July 29, 2008

The Memetics of Evil: Liberal Hunting License

It's my blog and I'll obsess if I want to.

The murder of two people by Jim Adkisson at a liberal church has had me thinking a great deal about why things like this happen. I have noticed that the right-wing's explanation for Adkisson's actions is predominately that he was a mental case. It's hard to disagree with that. In my estimation, and I would like to believe that of the majority of American human beings of all political persuasions, anyone who attempts to address their grievances with a shotgun blast is disordered.

Still, there are plenty of deranged individuals walking around unrestrained these days. Some of them are even prone to violence, and the target of their rage has some explanation. Violent people rarely choose a random target; they usually (perhaps always) pick a mark that has some significance to them. That usually means someone who is visibly different in some way. Various psychopaths have targeted those of other ethnicities, or women, or the elderly. They choose their targets based on a distinction, and that distinction has a meaning to them. The significance doesn't arise in a vacuum, either. There may be some personal trauma involved or they may be acting on messages they believe that they're receiving.

It's valid to ask, certainly, why Jim D. Adkisson decided that his hatred would be focused on liberals. Liberals don't look different and, by and large, don't act differently than non-liberals. You can't pick the liberal from the crowd based on their pigmentation or mannerisms. A liberal in a suit looks exactly like a conservative in a suit or a Communist in a suit, for that matter.

Adkisson was almost certainly acting on messages from the media. Somebody told him, in his interpretation, that killing people with a particular social and political philosophy was the right thing to do in order to solve not only his own problems but those of others like him. He even wore a sort of a uniform when carrying out his imagined mission.

A brief dig around the internet this morning yielded such a message with very little effort. It looks like this:

You can buy these from a website calling itself The Patriot Shop for $1.50 each. According to the website:
All sales proceeds at PatriotShop.US support our Mission of Service to America's Armed Services, and help ensure that The Patriot Post is distributed to hundreds of thousands of military personnel and students without a fee...
So, a bunch of people who have fantasies about shooting liberals and sell a product that endorses that fantasy call themselves "patriots" and seeks to influence the military (people with guns). The message here is that it is not only acceptable to shoot liberals, it's patriotic. It's what people who love their country enough to defend it ought to be doing. Anyone who sees humor in this sort of thing is already well on their way down the twisting path of psychopathy. The thought of killing another human being is only funny to those lacking any sense of empathy, the very basis of morality. This isn't patriotism, it's pathology.

This is precisely the kind of message that people like Jim Adkisson are prone to picking up. I have no reason to believe that he ever saw this particular example, of course. The point is that this type of message has been rather prevalent in the media over the past few years. If it weren't, there'd be no market for "liberal hunting licenses."

People who are attracted to this sort of meme aren't patriots, they're problems. They're very big problems waiting to happen. Violent imaginings always precede violent acts, and the people who accept messages embodied in things like the above "hunting license" have already thought about doing things like what Jim Adkisson did to the Tennessee Valley UU Church. If there were such a thing as liberal hunting licenses, they would be lining up to buy them. If they believed that they could get away without penalty for killing those with whom they disagree, you can rest assured that they'd be doing it.

While watching CNN last night, I heard a psychologist (I forget his name) describe Adkisson as a coward because he was hoping that the police would kill him rather than killing himself. I don't see the basis for that statement. Adkisson may well have seen himself as a martyr for the cause, and being gunned down by the police would have helped to establish that aura in his own mind. In his own mind, Adkisson almost certainly making a stand for what he believed in. In his world of violent fantasies, he was a heroic patriot who was answering a call. The enemy had been identified; someone had to do something about it.

If only he could have purchased a hunting license.

If you have a moment, why not contact the management of The Patriot Shop and let them know what you think of their liberal hunting license... and their continuing to sell it in light of events in Knoxville.

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