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Monday, December 09, 2019

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One Type Of Terrorism Really Is Underreported — Right-Wing Terrorism

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

Following President Donald Trump’s false claim that the press purposefully fails to report on terror attacks, his team released a list of attacks that were supposedly “underreported.” The list supplied, however, was entirely devoid of attacks by right-wing extremists and those inspired by the “alt-right.”

During a February 6 speech at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the central military command based in MacDill Air Force base near Tampa, FL, Trump lied when he claimed that “the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report” on terror attacks. Trump added that the media “have their reasons” for not reporting on the events. Following the speech to military leaders, the White House released a list of 78 terror attacks that officials claim were “underreported” by the media. The list only furthered the lie. According to the audience engagement tool Chartbeat, four of the top 20 most “engaging news stories of 2015 (defined as those that held audiences’ attention for the longest) were events from the list. As CNN’s Chris Cuomo pointed out, none of the events listed “have less than 100 media hits.”

In attacking the media for allegedly having a selection bias when it comes to terror attacks, the administration neglected numerous cases of terror inspired by right-wing extremism. In many of these cases, the terrorists had direct ties to the white nationalist movement, a key component of what has been coined the “alt-right,” or were inspired by conservative media misinformation. Here are just a few of the examples that didn’t make Trump’s list:

“Alt-Right” Assassin Killed Six At Quebec Mosque

Alexandre Bissonnette killed six people at a Quebec City mosque on January 29. As the BBC reported, political science professor Pierre Martin “says that Bissonette may have been influenced by a mix of global nationalist trends, the so-called ‘alt-right’, and ‘currents within Quebec itself’.” Bissonette was reportedly known to many as a “right-wing ‘troll’ who had previously been combative” online “and also openly shared attacks on women’s rights” — another trademark of the “alt-right.”

Dylann Roof, “Face Of The Radicalized ‘Alt-Right’” Killed Nine At Historically Black Church

The University of Chicago’s Divinity School properly identified Dylann Roof, the man behind the June 17, 2015, shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, SC, as “the face of the radicalized ‘alt-right.’” In a confession video, Roof told an FBI agent that he committed the attack because “Blacks are raping and killing white people on the streets every day.”

According to The Daily Beast, “whole passages from Roof’s manifesto first appeared” on the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer. The Daily Beast pointed out, “The parallels between Roof’s manifesto and the comments on The Daily Stormer … suggest that either Roof was the commenter or he visited the site often enough to have plagiarized from it for his manifesto.”

Wired reported that Roof “searched for ‘black on white crime’ and ended up on the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens’ website,” which The Atlantic said has its roots in an organization that “aimed to be a (somewhat) more respectable alternative” to the Ku Klux Klan.

British “White Fascist” Killed Labour MP Jo Cox

Thomas Mair, a British man “with extreme right wing views,” according to CNN, was convicted of murdering British Labour member of parliament Jo Cox in June 2016. According to The Independent, “Reports from the trial proceedings conjure up a profile of a committed right-wing terrorist extremist, with the court hearing details of Mair’s links to white supremacist groups and witness testimony to his exhortations to ‘put Britain First.’” The article went on to say the murder was “an act of political terrorism murder committed by a white fascist.” The Daily Mail reported that jurors in the case were shown the inside of Mair’s home, where he “plotted her murder amongst far-Right literature and a dossier on the MP.”

Man Angered By Debunked Sting Videos Killed Three At Colorado Planned Parenthood

In 2015, Robert Lewis Dear opened fire inside a Colorado Planned Parenthood, killing three people. As Vox noted, when he was arrested Dear mentioned “baby parts,” which was “probably a reference” to the deceptively edited videos meant to slander Planned Parenthood put out by the Center for Medical Progress, which were laden with conservative misinformation. New Republic pointed out that “the narratives he learned from Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones and Bill O’Reilly and countless far-right web sites” contributed to his radicalization and his murders.

White Supremacist Gave Nazi Salute After Targeting Jews In Missouri Shooting

Frazier Glenn Miller, a “Missouri man with a long resume of anti-Semitism and white supremacist activism,” according to CNN, killed three people on April 13, 2014, after opening fire on two Jewish centers in Kansas City, MO. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said that just after his arrest, “Miller shouted ‘Heil Hitler’ while handcuffed in the back seat of a police car.” The Kansas City Star also reported that Miller asked the officer, “How many f—— Jews did I kill?” After his arrest, Miller said he “wanted to make damned sure I killed some Jews or attacked the Jews before I died.”

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino, told CNN that Miller was “among the most-over-the-top, violent white supremacists” of the 1980s, adding that he “was one of the pioneers in the modern hate world.”

IMAGE: Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

14 Fake News Stories Created Or Publicized By Donald Trump

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Donald Trump tried to present himself as a paragon of journalistic virtue at Wednesday’s press conference, and if you were trapped in a bunker the last two years, from another planet, a frequent impulse buyer of bridges, or a Trump supporter, you might have believed him. Over the hour-long circus, Trump railed against the “very, very dishonest people” working in media, said he has “great respect for freedom of the press and all of that” and bemoaned fake news—seven times. “It’s a very sad thing,” Trump stated at one moment. “So, all I can ask for is honest reporters.”

There’s nothing inherently funny about the words Trump used, but they are absolutely hilarious coming out of his mouth. Fake news is the one thing Trump hasn’t claimed to have invented that he actually deserves at least partial credit for inventing. He has been spreading fake news since it was just called “lies,” and he’s shown that winning the presidency will only increase his fake news output. Trump puts out so much misinformation he is a fake news factory unto himself, an artisan of lies, a curator of untruths. Real estate may be his job, but lying is his career, hobby and passion project.

Trump has put thousands of fake news stories out there, some enormous and others so small you wonder why he bothers. Here are 14 fake news stories from the recent and distant past that Trump has created or promoted.

1. Obama is a Kenyan Muslim who never attended Columbia University.

Trump began courting his base in 2011, when he assumed a position as a lead voice among the birthers, a group of racists and Islamophobes desperate for any reason to delegitimize the first black president. For half a decade, Trump relentlessly peddled birtherism and other overtly racialized lies. He suggested that President Obama fabricated his time at Columbia University, a favorite contention among a right-wing that reserves a particularly visceral hatred for educated “elites” of the uppity black variety. Trump also demanded—demanded, with all the gall and entitlement of a mediocre “self-made” white trust fund kid—that Obama prove he was good enough and American enough to hold the office. To ensure this demand was as demeaning as possible, Trump offered Obama $5 million (he would later lie and say it was $50 million) to show his passport and longform birth certificate, as if Obama would shuck and jump at the money. When Trump finally dropped all the birther stuff earlier this year, he tried to slither out of it via more fake news, and invented a story pinning the whole thing on Hillary Clinton.

2. Hillary Clinton was too ill to serve as president.

Like his income taxes, Trump has never released his medical records, and now that 66 million idiots and one hostile foreign power have made him president, he definitely never will. You know who did release her medical records, though? Hillary Clinton. Hypocrisy being one of Trump’s most recognizable traits, the GOP presidential candidate launched a sustained health scare about Clinton, claiming she lacked the “mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS,” and saying she “sleeps a lot.” When Clinton was diagnosed with pneumonia after fainting at a 9/11 memorial event, Trump told a crowd of supporters, “She’s supposed to fight all of these different things, and she can’t make it 15 feet to her car, give me a break.” He further capitalized on the moment by releasing an ad that accused Clinton of falling short on “fortitude, strength [and] stamina.” In short order, Trump followers were matter-of-factly telling telling TV personalities that Clinton had AIDS and passing around conspiracy-theory memes that confused a lapel mic with a “cough-prevention machine.”

3. Ted Cruz’s father was involved in a plot to kill President Kennedy.

For two days and across four press outlets—a mere fraction of the $3 billion in free ad space the media gave him—Trump insinuated that Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael, had a hand in the murder of John F. Kennedy. He didn’t state this outright, but instead used a favorite trick of the right, which is to pose an outrageous question and then pretend it wasn’t fully loaded with innuendo and suggestion. “What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible,” Trump said on an episode of Fox & Friends. The next day, he got extra weaselly by announcing, “I’m just referring to an article that appeared, it has nothing to do with me.”

That article, by the way, was published by the National Enquirer, whose publisher and CEO is Trump’s good friend David Pecker. Trump has even written for the tabloid. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that the Enquirer paid one of Trump’s sexual harassment accusers for her story in order to bury it, and actress Salma Hayek says the rag let Trump plant a fake story about her after she turned him down for a date. Yes, it’s true that the Enquirer has broken political scandals, such as Rush Limbaugh’s drug addiction. It is also true that it has published many, many stories that have ended with retractions, court-ordered payments to celebrities, public apologies, and out-of-court settlements. Since the election, the Enquirer has become a propaganda arm of Trump’s transition team, an honor it shares with Breitbart.

In the end, Trump admitted on CNN that even he didn’t believe the conspiracy theory he’d helped to propagate. Ted Cruz responded by memorizing and reciting a joke written for him by an human staffer, telling reporters, “Yes, my dad killed JFK, he is secretly Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa is buried in his backyard.” Which led millions of wide-eyed Trump supporters to whisper to themselves, “Oh my god, he finally admitted it.”

4. The Central Park 5 are guilty and deserve the death penalty (1989).

Three decades ago, Trump took out a full-page ad in the New York Daily News calling for the summary execution of five African-American and Latino teenagers aged 16 and under, who were falsely accused of raping a white jogger in the late 1980s. Police used every abusive and coercive method to extract confessions from the Central Park 5, and Trump fanned sky-high racial flames with the ad, which left no room for the fact that the five teens might be innocent. It was precursor to Trump the master race-baiter of the 2016 presidential campaign. “He was the fire-starter,” Yusef Salaam, one of the erroneously accused, told the Guardian during Trump’s presidential campaign. “Common citizens were being manipulated and swayed into believing that we were guilty.”

5. The Central Park 5 are still guilty, against all evidence (2013 to present).

Exonerated by DNA evidence, the Central Park 5 were released after serving years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. Trump — who is neither a lawyer, forensics expert or decent person — has continued to publicly prosecute the case, tweeting out disproven information and calling the state’s settlement with the group “the heist of the century.” This belief that black and brown people must be innately guilty of something is what Trump and his supporters call “law and order.”

6. ‘Thousands and thousands of [Muslims] were cheering’ on 9/11.

The first time Trump spread fake news about American Muslims in New Jersey rejoicing at the death and destruction of 9/11 was at a 2015 rally in Birmingham, Alabama, where he told supporters, “I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.”

After cops said it wasn’t true, he told George Stephanopoulos he saw the “Arab population” jubilantly celebrating the towers falling “on television.” Shortly thereafter, Trump tweeted a video clip that actually discredited his story, proving himself wrong.

7. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered.

Another example of Trump pretending that he’s just “putting the question out there.” After the death of Justice Scalia in February 2016, Trump went on the radio show of nutty conspiracy theorist par excellence Michael Savage (who has accused Obama of #WhiteGenocide and said Trump was a victim of vicious racism. Trustworthy, in other words). When Savage asked Trump about a conspiracy theory suggesting the 79-year-old justice was murdered, Trump played his designated role. “I’m hearing it’s a big topic. But they say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow,” Trump said, repeating a bit of fake news to help it grow wings and fly all over the right-wing blogosphere.

8. Black people kill all the white people.

Deciding that his campaign wasn’t quite racist enough, Trump retweeted a graphic, below, containing completely fabricated numbers for black murder rates. All of the data in the image are wrong and the supposed source, the Crime Statistics Bureau of San Francisco, doesn’t exist. The information was passed to Trump by one of the white nationalists he pals around with online (not to be confused with the white nationalists he pals around with on his transition team) who uses a swastika as an avatar. During an appearance on The O’Reilly Factor, Trump’s excuse for tweeting disinformation was that he doesn’t know if things he tweets are true, but also he doesn’t care. “Am I going to check every statistic?” Trump asked. “All it was, was a retweet. It wasn’t from me.”

Trump’s fake figures went out to his millions of followers, many of whom are already hateful, racist adherents of stereotypes of black crime. Dylann Roof, who hunted nine black people as they worshipped in church, cited similar fake numbers as his justification for black death in his video confession and manifesto. Breitbart, helmed by Trump senior adviser and white nationalist sympathizer Steve Bannon, became the favorite of neo-Nazis and white supremacists thanks to sections tagged “black crime.” Trump is helping—doing his damndest, in fact—to radicalize white extremists, the greatest terrorist threat to the United States.

9. The members of this one random black family are Trump supporters.

In June, Trump retweeted a photo that juxtaposed a family photo of “the blacks” with the words “American Families for Trump: We Need A Common Sense President.” Twitter responded by noting that the picture first appeared in an article by Ohio broadcaster WCPO about its annual “Midwest Black Family Reunion” arts and entertainment festival. When Buzzfeed reached out to the dad in the photo, he told the outlet, “When I saw it, I immediately knew it was political propaganda. Why use it without asking for someone’s permission? Why use our image without asking?”

10. Millions of people in the U.S. voted illegally on November 8.

In the final countdown to election day, Trump rejiggered his claims of a rigged election to focus on undocumented immigrants illegally voting. “We have voters all over the country where they’re not even citizens of the country and they’re voting,” Trump said, his lies made obvious by the movement of his lips. “There is tremendous voter fraud.”

Post-election, Trump’s unceasing insecurity over losing the popular vote led him to defensively tweet, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” This is exactly like my contention thatIwon the popular vote if you ignore the many millions of people who voted. Like all 138.8 million of them. Those claims strike me as on a par, validity wise.

11. Climate change is a trick pulled on us by the Chinese.

During a presidential debate in September, Trump lied and said he’d never claimed climate change was a hoax. He’s contradicted by his 2012 tweet stating global warming “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”; a 2014 tweet in which he called climate change “bullshit”; another 2014 tweet in which he called climate change a “hoax”; and dozens of other tweets expressing the same sentiment. On a side but related note, Trump has also been lying about receiving nameless “environmental awards” since 2011.

12. Vaccines cause autism.

Trump has been a vocal anti-vaxxer on social media since 2012, once tweeting that a “healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!” In 2015, he declared autism “an epidemic.” Though countless people with real scientific credentials have debunked the myth linking vaccines and autism, Trump earned his PhD in the school of reality TV, which has no science department. “I am being proven right about massive vaccinations—the doctors lied,” he tweeted in 2014. “Save our children & their future.”

Earlier this week, Trump announced that he has asked Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a king among anti-vaxxers, to “chair a commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity.’’

13. Marco Rubio is ineligible to be president.

On several occasions during the Republican primaries, Trump questioned whether Ted Cruz, by dint of his Canadian birth, was ineligible for the presidency and threatened to sue him over the issue. Cruz’s mother is an American citizen, making him a natural-born citizen, and in 2016 he renounced his Canadian citizenship. Maybe all that information is hard for Trump to juggle at once—seems plausible—but less clear is why on more than one occasion he promoted the fake news that Marco Rubio’s eligibility was in question. Rubio was born in Miami, Florida, in the United States, which makes him a citizen from birth, without question. The only reason to suggest otherwise is if you believe only people with anglo names can be U.S. citizens. Trump may have assumed this was the rule in the Constitution’s Article XII, which he reportedly promised to protect as president. (There is no Article XII.)

14. Paid rabble-rousers protested the election results.

Two days after the election (one day after we all woke up realizing it wasn’t just a nightmare), Trump got on Twitter to give some debunked fake news life again. “Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting,” Trump wrote about those demonstrating against his win. “Very unfair!”

The “paid Trump protester” was birthed by paranoid right-wing types, but gained widespread attention when prolific fake news writer Paul Horner wrote a fake news article on the topic. During the campaign, Trump spokesatan Kellyanne Conway, campaign flunky Corey Lewandowski and spawn Eric all tweeted the fake news story out to followers. Although it had widely been recognized as fake news by the time of the election, here was Trump tweeting it out again, clearly uninterested in its veracity or lack thereof. His approach to the truth—which is to throw rocks at it, hard—was one of the things that drew many of his like-minded followers to his campaign.

“My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time…His followers don’t fact-check anything—they’ll post everything,” Horner, a self-described Clinton supporter, told the Washington Post after the election. “I thought they’d fact-check it, and it’d make them look worse. I mean that’s how this always works: Someone posts something I write, then they find out it’s false, then they look like idiots. But Trump supporters—they just keep running with it!”

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

IMAGE: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) and vice presidential candidate Mike Pence speak in an overflow room at a campaign event in Roanoke, Virginia, U.S., July 25, 2016.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Why Do Some Hate Crimes Fail To Resonate?

The December day began like any other. Will Corporon awoke to the noisy bustle of his life, five children and loving wife. He headed out, a normal day in the life of a hardworking American father.

Until the day’s news reared with an offending slap.

Dylann S. Roof was convicted on 33 federal hate crime-related charges for the execution slaughter of nine African-Americans as they prayed in a historically significant South Carolina church.

Corporon sent me a text shortly after he heard the news: “Hey, Mary, how come there is a federal hate crimes trial for Dylann Roof but not our idiot?”

“Our idiot” is known to the Kansas Department of Corrections as F. Glenn Miller Jr. He drove to the Kansas City area from southern Missouri in 2014 intent on murdering Jews. He shot and killed Corporon’s father and his 14-year-old nephew, and then turned his shotgun on the beloved wife and mother of another family who had ventured out that rainy afternoon to visit her mother in a nursing home. All were Christian.

People in the metro area certainly know the story, have ingrained the victims’ names and faces to memory — William Corporon, Reat Underwood and Terri LaManno. But outside of Kansas City, not so much. That’s part of what makes Will Corporon upset, and with good reason.

In America, deranged people can kill with racial, ethnic, religious or any of a wide range of hatreds and receive far differing reactions from the national media, the general public and seemingly even from the forces of justice.

And so 24/7  news coverage of Roof agitated Corporon, who lives in Arkansas.

What if the idiot had been successful and had killed numerous Jewish people? Would the national outcry have been different? What if the victims had been black? Would advocacy groups or high-profile individuals have stepped in to pressure for federal attention?

“In this day and age, why pass up the opportunity to send a message?” Corporon asked. Fair questions — and hard to answer. I was truly surprised that Miller’s murders did not become a bigger national story.

The most recent federal data on hate crimes detail more than 7,000 people targeted in 2015. Hate crimes targeting the victim’s real or perceived race/ethnicity/ancestry were the most prevalent, accounting for 59 percent of the incidents. Next was religious bias at nearly 20 percent, followed by sexual orientation at almost 18 percent.

Among the hate crimes motivated by race or ethnicity, black people by far were the main victims, drawing more than 50 percent of the crimes. Whites followed at nearly 19 percent. Anti-Hispanic or Latino bias motivated 9 percent of the crimes. Among crimes motivated by religious bias, anti-Semitism accounted for more than half of the attacks, followed by anti-Muslim bias at about 22 percent.

So the despicable actions of both Roof and Miller fit the leading patterns of hate crimes.

There are explanations for the lack of federal hate crime charges in the Kansas murders. Corporon accepts them, to a point. “We did get justice,” he said. “But to me, it’s more about a message that the U.S. government stands up and says, ‘This is a hate crime and we aren’t going to tolerate it.’ 

A decision was made between Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe and the U.S. attorney for Kansas at that time, Barry Grissom. The goal was to get the case to trial quickly. Federal action would take longer.

Like South Carolina, Kansas has no hate crime law. But it does have enhanced sentencing for bias-motivated crimes. Miller was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. Asthmatic and feeble, he will die in prison.

Officials didn’t want to put the community and the families through another trial to reach the same result. As Corporon concedes, they can’t kill Miller twice. The dignity and respect afforded the families during every phase of the trial was a testament to prosecutors and the judge.

Then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called Grissom within hours of the shootings and arrived to speak at a massive community memorial. President Barack Obama asked to be kept abreast as the case proceeded. “It got the kind of scrutiny that you would hope the government would give a case,” Grissom said.

But it never was branded with federal hate crime charges.

In Roof’s case, the opposite occurred. Federal officials moved first; state charges are still pending. Roof’s sentencing in the federal case is set for Jan. 3.

More than 50 years of age separate Roof and Miller. But they are largely the same type of person. Both dwell on concocted versions of racial strife. Roof wanted to start a race war, inspired by online reports of nonexistent murder sprees by black people targeting whites. Miller, a longtime white supremacist, was obsessed by the belief that immigrants, Jewish people and minorities are pitted against white people.

Corporon sees a common theme. “It’s all just another example of ways that we are mean and hostile to each other,” he said.

Yet both crimes also engendered tremendous acts of kindness from people moved by the violence, strangers who were deeply offended by the hatred. Maybe it will be at that level that these hateful acts will be overcome.

Mary Sanchez: 816-234-4752,, @msanchezcolumn

IMAGE: Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. File photo by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star


Jury Convicts Charleston Gunman Dylann Roof Of Hate Crimes

By Greg Lacour

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – A jury on Thursday found avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof guilty of federal hate crimes resulting in the deaths of nine black parishioners at a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, last year.

Jurors also said Roof, 22, was guilty of obstructing the exercise of religion for those he shot and killed during a church Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015.

(Reporting by Greg Lacour; writing by Colleen Jenkins; editing by Jonathan Oatis and G CRosse)

IMAGE: South Carolina church massacre shooting suspect Dylann Roof is seen in U.S. District Court of South Carolina evidence photo that was originally taken from Roof’s website.  Courtesy U.S. District Court of South Carolina/Handout via REUTERS

Twisted Social Media And Mass Murder

The first details about the mass killer at the community college in Roseburg, Oregon, were that he was a young man, lonely and full of hate. Of course he was. They all are.

Lonely young men full of hate have been with us since there were lonely young men. The modern phenomenon of their acting out their madness on a large scale started almost 50 years ago, when Charles Whitman climbed the University of Texas Tower and shot to death 16 people down below. There have been similar assaults against innocents ever since, but what accounts for the current rapid pace of what used to be rare, horrific events?

One change may be the growth of social media, creating an online community to ease the loneliness of these mentally ill time bombs — and perhaps endorse their perverse fantasies. The community lets the killers know that after the deed, which usually includes their death, they will have lots of people following them.

Christopher Harper-Mercer, who slaughtered nine at Umpqua Community College, had made an online reference to Vester Lee Flanagan, who murdered two former colleagues from a Roanoke, Virginia, TV station while they were on the air. Flanagan had referenced Dylann Roof, a young white man accused of murdering nine people at an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. Flanagan was enraged at Roof and then copied him.

In between, there was John Russell Houser, a rare older mass shooter, 59, who posted his political ravings online before killing two and wounding nine others at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. And he may have been copying James Holmes, who killed 12 and injured 70 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

The natural response after these multiple shootings is to blame lax gun control. The appalled father of Harper-Mercer went on TV and did just that. Politicians agreed or not, depending on their fear of the National Rifle Association.

Yes, bans on weapons of war and gun sales to the mentally ill are desperately needed. Looking back at these massacres, most of the weaponry was legally obtained.

But perhaps as dangerous as the flood of arms are the fumes of paranoia spread by the NRA and other peddlers of gun mania. What better audience for the instant-empowerment-of-guns message than depressed, lonely men?

Ours seems to be the only culture that uses guns for psychotherapy, as was well-portrayed in the movie American Sniper. One creepy similarity between Harper-Mercer and Adam Lanza, who slayed 26 at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, was that their mothers took them out shooting.

Certainly in Lanza’s case, the mother bizarrely thought she could channel her boy’s sick obsession with guns into a bonding thing. Both mothers had left lying around the house the guns their deranged sons used.

In the meantime, these lonely men find companionship, however imaginary, in these online communities of gun worship, places that often validate their paranoiac thoughts. (Many also seek refuge in violent video games.) What they desperately need is real community to offer reality checks and interface with mental health professionals.

Some law enforcement is trying to withhold the perpetrators’ names to deprive the criminals of the celebrity they crave. These officers fully understand the motive, but their good efforts can’t go far. The curious public does want to know names and the killers’ grievances, however crazy, and media will provide them.

The bigger concern is the ugly public seething online, honoring killers past and certifying the most twisted worldviews. Social media have some very dark corners that encourage mass bloodshed, and what can we possibly do about it?

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

Umpqua Community College alumnus Donice Smith (L) is embraced after she said one of her former teachers was shot dead, near the site of a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

The Tragic History Of Race Wars

He wanted to start a race war.

That, you will recall, was what authorities say white supremacist Dylann Roof had in mind when he shot up a storied African-American church in June. It might have surprised him to learn that we’ve already had a race war.

No, that’s not how one typically thinks of World War II, but it takes only a cursory consideration of that war’s causes and effects to make the case. Germany killed 6 million Jews and rampaged through Poland and the Soviet Union because it considered Jews and Slavs subhuman. The Japanese stormed through China and other Asian outposts in the conviction that they were a superior people and that Americans, as a decadent and mongrel people, could do nothing about it.

Meantime, this country was busy imprisoning 120,000 of its citizens of Japanese ancestry in concentration camps and plunging into a war against racial hatred with a Jim Crow military. The American war effort was undermined repeatedly by race riots — whites attacking blacks at a shipyard in Mobile, white servicemen beating up Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles, to name two examples.

So no, it is not a stretch to call that war a race war.

It ended on August 15, 1945. V-J — Victory over Japan — Day was when the surrender was announced, the day of blissfully drunken revelry from Times Square in New York to Market Street in San Francisco. But for all practical purposes, the war had actually ended nine days before — 70 years ago Thursday — in a noiseless flash of light over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. One person who survived — as least 60,000 people would not — described it as a “sheet of sun.”

The destruction of Hiroshima by an atomic bomb — Nagasaki followed three days later — did not just end the war. It also ushered in a new era: the nuclear age. To those of us who were children then, nuclear power was what turned Peter Parker into a human spider and that lizard into Godzilla.

It was also what air-raid sirens were screaming about when the teacher told you to get down under your desk, hands clasped behind your neck. We called them “drop drills.” No one ever explained to us how putting an inch of laminated particle board between you and a nuclear explosion might save you. None of us ever thought to ask. We simply accepted it, went to school alongside this most terrifying legacy of the great race war, and thought nothing of it.

The world has seen plenty of race wars — meaning tribalistic violence — before and since 1945. Ask the Armenians, the Tutsis, the Darfurians. Ask the Congolese, the Cambodians, the Herero. Ask the Cherokee. The childish urge of the human species to divide itself and destroy itself has splashed oceans of blood across the history of the world.

The difference 70 years ago was the scope of the thing — and that spectacular ending. For the first time, our species now had the ability to destroy itself. We were still driven by the same childish urge. Only now, we were children playing with matches.

This is the fearsome reality that has shadowed my generation down seven decades, from schoolchildren doing drop drills to grandparents watching grandchildren play in the park. And the idea that we might someday forge peace among the warring factions of the planet, find a way to help our kind overcome tribal hatred before it’s too late, has perhaps come to seem idealistic, visionary, naïve, a tired ’60s holdover, a song John Lennon once sang that’s nice to listen to but not at all realistic.

Maybe it’s all those things.

Though 70 years after a flash of soundless light blasted away 60,000 lives, you have to wonder what better options we’ve got. But then, I’m biased.

You see, I have grandchildren playing in the park.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at

Photo: Artūrs Gedvillo via Flickr

‘Temporary’ Not Guilty Plea Entered For Charleston Suspect

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – A federal magistrate on Friday entered a “temporary” not guilty plea for Dylann Roof on hate crime charges in the slaying of nine African-Americans at a South Carolina church, even as his lawyer said his client wanted to plead guilty.

The lead defense attorney, David Bruck, said he could not advise Roof, 21, to declare his guilt in the massacre until after prosecutors said whether they would seek capital punishment.

“Roof has told us he wishes to plead guilty,” Bruck told the court. “Until we know whether the government will seek the death penalty, we cannot advise Mr. Roof.”

The “not guilty” plea entered into the court record by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant on Roof’s behalf can be changed later. Final motions are due on August 20.

“We believe he understands the tremendous crime that he committed and the heinousness of it,” Eduardo Curry, an attorney representing the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site of last month’s massacre, said outside the courtroom.

More than two dozen survivors and relatives of the victims of last month’s killings attended the hearing, where Roof was arraigned on 33 federal hate crime and firearms charges.

The counts add to the raft of state murder and attempted murder counts he already faces. Roof has not yet entered a plea on the state charges.

Some of the relatives and survivors came to the front of the courtroom to make statements, many of them in tears.

“For the rest of his life I want him to hear my thoughts,” said Tyrone Sanders, referring to the defendant.

“I am hurting inside for what he is accused of doing,” said Sanders, father of victim Tywanza Sanders, 26, and husband of Felicia Sanders, who survived. “I want him to think about what I’m thinking and continue to think about it.”

At an earlier appearance in state court, family members riveted the country by expressing heartfelt forgiveness to Roof, saying their Christian faith compelled them to rise above their grief.

Their statements, coming just two days after the slayings, helped spark intense soul-searching in the United States over race relations and led to the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina capitol grounds.

Neither federal nor state prosecutors have decided whether they will seek the death penalty if Roof is convicted.

The federal charges are based on evidence that the suspect targeted the victims “because of their race and in order to interfere with their exercise of religion,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said last week in announcing the indictment.

Roof planned the murders for months with the “goal of increasing racial tensions throughout the nation and seeking retribution for perceived wrongs he believed African-Americans had committed against white people,” Lynch said.

He singled out the nearly 200-year-old church known as “Mother Emanuel” because of its historical significance in the African-American community, Lynch said.

Roof signaled his criminal intent in a racist manuscript posted on his website, she said.

(Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Photo: Dylann Storm Roof appears by closed-circuit television at his bond hearing in Charleston, South Carolina, June 19, 2015 in a still image from video. REUTERS/POOL

We Simply Sit And Wait For The Next Massacre

Such troubled young men.

This is what we call them instead of nuts with guns, and they are a dreaded modern American cliché. Every time there’s a newsflash about another mass shooting, we now expect the culprit to be revealed as a “troubled young man.”

The murders at a Louisiana movie theater on Thursday were unusual because the gunman was in his 50s. The typical mass killer is much younger.

His family is always stunned by his crime. So are the few friends he has. And in the days following the massacre we always learn more about his loneliness and disillusion, and of course the ludicrous ease with which he was able to arm himself.

The story has become, after so many horrid tragedies, a fill-in-the-blank exercise.

In the hours after 24-year-old Mohammod Abdulazeez killed five U.S. servicemembers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the media frothed with speculation that he was working under the jihadist direction — or, at least, inspiration — of ISIS.

Now it appears he was a messed-up kid who drank too much booze, smoked too much weed, and spent too much money. Oh, he was also depressed.

FBI agents believe Abdulazeez began exploring Islamic radicalism as his money problems worsened, and his mental condition frayed. Shortly before his shooting spree, he searched the Internet for guidance as to whether martyrdom would absolve a person’s sins.

Evidently he found a website or a chat room that seeded this loony brainstorm, and sent him down the path of mass murder. Getting the firepower was, as always, no problem.

Ironically, the day Abdulazeez died after shooting four Marines and a Navy sailor, a jury in Denver was deliberating what to do about another troubled young man.

His name is James Eagan Holmes, age 27. In July 2012 he shot up a packed theater during a Batman movie, killing a dozen people and wounding 70 more.

His lawyers insisted Holmes was insane, which is certainly true. Jurors went ahead and convicted him of all 12 murders, of which he is certainly guilty.

Holmes has Phi Beta Kappa intelligence — a degree, with honors, in neuroscience — but was also deeply disturbed from a young age. Some described him as obsessed with the topic of murder, and speaking openly of wanting to kill people.

And kill he did, first loading up on heavy-duty firearms at Gander Mountain and Bass Pro Shops — two Glock pistols, a Remington “tactical” shotgun, and a Smith & Wesson assault-style semiautomatic rifle. The 6,000-plus rounds of ammunition Holmes purchased online.

See, he passed the background checks. So don’t look for any blood on the hands of the retailers that armed him.

The gun laws being what they are in this country, the transition from “troubled” to “homicidal” is a breeze. What feeble screening there is can’t be counted on to stop young men on bloodbath missions.

Dylann Roof, age 21, shouldn’t have been able to buy the .45-caliber handgun he used to murder nine black people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, last month.

A federal background check should have flagged him, because Roof had been arrested on felony drug charges and had admitted to possessing a controlled substance. The FBI has three business days to check if gun buyers have criminal records or drug issues, but the time expired while the agency was trying to gain access to the police report on Roof.

Because of a loophole in the law, the gun store was able to sell Roof the weapon because the three-day waiting period ended without an FBI response. “We’re all sick this happened,” FBI director James B. Comey said.

Sick is the word for it. Thousands of ineligible applicants for gun ownership have bought weapons over the counter, thanks to that loophole. Big surprise — some of those weapons were later used in violent crimes, according to the Justice Department.

So, Dylann Roof, eccentric loner and budding white supremacist, took his 21st birthday money and got himself a Glock, with which he executed nine innocent persons.

But not before posing for a photo — the gun in one hand, a Confederate flag in the other. The image tells much about this pathetic, unraveled soul.

Even if the gun shop had refused to sell Roof that pistol, he could have gotten another. Black-market weapons are available on the streets of Charleston, as they are in all American cities.

For a troubled man, young or old, finding kinship for your hate is only a mouse-click away. Finding guns is just as easy. It’s the same sick story over and over.

And all we do is wait for the next one.

(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132.)

Photo: Investigators stand outside a movie theater where a man shot and killed filmgoers in Lafayette, Louisiana on July 24, 2015. REUTERS/Lee Celano