The latest spasm of ‘record-breaking’ violence occurred on a warm Sunday evening when a lone gunman, holed up in a Las Vegas hotel room with an arsenal fit for a small militia, fired an automatic weapon into a herd of people swaying to country music below his murderous perch. It was a turkey shoot. When the rat-a-tat-tat bursts of gunfire ended, 59 people had been assassinated, with at least another 520 wounded in a grassy knoll turned killing field.
Always quick to reach for superlatives, US news organisations have dubbed the Route 91 Harvest Festival carnage in America’s ‘sin city’ as the ‘largest mass killing in modern US history.’ Others dispute this, insisting not only that the definition of ‘mass killing’ is debatable, but also that slaughters in Louisiana in 1873 and in St. Louis in 1917 still reign supreme. While journalists quibble and contemplate redundant questions like who and why, I suspect that many people inside and outside America have become inured to the ugly, deadly pantomime they’ve seen unfold so often, in so many cities, to so many innocents. Massacre fatigue set in long ago.
The familiar ritual goes like this. First comes the dramatic ‘breaking news’ banner and music, instantly followed by speculation about whether a non-white, non-Christian ‘terrorist’ is responsible for the still unravelling mayhem. Then, the tally of slain and injured grows tentatively, but inexorably ultimately to convert the ‘breaking news’ into a ‘national tragedy.’
Cue the ‘experts,’ who, from the comfort of a TV studio, talk and talk without knowing. Next, the parade of blind, stupid, publicity-hungry politicians arrives to caution that it’s ‘too early’ to comment on anything other than offering their “thoughts and prayers”.
Cut to a hastily arranged press conference, where the mayor and the police chief hold court, warning of a ‘still active shooter.’ Later, the same mayor and police chief will say that the shooter is no longer ‘active’. Relief, followed by the requisite dose of fear: Terrorism or not? Hence, the return to the gaggle of experts to consider the ‘meaning’ of the ‘loaded’ word which is an American cable TV news euphemism for: So, was the shooter a Muslim or not?
Meanwhile, Alex Jones, Ann Coulter and lunatic company declare the lethal rampage another federal government-approved ‘black flag’ operation designed by Obama’s fifth columnists to ‘take your guns away’ or, alternatively, an ISIL-engineered plot to destroy an America that is already busy destroying itself. Millions of their equally lunatic followers repeat the lunacy on Twitter.
Back to the mayor and police chief who invariably identify the mass murderer as either an angry or disturbed young or middle-aged, white man. The words ‘terror’ and ‘terrorism’ disappear quickly from view and into irrelevance - except to many of the families of the dead and damaged who just experienced it.
On to the Oval Office. The President - Republican or Democrat - says stuff from behind the presidential seal with varying degrees of eloquence and conviction about ‘evil,’ the need for unity, the ‘brave’ first responders, and, of course, they proffer their thoughts and prayers too.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Mass murder in America: A deadly pantomime.’