When Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old millionaire, shot down 60 people in Las Vegas and injured about 500 others in America’s worst mass killing, it seemed to elevate the political divide that has plagued America for many years, especially since Trump was elected. Posters on both sides of the divide spoke out.
Those on the left were quick to pin the blame on the right. George Cicariello-Maher, professor at Drexel University, posted, “It’s the white supremacist patriarchy, stupid.”
“White people and men are told that they are entitled to everything,” he went on to proclaim in his twitter posts. “This is what happens when they don’t get what they want. The narrative of white victimization has been gradually built over the past 40 years. It is the spinal column of Trumpism, and most extreme form is the white genocide myth. Yesterday was a morbid symptom of what happens when those who believe they deserve to own the world also think it is being stolen from them.”
Hayley Geftman-Gold, a Vice President at CBS, wrote on Facebook that she had no hope that Republicans — whom she called “Repugs” — would ever take action and “do the right thing.” She called victims of the Las “Vegas shootings “Republican gun toters” who did not deserve sympathy. She was later fired by CBS.
“Soon as I heard it was country music, I felt relief. White people killing white people isn’t terrorism—it’s community outreach,” Greg Morelli, a Jewish deli owner in Highland, Illinois, posted in twitter a few hours after hearing about the tragedy.
Meanwhile, posters on the right were discussing a possible cover-up of Stephen Paddock’s motive. Some new accounts and a photo indicate that there was a note found beside the killer’s dead body, but officers have said only numbers were on the note. These posters wonder why the contents of this note haven’t been made public. What did the FBI officers who first broke into the hotel room do with this note?
Some posters from the right claim to have seen screenshots of Steven Paddock’s Facebook page, in which he wrote about his love for Hillary Clinton and his hatred of Donald Trump. His Facebook page and all screenshots have apparently been deleted.
One poster in a private Facebook group wrote of Paddock’s Facebook posts, “I saw a few that were screenshots, they were negative for Trump for sure. His likes are all to do with Hillary and Antifa pages.” Another poster backed her up. “Yep, he was an anti-Trump liberal….Basically what Carol just said. I saw the screenshots too.”
Whether Stephen Paddock indeed had a Facebook page and whether there were screenshots from the page are things we can now only speculate about. Perhaps the whole story will come out after a while, perhaps not.
The increase in mass shootings over the years, as well as the elevation of the political divide between liberals and conservatives may indeed be connected. According to Motherjones.com, in 1982 there was only one mass shooting in which 8 people were killed. So far in 2017, there have been seven mass shootings in which 82 people have been killed. The number of mass killings has gone up each successive year since 1982. Over the same years, there has been an increase in political or politicized incidents and a widening in the division between liberals and conservatives.
Sigmund Freud wrote in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego that while immersed in a crowd or group, a person is able to relax his or her superego restraints and release primitive id-impulses. The crowd overrides the superego ‘censor’ within the individual, as well as the basic id impulses, which are normally held deep inside of the personality; it then unleashes the id (the will to pleasure and aggression). The crowd thus provides a momentary reprieve of otherwise repressed and censored drives. Or, to put it another way, the crowd allows Dr. Jekyll to become Mr. Hyde.
The increase in mass shootings has risen exponentially between 1982 and the present; will it continue to increase at the same rate for the next 35 years? Will the widening of the chasm between liberals and conservatives continue at the same pace? Will the nasty rhetoric turn into more violence? In order for this pattern to stop, all of us would need to develop a different way of viewing things and a different way of communicating. That doesn’t look promising.
When I am doing couple’s therapy I teach people to engage in constructive communication. When they are fighting, they’re not interested in constructive communication. They are interested in being right and making their partner wrong. They are interested in idealizing themselves and denouncing their partner. Sometimes they are like enemies. It reminds me of what’s going on between liberals and conservatives.
The Vegas shooting highlights where we are as a culture, and where we are headed.