Speaking of Terror

Starla Jackson

Starla studies chemicals.

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27 Responses

  1. DensityDuck says:

    The other problem with the Gilroy guy is that he didn’t kill enough people for it to be a “mass shooting”.

    Dude bought a rifle in a state where he didn’t live and a week later he hiked two miles in hundred-degree heat and cut through a wire fence to go kill people, but, y’know, not enough death so nobody’s talking about him. He was also inconveniently less-than-fully-white (and less-than-fully-white-supremacist) so that isn’t helping matters either.Report

  2. JoeSal says:

    Live by the herd die by the herd.

    I guess since God is dead all that ‘fear not’ stuff is no longer valid?Report

  3. InMD says:

    Thanks for writing this piece. I very much appreciate wrestling with the complexities and inconvenient facts of these items that perpetually defy narrative.

    I’ve found myself over the last couple weeks shaken by anxiety over these shootings, and trying to re-examine my own beliefs around guns and other issues in light of them. It certainly doesn’t help that facebook has been overrun with histrionic rants about bullet proof backpacks and the like. A few times I’ve had to slap myself out of daydreams of some maniac showing up at my sons daycare center.

    But then the first thing I do is think about the fact that every day me or my wife strap him into a car seat and go driving around on major highways in a large metropolitan area without the slightest hint of fear, even though by statistics it’s probably the most dangerous thing we do. As tempting as it is to believe in some magical safety blanket from the state or commit to a comforting ideological answers, they don’t withstand rational scrutiny.

    It takes a bit of courage to go through the day, especially in a free-er society. Sometimes I wonder if the illusory distance from death modernity has given us isnt itself to blame for our fears. You can talk about policy or ‘terrorism’ or whatever else but I suspect the real issue is the reminder of death, and how little control we really have over when it comes to take us.

    What a depressing thought for a Friday.Report

    • pillsy in reply to InMD says:

      As tempting as it is to believe in some magical safety blanket from the state or commit to a comforting ideological answers, they don’t withstand rational scrutiny.

      It takes a bit of courage to go through the day, especially in a free-er society.

      It does, but you also have to think the freedom in question is worth something. For the vast majority of the people advocating for gun control, the it’s not something they believe they want to exercise. I think this becomes especially true as we move from “guns” to “assault weapons”, where, for people who don’t have use for guns, and even some who do, see them as part of the Team Red Uniform.

      Is the last a good motivation for public policy? No of course not.

      But it’s there, and it does a lot to scramble the kind of security/freedom or security/utility reasoning that governs the rest of our lives and our discourse.Report

      • InMD in reply to pillsy says:

        I hear that, and I even acknowledge that one of the better anti-gun angles is a sort of obverse of this, where you examine the miniscule realistic chances of the average Joe from finding themselves in a self defense situation requiring a weapon of any kind. You’ve probably seen enough of my posts on this to know I look at it as more of a rights issue than a ‘better to have it and not need it’ threat analysis.

        But see my response to DD below, I’m really trying to get at something different here, not even related to the gun issue.

        I think the phenomenon that causes a stampede over an engine misfire or fireworks isn’t that different from the one that gets a Sikh beaten up after an attack by Islamic terrorists or causes people to live in fortified gated communities or all manner of negative social trends whipped up out of terrifying but low probability deadly events.

        My anecdote was more of an admission that I’m not immune from it, whatever my stated principles. It’s something I think that needs to be guarded against regardless of where anyone comes down on gun control.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to InMD says:

      The issue is that we can do a lot of things to make Dying In A Car Wreck less likely should one occur, but if someone with a gun decides that today is the day to die killing there’s not a lot you can do to stop him killing at least a couple of people.

      I mean, tens of thousands of children and people die in car wrecks every year, and that’s a tragedy, but compared to the total number of car trips taken every year it’s miniscule. Meanwhile, “shootings where death occurred” and “shootings” are pretty close to 1:1 equivalent.

      We care more about shootings than car wrecks, and we ought to, because if a shooting starts it’s a lot more likely that you’ll get killed in it. That fewer people overall die in shootings is a result of the far lower absolute number of shootings that occur, not because shootings are less dangerous situations than car wrecks.Report

      • CJColucci in reply to DensityDuck says:

        This is remarkably good sense.Report

      • JoeSal in reply to DensityDuck says:

        “We care more about shootings than car wrecks,”

        Is the amount that we care about shootings justified? Imagine if everyone was forced to watch endless media posting of every car wreck. Every one of those tens of thousand draped on a blanket or hauled to a ambulance in a body bag milked for every second of airtime it can generate. The families up on podiums yelling we don’t need prayers. It’s all the fault of those evil car owners, who cling to their steering wheels and gas pedals.

        No, hell no, these are deliberate actions of a very Machiavellian faction.Report

      • InMD in reply to DensityDuck says:

        I think you’re missing my point, and maybe I wasn’t clear enough about it. I’m not talking about whether its right or wrong to care about shootings or car crashes (or aviation safety and hijackings, etc.) or even much of a point even about where our priorities should lie. It’s about how easy it is to become overwhelmed by fear and to succumb to it regardless of the rationality.

        Agreed, the heightened lethality of a shooting is relevant to considering how to approach the problem, as is the high lethality of, say, a plane crash relevant to considering aviation safety, but it doesn’t follow that people should be walking around with their stomachs in knots over something that is almost certainly not going to happen to them. Allowing the our culture to evolve in that direction isn’t consequence free.Report

      • Pinky in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Over half of all shootings don’t result in deaths.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Pinky says:

          which is a lot closer to 1:1 equivalent than “deaths in a car wreck” and “occurrence of car wreck” are, so I’m not sure what you think you’re proving hereReport

          • Pinky in reply to DensityDuck says:

            I’m not trying to prove anything. I’m just pointing out what I saw as a factual error.

            According to Wikipedia, in 2013 there were 73505 non-fatal firearm injuries in the US, and 33636 fatal firearm injuries. But that last number includes 21175 suicides. We don’t know how many of those non-fatal firearm injuries were attempted suicides, though. And there’s no way that every random gunshot resulted in an injury. Also, due to multi-death shootings, the total number of shooting events that result in deaths is going to be lower than the total number of fatalities. So the exact stat is impossible to calculate, but there’s nowhere near an equivalency between a shooting and a shooting death.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to Pinky says:

              Likely comparatively few non-fatal gunshot injuries were suicide attempts. Perhaps a couple thousand. Suicide attempts using guns have a success rate on the order of 90%.Report

  4. Chip Daniels says:

    There are two broad methods to security.
    One is to “harden the target”, and the other is to reduce the threat.

    We have chosen the latter.
    We live and work in downtown Los Angeles. We don’t lock our apartment door, and my wife leaves her purse open when she walks and of course we have no weapons.

    We get a lot incredulous advice from well meaning people that we should be more careful, with the underlying premise that we should be afraid, more afraid always.

    We have made the conscious decision to be unafraid and to build security by forming a network of friends and trusted acquaintances starting with our neighbors, and the homeless people we encounter.
    As it turns out, it is surprisingly easy to firm bonds of trust and goodwill with nothing more than a pleasant greeting and a smile.

    What this has to do with spree shootings is this: The purpose of terrorism is to spread fear and cause distrust and loathing of others. What the worst terror attacks have in common is the idea that certain groups of people, by their very identity, are lesser beings and unworthy of trust and solidarity.

    So I think of this peace offensive as an act of defiance and resistance, when we leave our house unlocked and smile and greet a homeless person or neighbor.

    And of course it is connected to the larger issues like accepting trans people as they are, or welcoming immigrants as new neighbors and insisting that our laws and institutions treat everyone as fully equal citizens.Report

  5. Oscar Gordon says:

    Whenever definitions skitter around, someone is angling to gain or exercise power over someone or something. It should be making your BS detector sound loudly.Report

  6. Damon says:

    I’ve spent my life around guns in less and more heavily regulated areas of the country. Blue states and Red states. I’ve lived in small towns and big east coast cities. I’ve lived where “trespassers will be shot” signs really meant that. That small town? No one locked their doors…but we did. Habit from living in a more urban area. My garage door was always closed, my car always locked.

    I am always was aware of where Ii was and who was around me and what they were doing. It’s not fear…it’s prudence. When two dudes start smack talking each other at the bar, I back away. I don’t live in fear….but I’m aware of what’s going on….i’m not on my phone ignoring my situation. That’s enough probability wise to do.Report

  7. Oscar Gordon says:

    If terrorism is violence committed for political purposes, what do we call violence where the political purpose is pretty much a secondary or tertiary motivation, and the more relevant motivations are emotional/egotistical?Report

  8. Road Scholar says:

    Indeed. There’s a good TED talk on this. TL;DR version: Goliath likely had macromegaly and very poor vision. A sling was both a hunting weapon and a standard weapon of war; slingers could reliably knock birds out of the air and were the artillery of their day. The stones in that valley were made of some really heavy and hard mineral, twice as heavy as a normal rock. So David’s weapon had the accuracy of a modern gun and the projectile had roughly the kinetic energy of a .45.
    Goliath never stood a chance.Report

  9. Brandon Berg says:

    I’m not sure why the environmentalist, anti-corporation parts of the anti-immigrant El Paso shooter’s manifesto don’t matter. I’m not sure why it doesn’t matter that a previous white nationalist terrorist explicitly rejected Trump for being a pro-Jewish pansy. I’ve gotten into bitter arguments on Twitter about this because people think I’m obtuse, and I am definitely defensive as a somewhat-conservative. But I swear I also honestly wonder.

    Do you really, though? It’s obvious, isn’t it? Those facts “don’t matter” because they contradict the preferred narrative of the people insisting they don’t matter.

    When you’re telling the story, you get to decide which facts matter.Report

  10. I really, really, really enjoyed this and found it very brave and thought provoking. Great work.Report

  11. Rufus F. says:

    Makes me think of the famous IRA quote: “Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once – you will have to be lucky always.”Report

  12. Mike Schilling says:

    I’m not sure why it doesn’t matter that a previous white nationalist terrorist explicitly rejected Trump for being a pro-Jewish pansy.

    The same reason a terrorist being even more racist that the KKK wouldn’t absolve them.Report