Is Tucker Carlson to be blamed for the Buffalo mass shooting?

The Democrats and the liberal media were quick to blame the Republicans and conservative television commentators after a recent mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, where 18-year-old gunman Payton Gendron killed ten people at a supermarket.

CNN referred to the gunman's "writings about his perceptions of the dwindling size of the White population" and linked it to the "replacement theory," which they claim Tucker Carlson and other prominent conservatives have pushed.  Most other media outlets stuck with this narrative.

Joe Biden condemned the gunman's "hateful, perverse ideology rooted in fear and racism" and called out those who have pushed the "Great Replacement Theory."

Since many conservatives have never even heard of this "theory" that's being pinned on them, the definition of "great replacement theory," according to the Poynter Institute, is this:

The conspiracy theory warns that Democrats and other Western elites are using immigration and other means to "replace" white people of European descent in the U.S. with non-white populations. Some subscribers believe it's part of an elaborate Jewish plot.

PBSThe GuardianNPR, and the Washington Post are also loudly promoting the idea.

Now for the facts on the ground:

We know the Democrats are doing this as part of their campaign for midterms.  They have no compunction behaving like vultures raising funds and scoring political points over the corpses of murder victims.  They hope to mobilize their base and scare voters into voting for them.

But beyond the hateful Democrats' rhetoric, is there any merit to the argument that external sources could trigger violence?

Last month, there was a mass shooting in the New York subway, when gunman Frank James detonated smoke bombs and opened fire on a packed train in Brooklyn during rush hour.  More than two dozen people were injured.  Fortunately, there were no deaths because James's gun jammed.

James had a significant social media presence, appearing in myriad YouTube videos where he viciously attacked white people.  Was James influenced by the poisonous rhetoric on MSNBC against Caucasians?

In the past, people have often blamed violence in movies and on TV as the trigger for violence in society.

Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange in 1977 was blamed when teenagers committed crimes dressed like the main characters of the film.  Kubrick withdrew the film from cinemas.

During the VHS boom during the '80s in the U.K., politicians, the news media, social commentators, and religious organizations blamed horror and exploitation films, distributed on videocassettes, for violence.

Many murderers have confessed to modeling their crimes on serial killers from films or television.  In 2001, Thierry Jaradin based his murder of a 15-year-old on the opening scene of the film Scream (1996).  In 2004, Michael Hernandez stabbed a friend 40 times, imitating killings he had seen in American Psycho (2000) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).  In 2009, Andrew Conley strangled his younger brother before confessing that he wanted to be a serial killer after watching Dexter (2006–2013).

What if we eliminate all triggers?  Will that bring an end to violence?

Before we even think of that, we focus on an important aspect of the perpetrators. 

The Buffalo gunman previously made threatening comments that brought police to his high school last spring.  Yet he was never charged with a crime and had no further contact with law enforcement after a "mental health evaluation" at a hospital, after which he was released.

Mental health experts say that N.Y. subway shooter Frank James's utterances show that he suffered from serious mental health issues.  James also confessed that he was diagnosed with mental illness.

Clearly, the violence is related to mental health.

What if we eliminate only those triggers that affect the mentally unstable?

If precious lives can be saved by stopping the broadcast of violent movies, TV shows, and cable news shows, we should do it now.

So what sort of films do we allow?

Perhaps we just allow family films such as The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins?

The Sound of Music contains a scene where someone is threatened at gunpoint.  Could that be a trigger?

Mary Poppins has scenes of slapstick comedy, where people bang their heads on fireplaces and ceilings.  What if that is a trigger?

How about allowing films such as Gandhi, which promotes nonviolence, and Schindler's List, which depicts one of the darkest chapters in history?

But Gandhi begins with a gunman assassinating Gandhi.  Could that be a trigger? 

Schindler's List shows the barbarism of the Nazis.  What serves as a trigger for violence?

What about cartoons?

Could Tom and Jerry or Bugs Bunny cartoons trigger violence?

Do we apply this rationale to the works of Shakespeare as well?  Richard III is the story of a deranged tyrant who perpetrates violence against his rivals to the throne.  Hamlet and Titus Andronicus also contain violence.  Do we ban Shakespeare because it could trigger a mentally unstable person?

What about an art exhibition?  Even Italian Renaissance art depicted scenes of violence.  Do we ban exhibitions?

The news always carries stories of violence.  Footage of the war in Ukraine could be a trigger.  Coverage of the shootout in Buffalo could also be a trigger.

An argument in the street could be a trigger for somebody.

Detecting all triggers is impossible because triggers are subjective.  A prayer sermon could trigger one, and a gruesomely violent film may have no effect on another. 

If you set out to ban all triggers, we will all have to impose lockdowns forever, and perhaps even that won't be enough.

Instead, it is essential that investigation agencies, law enforcement authorities, mental health professionals, close relatives, associates, authorities (school or place of work or place the person visits), and friends pay close attention when they see mentally unstable behavior.

If the Buffalo shooter had been subjected to treatment or placed in an institution, these murders would never have occurred.  This applies to all acts of violence where the perpetrator claims to be inspired by an external source.

The primary responsibility for an act of violence such as murder falls only on the individual who pulls the trigger.  The secondary responsibility falls on the people around the individual who may have seen troubling behavior but didn't bother to report it or didn't take it seriously.

It is also essential to destigmatize mental health issues.  The fear of being labeled "crazy" or a "nut-job" often discourages people from seeking help.  An attitude needs to be developed where mental health is considered as important as physical health and is regularly evaluated. 

In a democracy, free expression cannot be curbed merely because a section of society will misconstrue the contents and be triggered by it. 

Back to politics.

The Democrats desperately want to drive a hateful narrative by blaming the GOP and their supporters.  If the GOP want to win the midterms, they must assertively counter the hateful rhetoric of the Democrats.  In such situations, silence could be perceived as an admission of guilt.

Image: Screen shot from Reuters video via YouTube.

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