Tuesday Talk*: What Radicalizes A Mass Shooter?

The New York Times and the Washington Post agree with Congresswoman Liz Cheney, that the GOP has embraced white supremacy with its propagation of Replacement Theory.

The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.

Much of this is blamed on Fox pundit, Tucker Carlson, who has been one of the leading and consistent promoters of this theory.

The Fox News host Tucker Carlson, a leading purveyor of replacement theory rhetoric, has promoted the idea that elites are seeking to replace white Americans on more than 400 episodes of his program, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

“Now I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the third world,” Mr. Carlson said on an episode in April 2021. “But they become hysterical because that’s — that’s what’s happening, actually.” Representative Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, later tweeted that Mr. Carlson “is CORRECT about Replacement Theory as he explains what is happening to America.”

Putting aside issues about whether this is a reaction to, or at least an equivalent of, progressive racialization or the demonization of whiteness, the mass murder in Buffalo happened and stands apart because it ended in 13 people being shot, ten being murdered, because of their race.

When people die, as they did in Buffalo, because an 18-year-old white man of emotional, mental and/or intellectual challenges saw mass murder as the mechanism by which to achieve the political goals that somehow found their way into his consciousness, it’s time to address that specific problem. Deflecting to the other tribe, tu quoque, whataboutism, whatever, doesn’t address what happened in Buffalo. That it might happen to someone on the other side is irrelevant, as it happened in Buffalo as it did for the reasons it did.

Without devolving to excuses or finger-pointing, what needs to be done so that no other person engages in this heinous and horrible conduct?

The health of American democracy also requires the constructive use of free speech, especially by the nation’s political leaders. There are always demagogues whose stock in trade is the demonization of immigrants and other minority groups, and American society has long allowed those on the fringes to air their views. The question in any era is whether such views are voiced, or echoed, by those in positions of responsibility.

Yes, demonization isn’t limited to immigrants and other minority groups. No, that doesn’t excuse or explain the tragedy in Buffalo. The Times argues that the health of our democracy “requires the constructive use of free speech,” Whether this is a call for politicians to stop the outrageous rhetoric of hate or to create a muzzle on political speech so as to limit it to what the Times (and certain academics) deems “constructive” is unclear.

It is telling that House Republicans last year installed Ms. Stefanik in leadership to replace Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who remains among the most forthright critics of the party’s illiberal turn.

Of course, Cheney’s leadership position was taken away because of her views on Trump and the 1/6 insurrection, which were shared by the rest of the Republican leadership until they flipped.

Can this demagoguery be stopped? When the rhetorical push by clickbaiters like Carlson results in fragile boys murdering people, it’s clearly gone too far. But how can it be stopped? When the rhetoric results in mass murder, it’s gone too far. What can be done about the problem on the right, the inflaming of the crazies into acts of horrific violence?

If this can’t be stopped as a matter of sound judgment, will it result in the imposition of limits on free speech, free press, and other constitutional rights? Whether the left has a problem or not, the right clearly does and it needs to face it and fix it. Can that happen?

*Tuesday Talk Rules apply (but note that I have gone to some pains to make clear what this TT is not about. Try to focus and don’t make me regret this.

46 thoughts on “Tuesday Talk*: What Radicalizes A Mass Shooter?

      1. Miles

        Yeah, let me try to make sense of it. That every problem is framed as existential, and violence has been rationalized as if it’s a totally normal way to address problems, explains why young people take such radical theories to heart and then act upon them in such a horrific way.

        We’re creating a generation of young people for whom violence isn’t a bad thing, as least when it’s in the service of what they believe to be a worthy cause.

    1. Paleo

      What Elie (who seems to hate me because I’m white and then calls me a racist) and this professor ignore is that the Buffalo shooting is the action of one asshole. Like everyone else, the vast majority of white Americans are horrified and disgusted by what that kid did. With the exception of a tiny handful of hateful people nobody is out here saying, “hell yeah white power baby”.

      Elie and this prof and their ilk are no different than people who believe all blacks to be criminals because blacks commit violent crime disproportionately. It’s bullshit lazy racist thinking, but that’s what hateful people do.

    2. Richard Parker

      Commenting on factual basis on Doctor Thatchers tweet: Kyle Rittenhouse shot no person of color.

  1. B. McLeod

    So then, Biden and the Democrats and BLM were responsible for radicalizing the black nutjob who shot up the NYC subway? Why doesn’t this stupidity apply equally to the hyperbole on both ends of the nutjob continuum?

    1. norahc

      Where is the media condemnation of the other hate crime mass shooting that occurred?

      Oh wait, it involved things that are apparently lower on the woke list of good things (such as churches and Asians)

      1. B. McLeod

        Yeah, evidently we don’t care who radicalized the poisonous, white-supremacist bastard who shot up the Koreans in the hair parlor. Not sure why, but that doesn’t seem to be part of the pressing national emergency as perceived by the media and politicians.

  2. Mark Daniel Myers

    You will absolutely be disappointed, esteemed one. You teed it up, but the first comments, from Miles, Paleo, and Bruce, are unresponsive to your very direct questions. Those questions, to remind those who skimmed the article, deal with whether this right-wing demagoguery can be stopped, ignoring only for the moment whether this exists on the left.

    I’ll respond directly and say no, it cannot be stopped. Stochastic terrorism is here to stay. I believe in free speech and gun rights, and would not curtail either to solve this problem, but I don’t see any good option while maintaining any fidelity to the Constitution. I would rather not earn a Mencken award for a simple solution to this complex problem.

    The Buffalo shooter was anti-Semitic, as well. Conservatives should consider who finds shelter in their “Big Tent.” Based on the esteemed one’s rules, specifically, “References to Nazis/Hitler will not be tolerated,” my next thought I will keep to myself.

    1. Paleo

      Mine was absolutely responsive. This was not an organized act on the part of some “right wing” group. It was one messed-up-in-the-head guy. As were the incidences that others referred to on here. There isn’t any big grand political statement here, although you zealots want badly to make it so.

      And these single person things are impossible to eliminate.

      1. PK

        You were supposed to assume certain things before answering. You didn’t. It’s ok. Shit happens, right?

    2. PK

      If Conservatives do consider who finds shelter in the tent, then does that address the problem of right wing demagoguery? I understand you don’t want a Mencken award, but it is TT and you’re the only one grappling with the questions so far. The idea would be to push these sorts of voices to the fringes where you and I seem to think they belong. I like that idea. Why can’t we do that?

      Calling the event “stochastic terrorism” is an interesting punt. The point is that this isn’t random, but directly linked to demagoguery, at least for the purposes of the post and today’s commentary. If it is random, then we may be doomed to suffer it, but if it isn’t, then what?

      So, for today, I’m disagreeing with you. Right wing demagoguery can and should be addressed. The solution is rather simple even if application would be less so. These sorts of voices do not belong in the biggest tent conservatives can find. No fussing with the Constitution necessary.

      1. norahc

        Shouldn’t left Wong demagoguery also be addressed? Singling out one group may feed into their persecution views and make them dig in even more.

        1. PK

          Maybe we can get to that tomorrow. I can only do so much in one day and within the boundaries set by Pops. Does he have to put the stuff he doesn’t want comments about in all caps and bold for people to see it?

      2. Mark Daniel Myers


        Thank you for your thoughtful response. There is less daylight between your position and mine than it may seem.

        The first thing to discuss is the specific mechanism by which anyone would address far-right demagoguery. If we forgo compulsion by law, we are left with persuasion and informal power structures. Social norms, etc. Blog posts.

        Your first two questions are the start, and you understand me well here. Conservatives need to shun the far-right and make it clear that they are not welcome. Conservatives can argue in favor of, say, trickle-down economics, or more funding for the military, while simultaneously refusing to embrace racism. Why can’t we do that? I don’t know you, but I’m not a conservative. It’s not my tent. Conservatives need to put their own house in order, as they would understandably not accept an externally imposed solution, and that solution would not last even it if it happened.

        The problem, as you can see from the comments, is that there is a complete lack of nuance on the conservative side. People who have tried to rein in the excesses, including but not limited to Liz Cheney, are demonized. Emotional flags, like “woke” and “insanity” and “spewing hate” that evoke visceral reactions but are devoid of useful meaning, terminate thought. Even with a specific warning, that we are not entertaining specific logical fallacies in today’s post/thought exercise, the ambient social conditioning overpowers whatever reading comprehension these otherwise intelligent people may have.

        Our biggest disagreement may lie in terms of stochastic terrorism. I don’t think it’s a punt, respectfully. I believe it is demagoguery with ostensibly attenuated responsibility, and therefore some level of plausible deniability, to the unduly passionate on the far-right, to borrow a phrase from our esteemed host. These are canary-in-the-coal-mine moments that should evoke far more dread than they seem to. It is a trend in search of critical mass.

        I agree with you that it SHOULD be addressed. Whether it can it be addressed is a starkly different question. Who has the willpower? Who will lead that, from inside the conservative movement? I have no hope in that direction, and they don’t want to hear from the rest of us.

    3. B. McLeod

      Right? He should have been over in the Democrats’ big tent with Farrakhan. What this nutcase is, politically, seems to be in doubt. The main media effort to type him is based on comparing things he has said to things Tucker Carlson has said, and typing Tucker Carlson as a “conservative.” But the nutcase (meaning the shooter nutcase) has reportedly said a lot of other things as well, and it is unclear whether he is registered with either of the established “parties”.

  3. tk

    Ultimately, Fox promotes this crap on Carlson’s show because it’s profitable to do so. So, one simple solution is for companies to take a principled stand and refuse to advertise on Carlson’s show. Carlson will change his tune right quick if his advertisers withdraw.

    1. B. McLeod

      No reason to think the nutjob got this from Tucker Carlson, or that “replacement theory,” as opposed to any of the other beliefs espoused in the nutjob’s “manifesto” was the reason for his killing spree. So, the idea that silencing Tucker Carlson is some kind of fix for this is doubly dubious.

  4. Robert Parry

    What are the Tuesday Talk Rules? Are they published in a handbook? Are we required to start with a glass of Bowmore 18?

  5. Pedantic Grammar Police

    Interesting synergy between today’s articles. One praises a hate-spewer and recommends his hate-filled book, the other hand-wrings about another and wonders what can be done to stop him.

    Free speech restrictions will never be applied to someone like Carlson. Carlson is in the “big club” and he only has a platform because our rulers give it to him. Carlson works together with other right and left-wing demagogues to divide us and make us hate each other.

    Restrictions on free speech are part of their agenda; but they will only ever apply to regular people. Our rulers and their tools will always be free to spew hate when it serves their purposes.

      1. Pedantic Grammar Police

        So you have no problem with racist demagogues spewing hate, under the right circumstances? What are the criteria? If Tucker starts spewing hate in the “right” direction, would you like him and recommend that we buy his latest book? What if he tells some jokes that make you laugh? Or would he have to be part of a marginalized group? How can he redeem himself and become an SHG-approved racist demagogue?

        1. SHG Post author

          First, your complete inability to face the problem on the right without doing this infantile “whataboutism” is disturbing. Clean your own house before you point elsewhere, and your house is filthy.

          Second, both are wrong, but one is less wrong and has good intentions while the other is very wrong with venal intentions.

          1. Pedantic Grammar Police

            Please don’t lump me in with the “right.” I voted for Democrats up to the point where I realized that the system is a scam and that “left” and “right” politicians work together for themselves and their owners to screw the rest of us. I’ve never voted for a Republican.

            Is it well meaning to lie to people to make them hate their fellow Americans? Elie isn’t stupid. He knows that he is spewing lies and hate, and he does it anyway. Where are the good intentions?

            1. SHG Post author

              You can criticize Elie all you want independent of replacement, but you did so as a reply to this post about replacement theory. See the problem?

            2. Pedantic Grammar Police

              You can praise racist hate-mongers all you want independent of criticizing racist hate-mongers and asking how they can be stopped, but you did both simultaneously, thus begging for someone to point out your blatant hypocrisy. I merely responded to that call.

            3. Miles

              You will be missed, PGP, but you earned this. You should have known better than to be that asshole.

  6. Curtis

    There are politicians, activists and tech companies that gain money, power and fame by inflaming anger. They lack the conscience or self-awareness to change when unbalanced people act violently. It’s always the other side that is to blame and turning up the dial cause more cheers to echo in their ears and coins to jangle in their pockets.

  7. Jake

    “But how can it be stopped?”

    I think this quote, and who is quoted, are equally relevant to today’s discussion:

    “We’ve gotten to the point where everybody’s got a right and nobody’s got a responsibility.” ~ Newton Minow.”

    There was a time when news on television was better moderated than it is now. That changed. Perhaps it’s time to consider whether or not that change was for the better. To function, democracy requires accurate, factual, and unbiased information. Advertising demagoguery and inflammatory rhetoric as news is simply false advertising and it, like all things could be stopped.

    1. SHG Post author

      And yet all we have are two sides spewing competing lies watched by people who want to be lied to. Go figure.

      1. Earl Wertheimer

        It’s much worse than that. The lies (on both sides) are spun and consumed by most without question. The same words will mean different things, depending on your side. The delayed correction (if issued) will be ignored by one side and proof of mendacity by the other. The Hunter Biden laptop story comes to mind…

        The days of trusted journalists and news anchors is over (if it really existed in the first place).

        ..and to your question: Nothing much can be done. It’s the price we pay for living in a densely packed area, full of people with the means and lack of control.

        PS: We have lots of empty space in northern Quebec… but not many roads for the Healey…

  8. Michael Resanovic

    There are four boxes of freedom, to be used in order. We are nowhere near the fourth box being necessary. Its point is to defend popular rule. Since the people still rule, however poorly, convincing them is the way to go. If you can’t convince them, try again, or admit you’re possibly not right. If is some day actually time to use the fourth box, you won’t be the only one using it, you will be one of many. If you are alone in using it, it means you are crazy.

    Most people living in democracies are profoundly ignorant about anything one can name. Let them be educated. Far too many people today talk without listening or considering the possibility of being wrong. If one talks and talks and can’t convince, it doesn’t hurt to question one’s own views. And all of this is the first box.

    A successful democracy is like a jury that keeps getting sent back to deliberate. The focus is on what’s right and not who’s right.

    That way, the first two boxes are the only ones put to use; the second only at its regular intervals. And that is as it should be.

  9. Brennan

    I’m skeptical that you can tie this to Tucker Carlson, or anything politically mainstream. First, the manifesto goes into some detail on why he did this, and what his motivations were. Fox News, OANN, The Daily Caller, none of these were listed. I think this is similar to the pontificating about ISIS and their motives a few years ago: many lefty types said that their actions were about colonialism, or Islamophobia, but others quite soberly pointed out that ISIS had something of a media empire where they gave very specific reasons for why they were committing their brutal crimes. When someone does something extreme, something that costs him personally, and tells you why he did it, I don’t see anything reasonable in doubting him on this point.

    What’s more, we now have a long history of racist terrorists, and they are almost uniformly motivated by groups outside the political mainstream. It wasn’t talk radio that radicalized Timothy McVeigh, it was an underground network of racist extremists who organized at gun shows, specifically because they didn’t have broad appeal. Dylan Roof, who might be the most analogous person here, was radicalized on the internet. These people find a community outside the mainstream because they are disaffected. With that in mind, I don’t know how anything directed at Fox, or Carlson in particular, would have an effect. The problem is that, perversely, it might actually be better if these guys were to migrate to the (still pretty racist) right mainstream. If they vote, rather than shoot, that’s a step in the right direction. If you want to stop these kinds of massacres, then you have to go to where the shooters are being radicalized. There’s just no anti-hate network that I’m aware of that focuses on these guys the way some activists focused on Klansmen or Nazi Skinheads in the eighties and nineties. That’s the only approach that has an actual chance of working, because it’s the only one that targets the relevant people

  10. Kathleen Casey

    Biden went to Buffalo. I wouldn’t walk across the road to see him one reason because he didn’t go to Waukesha. There another thug — a BLM supporter advocating death to whites — deliberately drove through a Christmas parade of all places killing six and injuring and maiming ten times that many innocent white people in retaliation for the Rittenhouse acquittal. Rittenhouse was supposed to have been a racist on a rampage during a BLM-provoked riot notwithstanding that he killed and injured other white men.

    This is two sides of the same coin, a tiny minority of our country. Peddlers of long-past historic grievances against whites, all whites, and white supremacy advocates. Ginned-up, balkanized tribalism is provoking and disaffecting unstable people who should be stretching their wings over the road of life. The mainstream and social media and public servants, so-called, with rocks for brains like Biden are largely responsible for these travesties because they report and talk approvingly about one side only.

    Their message should be a pox on both sides and get over yourselves. You’re destroying our country so stop it.

  11. Dov Lazarus

    In the good old days, Marilyn Manson and Ozzy Osbourne were blamed. They don’t sing much anymore, but the murders continue.

    Maybe it’s because all the lithium is being used for batteries.

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