This is the transcript from Episode 159 of The Editors.
Rich: Horror in El Paso and Dayton. We will discuss this and nothing more on this week’s edition of the Editors. I’m Rich Lowry, and I’m joined as always, or at least occasionally, by the right honorable Charles C. W. Cooke, the pride of Tennessee, David French, and Alexandra “Xan” DeSanctis. You’re listening to a National Review podcast. Our sponsor this week is Dividend Café. If you’re listening to this podcast at NationalReview.com, we are delighted to have you, but it’d be easier for you and better for us if you made us part of your feed at Google Play, Stitcher, iTunes, TuneIn, or Spotify. If you like what you hear here, please give us a glowing five-star review on iTunes. If you don’t like what you hear here, please forget I said anything.
So, David, let’s start with you and start with El Paso, a horrific shooting at a Walmart, and what gave it special political charge, obviously, is a manifesto that this hateful freak posted on 8chan, making this the third mass shooting connected to 8chan and spouting all the same talking points as these prior white nationalists. What do you make of it?
David: Well, I think what I make of it is, I think we’re dealing with a wave of terrorism from white nationalists, and it’s not just the 8chan. The 8chan development is sort of more recent, it’s a more recent phenomenon. It dates back to the Christchurch shooter in New Zealand who posted in 8chan a manifesto, then we had a shooter the very next month in Poway in California, who attacked a synagogue, and then we had the Walmart shooter. So there’s been, as you said, the three 8chan shootings. However, if you go back to 2016 and go forward from there, we’ve had a number of other incidents. Of course, we’ve had the Charlottesville terror attack, where a white nationalist drove his car into a group of protesters. We’ve had an incident where a person who was a member of an alt-right Facebook group stabbed to death a young black college student in Maryland, a guy went to New York with a sword to kill black people, killed an African-American man in New York. An incident in Kansas, another incident in Kentucky. The Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh.
So all of these things are adding together into a wave of terrorist violence that, if it were done by jihadists, we would be immediately ramping up our alert levels, and we would be immediately ramping up our anti-terror activities. I think that what we have to understand is we do have a wave of white nationalist terrorism, and we need to adjust our policy accordingly. It’s not the same scale as ISIS. I’ve heard some people pushing back on some, for example, our NR editorial or the piece that I wrote, how dare you compare this to jihadist terror, these white nationalists haven’t taken over entire country-sized regions like ISIS did. They haven’t launched a terror attack as massive as 9/11.
Yeah, you’re exactly right. At the scale of the jihadist terror threat still dwarfs and has dwarfed the scale of the white-nationalist terror threat. But it’s still a terror threat, and unfortunately, it’s one that’s predominantly home grown.
Rich: So what makes it, describe why the T word is appropriate. Why is it a terror threat?
David: Yeah, terrorism is a pretty easy to define term. It’s essentially violence with a political purpose. It’s violence to advance a political motivation, political or religious motivation. So what you have here are people who are in the grips of a very particular ideology, one that has long roots, unfortunately in the United States, a white nationalist ideology. And they’re advancing that white nationalist ideology in that the manifestos make that pretty darn clear, and the manifestos sort of add the new twist on this old ideology that we’re seeing in a lot of the alt-right commentary over the recent years. That alt-right commentary advances sort of this theory that immigration, particularly immigration from South America, is part of what they would call a white genocide or the “Great Replacement,” where black and brown immigrants are coming to the United States and steadily replacing white America.
This was terrorism designed to both launch an attack against the people that the shooter, in his twisted mind, thought were responsible for this, and also as the shooter attacks and releases his manifesto, it exposes millions and millions of people to this ideology. It’s a classic example of terrorism that’s not unlike the terrorism you see in the Middle East or the jihadist terrorism you’ve seen in the U.S.
Rich: So what do you think, Xan? Do you buy that basic analysis?
Alexandra: Yeah, it makes sense to me, and I think following on the heels of what we saw with the Christchurch shooting in particular, I mean, just to see another, I guess a copycat, really, is how I’m thinking about it. There’s no doubt we have this sort of string of people who think it’s bad to have immigration of any kind, it’s bad for America, and the response to that, clearly already unhinged people, unstable people then think that violence is the appropriate solution to that.
I think, once more, the Dayton shooting, I guess we’ll get to that in a little bit, but not only do we have sort of these politically motivated shootings, but we have a crisis of just young men who are isolated and troubled and who are using violence as a way of getting attention and going out into fame and glory, they think. And that’s, I guess, kind of a different question from terrorism, but also, I think a very, very troubling development.
Rich: So, Charlie, there’s some people who push back on this perspective, this way of looking at, at least this subset of shootings and say, no, what we’re dealing with in all these cases is isolated, disaffected, nihilistic males, and that’s the root of the problem, not any ideology, so let’s not make it about that.
Charlie: Well, I think we can do both. It seems obvious that the people who are most likely to commit these sorts of crimes are young, floating, lost, young men. It is also apparently the case that a lot of those people seem drawn to one particular ideological strand. I don’t think it would be especially convincing to say, look, don’t worry about radical Islam, because the common denominator is young men. It is, but clearly, radical Islam is an ideology that attracts young men of a certain type and from certain areas. It seems clear that white supremacy is doing something similar in America, and we do have a pattern here. Three shootings by anonymous members of the same website with the same aims, and cross-referenced. The shooter at Poway said that he was inspired by the shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, and so did the shooter in El Paso.
As a result, I think it’s entirely appropriate for the government to ramp up its efforts to push back against this ideology and to track those who are espousing it. The First Amendment is sacrosanct, it must not, as any part of the process, be curtailed or diminished. But it’s not illegal in the United States for the authorities to monitor those they believe might be a threat, and it’s not illegal for the authorities to investigate and even prosecute those who are guilty of incitement, as long as that incitement is imminent.
The websites around which these people congregate should be looked at. Not shut down, not prosecuted, but should be looked at and infiltrated. I do think, though, we ought to be careful not to, and this is a temptation we have in our modern culture, see that action as a panacea. It’s not, it won’t be. It will be a hard slog, but this is a very, very difficult problem to solve for a number of reasons. It is more difficult to solve a virtual threat than it is a physical threat. What I mean by that is that in the 1990s, when we had another problem with white supremacy, the people who were involved tended to have compounds. You could go to Idaho and you could walk right up to the gate. It said Aryan Nation on the gate. If you wanted to infiltrate that group and you did so successfully, you would have a fairly good chance of preventing any horrendous attack, purely because you would know where it was going to come from. You probably could talk to the people who were planning it and then tip off the authorities.
It’s more difficult to do that online. You don’t know where people are if they’re anonymous, and even if you do know where they are, they’re spread out. Their meeting place is in the cloud, it’s not in one place. So we ought to be careful not to assume this will solve the problem in that a lot of their manifestos and admissions of imminent guilt that we’ve seen came 30 minutes before the shooting. It’s also difficult because this radicalization is passive, in the sense that it is not that there is a website out there called WhiteSupremacyShooters.com, which people talk about what they’re going to do next Thursday, or even that has a list of, or a catechism on it, to which its adherents are expected to show fealty. These conversations seem to passively radicalize some people and not radicalize others. Some people regard the 8chans of the world as hotbeds of irony, and others seem to regard them as hotbeds of genuine bigotry, and as a meeting place for similar minds.
And the last reason it’s going to be difficult is that different organizations within America will need to be recruited to deal with this in that, although I think it’s fine to call this terrorism, we do treat foreign terrorists differently than domestic terrorists. We’ve done that very deliberately, that has had bipartisan support because what we don’t want to do is start wielding the power of the federal government against dissenters writ large or against speech or against ideology. It’s one thing to recruit the federal government against people who have come from other countries and are planning something. It’s another thing to monitor American citizens living in the United States. We do need to do that, but we need to be careful in doing so, and we also need to recognize as a result that it’s going to be difficult to achieve what we want to achieve here without a great deal of creativity.
Rich: Yeah, David, so, I went back and looked at what the FBI did with the Klan in the ’60s and early ’70s, and it was a serious effort. The FBI obviously, what they did with the civil-rights movement and to Martin Luther King, in particular, was horrific, so a lot of people just think, well, whatever the FBI did with the Klan was just sort of a pro forma, check-the-box exercise. But no, they really dug in and they were very serious about controlling and disrupting the Klan, and it was an incredibly successful effort. I mean, the Klan was shot through with FBI informants, the FBI would diminish the number of Klan members in a more radical group and then get them over into another Klan group that was more moderate, because it was entirely controlled by FBI informants. Sometimes they’d prop up existing Klan groups because they were worried that if they really succeeded in totally crushing them, the radicals among them would disperse and they wouldn’t be so easily surveillable or controllable any more. Actually, the speechwriter of the president of the United Klans of America was a FBI informant, and he worked on the president to moderate his views in various ways.
So you look at it on those terms, it’s just an incredibly successful effort. On the other hand, this was not what we would accept the FBI doing with any really domestic group these days. It was against the law in various respects, it was not just the Klan, obviously, it was civil-rights groups, it was the New Left, it was socialists. It was a huge scandal when all of these secret programs were revealed, but you’re one who thinks that there’s more that the FBI can be doing here. So what’s the line? How far can they push before you’re getting into violations of civil liberties that we’ll regret and have unintended consequences besides being illegal?
David: Right. I think that one of the things that can be done that’s relatively low-hanging fruit is, you can have the FBI all over these message boards, and you can have the FBI crawling all over these online communities. One thing that, if you look at some of the folks who have been brought under, we had this trend for a while where there were jihadist terrorists whom the FBI had interviewed, it turns out they had been on an FBI radar screen and they had slipped through the cracks and committed acts of terror. One of the most notable, of course, was the Orlando nightclub, Pulse nightclub shooter. But one of the things that I learned from that was how extensive FBI surveillance had become of things like jihadist message boards, how quickly it responded to reports that a young Muslim man has indicated affection or allegiance in any way, shape, or form to al-Qaeda, or Hezbollah. You were going to get a visit from the FBI.
And so, I think, in this circumstance, if you’re looking at these message boards, that you’re looking at this online community, and you’re seeing people who are celebrating, using the slang that is now becoming known that they’re using, such as digits, which involves sort of the gamification of serial killing, and you’re looking at some of the language that’s on the message boards, that the people who are celebrating this, who are indicating allegiance to this movement, it’s entirely acceptable in an atmosphere where we have had the wave of terror that I articulated earlier, it’s entirely acceptable in that atmosphere for them to get a visit from the FBI. It’s entirely acceptable when there’s sufficient probable cause to go beyond a visit, just a mere visit from the FBI, to actual surveillance.
So a lot of this, I think, it’s not breaking new ground, it’s resource allocation. How much are we going to resource the FBI? I think I saw yesterday that as of right now, the allocation of resources in the FBI of international terrorism versus domestic terrorism might be 80/20, and I don’t necessarily think that we should look at that as a fixed pie of money, where we then go 70/30 or 60/40. Perhaps we expand the size of the pie and we get more resources allocated to domestic terrorism without neglecting the threat of international terrorism, which there’s been some reports I saw just yesterday that ISIS is busy trying to reconstitute itself in parts of Iraq and is still a threat in parts of Syria. So I don’t look at it that we have, let’s say, $100 to fight terror and let’s allocate ten more dollars from the international terrorism pile to the domestic terrorism pile. We might want to say, let’s add ten more dollars to the domestic terrorism pile and resource the FBI in that way.
One of the things that we have to remember is that, as much as it’s fashionable in recent years to dump on the FBI, we do have to acknowledge that it has been remarkably successful in preventing international terrorism in the United States since 9/11. If you had talked to someone on September 12th, 2001, and said to them, there will not be another large-scale attack like this in the United States for the next almost 18 years, you would have thought that that was a wildly optimistic statement. But that’s been the case. And now, that’s because of a lot of different reasons, but one of the reasons is that the FBI has actually been quite competent in its anti-terror mission.
This is an organization that’s learned a lot in the almost 18 years since 9/11. I think taking that knowledge, taking that expertise, taking an expertise it has developed and combating the online radicalization from ISIS, which became a newer challenge in 2014–2015 and applying those lessons to the alt-right and the white nationalists, I think we’re going to have, the FBI is going to have an ability to accomplish more than we might think. Because I don’t think of these guys, these white nationalists in the U.S., as really approaching the level of sophistication that the jihadists developed over time. We’re talking about a movement that is still largely disorganized, that’s comprised largely of solitary disaffected individuals who aren’t necessarily up to speed on FBI anti-terror tactics and capabilities. So I think there could be some low-hanging fruit with the proper resource allocation.
I don’t think it’s a cure-all, I don’t think it ends the threat, and I think it’s a separate discussion we need to have about ending mass shootings, which is, mass shooting is one terror tactic, but we also have a mass-shooting problem apart from the white-nationalist problem. But I do think there is some low-hanging fruit where the FBI applies additional resources combined with some of the same tactics used in the war against international terror, then we can make some real headway.
Rich: Yeah, I think just even getting a knock on the door and an FBI interview would be a deterrent for a lot of people. At the onset of the FBI’s campaign against the Klan, the first thing they did, they just interviewed through this intensive regime of interviews with all the Klan leaders, and that itself they found just had a huge effect.
But David, let me stick with you for just one other thing. So, do you think we need a domestic terror law? Charlie mentioned we legally treat the international threat differently for some very good reasons, but you have some people now saying, well, maybe those reasons aren’t good enough and we need a domestic terror law.
David: I’m not opposed to it. I don’t think it will make a material impact one way or the other. I would say, all things being equal, it would be a marginal additional benefit, but there are . . . The FBI has very ample investigative tools outside of that. So I think it’s one of those things that, all other things being equal, it’s of some additional benefit. I don’t think it’s indispensable.
Rich: So, Xan, what do you make of another aspect of this debate which is the argument over Trump’s rhetoric and what responsibility he bears for these atrocities? I think going from Trump’s used inflammatory language to he’s inciting acts of mass murder is completely absurd. I think it’d be good for a president to lower rather than increase the temperature, and obviously he has no inclination to do that. I think a lot of things he said are blameworthy, but they don’t in any way, in my mind, cross the line into people legitimately being able to point fingers at him for being responsible in any sense for these attacks. But you have that going on, you have the head of Cory Booker’s campaign in New Hampshire basically saying Trump shouldn’t have rallies, shouldn’t have a rally in New Hampshire because a rally will just create more violence of this nature. You have some people going even further and saying immigration restriction itself is inherently hateful and is part of this toxic brew that creates these white nationalist terrorists.
Rich: You had one character on Twitter even blaming David Frum and Ross Douthat, who are immigration restrictionists, for these attacks. What do you make of that line of argument?
Alexandra: I think it’s really absurd, and it’s really frustrating to see this, not only from kind of fringe people on the left, but also from Democratic presidential candidates. You’ve got Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker saying that Trump caused the shooting or that Trump is responsible for the shooting because of his rhetoric, and I think it’s just really, talk about irresponsible. That type of commentary is so unhelpful, and I think wrong, and it downplays the fact that the president ought to be, I think, speaking more responsibly and speaking more carefully and not using his bully pulpit to rile up people against one another because of their racial or ethnic identities.
Clearly, that’s the case, and I think that the president is wrong to do that, but when you have people on the other side then saying, him doing this is the same thing as inciting violence, it makes it easier for the president and for his supporters, his most staunch supporters, to say, okay, that’s ridiculous. Leave us alone. He isn’t doing that. And I agree, he isn’t doing that. But I think it makes it easier for them to try and get him off the hook and sort of excuse him of any kind of blame for his rhetoric because the other side is going way too far. I think, at the same time, the president does need to take the temperature down. Of all people, he has definitely responsibility, I think, to be better than that. But he certainly didn’t cause the shooting, and I think his rhetoric contributes to kind of a climate of racial tension, obviously, and I think that’s been true for a long time.
But the idea that because the El Paso shooter happened to agree with Trump’s stance on immigration, therefore Trump caused the shooting, is absurd. It’s an extension, this tactic, I think, of what the Left has been up to increasingly over the last few months. They were doing this when Ilhan Omar came under fire, I guess, a couple months ago for some of her comments about 9/11 and the president criticized her for it. There was that video that the president’s campaign team put together and the people on the left said, well, he’s inciting violence against her. No, he’s not. Criticism is not the same thing as inciting violence. I think this is kind of the new tool of the Left is to say, any time someone on the right attacks someone on the left verbally or criticizes their position, therefore, they’re inciting violence. I think it’s really dangerous.
Rich: So, Charlie, we discussed this offline yesterday and I was saying just what Xan and I were saying — it would be good if the president lowered the temperature, and it’s very unusual for a president not to lower the temperature. I said, I think, I can’t remember any president being this way except for maybe Andrew Jackson. And then, kind of, FDR came to mind, you know, the economic royalist thing wasn’t exactly lowering the temperature. And you pointed out that Barack Obama alleged a war on women, which if you took the words literally, would lead to a call to arms to resist this horrible war being waged on half our population. So you weren’t even convinced that lowering the temperature is necessarily a thing a president needs to do.
Charlie: Well, I wasn’t quite saying that, although I do think that very often when people say we need to lower the temperature, what they mean is, you need to be quiet. I don’t think that it’s necessarily surprising that Cory Booker, oddly enough, thinks that the way to stop this is for Republicans not to have rallies in election years. And I think very often when people point fingers at others, they’re trying to guilt them into being quiet.
My point was more that we have a selective way of looking at what is supposedly inciteful and what is not. The press plays a role in this, in deciding what’s outrageous and what is not and driving the news cycle accordingly. I don’t like the way Trump speaks. I wish he wouldn’t tweet, I wish he wouldn’t be as rude as he is, I wish he would speak differently about those people he disdains. He always takes it too far, and I think in some circumstances he does absolutely bring the worst out in people. I think it’s a very considerable jump to go from there to he is to blame for this.
I don’t think he’s unique, though. I have two views on this, and they intersect. The first one is that as a rule, we should blame people for their actions. No man is an island, but it is simply untenable in a society that expects robust debate and open political discourse to blame the acts of evil men on the hyperbole and the polemicism of participants within our culture. I wrote precisely that when the Southern Poverty Law Center was being blamed for an attack on the Family Research Council. I wrote precisely that when Black Lives Matter was being blamed for the shooting of police officers. And I wrote precisely that when Sarah Palin was blamed for the Gabby Giffords shooting.
The second thing I would say is that if we are to adopt the standard that we have heard suggested by people like Cory Booker, then we’re going to end up indicting an awful lot of our public figures. The argument against Trump goes a little bit like this. Occasionally, he uses language that implies a response that is unsalutary. For example, if he says invasion, that brings up in the minds of his listeners, repelling the invasion. What do you do to an invasion? You repel it, you push back, you open fire. If people came over the border of the United States, the military would shoot back. Individuals, if necessary, would shoot back. This is why we don’t like people using words like invasion.
Okay, I don’t agree with that. I think that’s a little over the top. But if that is our standard, then Cory Booker, who’s the one who made this charge, needs to stop talking too. Because when Brett Kavanaugh was nominated for the Supreme Court, Cory Booker called him evil, said he was evil. Well, what do we do to evil? We extirpate evil. We exorcize it. You can play precisely the same game there. And as you mentioned, Barack Obama alleged, and in fact, the Democratic party in general ran with this, that there was a war on women. Well, what do you do if there is a war on women? What would we do if there were actually a war on women? We’d fight back.
So I think we have to be careful not to apply a different standard to Trump than we would apply to anybody else. I think we have to be careful not to apply a different standard to Republicans than we would apply to anybody else. And I think we have to be careful to draw a line between dislike of the way the president talks, believing that he’s unseemly, unhelpful, that there is no virtue in riling people up, that people in public office have a responsibility to talk as if they believe that everyone is equal and is worth of respect, and moving into a place where we start to blame those public figures, whoever they are, for acts of violence or evil and implying that they should be quiet, and essentially trying to shut down the robust debate and strong political culture that marks the United States out.
David: So, I think this is one of these areas where common sense is once again being just obliterated by partisanship. If you look at the cycle of political rhetoric online, it goes something like this. There will be, let’s just take an example from the left. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez launches this Twitter war over whether or not we should call immigration detention facilities concentration camps. She makes it very clear in this initial salvo that she’s comparing, she’s referring to concentration camps that the Nazis ran during World War II. So all of the partisanship springs into action. On the one hand, you have the right side of Twitter saying, how dare you? This is incredibly inflammatory. This is incredibly irresponsible rhetoric. You’re ratcheting up the temperature of the body politic. And then you have the left saying, well, actually, she’s right. And it wasn’t just Nazi Germany. Don’t you know anything about history? It was also the Boer War. She’s not referring to Auschwitz, she’s referring to . . . And you go through this whole thing where one side is saying, I’m going to justify why this extreme, ridiculous, inflammatory statement is actually correct, and the other side is saying, hold on, wait a second. This is inflammatory. There are disturbed people out there that are going to act on this.
And guess what, a guy goes and attacks an immigrant detention facility. He leaves a manifesto, it says the word concentration camp in it. Now, that was in the news for about nine seconds, and that’s probably generous. Then you flip it back around and you have this, Donald Trump repeatedly says invasion. There was this analysis of Facebook ads the New York Times did. He said invasion thousands of times, and he’s not just said sort of invasion in any sort of normal discourse sort of way, but in Tweeting about invasion and the military is waiting for you, which ratchets it up even a little bit more.
So then you have the same cycle. This is inflammatory. This is inflammatory. And then you have people on the right going, well, actually, this is thousands and thousands of people coming to our country without consent. Isn’t that an invasion? When the reality is, look. Inflammatory language is inflammatory. It does have an impact on the body politic. It has a negative impact on the body politic. You can’t draw a straight line in the absence of actual incitement as defined by law that says, Donald Trump caused this attack by saying invasion, or that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez caused the Antifa attack because she said concentration camp.
But words have power and your words can be inflammatory, your words can be persuasive, your words can be divisive. If it’s inflammatory and divisive in a highly polarized country, common sense tells us, the experience of our lives tell us that that increases the tumult of the country. It increases the temperature of the country, and the fact that you can’t draw a straight line that says Donald Trump caused the El Paso shooting is not in any way, shape, or form, an argument, and nobody’s making it here. I’m just sort of talking about in the general discourse. It’s not in any way, shape, or form, saying that Donald Trump’s rhetoric about invasions, et cetera, is fine. It’s not. But I also think that, especially in the white nationalist context, this obsessive focus on the president is misplaced. Of course the bully pulpit matters. Of course his words matter. Of course he’s influential in the culture. Yes.
But to focus on the president, I think, is to understate the extent of the problem online, it’s to understate the extent of the alt-right’s influence and parts of the larger right, and I think it understates and it misdirects from the way in which people are actually radicalized. I think the president should speak more responsibly. I think AOC should speak more responsibly. I think that our politicians should exercise leadership and be less inflammatory rather than sort of deciding, what is the most inflammatory thing that I can say that my supporters can sort of backfill for me to make it sound rational. But at the same time, this obsessive focus on what politicians say misses the forest for the trees.
Rich: All right. Exit question to you, Xan. White nationalism, in your view, will wax or wane over the next two years?
Alexandra: I think, unfortunately it will probably wax. Hopefully won’t get too much worse than we’ve already seen. I mean, three shootings in one year. But I think probably wax, unfortunately.
Rich: Charlie Cooke?
Charlie: I think it will wax, but I think that this was a breaking point for many people, and the point at which they realized this was a problem to be dealt with. And so, I’m hoping that, although it won’t be easy, we’ll start to see better mitigation.
Rich: David French?
David: I think it’ll wax through the presidential cycle.
Rich: I’m going to say wax over the next two years, basically just because I think everything’s going to get worse, so this would be the getting worse answer. I do think this is not a good propaganda for white nationalists, but it’s a little bit like ISIS, where initially the beheadings and whatnot drew more dangerous disconnected nihilistic people to the movement, rather than repelled them. But over the long term, I do think this will burn out and we’ll figure out, as Charlie says, ways to mitigate it, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen in the next two years.
Okay, Xan, so in the hours later after El Paso shook the nation, we had another horrific killing outside this bar in Dayton, Ohio. It turns out the shooter was a leftist, socialist, fond of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, also a self-avowed Satanist. So there’s a question what to make of this. You wrote a piece about that. There’s also the fact that he seems pretty clearly deranged. He described himself to an ex-girlfriend as being a schizophrenic. He described being tortured by delusions and worries that he would harm people. He frightened people at his high school. He came up with a hit list of people he was allegedly going to kill, a rape list of people he wanted to sexually assault. There was one day at this school, according to an AP report, where most of the students just didn’t show up because they were scared that he would carry out a mass shooting. What should we make of it?
Alexandra: I think the shooting has been covered and was covered right after it happened a lot differently from the El Paso shooting, and in some ways rightly so. We still now, a few days after the shooting, don’t know really what this person’s motivation was. The police haven’t announced anything. There was no manifesto, there was no note left, he didn’t tell anybody that he was planning this or why, and he also was killed by police, so he can’t be asked about it or say anything else about it. So we don’t really know. And there’s also the little detail that he killed his own sister, so I think this clearly wasn’t primarily politically motivated in the way the El Paso shooting was.
I think as a result of that, it’s been covered differently, and at root, this man very clearly seemed to be intensely troubled. You know, all the thing things that you listed, it’s pretty clear to me, speaking as a Catholic and someone who believes in this sort of thing, I think this person unfortunately was possessed. Honestly, he described himself as a Satanist, was hearing these voices, said he was afraid of himself. He was in something called a pornogrind band, which I could only read about three sentences about before I had to stop reading their reporting on it, just horrific stuff. I think this person clearly committed this horrible massacre because he was a deeply troubled person.
But at the same time, there has been reporting on his left-leaning views. His was very online as we might say. He was tweeting about politics all the time, in fact, tweeted about gun control, attacked his own Republican senator, Rob Portman, for not doing enough in the wake of the Parkland shooting last spring. So definitely a leftist, and I think while we can’t say and shouldn’t say that his shooting was motivated by that, I think had he been tweeting his support for Donald Trump and then gone and done a horrible thing like this and been troubled by voices and been a Satanist and whatever else, you can bet we would be reading a lot about him being on Instagram wearing a MAGA hat or whatever else. And so, I guess there’s been a little bit of a double standard in the way this was covered, I think.
Rich: Yeah, Charlie, I was on a trip overseas, so maybe this isn’t a true test because I was with fellow journalists who are consumed with covering foreign policy, but they followed the news pretty closely. At some point, I just mentioned to everyone, oh, this guy in Dayton was a Bernie Sanders fan. And they’re all shocked. They hadn’t heard of it. It hadn’t been covered. Whereas, as Xan points out, if there had been the slightest chance that he was a Trump supporter, obviously we would have heard about that in great detail.
This shooting just brings home to me how the most encompassing category of these shooters is disaffected men. Then you have a subcategory in there I think are just kind of haters. They might be people who were fired and go to seek revenge, or been jilted by women and hate women. Then there’s a subcategory of people who are disturbed and running the gamut from disturbed all the way to certifiable, mentally ill, untreated schizophrenia or other illnesses. The Dayton shooter strikes me as being somewhere in that category. We’ll learn more in coming days. And then we have the other subcategory of white nationalists that we’ve already discussed.
Charlie: I think the hypocrisy point is a fair one, and that’s not because the Dayton shooter and the El Paso shooter are the same. It’s because that doesn’t especially matter. I look at this and I do see them as being very different. I think in the one case, you can say, the El Paso case, you can say this was a person who was motivated by an ideology and a political aim. He wrote a manifesto, he explained why he was doing what he did, and he was doing what he did to try to change our political status quo. In his cracked mind, he was fighting back against the Hispanic invasion. That’s what he thought he was doing. There is sufficient evidence in that case to say yes, this was a political attack.
In the other case, there is not. The man in Dayton was crazy. He was all over the place. He alarmed other people. He seemed primarily to be driven by a lust for violence. He had fantasized about killing and raping. He was also a socialist. It is not at all clear that he did what he did because he was a socialist, because he liked Elizabeth Warren, because he thought this or that about immigration or health care policy or taxes or what you will. But I think where conservatives quite rightly become irritated is that, as Alexandra says, if that had been the case of a Trump fan, if a Trump fan had been obsessed with violence, had shown signs of mental instability, and also happened to be a Republican and have certain views on what you will, the two would have been conflated in a way that they are not being conflated here. It would have made all of the headlines, and we would have read op-ed after op-ed in the New York Times and the Washington Post about how the two are inextricable.
And I think conservatives are also aware that when you actually do have a left-wing equivalent of the El Paso shooter . . . I’m thinking of the man who shot up the Congressional baseball practice . . . It tends to be buried. I have to say, I find it absolutely astonishing that that was not a bigger story, that it doesn’t rebound all the time into our daily politics. Now, perhaps it was, perhaps that’s for a good reason. Perhaps it’s because, mercifully, nobody died. Perhaps if he had succeeded in what he was trying to do, we would have seen if he had, the wiping out of what, a fifth of the Senate. It would have been a historical event. But if he had succeeded, perhaps . . . But either way, there is a tendency to play down that very explicit political attack, and a direct political attack as well.
One of the peculiar things about the El Paso shooting is quite who the shooter thought he was getting at. He didn’t attack an immigration office, he didn’t attack the Democratic party headquarters, he didn’t try to kill the Speaker of the House. He attacked innocent random people in a Walmart, while the guy in Virginia actually attacked politicians, and I do think that it’s been treated differently. But insofar as we’re evaluating these two shootings, it’s important to draw that distinction. One of them was acting out a political agenda. The other one had a set of political views but seemed to be motivated by something else. If we’re to think seriously about what we can do to stop this sort of violence, we’re going to have to keep that bright line between different types of shooters, even if it’s tempting to do otherwise.
Rich: David French?
David: I think Charlie was dead on in this analysis. I think what we have, just to back up for a minute and talk about the mass shooting phenomenon in general, I think we’ve got this problem now, where if you are, for whatever your motivation for your anger, whether it’s you’re inspired by jihadists like the Pulse night club shooter, whether you’re inspired by white nationalism like the El Paso shooter, whether you’re by all accounts just a very deeply angry, disturbed person in general like the Dayton shooter. It seems like regardless of the motivation, the means of carrying out or enacting your hatred and rage is being channeled across all of these different motivations into this one method of mass shootings.
The mass shooting is sort of the signature attack of the age, if you’re a person motivated by rage or hatred. And that’s not always been, it’s not always inevitable that that would be the case. In Europe for a while, there were mass shootings. For example, in Paris, there have been bombings, there have been truck attacks. The signature attack of the militia era in the ’90s was the Oklahoma City bombing. In Japan, we saw an arson attack that killed more than 30 people. There’s many ways to enact your rage or hatred, but in the United States, it has come to be, regardless of your motivation, it’s being enacted through these mass shootings.
This problem, I mean, I’m kind of deviating a little bit from your question, I think this is one of the most important and especially for those of us who want to continue to protect the Second Amendment and believe that our current gun laws are more or less where they should be, this is a matter of real urgency. And at the same time, it’s a matter of, it’s very elusive to try to figure out how to do anything about it. I’m going to repeat something I’ve said a million, billion times, but I still think one of the best things ever written on the mass shooting issue came from Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker, where he described it as sort of a slow motion unfolding riot, almost like that each mass shooting lowers the threshold for the next mass shooting. He’s somebody who would be more favorably inclined to gun control than me, but he said very clearly in this circumstance that gun control is not going to be the answer here, and that as a point of fact, none of us actually know specifically what is the answer or what are the answers for it.
But it’s a matter of an extreme urgency, I think, especially as these things continue. It was hard to put into words when you began to see across Twitter the active-shooter warnings coming through in Dayton on the exact same day that the El Paso attack happened. The sort of sense that you have in that moment of, something’s breaking here. Something is breaking. I think there are a variety of answers to mass shootings, there’s several things that we can put together. But I think it should be an absolute priority, not just politically, but culturally, for us to deal with this.
Rich: Xan, exit question to you. In your view, in the next two years, we will figure out a better way to identify, treat, and foil, if they have violent intentions, disturbed people who might carry out such attacks. Yes or no?
Alexandra: I think that we will. We’ve kind of talked about this as a breaking point already, but I think to see two mass shootings, one, again, politically motivated, the other one it seems not, but two in 24 hours, just huge, horrific shootings like this, I think changes the way that a lot of people look at and think about the debate and hopefully I think makes people more inclined to look for common ground. Maybe. We haven’t seen signs of that really quite yet, but hopefully it will.
Rich: Charlie Cooke?
Charlie: I’m not half as hopeful as Xan is.
Alexandra: Naïvely optimistic?
Charlie: I despair, I despair. I don’t know what will break this. I think it will be broken, I’m not sure when or how.
Rich: David French?
David: I think two things are going to happen at once. We’re going to get better at combating it, but the contention will spread. So I don’t know, we’ll get better at locating and stopping it before it happens, but more people will want to do it. So, I don’t know that we’ll see a decrease.
Rich: Yeah. I think I’m going to get marginally better, but I agree, I don’t know how much of a difference it makes.
So, let’s dive into the gun debate. Over to you, Charlie Cooke. We’re hearing, it’s basically the same debate that we’ve had over and over again, except the emergence of an idea that David was flagging, no pun intended, a while ago, after . . . unfortunately all these attacks run together, but after one of these horrific events, of a red-flag bill, which is a way for people aware of someone who’s disturbed, hasn’t been adjudicated, is not in an institution, is not guilty of a crime, but still would be a threat and should be denied the right to own a firearm in the foreseeable future, if a judge rules as such. There seems to be real bipartisan momentum behind that now. You have Donald Trump endorsing it, you have Lindsey Graham talking about a bill, and then you have the wider debate where it’s the same ideas that come up all the time.
Maybe I’m not quite right about that, because I do think we see people going a little further than they have before. So it’s typical, comprehensive background checks, the gun-show loophole, assault-weapons ban, and now what’s new, you do have people talking about confiscation schemes. They’re talking about it in terms of buy-backs, but that’s basically what it’s about.
Charlie: My view is that the debate over gun control is limited in its futility to our debate over crime and suicide. I have strong views on that. I’ve shared them with the world over and over again. I’m happy to do so here or at any other time. I don’t think that gun control has much to do with trying to reduce mass shootings. Now, to people who are absolutely obsessed and convinced of the contrary position, that will sound ridiculous, but I, on a contrary, think it is obvious. If you are determined, as these shooters are, to inflict damage in a country that has half a billion guns . . . We’re not debating this in Japan, we’re debating this in America. You are going to get what you want. Most mass shooters are obsessed with other mass shooters. Their actions are premeditated. Their actions are determined, planned. Most mass shooters do not struggle to obtain firearms legally. Most mass shooters pass background checks.
I couldn’t find a single shooter from the last ten years who failed a background check, or who obtained a gun privately, circumventing a background check. I could find shooters who had stolen their guns, because they were too young to buy them. But I couldn’t find any shooters when I looked who didn’t pass background checks.
The idea that we’re going to stop people killing scores of innocent people by changing slightly the guns that are available to them is ridiculous. It’s the product, that view of an approach toward the AR-15 and other so-called assault weapons, that sets them on a pedestal. I think that process, incidentally, is why both gun-control activists are so horrified by the AR-15 and also why mass shooters pick it, because we have in our culture elevated the AR-15 as if it were a super weapon. But it’s not, it’s a fairly standard semi-automatic weapon. Has the same rate of fire as a handgun that you could buy for $300 and is more concealable. The reactions to this, of course, confirm what I’m saying. Within a day, two days, Chuck Schumer said to Mitch McConnell, you have to come back and pass the universal-background-check bill.
Why? If the argument is, and I’m, again, happy to debate this, but if the argument is there is too much crime, there’s too much suicide in America, and so-called universal background checks will help, okay, let’s debate that. But to tie it to these shootings is appalling, especially when a figure such as Senator Chris Murphy does, the implication here, or the explicit argument is to stop this happening again. Universal background checks do not intersect. Now, the RAND Corporation, which is not a Patrick Henry–style libertarian outfit, reviewed all of the data that it had on 13 gun-control measures that have been implemented either federally or at the state level last year, and concluded that not a single one of them had any effect whatsoever on mass shootings.
I do not believe that you can stop mass shootings or terrorism . . . Sometimes we hear it said, if a Muslim had shot up wherever, we’d have gun-control tomorrow. Well, that’s nonsense. We’ve seen that happen. Not just once, twice. And we didn’t get gun control. I think that was a good thing, because this is a problem that is extraordinarily complex and is also extraordinarily random. I don’t mean there aren’t patterns. There are, of course, patterns. We’ve talked a lot about them. Young men, certain ideologies. But we are not talking here about limiting crime. We’re not talking here about reducing suicide around the edges. We’re talking about a unique problem that is going to be very difficult to stop and that cannot be stopped, in my view, by passing more laws, laws that will be easily circumvented in a country with this many guns by criminals who are utterly determined, who have no sense whatsoever of right or wrong, who don’t have any incentives for the long term because they expect either to be killed or to go to prison, who obsess over other shooters, have utterly disgusting aims like beating high schools. You cannot beat this with gun control and it’s utterly naïve to think you can.
Rich: So, David French, tell us more about the red-flag idea and why you think it’s worthy and what the potential down sides are.
David: Yeah, so this is essentially an idea that is aimed at, if you look at actual mass shootings and you break down, what happened in the months, days, weeks, in front of the mass shooting. What are some of the common patterns that you see emerging? Now, they don’t all fit in the same pattern, but one of the things that you have seen consistently, and this is also something that’s the same with suicide, by the way, but something that you have seen consistently is a lot of these guys have radiated warning signs. Or as Guy Benson tweeted after seeing some of the stories about the Dayton shooter, that these were red flags flapping in the wind, that you have seen, they’ve engaged in behavior.
In the case of the Dayton shooter, at his school, he had a kill and he had a rape list. He was expelled. When he came back to school, so many people, as Alexandra said, were worried about him that hundreds of students stayed home. This is a guy who had engaged in conduct that indicated that he was unbalanced, unstable, dangerous. And we have, as we’ve known for a long time, we have . . . It’s very difficult in this country, the processes are quite opaque to have someone adjudicated to be dangerously mentally ill. Law enforcement’s ability to act is based mainly on whether or not an individual has engaged in criminally threatening behavior.
What the red flag law does is say, when a person has engaged in behavior that indicates that they are a danger to themselves or others, it will give defined, and this is as I believe they should be drafted, it will be a defined group of people . . . people who are members of the household, for example, or educators, or employers . . . The ability to petition a court with notice and an opportunity to be heard, let’s be very clear. With notice and an opportunity to be heard and present a court with admissible evidence that provides clear and convincing admissible evidence that a person is a danger to himself or others and should be subject to a temporary firearm-seizure order.
Now, again, this would be an order that would have notice and an opportunity to be heard and an opportunity to appeal. So think of it like this, not unlike the kinds of domestic-violence protection orders you have that are common in the United States, or restraining orders in other contexts that are common in the United States. In my view, it’d have to have a few elements to be constitutional and constitutionally appropriate. One is, as I said earlier, notice and an opportunity to be heard. If there is an emergency, what’s called ex parte hearing, in other words a hearing without the individual present, they must be given an opportunity very quickly, I would say within, say, 72 hours, to contest it. You have to have a high burden of proof. You have to have a right of appeal. The seizure needs to be for a limited period of time.
The goal would be to essentially create a breathing space so that it would allow people to receive the help that they need, hopefully, for there to be, law enforcement to conduct a more thorough investigation. And look, this is not a panacea. I think there’s a number of recent shootings that, where it would have helped. I think there are a number of circumstances in which suicidal ideation, where it helps in the cases of suicidal ideation. It’s been implemented in a number of states, and sometimes it’s been implemented abusively because some of these state laws are not good. But it has already been implemented in some instances which a lot of people after the order was executed have breathed an immense sigh of relief.
I think that one of the main dangers is when gun-control organizations draft these things, they skimp on the due-process protections, they allow too large a class of people to seek the order, they have too low of a burden of proof, they allow the seizure orders to be too long. In other words, they just make it too easy for the state to do it. But I think if you have a red-flag law that includes these due-process protections, this is something that’s tailored at the actual experience of mass shootings and the actual experience of suicidal ideation. I think in that way it’s very different from the background checks, it’s very different from even the assault-weapons ban, because this is something that is targeted at a problem and it is targeted at an aspect of the problem for which there has been previously no real satisfactory response, and that is, what do you do when somebody is radiating and broadcasting these warning signs.
Rich: So, Xan, do you think there’s any gun legislation that makes sense or would make a difference?
Alexandra: Yeah, I’m a big fan of the gun-violence restraining order the way David described it, as long as it has those types of contours and it’s written properly. I don’t really have, I don’t have as much knowledge of the specifics of gun policy like Charlie and David do, but I’ll just add from my own experience. I’m a 24-year-old woman, and as a result, I’m friends on social media with lots and lots of young people, particularly young women. In the wake of all of these shootings, whether it was the massive Las Vegas shooting a couple of years ago, or Parkland, or these latest ones, there’s always this wave of young people and young women, friend, acquaintances, posting these graphics on social media saying more gun control now, or do something. It’s so frustrating because you can’t just do something, we have to do something that works, and no one wants to think about what actually works.
Charlie mentioned the RAND Corporation study, I know there are some others, reviews of literature showing that, go down the list of these policies, something like 13 proposed policies wouldn’t have stopped a single one of these mass shootings. But because the response from the average, kind of uneducated person is so emotional and so visceral, obviously, and understandably, no one goes beyond “do something,” and I think Democrats take huge advantage of that. People who favor gun control and know better take huge advantage of that sort of gut-level response of, please can we just do something and make this stop, and don’t think about the specifics.
So that’s why I think the gun-violence restraining order is a great policy, and I think I’ve mentioned this on our own podcast before, but just, I’ve had experience kind of pitching this policy to very progressive people, whether one-on-one discussions or, I was on a panel one time, I think after Parkland, sort of debating gun control, and progressive people kind of stop and listen and they say, oh, actually, that’s something I think I could get behind. So I’m kind of hopeful that if people would stop and think about specifics for a second, that this might be one where there could be some real common ground.
Rich: So, Charlie, last question before we move on here. We’ve all seen, you just can’t miss it on Twitter and elsewhere, the comparisons of the number of gun homicides in the United States to other developed countries. It’s tens of thousands a year here and a minuscule number elsewhere. In your view, is that an acceptable price to pay for this freedom?
Charlie: I reject the premise of the question, because the difference between the countries to which the United States is being compared and the United States is that there are already half a billion guns here. So, the question before us is, what do we do about that given that reality, not should we go back —
Rich: But would you, let’s just start, sort of say blank slate. No Second Amendment. Would you craft the current gun regime knowing that there would be that downside, because you think the advantages outweigh that downside and the freedom just in and of itself is so important that it outweighs that downside?
Charlie: You mean if I were running a simulation, would I set this in motion in the United States so that we got to where we are now?
Charlie: I think that’s a difficult question to answer, but I would be, for two reasons, probably tempted to, yeah. One is, I think that the right to self-defense, the right to bear arms is an auxiliary part of the right to self-defense, is an individual right that attaches to everybody by virtue of their being human. As David wrote in a piece that we published yesterday, you do not want to find yourself unable, practically speaking, to defend yourself. Especially in a country that is as big as the United States. It’s perhaps easier to conceptualize that right differently in Singapore than it is in a country with a Montana in it and a Wyoming in it and a huge amount of space that is very, very far away from the police or the FBI and everybody else.
And the second reason that I would be tempted to is that while I think we should do what we can to prevent suicides and to prevent crime, and crime and suicides are a much bigger problem when it comes to guns than mass shootings are. That’s not to downplay mass shootings, it’s just a statistical fact. I’m also aware of what has happened over the last century when governments have got out of control and hundreds of millions of people have been killed. Hundreds of millions. And the arguments that are laid out at the time of the founding and in the Federalist Papers and by various jurists who discuss the Second Amendment, anticipated that to some extent, but I don’t think they could have even dreamed of what would happen in Nazi Germany and Russia and China and elsewhere. It is against that that we would have to weigh your question.
It’s a tough one. I also think, though, it’s moot. I mean, we’re making policy in the country we have, and the country we have is not Japan. At every point, we have to proceed according to what we are looking at in front of us and not what some people at CNN would like us to be looking at.
Rich: So exit question to you, first, David French. Gun legislation besides a red-flag bill will pass Congress, yes or no?
David: Almost certainly not, with the caveat that maybe background checks, because Donald Trump keeps talking about it. But I would say, 5 percent chance that anything other than a red-flag law passes.
Alexandra: I don’t think so. It’s hard to see how a Republican Senate would get on board with anything Democrats would want.
Charlie: No, and it’s worth pointing out that the red-flag law that could pass is not so much a red-flag law, it’s an allocation of funding for the states should they choose to put in their own red-flag laws.
Rich: Yes, the answer is clearly no.
So, before we go, let’s hit a few other items. David, you have been depressed by what you consider, erroneously I believe, the August sports drought.
David: It’s terrible, Rich. It’s just terrible. NBA free agency is over—
Rich: He’s bereft, he can’t see a bunch of NBA guys not playing defense all through August, it just ruins your August.
David: It’s even worse than that, because I haven’t seen any actual NBA action since the end of June. College football hasn’t started yet. The commentary about NBA free agency is now over. So all we’re left with is, the best I’ve got right now is HBO’s Hard Knocks and the Oakland Raiders’ training camp. And I’m sorry, that’s just not enough sports for me. And then there’s this baseball stuff going on, and I have to tell you that baseball Twitter is even more boring than watching a baseball game, if that’s even possible. So I’m just in despair, Rich. I mean, I’m just counting down the days.
Rich: So, counter to this erroneous belief in an August sports drought, Xan, you went to Camden Yards last night.
Alexandra: I did, yeah. I did, because baseball actually is the best sport of all time, and August is very good baseball, especially when the Yankees are leading the Major Leagues and getting to play the Baltimore Orioles who are very much not leading the Major League in wins. I think they’re on pace to maybe lose 100 games, in fact. So I was there last night, there was a downpour, unfortunately, at about six o’clock, so the game got delayed, but still ended up being a great game. Got to see the Yankees hit three home runs in one inning, got to see a pretty hilarious, but also somewhat unfortunate play in the outfield, an Orioles player got hit in the head—
Rich: When he got hit by the head?
Alexandra: Got hit in the head by a fly ball. He was okay, got right up, but not really sure how that happened. So kind of an interesting thing I hadn’t seen at a baseball game before. But lots of fun, August baseball is great. Not as good as October baseball, but still pretty good.
Rich: So, how many home runs total did the Yankees hit in that game?
Alexandra: I think five. Charlie?
Charlie: They either hit five and then six the day before.
Alexandra: At least four.
Charlie: Or five the day before and six last night.
Alexandra: It’s so hard to keep track, there’s just so many.
Rich: And just, I’m not sure that there’s any place where the ball carries better or seems to carry better than Camden Yards in a night game in August. Mike Tauchman is the new Gio Urshela.
Charlie: If the Yankees hit—
Alexandra: Oh yeah, that catch, he robbed a home run, was great.
Rich: Oh my goodness.
Charlie: If the Yankees hit another home run against the Orioles this evening, I think I’m right in saying they will have the record for the most home runs hit in a single season against another team.
David: Well isn’t every play now a home run or a strike out?
Charlie: Well, you don’t watch baseball, so I don’t really think we need to answer that.
Alexandra: Yeah, isn’t this boring you, David? This is like baseball Twitter live.
Rich: So, Charlie, you recently had an occasion to enjoy Cretan food?
Charlie: In Crete, no less. We went there for my vacation. My whole family was there, and they had this little village where we stayed, and they have these restaurants that sit on the side of the hill. You look out, you can see the mountains behind you and then the sea with that particular blue color you find in the Mediterranean. Most of these restaurants don’t have walls on them, they’re just outside, have a roof over, but then the side of the restaurant is open, so you can enjoy the breeze coming through. The food there is just terrific. It is a little one pace. We were there for almost two weeks. By the end of it, I just was dying for a hamburger.
But the food is absolutely terrific, and it’s interesting to me just how different food is on each of the Greek islands. As a kid, I went to Cyprus more than to Crete, and when I got to Crete this time, my brain had got scrambled and I thought, oh, halloumi and loukaniko and sheftalia. They don’t have any of it, but they do have feta cheese, a lot of fresh vegetables, dolmades, which is vine leaves. Tzatziki, hummus, the whole range. It just feels fresh and especially sitting outside in the sunshine, it’s a real treat.
Rich: So, I had occasion this week to cross over the international date line, which I’m not sure I would recommend. It is an interesting experience where it literally became, I was on this trip, by the way, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, where it was about 24 hours on the plane or more to get to Bangkok, Thailand, from D.C., and then we went to Sydney, Australia, and then we briefly stopped in a couple places in Micronesia and then flew basically the 20 hours back. It was briefly Tuesday morning, and then it flipped back to Monday morning. It was just so weird, because at one point, a few hours earlier we were 14 hours ahead of East Coast time, and then all of a sudden, when you land in Honolulu to refuel, you’re six hours behind. So I experienced Monday twice this week. If you’re on an airplane for both of those Mondays, neither of them is that great a time.
Rich: So with that, let’s hit our editors’ picks. David French, what’s your pick?
David: Mine is Charlie, absolutely eviscerating a New York Post editorial calling for an assault weapons ban that, you know, I just wish people who were going to write about gun control knew something about the guns they’re writing about. Charlie made that point, eviscerated it brilliantly, and it was a reminder once again, as I said about Ramesh a few weeks ago, remind me not to get on Charlie’s bad side.
Alexandra: My pick is David’s piece from yesterday, “My Family Has Been Threatened By Racists, Why Should They Outgun Me?” I think the piece does a really good job of answering this sort of very common, sloppy, lazy argument from gun-control advocates which is, well, you know, the AR-15 is a weapon of war, or the alternative, no one needs guns like this. Well, yeah, actually sometimes people do, and no it’s not a weapon of war. So read that if you need a good way to respond to people making those arguments.
Rich: Charlie, what’s your pick?
Charlie: My pick is by Clayton Kramer, and I must confess to being a little thrilled to have been in charge of NRO when Clayton Kramer wrote for us. Clayton Kramer is the guy who eviscerated a book by Michael Bellesiles that turned out to be a fraud. The book was called Arming America. The premise of the book was that the widespread gun ownership that is now unique to the United States was invented in the late 19th century by corporations, essentially. Of course, this is absolute nonsense, and Clayton Kramer, who’d done a lot of work on this, realized this immediately and he eventually had Michael Bellesiles removed from his position and disgraced and his Bancroft Prize taken away from him.
Anyhow, Clayton Kramer has written a piece for us pointing out that there are lots and lots of ways to kill people, unfortunately, and that those who want to do so around the world find ways of doing so, extremely potent ways. I think it’s useful in helping us distinguish between how we think about crime and how we think about suicide, and how we think about mass shootings and mass attacks, because what we have really around the world at the moment is a tendency toward mass casualty attacks more than we do mass shootings specifically. Clayton Kramer, who’s researching the very many ways in which people inflict a lot of damage on each other, makes that case well.
Rich: So my pick is a piece in the forthcoming print edition by our friend and colleague, Buckley Fellow, Madeleine Kearns. Maddie went out to LA and did a ride around with the vice squad to do a piece about prostitution and talk about what the really truth of prostitution is and why it’s an extremely bad idea to legalize it or in any way valorize sex work and how just inherently trafficking is caught up in all this so-called sex work. I especially appreciate journalists who delve into a really unpleasant topic, because it’s so important and this piece really belongs in that category. Hard to read at times, but very important.
So, okay, that’s it for us. You’ve been listening to a National Review podcast. Any rebroadcast, retransmission, or account of this game without the express written permission of National Review Magazine is strictly prohibited. This podcast has been produced by the incomparable Sarah Schutte, who makes us sound better than we deserve. Thank you, Charlie, thank you David, thank you Xan. Thanks to Dividend Café, and thanks especially to all of you for listening. We are The Editors, and we’ll see you next time.