at being left out or looked down on, serving one’s payback. I still do but it points out that our media fail us. They print what their belief is, their interpretation of various people, genders, etc. But it is more than our military, I think. Other countries have military’s and are not subjected to these massacres that get. Does that have anything to do with the fact we are raised to believe we are the greatest and the best and no other can come close?

  3. Jack is a dedicated activist all his adult life for peace and nonviolence. I greatly value his input as a Veteran For Peace. He makes a very good point in this article. Jack is a retired educator who never stops educating the public about the truths that are obscured by our cultural tradition of propaganda, starting from very young ages. I respect and admire him greatly for the mission to save lives and to protect young citizens especially from falling as victims to this deadly culture,

  4. According to one study mass murderers tend to share four things in common:

    First, the vast majority of mass shooters in the study experienced early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age. The nature of their exposure included parental suicide, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and/or severe bullying. The trauma was often a precursor to mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, thought disorders or suicidality.

    Second, practically every mass shooter studied had reached an identifiable crisis point in the weeks or months leading up to the shooting. They often had become angry and despondent because of a specific grievance. For workplace shooters, a change in job status was frequently the trigger. For shooters in other contexts, relationship rejection or loss often played a role. Such crises were, in many cases, communicated to others through a marked change in behavior, an expression of suicidal thoughts or plans, or specific threats of violence.

    Third, most of the shooters had studied the actions of other shooters and sought validation for their motives. People in crisis have always existed. But in the age of 24-hour rolling news and social media, there are scripts to follow that promise notoriety in death. Societal fear and fascination with mass shootings partly drives the motivation to commit them. Hence mass shootings tend to come in clusters. They are socially contagious. Perpetrators study other perpetrators and model their acts after previous shootings. Many are radicalized online in their search for validation from others that their will to murder is justified.

    Fourth, the shooters all had the means to carry out their plans. Once someone decides life is no longer worth living and that murdering others would be a proper revenge, only means and opportunity stand in the way of another mass shooting. Is an appropriate shooting site accessible? Can the would-be shooter obtain firearms? In 80% of school shootings, perpetrators got their weapons from family members, according to our data. Workplace shooters tended to use handguns they legally owned. Other public shooters were more likely to acquire them illegally.

  5. According to one study mass murderers tend to share 4 things in common:

    First, the vast majority of mass shooters in the study experienced early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age. The nature of their exposure included parental suicide, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and/or severe bullying. The trauma was often a precursor to mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, thought disorders or suicidality.

    Second, practically every mass shooter studied had reached an identifiable crisis point in the weeks or months leading up to the shooting. They often had become angry and despondent because of a specific grievance. For workplace shooters, a change in job status was frequently the trigger. For shooters in other contexts, relationship rejection or loss often played a role. Such crises were, in many cases, communicated to others through a marked change in behavior, an expression of suicidal thoughts or plans, or specific threats of violence.

    Third, most of the shooters had studied the actions of other shooters and sought validation for their motives. People in crisis have always existed. But in the age of 24-hour rolling news and social media, there are scripts to follow that promise notoriety in death. Societal fear and fascination with mass shootings partly drives the motivation to commit them. Hence mass shootings tend to come in clusters. They are socially contagious. Perpetrators study other perpetrators and model their acts after previous shootings. Many are radicalized online in their search for validation from others that their will to murder is justified.

    Fourth, the shooters all had the means to carry out their plans. Once someone decides life is no longer worth living and that murdering others would be a proper revenge, only means and opportunity stand in the way of another mass shooting. Is an appropriate shooting site accessible? Can the would-be shooter obtain firearms? In 80% of school shootings, perpetrators got their weapons from family members, according to our data. Workplace shooters tended to use handguns they legally owned. Other public shooters were more likely to acquire them illegally.

  6. Where is the list of these ex-mil mass shooters?
    Where is the list of those with guns stopping mass murder and those that protect their family from home invasions?

  7. In part the problem is the solider when he is discharged, he receives no mental therapy from war thinking to peace thinking. The war thinking does not know how to switch off. The government has them thinking how to defend themselves from an enemy. This has to be undone. But they are tuned loose into a civilian society.
    Combine that with PTSD and it is powder keg ready to explode.
    The government’s stiff upper lip, with not being allowed to grieve for so many loses they are expected to bury within themselves. They are told men do not cry or feel lose.
    When they explode to many innocents die.

  8. I agree that the military is a big factor. But we should at Australia that has not had a mass shooting since 1996. Maybe we need to emulate Australia:
    Australia marked the 25th anniversary of the country’s worst mass shooting on Wednesday in which a lone gunman killed 35 people and forced authorities to implement some of the world’s toughest gun laws.

    Martin Bryant went on a shooting spree on April 28, 1996 at a cafe and tourist site at the former colonial prison of Port Arthur, in the island state of Tasmania, with military-style weapons he had bought without background checks.

    Within two weeks of the massacre, the then conservative prime minister John Howard had brokered a National Firearms Agreement law limiting licensing and ownership controls of guns.

    Australia banned all semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns and thousands of unlicensed firearms were surrendered under a gun amnesty.

    “We took hundreds of thousands of guns out of the community and the evidence since … is that there have been no mass shootings since then, and the country is a much safer place,” Howard told the Australian Broadcasting Corp on Wednesday.

    The firearms law is held up by many abroad as an example of the need for tighter gun controls in the United States, which has seen a surge in mass shootings in 2021.

    U.S. recorded 163 mass shooting events this year as of Monday, up from 94 over the same period in the prior year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. read more

    Australia has had no mass shootings since 1996.

    • John Howard was a conservative Australian Prime Minister with whom I agreed on almost nothing, and who I “hated” along with other left-leaning people. All these years later, after the advent of the grotesque and toxic Trump era, I’ve learnt that I didn’t hate John Howard at all. He was at least genuine in his regard for the best interests of Australia.

      The most admirable thing he did was to get rid of these types of weapons, off the streets and out of the hands of whatever yahoo or potential yahoo who might do the next shoot-up, killing double-figure numbers of people. That took political and physical courage on John Howard’s part and I for one am thankful for it. He had to wear a bulletproof vest under his jacket on advice from his security detail but still gave speeches in public, defending the policy in front of crowds of gun yahoos.

      In the US you still have the trigger happy yahoos running around with military grade weapons and no one able to address the problem. The easiest targets seem to be little children inside your schools. Your police are jacked-up dime-store commandos with military equipment and they can’t do anything either.

      Sorry for pointing out the obvious, but there’s a thing called common sense. Allowing military weapons onto the streets and into the hands of any nutter who buys one doesn’t make any sense.

  9. We already live in a textbook fascist world and propaganda like this is proof. There is not one mention of widespread media mind control (this article is a good example thereof) or the rampant drugging of the American population with SSRIs. I’m no fan of the military industrial complex, but this author, knowingly or unknowingly supports their aims by creating a verbal honeypot slaughter pen in the form of a false dialectic. Do better.

    • The widespread politicians and media enthusiasm for U.S. wars, the military, patriotism, media super-heroes, James Bond, Tom Cruise, targeted assassinations, the hundreds of millions of dollars poured into local police departments (begun by Obama), the escalating demonization and threats against Russia and China – these are the forms of “mind control” that are propagated throughout our society.

  10. My compatriot Pope Francis was right when he said, whilst addressing a Joint Session of Congress “the arms industry has blood on its hands.”. The hypocrite didn’t explain weapons are made for killing or maiming people..He knows very well bombs, rockets and torpedoes are made for destroying life and buildings. They also destroy families, society, the environment and the economy.

    Whilst people keep, stupidly, believing Armed Forces are for ‘defense’ the wat industry cannot go. So, politicians have to spend lots of time, money and imagination to create enemies. Only attacks or the possibility of attack justifies the obscene amounts of money spent by governments.

    Thirty Six Percent of Mass Shooters Were Trained by the U.S. Military but nearly 100% of mass shooters were trained by the NON-Military US. This is done from childhood all through your years of puberty and adolescence, through EDUCATION. Cinema and TV films, video games, paintball, and schooling. At school children learn how, if they want to become very famous and eventually heroes, the easiest thing to do is to become first class shooter.

    No matter how much people resist war, the War industry will always win. And Pope Francis knows this very well; the Vatican is a major shareholder in several military corporations. The Church of England too.

    • I like Jack’s essay and I like your reply, Alberto. Jack says only 1 percent of Americans are veterans, but I’m guessing I live in a state where the percentage is higher (Maine). The unceasing sentimentality toward veterans and the military here on the local news is nauseating, and it’s far more intense now than in the past. I am grateful for remote control because if I have to look at Jared Golden (Congressional rep who boosted the Pentagon budget by $37 billion) one more time eating lobster while covered with tattoos I am going to scream. I’m almost hoping the Republican will beat him; he wouldn’t be that much worse.

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