Tag: mass shootings
New Report: Far Right Perpetrated All Extremism-Related Killings In 2022

New Report: Far Right Perpetrated All Extremism-Related Killings In 2022

A new report from the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism reveals that all extremist-related murders in 2022 were committed by right-wing perpetrators. More than four out of five extremist-related murders last year were committed by white supremacists. The report finds that nearly all extremist-related mass killings were committed by right-wing extremists, and warns the number of those mass murders "is of growing concern."

"All the extremist-related murders in 2022 were committed by right-wing extremists of various kinds," the ADL’s Center on Extremism (COE) reports, "who typically commit most such killings each year but only occasionally are responsible for all (the last time this occurred was 2012)."

"Left-wing extremists engage in violence ranging from assaults to fire-bombings and arsons, but since the late 1980s have not often targeted people with deadly violence."

The report adds: "White supremacists commit the greatest number of domestic extremist-related murders in most years, but in 2022 the percentage was unusually high: 21 of the 25 murders were linked to white supremacists. Again, this is primarily due to mass shootings. Only one of the murders was committed by a right-wing anti-government extremist—the lowest number since 2017."

Last year, COE notes, "domestic extremists killed at least 25 people in the U.S., in 12 separate incidents. This represents a decrease from the 33 extremist-related murders documented in 2021 and is comparable to the 22 extremist-related murders in 2020. It continues the recent trend of fewer extremist-related killings after a five-year span of 47-78 extremist-related murders per year (2015-2019)."

The Associated Press, pointing to the "especially high number" of extremist killings "linked to white supremacy" reports they "include a racist mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, that left 10 Black shoppers dead and a mass shooting that killed five people at an LGBT nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado."

The "main threat in the near future will likely be white supremacist shooters, the report found," the AP adds. "The increase in the number of mass killing attempts, meanwhile, is one of the most alarming trends in recent years, said Center on Extremism Vice President Oren Segal."

In a separate article on that LGBT nightclub mass shooting, Club Q, also published Thursday, the AP reports the "22-year-old accused of carrying out the deadly mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs in November ran a neo-Nazi website and used gay and racial slurs while gaming online, a police detective testified Wednesday."

"Anderson Lee Aldrich also posted an image of a rifle scope trained on a gay pride parade and used a bigoted slur when referring to someone who was gay, Detective Rebecca Joines said."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Unanimous Jury Orders Alex Jones To Cough Up $965 Million

Unanimous Jury Orders Alex Jones To Cough Up $965 Million

Conspiracy theorist, falsehoods promoter for profit, and Infowars founder Alex Jones will have to pay families of the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting at least $965 million in damages after a jury returned a unanimous verdict in a consolidated case. Jones for years had falsely claimed the 20 young children and six adults slaughtered while in their elementary school were “crisis actors.”

The Associated Press reported the total damages, which include amounts for emotional distress and slander. He will also have to pay attorneys fees, which will be awarded by the judge later.

Attorney Paul Butler said on MSNBC the punitive damages are about sending a message about the depravity here, and try to measure in dollars the depravity in such that anybody else who’s thinking about spreading lies like this can’t hide behind the First Amendment.”

MSNBC also reports Jones has gone back to denying the fact that Sandy Hook was a mass shooting, reporting he has recently said it is “synthetic as hell.”

CNN reports the “decision marks the culmination of a years-long process that began in 2018 when the families took legal action against Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, the parent of the fringe media organization Infowars.”

“Jones baselessly said again and again after the 2012 mass shooting, in which 26 people were killed, that the incident was staged, and that the families and first responders were ‘crisis actors.’ The plaintiffs throughout the trial described in poignant terms how the lies had prompted unrelenting harassment against them and compounded the emotional agony of losing their loved ones.”

Jones has reportedly made millions off his false claims.

Earlier at trial Jones told the court he was “done” apologizing, and claimed that he believed the false “crisis actor” claims he had made.

Jones was not in the courtroom as the damages were being read, but NBC’s Ben Collins reports on his radio show he said, “This must be what Hell’s like, they just read out the damages. Even though you don’t got the money.”

Jones also vowed, said, according to Collins, “We’re not going away, we’re not going to stop.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Right-Wing Pundits Blame Weed, Not Assault Weapons, For Mass Shootings

Right-Wing Pundits Blame Weed, Not Assault Weapons, For Mass Shootings

Amid the ongoing crisis of mass shootings in America, conservative media are trying to deflect blame for mass shootings onto anything but guns. One particularly misleading scapegoat for gun violence is marijuana, with Fox News hosts and other right-wing media denizens falsely claiming that mass shootings are the result of heavy pot use.

The narrative has picked up in the aftermath of the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, that left seven dead and 46 injured. The next day, Fox News host Laura Ingraham claimed that marijuana use is a plausible cause of mass shootings, saying regular pot use in young men can trigger “psychosis and other violent personality changes,” and went on to link other mass shooters’ marijuana use with the extreme violence they carried out.

Fox host Tucker Carlson also blamed the shooting in Highland Park partially on a society full of young men “high on government-endorsed weed.”

Right-wing radio host and PragerU founder Dennis Prager said on his July 5 show that “something is different today and it’s not guns,” suggesting, “I think marijuana, maybe other drugs, but excessive use of marijuana” and “recreational use of marijuana, especially in young people,” may be associated with mass shootings.

Right-wing personalities have used research linking heavy marijuana use to psychosis and paranoia in some individuals to draw false conclusions about causality and dig in their heels to dismiss the role of firearms in gun violence, instead attributing mass shooters’ extreme violence to their marijuana use. In reality, a December 2021 literature review on the studies linking marijuana and violent behavior found that the link between violence and cannabis use is “strictly correlational, and the strength of this relationship varies depending on the population.”

Since 2019, accusations of direct causation between marijuana use and mass shootings have spread through conservative media such as Fox News, One America News Network, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Daily Wire. These outlets frequently cite “COVIDcontrarian” Alex Berenson, whose book on marijuana use, mental health, and violence has been accused of cherry-picking data and “attributing cause to mere associations.”

Berenson appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight in August 2019 after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, to argue that “we know that mental illness accounts for an appreciable amount of the extreme violence, not just in the United States but all over the world. And we also know that cannabis can produce psychosis.”

“I don't think it's going way out on a limb to draw that connection then between cannabis use, particularly I assume chronic use, and acts of violence,” Carlson responded.

After the Uvalde shooting this past May, Ingraham reignited the idea of a purposefully hidden marijuana-to-mass-shooter pipeline. In reference to The New York Times removing an unproven reference to the Uvalde shooter’s marijuana use, Ingraham asked “was it bad information or is this the pro-marijuana bias that we've become accustomed to that's so powerful because billions are on the line with it nationwide?”

“The American people are hearing a lot about AR-15s and background checks, but they also deserve to hear about this as well,” Ingraham continued. “Respected medical studies for years now have demonstrated that pot use, especially among teens, can trigger psychosis and increase the chance that the young person will develop violent behavior.”

The next day, Ingraham hosted Dr. Eric Voth of the International Academy on the Science and Impact of Cannabis, who said, “The reality of it is, you know, legal AR-15 owners or handgun owners that are not stoned, that are not violent, are not killing people. If you look through the same information that the doctors are pointing out here, and you go case by case by case, you see a very clear pattern.”

Ingraham’s commentary set off a flurry of clickbait on conservative news sites and blogs, including The Daily Wire, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsmax.

The Daily Wire’s Ben Zeisloft also criticized attention given to gun control instead of marijuana and cited Ingraham’s segment, writing that “while the Left blames so-called ‘assault weapons’ and pushes for more gun control,” they “appear to be missing what could be a significant, yet underreported factor — the shooter’s marijuana use.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Allysia Finley cited Berenson to suggest The New York Times had covered up the Uvalde shooter’s marijuana use and claimed that the Tucson, Aurora nightclub, Pulse nightclub, Sutherland Springs, and Parkland shooters all “were reported to be marijuana users. It could be a coincidence, but increasing evidence suggests a connection.”

Writing for Newsmax, conservative author Ron Kessler criticized the attention given to gun control in the wake of mass shootings and pushed the claim that it should be put on marijuana instead. Kessler argued that “virtually everyone ignores the obvious reason for the dramatic increase in these tragedies: Democrats push legalizing marijuana, which has become three to four times more potent than it was only a few years ago,” and even quoted Ingraham directly: “Democrats who push stricter gun control measures as a solution to mass shootings are ‘completely oblivious to what the legalization of marijuana has done and is doing to an entire generation of Americans — with violent consequences,’ Ingraham said.”

Kessler appeared on far-right cable outlet One America News on June 4 and asserted that “pot has become much more potent” and “18 states have legalized pot because of Democratic legislatures, so you have these two forces coming together, and that has led to a lot of these shootings.” Kessler went on to mislead viewers that “the active ingredient THC creates psychosis, it creates paranoia, it creates schizophrenia, and all these things lead to some of these shootings.”

PolitiFactassessed these kinds of claims in 2019 and concluded that there is no clear causal relationship between marijuana use and mass shootings, writing that “for every study that’s declared a link between pot and violence, there are others that say the opposite.”

James Knoll, director of forensic psychiatry at Syracuse University, told PolitiFact that “marijuana use is higher in young men, people with serious adverse childhood experiences, antisocial personality, low income, low education, use of other illicit substances,” which are all “well known risk factors for violence in their own right.” In other words, while research shows that there is a correlation between marijuana use and some forms of mental illness, there are too many other factors linked to potential violence to clearly establish the causal relationship that right-wing media are pushing. .

While it’s “widely accepted that marijuana and psychosis are linked,” it’s unclear “whether the drug unmasks psychotic symptoms in predisposed people or whether it triggers the onset of psychosis entirely.” Further, PolitiFact noted that those with preexisting psychiatric disorders are more likely to use marijuana to self-medicate.

Most importantly, cannabis use is exceedingly common. As PolitiFact points out, overlap is inevitable “between people who commit violent acts and people who smoke marijuana because of how popular marijuana is. According to the United Nations, 192 million people worldwide used marijuana at least once in 2016.” As legalization has spread, this number has likely increased even more.

Blaming mass shootings on marijuana use is not only misleading and stigmatizing, but speaks to a larger effort to blame nearly unavoidable social and psychological phenomena rather than loosely controlled access to high-powered assault weapons in the United States. As these tragedies continue to happen, right-wing media will continue to use any excuse they can find to deflect attention from even the most minimal gun control measures, creating the opportunity for more mass shootings.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Treat Mass Shootings As Terrorism — And Respond Accordingly

Treat Mass Shootings As Terrorism — And Respond Accordingly

In a sense, the mass murder at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, was a symbol of how badly off-track our country has gotten. Amid the bunting and marching bands and families on lawn chairs, a disturbed idiot with a powerful rifle fired randomly at grandfathers, children and couples holding hands. Blood, bones, eyeballs and guts spilled onto the pavement alongside dropped thermoses and American flags. A 2-year-old was found, covered in blood, wandering alone. Both of his parents were dead. When his grandfather picked Aiden up at the hospital, the boy asked, "Are Mommy and Daddy coming soon?"

Mass shootings in public places are different from ordinary violence. I wish I had a dime for every time some Republican has complained that "the media" don't pay enough attention to shootings in Chicago and Detroit that happen on a regular basis. All murders are horrific of course, but the right is making a mistake if it tries to say that these mass shootings are a drop in the bucket when compared with the overall levels of violence that plague this country, or when they object that suicides actually account for 54% of gun deaths. Those deaths are indeed horrific, which is all the more reason to bring a sense of urgency to reducing them. It's sophistry to simply cite those statistics to wave away the epidemic of mass shootings.

Massacres at supermarkets, churches, classrooms, shopping malls and, good God, July Fourth parades are not like other violence. They shatter our sense of safety. They destroy our sense of normal life. Who among us has not wondered whether we might fall victim to this madness at a ballgame or a concert? This epidemic of mass random shootings is not like gang killings in cities. It's like terrorism. It invades the normal, peaceful world — the places in which we must feel secure.

After 9/11, we went to war and spent trillions of dollars on security. Arguably, we overreacted, but the sense of an overarching menace was powerful. It may have been true that an American was more likely to die in his bathtub than as the result of a terror attack, but people have some control over their bathtubs. They have control over their cars (another big source of annual deaths). And they use their cars and tubs every day without incident, whereas any encounter with a violent jihadist is bound to end badly. Terrorism by those attempting to destroy your way of life has a way of activating every primitive us-versus-them/fight-or-flight impulse in our brains. So even if the chance of any particular American becoming a victim of a gun-wielding jihadist shouting "Allahu Akbar!" was minimal, the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were imprinted on our minds and shouted "Defense!"

One of the least savvy things Barack Obama ever did was to downplay the threat of terrorism. He called ISIS the "JV team" and urged Americans not to respond with fear to attacks in San Bernardino, California, and elsewhere. Attempting to talk people out of their fear of terrorism was futile, and arguably played into the hands of Donald Trump, who used the San Bernardino attacks as the springboard for his vicious call for a ban on all Muslims entering the country.

Now it is Republicans who are attempting to talk people out of their fear. They're saying there's nothing we can do and that, actually, your kids are safer in school than in your living room and what about Newark? If Democrats were smart, they would seize upon this and be the party that takes your safety seriously.

And it's not dishonest. These mass shootings are a greater threat to our security than Islamic terrorism was. If a Fourth of July parade is not safe, nowhere is safe. America is a free-fire zone.

It is too damn easy to get powerful weapons. We don't need to repeal the Second Amendment (impossible anyway) to restrict the easy availability of powerful weapons. In the Highland Park case, just as in dozens of recent mass shootings, the young killer purchased his weapon legally. In the vast majority of these recent mass shootings, the killers just waltzed into gun stores and bought them. As my Bulwark colleagues have argued, we could raise the age to purchase a weapon to 25. We could require extensive training on gun safety. We could limit magazine sizes. We could restrict the sale of body armor. We could improve the background-check system (the Illinois creep passed his). In short, we could respond to the demoralizing fear that our country is so sick on the subject of guns and so divided that we cannot be safe in public. Not even on the Fourth of July.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.