“Full-spectrum conservatives” vs. Trump and his supporters

Rachel Lu reviews Charlie Sykes’ How the Right Lost Its Mind:

A long time ago (two years, actually), there was a sort of person we referred to as a “full-spectrum conservative.” Full-spectrum conservatives supported traditional morals, free enterprise, and a strong public investment in national security. For this group, 2016 was not a good year.

Trumpian populists effectively set fire to the proverbial three-legged stool. The full-spectrum conservatives of yesteryear were faced with a choice: move quickly or else find yourself on the ground. Many moved. Some took the fall. And few took the latter course quite so spectacularly as Charles Sykes, the radio host whose March 2016 interview with Donald Trump helped send the real estate tycoon spiraling into a dramatic primary loss in his home state of Wisconsin. Sykes won that battle, but he and his associates went on to lose the war. Now he’s compiled his thoughts on conservatism’s decline into a new book, How the Right Lost Its Mind.

If nothing else, the book is a triumph for this reason alone: though he clearly views Donald Trump’s election as a catastrophe (both for conservatism and for America), Sykes manages to discourse on the problem for 274 pages withoutallowing the Mogul to hog the spotlight. It’s refreshing to find a discussion of right-wing politics that doesn’t veer into yet another attempt to chart the murky waters of Trump’s fevered brain. Instead, Sykes wants to understand how the party of Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley could have degenerated to the point where a frivolous attention-seeker ducked out of a Democratic Party fundraiser just in time to take the GOP on a cosmic joyride.

Here’s the core of Sykes’ answer: Right-wing media created a fever swamp of misinformation, fanaticism, and resentment, which ultimately derailed the party and American politics.

That’s not the whole story, of course. Sykes spreads responsibility for the disaster across multiple parties. He explains how cranks and crazies spent decades clamoring for satisfaction, until the din finally drowned out serious discussion. He chastises the illiberal left, whose relentless, hysterical bullying put millions of Americans on the defensive. He throws a spotlight on exploitative PACs (especially in the late Tea Party era) that repeatedly amped up the rage, mainly for the sake of lining their own pockets. Polarizing figures like Jim DeMint come under fire for removing some of the “safety features” that might have averted the catastrophe and for politicizing organizations that had long been respected for their serious and measured perspectives. Finally, Sykes criticizes the Republican Party for failing to adapt to the changing needs of the electorate. An approving glance is thrown to Ross Douthat, Reihan Salam, and their fellow reformocons, who spent years begging the GOP to rein in cronyism and attend to the concerns of the middle class.

In this litany of blame, Sykes also examines himself. Personal regret is not the book’s most prominent theme, but it’s there and seems sincere. Sykes explains how an increasingly polarized political landscape desensitized sincere conservatives (himself included) to rhetoric that should have raised red flags. When the left sees racists and fascists behind every tree, conservatives become practiced at countering such allegations, dismissing them as paranoid or just politically opportunistic. Looking back at the lunatic accusations that were slung at John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Paul Ryan, it’s easy enough to understand how conservatives got to that point. Unfortunately, wolf-crying children don’t keep the monsters at bay.

Now the monsters are out in full force (as evidenced by the massive popularity of sites like Breitbart.com and Infowars). That brings us back to the issue of media. With so much blame to go around, it’s interesting that Sykes’ scathing indictment devotes so much space to the right-wing media figures who, in his assessment, sacrificed principle in pursuit of their private venal interests. Trump was the least conservative Republican candidate in living memory, but the right’s media outlets still unrolled the red carpet for him, mostly in a bid for relevance. Fox News (though initially a bit resistant to Trump) was desperate to be kingmaker. Rush Limbaugh was anxious to recover some of the status he lost in his unseemly flame war with Sandra Fluke. Matt Drudge and Steve Bannon wanted to be titans of internet traffic, and to that end were happy to give a platform to fanatics, crazies, and fire-breathing demagogues. Stoking and stroking is a lucrative business.

Is it unfair to pile so much blame on media personalities? Media is Sykes’ own business, so it’s natural for him to focus on the thing he knows best. Even if you think that Sykes is excessively influenced by personal bitterness, there’s still a point worth pondering here, especially for readers (and writers) of the right-wing media: Isn’t it basically true that this is one of the newer elements in the American landscape? If we think our republic is in sorry shape nowadays, how should we think about developments in media that seem overall to be correlated with a nationwide increase in anxiety, polarization, and despair?

Of course it’s never enjoyable to turn a critical eye back on ourselves. The left has plenty of failings worth discussion, as Sykes knows well, having personally written whole books about the defects of the Academy and the entitlement state. Conservatives are likely to agree that the left’s cultural bastions are well stocked with hypocrites, bullies, and rent-seekers, and they surely have much to answer for today.

This, however, is nothing new: The universities, mainstream media, and Hollywood have leaned left for decades already. That didn’t stop conservatives from winning some major political victories in the 80’s and 90’s, before Fox News, and in the earliest days of right-leaning talk radio. Today the political right has constructed its own complete alternative media, but Americans seem anything but hopeful. Are there connections worth probing here?

The bracing experiences of 2016 obviously led Sykes to re-evaluate his own place in the media landscape. Honest conservatives of all stripes could benefit from considering that tumultuous year through his eyes. Even if you like Trump and are happy with some of the things he’s done, you should still be willing to ask: Why was it possible for so many people to shift positions so dramatically, in such a short space of time? What does that tell us about our commentariat?

Jonah Goldberg captured this problem rather well in his famous “body-snatcher” column. Here’s my own analogy for how anti-Trump conservatives experienced 2016. You show up for a sporting match, decked out in your team’s colors, riding a wave of fan enthusiasm. As the game goes on though, people around you start casually flipping their shirts inside-out to reveal the colors of a completely different team. Quite soon, you find that you’ve become one of the outliers in a “hostile” section, though you’re pretty sure you haven’t moved at all. Who knew you were one of very few fans who came unprepared with a non-reversible jersey? Bewildered, you turn to a friend who just switched her shirt.

“Can you explain why you just did that?” you ask.

“Did what?” she says.

This large-scale transformation was naturally most disillusioning for “true fans” like Sykes, who was quite happy to regard free enterprise and ordered liberty as foundational principles for American conservatism. One needn’t share all of his political views, however, to agree with his concerns about a media that seems to be bobbing recklessly on a surging torrent of populist emotion. Do our opinion-makers actually believe things, or do they just say whatever is necessary to keep traffic high?

Populist sympathizers tend to address these questions by returning to their rhetorical safe spaces: Trump’s virtues, the GOP’s vices, and the egregious failings of the left. That’s kind of missing the point, though. The reversible-jersey episode couldn’t be adequately explained through statistical analyses of the relative strengths of the competing teams. A fan who changes his jersey mid-game is really missing the point of fandom, which should be a kind of participation in the struggle for victory. In a similar way, a commentator who tethers his views to popular opinion is missing the whole point of commentary. It’s not supposed to be mere entertainment; it’s supposed to be part of a communal struggle towards a greater understanding of the truth. If principles are just rhetorical furniture in an ongoing conversation game, what is to keep us from spiraling off into ever-further levels of illiberalism, repression, and lunacy?

Individual cases can be hard to judge, but the broader trends Sykes describes are depressingly easy to understand. You don’t keep your site traffic high by telling readers things they don’t want to hear. From the perspective of an individual writer, saying “the said thing” is a whole lot easier than struggling to discern the truth (and then persuade a possibly unsympathetic audience). Populism is bad for the nation, but it’s very good for business (if your business is to capture clicks and eyeballs). And once the ship starts to move, most media figures would rather move with it than be left treading water with George Will and Charlie Sykes.

Sykes argues that as of today, the political left needs an autopsy, while the right needs an exorcism. Some commentators have remarked, dubiously, that there doesn’t seem to be anyone available to perform such a ritual. Who today has the media control of a Buckley, or the electrifying personality of a Reagan?

One never knows when a great thinker or statesman might appear on the horizon. In the meanwhile, we need to draw strength from the realization that ideas have power. True ideas have particular power. The inane yammering of shills and demagogues can only hold sway for so long. We must continue to pursue greater understanding, so that when the fey mood passes, someone will have a message worth hearing.

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Re-losing Vietnam

Someone on Facebook said everyone has to watch Ken Burns’ latest documentary on the Vietnam War.

That would be reason number one to not watch, of course. Reason number two is that I remember enough of it from watching TV and from living in the People’s Republic of Madison, where Vietnam protests (including one fatal protest, the 1970 UW–Madison Sterling Hall bombing), without actually being there.

(For what it’s worth, I was told by a Vietnam veteran that the movie “Full Metal Jacket” was in his opinion the most accurate portrayal of Vietnam up to 1988, better than “Platoon,” “Casualties of War” and “The Boys in Company C.” He didn’t mention “Apocalypse Now,” which weirdly has gone from being an antiwar film to being, in some eyes, a pro-war film, perhaps because “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”)

Indeed, it was literally impossible to avoid the Vietnam War in Madison even 20 years after the war ended. Every potential and actual conflict (Grenada, Panama, Iraq) was always labeled as the next Vietnam. Protesting a war that was already finished by 1975 included libels of American soldiers who had nothing to do with policy formulated in Washington, and who, as we should have been able to figure out, mostly came back from Vietnam no worse off than soldiers of previous American wars.

Vietnam War veteran Phillip Jenkins writes things that will make liberal Madison (but I repeat myself) readers scream, which is why I am posting this:

The arguments Mr. Burns presents are weak, biased, and insulting. The documentary is scripted to evoke sorrow and moral indignation over what was presented as American error, ineptness, and lack of moral purpose.

The narrative counterposes happy and earnest winners (the communists) with sad and angst-ridden losers (America and the South Vietnamese). It deemed only such perspectives worthy of inclusion. Mr. Burns fails to find even one American or South Vietnamese veteran who wholly supported the war, was proud to have appeared in arms, and sickened by the United States’ abandonment its freedom-seeking ally.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of us.

No doubt, too, there were North Vietnamese who are critical of the brutality of the communist conduct of the war, but Mr. Burns can’t find them either. We have no way of knowing whether the happy and earnest communist veterans who did appear in the documentary participated in the war crimes — the execution of thousands of civilians — in Hue or any of the countless acts of North Vietnamese-sponsored terrorism.

The Burns documentary accepts without question five pillars of the liberal view of the war:

  1. There was moral equivalency between the U.S. and Communist forces, and the goals and objectives of the respective governments.

No there wasn’t. Communist North Vietnam invaded a South Vietnam striving for democracy. The South Vietnamese posed no threat to the North other than by their example. The North had no inherent right to conquer South Vietnam, and the South Vietnamese had no obligation to “vote themselves communist” in 1955. The aberration of My Lai was not “morally equivalent” to the slaughter of civilians carried out by the communists, as a matter of policy, throughout the war. That Americans are better than communists is a point that the left just cannot accept.

  1. President Johnson and General Westmoreland accomplished nothing.

American strategy in the first half of the war might not have been perfect. Our strategy of limited war was ill-advised. In the context of the Cold War fears of nuclear war and Communist Chinese intervention a la Korea in 1950, though, it was not without a rationale. By 1968, moreover, the communists were so weakened and desperate they initiated a suicidal attack against the South — the Tet Offensive — and were obliterated. After Tet, the military outcome of the war was no longer in doubt. President Nixon was able to use the favorable facts on the ground that Westmoreland achieved to withdraw all U.S. combat units from the theater and, by unleashing our air power, to bring the communists to their knees.

  1. The wars waged in Laos and Cambodia are irrelevant and were just part of the “civil war” in South Vietnam.

When liberals scoff at the “domino theory” it is another reminder of how America-bashing bias obviates reality. North Vietnamese forces — and by extension the Soviets and Chinese communists — were involved in all the region. Both Laos and Cambodia fell to communist domination after America abandoned its ally, with dreadful results.

  1. South Vietnam was so corrupt that the North was a viable alternative.

Is there anyone who witnessed communism in the 20th century who believes that? Countless millions have died for the sin of being ruled by reds. Ho Chi Minh slaughtered at least 50,000 of his citizens within weeks of his self-appointment to be ruler of North Vietnam. Their sin? They were educated. They were doctors, lawyers, professionals. They had expressed doubt in the communist government. Every communist leader begins his reign much the same way.

It is typical liberal paternalism — bordering on racism — to attribute to the South Vietnamese people so little intelligence and so much indifference that they are deemed not worthy of wanting and deserving freedom. This viewpoint takes it for granted that the democratically elected Diem administration in Saigon was so evil that rule by Ho Chi Minh would have to be an improvement. The communists called Diem an American puppet, and the Washington establishment was annoyed that he wouldn’t do what he was told. In fact Diem was the elected leader of a free republic. Once America was complicit in his murder in 1963, we assumed a moral duty to see to it that South Vietnam remained free.

  1. America was not and has never been exceptional.

Ultimately this is what Mr. Burns would have one believe. That America never does anything based on Judeo-Christian principles. That Americans are never willing to sacrifice anything to give someone else something. That it would be silly to believe that thousands of young Americans sacrificed their lives simply doing the right, the moral thing, by going to the defense of a people trying to govern themselves. That since our founding the American people have never been animated by our founding documents. And that President Kennedy didn’t believe in the imperative to defend freedom and stop communism.

Mr. Burns is wrong in every instance.

Nor is the war hard to understand. The French asked for our help to save their Indochina colony after their 1954 defeat at Dien Bien Phu. We refused. Ho Chi Minh erected a typical communist dictatorship. He was the kind of a nationalist who slaughters his own people and governs with force. So about a million North Vietnamese fled south to Free Vietnam before America became involved in the war. Yet never during the next bloody 20 years did anyone from South Vietnam flee to the north. Never. None.

The U.S. sent advisors. The communists received arms from China and Russia. The war escalated. We sent tens of thousands of combat troops, beginning with the Marines in 1965. The war dragged on, but the communists could not win a significant battle. The Chinese and Russian “uncles” began to tire of the cost and loss of face and pressured the North to open peace talks. Hanoi begged for and received a last ditch supply (enough to outfit multiple battalions of communist troops).

Convincing themselves that the southerners would rally to their side when they overwhelmed the cities and villages in South Vietnam, the North Vietnamese launched a suicidal attack on 100 towns. They were soundly defeated in every one of them in under a week, save Hue (the royal capital) where they held off the South Vietnamese and U.S. Marines long enough to slaughter thousands of the Hue citizens before being beaten back into the jungle. The Viet Cong, more or less the local boys and comprising most of the 50,000 communist troops lost in Tet, were decimated.

Management of the war changed after Tet. Although the American press decided we were losing and began lobbying the public to get out of the war, the military began a four-year pummeling of communist troops. Nixon, elected to stop the war, pulled American combat units out of South Vietnam and simultaneously unleashed U.S. air power, including bombing sanctuaries in Cambodia and the Hai Phong harbor in North Vietnam.

By the fall of 1972, the communists were depleted of morale and arms. Agreeing to a peace conference, they nevertheless tested Nixon by attacking South Vietnamese villages in contradiction of the peace process. Nixon responded with the Christmas Bombing of North Vietnam. Ridiculously referred to as a criminal act akin to the Holocaust and Hiroshima (it killed less than half the number of people killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11), the bombing of the north convinced the communists that they were helpless against the full strength of the American military.

A month later, in January 1973, the North Vietnamese signed the Paris Peace Treaty. At that time, South Vietnam enjoyed a democratically elected government. American combat forces were gone. American POWs were set free. America promised South Vietnam that we would come to its aid if North Vietnam violated the agreement. It looked a lot like victory.

However, the North Vietnamese had not one particle, not one gluon of an intention of adhering to the treaty. They staged increasingly strong attacks in South Vietnam and, while the United States did nothing, were re-armed by Moscow and attacked and overran South Vietnam. The American Congress, controlled by Nixon’s opponents in the Democratic Party, which had driven him from the White House, voted to renege on our treaty obligations and cut aid to our South Vietnamese allies.

They forfeited outright the peace for which almost 60,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese fought and died. They accepted no responsibility for the atrocities that followed.

It is the raison d’être of Mr. Burns’ film to justify the cowardly and morally bankrupt left that supported the communist invasion of South Vietnam and turned its back on the murder, imprisonment, and misery of our former allies in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. One cannot be against the South Vietnamese without being for the communists who conquered and enslaved 17 million people. Only by painting the war as immoral, illegal, and un-winnable, and the South Vietnamese government as evil and inept, can the American left hope to rest in peace. It shouldn’t bet the farm on that.

Jenkins’ fourth and fifth points are kind of the core of the anti-Vietnam War protesters’ arguments.

 

The most divisive issue in politics today

The New York Times reports unsurprising news given this past week:

In the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday, the polling firm SurveyMonkey published a pair of maps from its 2016 presidential election exit polls. It showed the electoral maps for voters who said they had a gun in their home, and for those who said they did not.

In every state but Vermont – perhaps the most liberal state in the country, but one where Democrats, including Bernie Sanders, often support gun rights – voters who reported living in a gun-owning household overwhelmingly backed Donald J. Trump.

The opposite is true for voters who said they did not live in a home with a gun. In all but one state that could be measured, voters overwhelmingly preferred Hillary Clinton. (The exception was West Virginia; not enough data existed for Wyoming.)

Over all, gun-owning households (roughly a third in America) backed Mr. Trump by 63 percent to 31 percent, while households without guns backed Mrs. Clinton, 65 percent to 30 percent, according to SurveyMonkey data.

No other demographic characteristic created such a consistent geographic split.

Indeed, it doesn’t get much more stark than Hillary Clinton-voting households without guns …

… against Donald Trump-voting households with guns:

This is not to say that gun ownership is a bigger divide in American politics than race or the combination of race and education, or a bigger driver of America’s political divide. After all, part of the reason gun ownership splits voters so starkly is because gun owners are more likely than Americans generally to be white, less educated and living in a rural area. Over all, 83 percent of gun household voters were white in 2016, according to the SurveyMonkey data.

But it might not be merely demographics. Mr. Trump appeared to fare better in the SurveyMonkey data among gun-owning households than non-gun-owning households even after considering the voters’ race and education. He won white voters without a degree who lived in gun-owning households by 74 percent to 21 percent. He even won college-educated white voters in gun-owning households, 60-34, and fared better among nonwhite voters in gun households, losing, 61-34. Mrs. Clinton won nonwhite voters over all, 75-21.

Even so, education, race and religion tend to do a better job of predicting an individual’s presidential vote choice. It is probably fair to say that gun ownership embodies America’s partisan divide more than it drives it. …

Religiosity – how often someone goes to church – has been a strong predictor of party affiliation, with frequent churchgoers much more likely to be be Republicans. The political preferences of more religious Americans yield a deeply red map, with religious voters from just three (relatively large) states – California, New York and Maryland – preferring Mrs. Clinton. Nonwhite voters most likely represent a disproportionate share of Democratic-leaning religious voters in many of these states.

About religion …
… other than voters who call themselves “non-evangelical” (upper left), Trump outperformed Hillary in every religious category — among evangelical voters (upper right), Catholics and Protestants (middle right), and those who go to church at least once a week (lower right).

That’s sort of funny to me given that I fit into three of these maps (non-evangelical who attends church at least once a week, and by the way the Episcopal Church is neither Catholic nor Protestant, but never mind that right now), and as you know I didn’t vote for Trump, but under no circumstances would I ever vote for Hillary.

This suggests a huge values divide in this nation.

What we can do, but won’t

Rob Myers wrote this two years ago, but it still unfortunately applies, starting with his prediction:

You’re not going to like it because it’s going to require you to do something personally, as opposed to shouting for the government, or anyone to “do something!”

You ready? Here it is:

“Notice those around you who seem isolated, and engage them.”

If every one of us did this we’d have a culture that was deeply committed to ensuring no one was left lonely. And make no mistake, as I’ve written before loneliness is what causes these shooters to lash out. People with solid connections to other people don’t indiscriminately fire guns at strangers.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s never going to work because no one is going to make the effort to connect with the strange kid sitting by himself at lunch each day. No one is going to reach out to the gawky, awkward guy at work and ask him about his weekend.

You’re probably right and that’s an absolute shame.

Because I can tell you the things that aren’t going to work in this country when it comes to stopping these heinous acts. But they seem to be all anyone says, when inevitably, another person comes forward to inflict their tortured pain on innocent people.View Post

  1. Ban All Guns! – Due to the reading of the 2nd amendment and the precedents established by recent Supreme Court cases, this isn’t going anywhere. You’d need an amendment to the Constitution and there will NEVER be 30+ states willing to overturn it. Never mind the multitude of good reasons for its existence, no amount of outrage will overturn it so let’s just stop.
  2. Ban All Guns! (pt. 2) – Assuming you actually could overturn the 2nd and outlaw every firearm in the country, then you’d have to go out and get them. Famously, there are more guns than people in the U.S. You couldn’t come close to collecting them all. Further, if Prohibition and the War on Drugs have taught us anything it’s that those intent on breaking the law are going to do just that. Laws be damned.
  3. Ban Scary Guns Like the AR-15! – Fully auto weapons are already banned*. Most of these shootings occur with a handgun, plain and simple, and these aren’t going anywhere. Murder is illegal, and that doesn’t seem to stop these individuals from performing these atrocious acts. Do you think if there was a ban on shotguns that would stop them?
  4. Keep Them Out of the Hands of Bad People! – Felons are prohibited from owing a firearm already. But let’s not forget, the overwhelming majority of these mass shootings aren’t done by criminals and their guns were obtained legally. How can you know who is going to do something like this? You can’t.
  5. Do Something About Mental Health! – Cool. Yeah. So, like, free psychologists visits for everyone? Even if you could, the people that have done this haven’t been mentally ill, by and large. And, let’s not forget that medical records are private. Would you endorse mandatory psych screening for everyone and those records being sent to the government? Maybe just those who wish to own a gun? Remember, not every person who has engaged in a mass shooting has owned the gun they performed the act with. This is a complete non-starter of an issue with an insane price tag that does nothing to actually keep a person committed to violence from putting their hands on a gun.
  6. Do… SOMETHING! – Gotcha. What do you want to do? “SOMETHING!” Ok, what do you have in mind? “I DON’T KNOW! BUT SOMEONE NEEDS TO DO SOMETHING!” Sure. Agreed. But what? Even Obama has had to say in his latest speech how routine it’s become.

If you can’t tell by this point in the list, there is NOTHING the government or any other organization can do to prevent these events.

You can’t effectively keep drugs out of the hands of those intent on doing drugs. You can’t keep beer out of the hands of high schoolers intent on getting beer. You have a HUGE supply of weapons everywhere and concrete federal law protecting those weapons. You’d have as much luck passing regulation against tornadoes. It would be equally as effective.

So there it is. The god’s honest truth. No entity can do anything meaningful (more than is presently being done) to thwart a disaffected person hell-bent on committing such an act.

But you can.

You can talk to your co-worker for a few minutes. You can talk to the kid in your Physics class that appears to be all alone. You can teach your children to do the same, to make sure no one is left to feel totally isolated. Because that’s the breeding ground. That’s where the seeds are planted.

Community is easy to take for granted. Most of us have strong family connections and healthy friendships. Most feel as though they’re part of a group, be it community, religious, or work related. But it’s increasingly easy for people on the edges to withdraw and it’s easy for us to forget them.

No, it’s comfortable to forget them. It’s preferred to forget them. It’s highly desired to forget them. And we have to change that.

Holding a sign isn’t going to do anything. And writing your congressman will do even less. But you can do something today, this week, this month. The people you engage may not become life-long friends, and they don’t need to be, but it could be enough to keep someone away from the darkness and isolation needed to eventually think lashing out is an effective strategy for dealing with their pain.

If you’re conflicted at all about the subject, I can’t encourage you enough to read this post by Sam Harris on the subject immediately following Newtown, CT, that I’ve written about before.

A real look in the mirror

John Kass:

The dead weren’t even finished dying in Las Vegas before the left swooped down to feed on gun control politics.

So rather than allow even one day to reflect and mourn, rather than allow us to consider the heroism of the survivors and first responders in that Las Vegas nightmare, politics saw an opportunity and took it immediately.

But the murderous retired accountant Stephen Paddock, 64, the lone gunman, wasn’t all that impulsive.

Paddock took days to plan. He was meticulous, arranging a 23-gun arsenal — some guns fully and illegally automatic — in his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

He worked out his fields of fire, even set up cameras to alert him to police. He stocked up on thousands of rounds, and authorities said he also had components used to make bombs in his home and his car.

And then, when he was ready, he unleashed hell, shooting down on thousands of innocents at that Sunday night country music concert across the way.

At least 59 are dead now, more than 500 injured.

As of this writing — days after his killing spree —authorities could not offer a motive. This is especially odd, because in such cases motives are usually released within hours; the shooter was a madman, or he had political associations and resentments forming the latticework of motive.

But not with this one, not with Paddock.

Yet even when the preliminary count of the dead was still in the 20s, as loved ones desperately tried to find the missing, listening to the terrible sound of cellphones ringing with no answer, the politicians made their moves.

Hillary Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, pundits by the deplorable basketful and others seized the moment to press for advantage.

This includes you, Mark Pocan, scumbag.

The universal and hateful hot take came from Hayley Geftman-Gold, CBS vice president and legal counsel, on Facebook.

At least she was honest in her tribalism, upfront about it, using “Repugs” for Republicans and blaming them for not supporting blanket gun-control legislation.

What’s not legitimate was her lack of sympathy for the dead.

“I’m actually not even sympathetic bc [because] country music fans often are Republican gun toters,” Geftman-Gold wrote. Later, she was fired.

And in the morning following the massacre, even as victims lay dying in hospitals, Clinton was busy virtue-signaling on Twitter.

“The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots,” tweeted Hillary Clinton, still seeking relevancy. “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRAwants to make it easier to get.”

She must have been thinking of a Jason Bourne movie, of silencers whispering death, a sound just a bit louder than the munching of popcorn.

But Hollywood isn’t reality. Jason Bourne movies are not proper foundation for policy.

There is Republican-backed legislation to make suppressors for long guns easier to obtain — still requiring governmental approval and fees.

A suppressor doesn’t make a gun silent like the weapon of a Hollywood assassin. The Washington Post reported a suppressor would reduce the sound of an AR-15 round to that of “a gunshot or jackhammer.” There’s nothing silent about a jackhammer.

Should we have more debate? Certainly. Let’s have it. There are more guns and more gun crimes in America than any other place in the world.

But let’s not forget that most killings aren’t committed by some lone sniper without apparent motive. The killings happen on the streets of big cities like Chicago, a city of strict gun control, where street gangs continue their slaughter and City Hall is powerless to stop them.

And America is numb to what happens in Chicago.

There are guns in the suburbs and in rural areas, and yet the suburbs aren’t killing fields. So if we’re going to have another gun debate, can’t we at least discuss culture, too?

And, can’t we wonder about what pathology drives so many mass shootings in the past few years?

Blaming the NRA is good politics for the left. It helps with fundraising, stokes outrage and helps herd voters into tribal camps. But is it possible that it’s incomplete, like blaming airplanes for the 9-11 terrorist attacks?

There may be something in our culture that is wrong and sick and festering. And recent mass shootings may be a symptom of larger cultural illness.

We know that we’re become increasingly nihilistic, and isolated from one another on our electronic devices. We know we’re divided into politically warring tribes, as the political center crumbles, as the Washington establishment holds desperately to power.

We know that attendance continues to drop at traditional centers of worship. And even so, the political/cultural elites who frame our gun and other debates often mock the remaining faithful as “religious fanatics.”

As America abandons religion for entertainment, we consume unprecedented amounts of pharmaceuticals, from opioids to mood altering drugs, to mask our emotional and mental pain.

Aren’t you curious as to how this impacts culture?

Even so, when the shooting began in the Mandalay Bay massacre, as the country music crowd stampeded in fear, as people died, Americans selflessly helped each other, comforted each other, risking and giving their own lives to save each other.

If only we’d been allowed a day or two to mourn, to reflect on the goodness even in the midst of the horror, before the politics swooped in.

A modest proposal

In the Facebook Friends of Best of the Web Today group, Steve Aunan asks:

When are we going to pass common sense mass media reform? Despite repeated warnings by psychiatrists and criminal justice experts to avoid sensational reporting, American journalists behave like Pavlov’s dog every time a mass shooting occurs. If our Democracy is to survive the rampant spread of Fake News and Constitutional illiteracy, America needs sensible lawmakers to enact the following regulations:

* common sense restrictions on the kinds of stories the mass media can publish
* enhanced background checks on J-school grads
* renewable permits on journalism licenses, subject to proof of competency by the permitting authority
* a mass buyout program to take irresponsible journalists off the street
* a central database of journalists to track psychotropic drug prescriptions and domestic abuse allegations

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press, but the Founders never imagined that journalists would have Internet-connected cellphone cameras and instantaneous worldwide distribution of sensational – and often false – reporting.

Anyone who objects to these sensible reforms is both misguided about, and intolerant of, the Democratic principles that this country was built on.

The Internet? Cellphones? For that matter, the First Amendment was created well before radio, TV and magazines existed. Perhaps the First Amendment should only apply to newspapers.

Additionally, there should be limits on how many media outlets are permitted in one market, as well as how many people are allowed to blog, and how many comments anyone should be allowed to post. How many opinions do you really need?

As a 30-year journalist educated at a world-class university I certainly believe I am better qualified than some blogger somewhere to report about and comment upon the news. Allowing untrained professionals (who may or may not know much about English grammar, let alone the five Ws and one H) to report on the news, let alone to express opinions about the news, is potentially dangerous to the public. The public must be protected from the menace of untrained journalism.

Hopefully by now readers realize that what you’ve read up to here is as valid a proposal as Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal. And proposals to curb gun violence by abridging our Second Amendment rights make as much sense as fixing some social ill by abridging our First Amendment rights.

 

Do nothing, or: Use your head, not another body part

Kevin D. Williamson‘s observations could apply to nearly any politician-created crisis:

In a podcast the day after the massacre in Las Vegas, Michael Graham asked me what supporters of the Second Amendment ought to do in reaction to such horrifying events. My answer at the time was: nothing. And nothing that has transpired since then has shown me cause to modify that position. It is in the nature of reactionaries to react, but very often the right course of action is inaction.

To my friend Michael, that’s cold-fish stuff. What’s needed, he argued, is passion: an emotional discharge in the service of a proactive agenda. While bookish types such as myself are mustering evidence and reason behind a dispassionate analysis of the facts, he argued, the gun-grabbers and other demagogues are getting the rubes all riled up (I am rephrasing) to do . . . something. “We have to do something!” he insisted.

Of course his argument is not without some merit, especially if you are running for office. (Consider who is president of these United States in anno Domini 2017.) Passion is helpful if you are trying to animate a crowd, either to vote for you or to tune in to your radio program or television show. Consider how fond Rush Limbaugh is of the word “passion,” which he describes as the essential key to success. He is not wrong about that: The love of the thing itself is necessary and irreplaceable for the development of any talent or enterprise. Who doubts that if Rush Limbaugh would give Winslow Homer a run for his money if his passion were watercolor instead of broadcasting, or that LeBron James would be a master cordwainer if his passion were making shoes instead of making shots?

But our passions can run away with us, especially in politics. Politics is not about policy: Politics is about tribe. Turn on Thom Hartmann’s radio program some time and, if you can stomach two minutes of it, you’ll understand what politics really is for many people: a license to hate. The indulgence of hatred is, for a certain kind of person — not an uncommon type, either — extraordinarily pleasurable, as is the expression of outrage, disgust, and indignation. You probably have seen this, in someone else or in yourself: In the course of detailing some outrage or act of buffoonery, one lists each detail, building up to a crescendo, and then — the smile. A big, wide smile of serene satisfaction announcing that the day’s outrage has been duly and deeply savored.

Politicians, and their media minions, have good reason to keep us stirred up, to keep our passions in a state of constant excitation. If we stopped and thought about things for a minute, we’d tar and feather the lot of them.

The exercise of the emotions is enjoyable in the same way as the exercise of the muscles, and probably for the same reason. That is what makes drama so engaging. To Aristotle we owe the idea of drama as catharsis, a word we use to mean a kind of transformative release. The Greek word was used to denote the pruning of trees or the clearing of land for cultivation, and hence was applied metaphorically in Aristotle’s time to a medical procedure: purgation, or therapeutic evacuation. As Aristotle understood catharsis, theater was a kind of emotional laxative. And there is a whiff of castor oil around Broadway. The idea survives into earthy modern English, in which a person who is having an emotional outburst is described as “losing his” — you know.

Passion is what drives us to “do something,” exclamation point implied. It is also what causes us to misunderstand politics as a contest between white hats and black hats: Think of how much of our political discourse is dedicated to explaining the other side as some sort of conspiracy, with the Right talking about “Alinskyites” and “Cloward-Piven,” the Left whispering darkly about the Koch brothers or, this week, NRA money lining the pockets of politicians.

The National Rifle Association is in fact barely among the top 500 political contributors (it is No. 460 at the moment) the organization and its affiliates having made barely $1 million in contributions in the 2016 cycle. Never mind the numbers — we have passion to express!

Passion makes you stupid.

It also makes you president. (Those are not mutually exclusive.)

We could do with a good deal less passion in our public life. The alt-right knuckleheads rallied behind Donald Trump not for reasons having to do with policy — they have no serious policy agenda at all — but because he gives voice to their passion, that passion being the desire to shock and annoy the politically correct busybodies and transnational economic elites by whom they feel condescended to. Trump was sworn in as president in January; it is October, and it already is obvious that he is as tired of the job as the country is of him and his schoolboy antics. “He fights!” they said. And, indeed, he has spent a great deal of time taking swings at cable-news figures, who enjoy the attention, and at Jeff Bezos, who doesn’t notice. By “He fights!” they mean he runs his mouth and tweets angry dopey things. And he does. Does he do anything else? Can he?

Do we really want to find out?

The NRA, which to its great discredit got into bed with Trump early and enthusiastically, ought to be concerned about his passion, which is a fickle thing. Trump was a gun-control advocate to the left of Hillary Rodham Clinton until shortly before he decided to run for president as a Republican. He was a supporter of a ban on so-called assault weapons, an advocate of waiting periods, and a critic of Republicans who “walk the NRA line.” Some of his associates already are worrying that Trump will revert to his old Manhattan Democrat ways on the question, because Trump’s passion is seeking the approval of crowds, especially the small crowd that edits the New York Times. Cutting a deal with his new best friends, Chuck and Nancy, in the aftermath of Las Vegas, might be appealing to that passion, especially if he could do so in some low-cost way such as opposing the NRA-supported Hearing Protection Act, which would make it easier to buy noise suppressors for firearms.

The passionate man is an unreliable man. Trump has been on both sides of gun control, abortion (he famously took five different positions on the question in three days), the Afghanistan war, Syria, the Electoral College, NATO, Beijing’s purported currency manipulation, tax reform, single-payer health care, the Export-Import Bank, and whether the president should play golf, among other things. (He finally got it right on golf.) Emotions are running high at the moment, and Trump is a captive of what Marcus Aurelius called “the animal soul,” writing in his Meditations:

To have sensible impressions exciting imaginations, is common to us with the cattle. To be moved, like puppets, by appetites and passions, is common to us with the wild beasts, with the most effeminate wretches, Phalaris, and Nero, with atheists, and with traitors to their country. If these things, then, are common to the lowest and most odious characters, this must remain as peculiar to the good man; to have the intellectual part governing and directing him in all the occurring offices of life.

… Passion is the enemy of good government — and the enemy of the civil peace, too. Good government is boring government: regular, orderly, predictable. To govern dispassionately requires a measure of mental serenity, which is hard to come by while Americans are still bleeding in Las Vegas. The easiest and surest way to equanimity is to let time pass. And, in the meantime, just do — nothing.

Preventing (or not) the next shooting (if possible)

David Harsanyi:

Unlike the vast majority of pundits, politicians, and late-night celebrity talk show hosts who vaguely implore Republicans to “do something,” Nick Kristof of The New York Times has taken the time to offer eight ideas he believes would help alleviate mass shootings. In fact, the headline of the article reads “Preventing Mass Shootings Like the Vegas Strip Attack.” Alas, the column doesn’t fulfill its promise, though it is useful in illustrating the problem Democrats face in the gun-control debate.

The column gets off to an inauspicious start when Kristof points to Australia’s confiscation of guns as a model for policy — which is, of course, a non-starter in a nation with more than 300 million firearms and an individual right to own them. Every time a pundit mentions Australian gun policy he is, in essence, conceding that confiscation is the ideal we should be working towards. The success of the Australian program is highly debatable, and anyone who fails to mention that the United States saw similar drops in gun crimes and homicides during the same timeframe — despite a big spike in gun ownership — is already suspect.

In any event, Kristof has eight additional ideas for us.

“1 – Impose universal background checks for anyone buying a gun. Four out of five Americans support this measure, to prevent criminals or terrorists from obtaining guns.”

This is tantamount to pleading for the existing ban on “machine guns” or “automatic weapons.” In 1993, Bill Clinton created the National Instant Background Check System. Since then, although there are some exemptions, the vast majority of gun owners go through a background check. There were 27,538,673 of them in 2016 alone (pdf). The reason Kristof throws in the word “universal,” I assume, is that he believes there are “loopholes” in this policy at gun shows and interstate purchases.

Yet, as my colleague Sean Davis has explained:

If you purchase a firearm from a federal firearms licensee (FFL) regardless of the location of the transaction — a gun store, a gun show, a gun dealer’s car trunk, etc. — that FFL must confirm that you are legally allowed to purchase that gun. That means the FFL must either run a background check on you via the federal NICS database, or confirm that you have passed a background check by examining your state-issued concealed carry permit or your government-issued purchase permit. There are zero exceptions to this federal requirement.

What’s more, Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock did not, as far as we know (and these things can change as reporting is ongoing), have a criminal record. According to numerous reports, he obtained all his firearms legally and without raising any red flags while passing numerous background checks. In fact, most of the mass shooters who have terrorized Americans in recent years didn’t have any criminal records. Most could pass background checks, and did. Some were radicalized and known to the FBI. Most were mentally anguished rather than criminally inclined, which is an exceptionally difficult thing to define, predict, or control.

It is true that occasionally the system failed. This happened in the case of Dylann Roof, who should have been stopped by a background check, but a breakdown in “paperwork and communication between a federal background check worker and state law enforcement” allowed him to purchase a handgun. Make the system we have better.

“2. Impose a minimum age limit of 21 on gun purchases. This is already the law for handgun purchases in many states, and it mirrors the law on buying alcohol.”

Well, some of us believe it’s absurd that 18-year-olds can support themselves, have families, and join the military, but are prohibited from buying a beer. But that’s another debate. Many states already have age 21 limits on purchasing guns. Not that it really matters. The vast majority of the mass shooters over the past decade were over 21. Most of them were well over 21.

The ones that weren’t, like Adam Lanza, illegally obtained their guns from legal owners. Lanza stole his guns from his mother, who had legally registered every one of them. I couldn’t find a single major mass shooting (this is typically defined as four or more people killed or injured by gunfire, which includes many criminal events that most people would not associate with what happened in Las Vegas, but that’s another story) who had legally purchased weapons as an 18- to 20-year-old. It seems dubious to suggest that passing such a law would do anything to “prevent” mass shootings.

“3. Enforce a ban on possession of guns by anyone subject to a domestic violence protection order. This is a moment when people are upset and prone to violence against their exes.”

Taking someone’s rights away because he or she is “upset” or potentially violent might work in the “Minority Report” but it is likely unconstitutional here in the real world. In fact, in some ways, a case about just this topic sparked the idea that grew into the Hellercase and ended up properly codifying the Second Amendment as an individual right.

It came in 1998, when a doctor named Timothy Joe Emerson was in the midst of an acrimonious divorce and his wife requested a restraining order against him from a Texas court. At the time, Emerson had been collecting guns for years and legally owned around 30 firearms. What Emerson didn’t know was that federal law at the time forbade anyone under a domestic restraining order from possessing firearms. He was arrested. Emerson’s court-appointed lawyer argued that without any judicial finding that his client posed a danger to his wife, Emerson still had a constitutional right to own a gun. And he won. It was the Emerson decision that sparked a number of libertarian think tank legal scholars to challenge DC gun laws.

“4. Limit gun purchases by any one person to no more than, say, two a month, and tighten rules on straw purchasers who buy for criminals. Make serial numbers harder to remove.”

This is like limiting soda sizes. The idea that shooters will be stopped because they can only purchase two guns per month seems dubious considering many of these shootings have been meticulously planned, none more, it seems, than Paddock’s mass murder in Vegas. There is also the problem of arbitrarily limiting citizens from practicing their constitutional rights. This would be like arguing that we should limit columnists to practicing their freedom of speech to only two columns a week because words are mightier than the sword.

“5. Adopt microstamping of cartridges so that they can be traced to the gun that fired them, useful for solving gun crimes.”

To my understanding, every mass shooting incident has been solved. How this regulation would prevent more is unclear. The rest of Kristof’s suggestions focus on gun safety measures that have nothing to do with mass shootings.

“6. Invest in ‘smart gun’ purchases by police departments or the U.S. military, to promote their use. Such guns require a PIN or can only be fired when near a particular bracelet or other device, so that children cannot misuse them and they are less vulnerable to theft. The gun industry made a childproof gun in the 1800’s but now resists smart guns.”

This suggesting is irrelevant on a number of levels. For one, smart guns would do little or nothing to “prevent” most mass shootings. Second, no major Second Amendment advocacy group or politician I know of opposes the production or promotion of “smart guns” — they oppose the state compelling people to use them. There are a few other problems: They don’t work yet. They are impractical. They are intrusive to law-abiding gun owners.

“7. Require safe storage, to reduce theft, suicide and accidents by children.”

It’s unclear how these requirements would “prevent” mass shootings, but often the proposed safe storage legislation makes it virtually impossible for gun owners to protect themselves or their family. Regardless, many states already have such laws and every state already has laws covering negligent behavior regarding children.

There is no correlation between gun ownership and suicide rates.

“8. Invest in research to see what interventions will be more effective in reducing gun deaths. We know, for example, that alcohol and guns don’t mix, but we don’t know precisely what laws would be most effective in reducing the resulting toll. Similar investments in reducing other kinds of accidental deaths have been very effective.”

Again, there is no evidence that mass shootings are fueled by alcohol or substance abuse, but rather that they are fueled by mental illness and radicalism. There are already numerous studies regarding gun use and abuse, and one hopes others study the data, as well. But if Kristof is suggesting that the centers for Disease Control participate, the answer is that there is no reason to further politicize the agency. Because no matter how well-intentioned people try to be in this debate, that’s almost always the case. That includes Kristof’s column, which fails to offer a single idea short of confiscation that would stop mass shootings in the future.

Jim Geraghty has a suggestion:

When you express skepticism about the value, legality, or effectiveness about gun control proposals after a mass shooting, you’re often asked, “okay, smart guy, how would you prevent the next one?”

When you look at the more infamous mass shootings in recent years, you see a disturbing pattern.

After the Virginia Tech shooting, Lucinda Roy, co-director of the university’s creative writing program, described her meeting with police, attempting to describe her concerns about the shooter:

“The threats seemed to be underneath the surface. They were not explicit,” she recalled. “And that was the difficulty that the police had. I would go to the police and to the counselors and to student affairs and everywhere else, and they would say, ‘There’s nothing explicit here. He’s not actually saying he’s going to kill someone.’ And my argument was he seemed so disturbed anyway that we needed to do something about this.”

In Aurora, Colorado: “When [the Aurora shooter’s] psychiatrist warned campus police at the University of Colorado how dangerous he was, they deactivated his college ID to prevent him passing through any locked doors.”

In Tuscon, Arizona:

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik told ABC News that campus police had to get involved at the college where [the shooter] once attended after a number of complaints.

“All I can tell you is that teachers and fellow students were concerned about his bizarre behavior in class to the point where some of him were physically afraid of him,” Dupnik said. “He was acting in very weird fashion to the point where they had several incidents with him to the point where law enforcement at Pima College got involved and they decided to expel him. And they did.”

In Isla Vista, California: “Last month, the 22-year-old wrote, his mother was so concerned about his well-being after seeing some of his videos on YouTube that she contacted mental-health officials, who dispatched sheriff’s deputies to check on him at his apartment in Isla Vista, an enclave near the University of California at Santa Barbara.”

The Sandy Hook shooter made unbelievably bloody and disturbing drawings. In case after case, we see fairly clear signals that the shooter is deeply troubled and in many cases is growing obsessed with violence.

A stunning number of school shooters since Columbine indicated an obsessive interest in that shooting. Fascinating and disturbing research by Mother Jones found that the shooting inspired “at least 74 plots or attacks across 30 states” and “in at least 14 cases, the Columbine copycats aimed to attack on the anniversary of the original massacre. Individuals in 13 cases indicated that their goal was to outdo the Columbine body count. In at least 10 cases, the suspects and attackers referred to the pair.”

We have all heard the slogan, “If you see something, say something.” Lots of people do say something; quite a few of the infamous mass shooters of recent years had already been reported to police for strange, threatening, or troubling behavior. Unfortunately, the police did not see sufficient reason to press charges or have the person placed in a mental institution.

What will stop the next mass shooting? The family, loved ones, peers and psychologists of the next shooter taking their disturbing or threatening behavior seriously, reporting it to the police, and the police taking it seriously.

Were there warning signs or strange behavior in the case of the Las Vegas shooter? Maybe.

Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock encouraged his girlfriend Marilou Danley to leave the country before his attack that left 58 people dead, her sisters told CNN affiliate in Australia 7 News.

The sisters, who spoke to 7 News exclusively, did not want to be identified by name and requested their faces be blurred.

“I know that she don’t know anything as well like us. She was sent away. She was away so that she will be not there to interfere with what he’s planning,” one of Danley’s sisters told 7 News from their home in Australia’s Gold Coast region.

“In that sense, I thank him for sparing my sister’s life,” she said, adding her sister was “really in love with Steve.”

The other sister said Danley, who arrived back in the US from the Philippines on Tuesday, “didn’t even know that she was going to the Philippines, until Steve said, ‘Marilou, I found you a cheap ticket to the Philippines.’”

Do people often urge their significant others to leave the country suddenly and out of the blue?

Why?

Dan O’Donnell:

In the hours and days after an incident of horrific violence—whether it be a coordinated terror attack or a “lone wolf” style terror incident like the one in Las Vegas that is now the deadliest mass shooting in American history—there is a natural human reaction to wonder why.

ational minds, then, search for meaning, search for motive, search for something, anything that would explain the inexplicable. It is why the media and its audience alike obsess over the perpetrator, scouring his background and social media footprint for clues as to what either set him off or inspired his evil.

What rational minds can’t often comprehend, though, is that evil is its own inspiration. Evil is the reason. Evil is the motivation. There is nothing deeper, nothing more meaningful than that. In a broader sense, however, evil is the deepest meaning behind horrendous violence. It lives in the blackened soul of one who could commit horrendous violence.

Evil is the reason that a man would fire on innocent concertgoers. Evil is the reason a man would join in a plot to commit a more organized terror attack. It is often difficult for good people to believe (and even more difficult to accept) that there is true evil in the world; that some of our fellow human beings simply want to kill, want to hurt, want to inspire terror in the rest of us, but it’s true. Evil drives them, evil motivates them, and a desire to be known and remembered as an embodiment of ultimate evil is their ultimate aim.

Almost invariably losers in life, they yearn for death—and in it a sort of immortality that comes with being remembered as one of history’s greatest monsters. They could never be heroes in life, so in death (or in the death they bring), they are content to be villains. And the rest of humanity unwittingly plays into this delusion of grandeur, speaking of these villains in hushed tones—a sort of reverent fear: Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. James Holmes. Adam Lanza. Dylann Roof.

And now Stephen Paddock. Humanity will unfortunately remember his name, not because he deserves it, but because his evil was so dark, the way it manifested itself so massive. In a perverse irony, we can’t seem to stop speaking the name of unspeakable evil.

We want to understand it, and understandably we want to know what makes it tick so that somehow we can deconstruct it and stop it. Really, though, there’s nothing to deconstruct. The only way to stop it is to recognize it for what it is: evil itself. We can attempt to classify it as terrorism, mental illness, even victimhood after a lifetime of bullying, but evil is always there in its heart, guiding its actions, offering the dual temptations of getting even with an unjust world and gaining immortality through extreme violence.

This is the reason. Nothing more, nothing less. Whether it be a coordinated terror attack or a “lone wolf” style terror incident, this is always what evil seeks: To strike back at a world that it feels has wronged it and to be remembered forever as the force that struck the greatest blow.

That is the motivation, and the motivation is evil. Evil is the reason, evil is the why that the rest of humanity demands to know, but can’t always accept. This is why we search not for deeper meaning but instead settle on the superficial: A bad personal life, a political cause, easy access to guns. Yet personal lives are never perfect, politics are always acrimonious, and guns are mere tools of evil (just as they can be tools of good in the hands of those who rush in to stop evil whenever it strikes).

On a deeper level, we too are tools of evil if we spend our time denying it and, instead of confronting it, devolve into partisan bickering over what amount to trivialities. That’s precisely what evil wants: Good people fighting one another instead of uniting against a common enemy.

That enemy is evil–whether it lies in the heart of a terrorist network or a sad, lonely killer in Las Vegas–and the only way it can ever really be stopped is if good starts recognizing it for what it is.

The sophisticates, who believe in nothing bigger than themselves, will deny this truth. They are wrong.

Protesting the wrong thing

Heather Mac Donald:

Who is killing these black victims? Not whites, and not the police, but other blacks. In 2016, the police fatally shot 233 blacks, the vast majority armed and dangerous, according to the Washington Post. The Post categorized only 16 black male victims of police shootings as “unarmed.” That classification masks assaults against officers and violent resistance to arrest. Contrary to the Black Lives Matter narrative, the police have much more to fear from black males than black males have to fear from the police. In 2015, a police officer was 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male was to be killed by a police officer. Black males have made up 42 percent of all cop-killers over the last decade, though they are only 6 percent of the population. That 18.5 ratio undoubtedly worsened in 2016, in light of the 53 percent increase in gun murders of officers—committed vastly and disproportionately by black males. Among all homicide suspects whose race was known, white killers of blacks numbered only 243.

Violent crime has now risen by a significant amount for two consecutive years. The total number of violent crimes rose 4.1 percent in 2016, and estimated homicides rose 8.6 percent. In 2015, violent crime rose by nearly 4 percent and estimated homicides by nearly 11 percent. The last time violence rose two years in a row was 2005–06.  The reason for the current increase is what I have called the Ferguson Effect. Cops are backing off of proactive policing in high-crime minority neighborhoods, and criminals are becoming emboldened. Having been told incessantly by politicians, the media, and Black Lives Matter activists that they are bigoted for getting out of their cars and questioning someone loitering on a known drug corner at 2 AM, many officers are instead just driving by. Such stops are discretionary; cops don’t have to make them. And when political elites demonize the police for just such proactive policing, we shouldn’t be surprised when cops get the message and do less of it. Seventy-two percent of the nation’s officers say that they and their colleagues are now less willing to stop and question suspicious persons, according to a Pew Research poll released in January. The reason is the persistent anti-cop climate.

Four studies came out in 2016 alone rebutting the charge that police shootings are racially biased. If there is a bias in police shootings, it works in favor of blacks and against whites. That truth has not stopped the ongoing demonization of the police—including, now, by many of the country’s ignorant professional athletes. The toll will be felt, as always, in the inner city, by the thousands of law-abiding people there who desperately want more police protection.