As many of you might have heard, a Muslim husband-wife “team” shot up an office Christmas party in San Bernardino yesterday. While we still lack enough information to understand their precise motivations, currently available evidence suggests that the religious beliefs of shooters played a major role in their decision to do what they did. Having said that- this particular incident raises some interesting, and as yet unanswered, questions.
Question 1: What drove Syed Rizwan Farook to shoot up his own office Christmas Party? and why his own office Christmas Party?
Syed Farook was an US born 28-year old guy with a stable and well paid job with the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health for five years prior to the shooting. There is, currently, no evidence that he had any prior history of mental health issues or a significant criminal record. He also had no history of aggressively proselytizing his religion or expressing hatred for non-believers. By all accounts he was a quiet, polite and otherwise normal co-worker. There is also no evidence that his job or career was in any jeopardy. Perhaps most significantly, he was not on any watch-list for potential terrorists or religious radicals.
How does a guy with such a benign and unassuming profile go about shooting up his own office Christmas party? Why would this guy build an arsenal of pipe bombs and improvised explosive devices in his house? Shooting up a large group of people is not the result of a momentary lapse of mind. What would get a married guy with a 6-month old daughter and a decent and stable job to harbor such deep-seated resentment against people he worked with? What was in it for him?
Question 2: What was the role of his wife and co-shooter, Tashfeen Malik, in the shootings? Why was she so willing to participate?
It is no secret that the perpetrators of mass shootings are almost always male. The active participation of his wife in this mass shooting does therefore raise the next big question- What was in it for her? This is especially so because she had a 6-month old baby daughter. There is also no evidence that she neglected or abused her daughter. So what makes a 27-year old university-educated woman with a 6-month old daughter leave her daughter with the grandparents and go on a shooting spree with her husband?
There is also the question about the exact circumstances under which she first met her husband. While currently available information suggests that she met him online, we still don’t know where exactly they first crossed paths. Where does a supposedly devout Muslim woman living in Saudi Arabia meet a guy living in Southern California? What were the shared interests that initially brought them together. At this moment, we simply don’t know enough about the backstory of this couple.
Question 3: Why did they chose to shoot up his office Christmas party? What made it a more attractive target than a mall, theater or concert?
Terrorists tend to kill people in a manner that results in the maximum casualties as well as the maximum media exposure. Given their proximity to the Los Angeles metropolitan area which is far richer in soft targets, it is odd that they chose a venue with relatively fewer (70-80) people. I am actually surprised that they did not go on multiple shooting sprees in the LA metropolitan area- especially since they had more than enough ammunition to kill many more people. What made shooting up the office Christmas party more attractive than killing more at other venues?
Question 4: How much did their family and friends really know about their plans? Were they in contact with similar minded people in that part of the country?
Most of you have probably seen his relatives say something to the effect that they had no idea he was so radicalized. But is that really the case? It is clear that he was on good terms with more than a few of his close relatives. Did they really not notice that he was building pipe bombs in his townhouse and garage? Did they really not notice that he was making multiple improvised explosive devices in his house? Then there is the question of whether he was working with like-minded people in that part of California. Why would he make so many explosive devices for his own killing spree? Could more than a few of those devices have been made for some of his like-minded friends?
Question 5: Why is there no internet manifesto or video explaining his motivations for doing what he did? And what is the reason behind the couple destroying their smartphones and computer hard drives before embarking on their shooting spree?
As many of you know, mass shooters often leave behind some sort of written manifesto or video explaining what drive them to do what they did. So why did this couple not do so? This is especially puzzling as there are reports of them recording the mass shooting with GoPro-type body cameras. Why record something if you don’t want to share it with others? Or.. have they already sent that video to somebody in another country? Also, why destroy their smartphones and hide (and or destroy) the hard drives in their PCs? Who or what were they trying to protect?
In my opinion, this particular atypical mass shooting raises many more questions than previous events with similar body counts.
What do you think? Comments?
In the previous two posts of this series, I talked about why the current success of Trump’s campaign for the republican nomination is an almost inevitable consequence of voters seeing that professional politicians are not especially qualified for their jobs. It is also quite obvious to most voters that professional politicians are pretty incompetent at doing their jobs. It is therefore not surprising that most voters see professional politicians as marginally clever professional liars whose actions principally benefit the very wealthy minority who in turn pay to have them elected and also create cushy post-politics positions and sinecures for them.
In other words, the median person in developed countries now see professional politicians as little more than the marginally attractive mistress of rich older men who will say and do everything to keep the money flowing in their direction. It is therefore no surprise that so many have a far higher opinion of independent politicians like Trump than establishment loyalists such as Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.
But this, by itself, does not explain why Trump can get away with saying almost anything about anybody. Many presstitutes, pundits and politicians cannot seem to figure out why insulting a supposed war hero turned politician like John McCain, a pretty white blond talking head (and body) like Megyn Kelly and pretty much anybody else who antagonizes him has no effect whatsoever on his rapidly rising public popularity. How can a politician who does not play by the rules of fake niceness and propriety so thoroughly trounce those who spent a lifetime studying and practicing those rules?
Presstitutes have put forth a variety of clever-sounding explanations to explain Trump’s ability to remain unscathed by whatever public outrage is generated by his criticism of his opponents- political or otherwise. Some attribute it to his extensive experience in reality TV. Others attribute it to his business acumen. Still others attribute it to his intuitive understanding of human psychology. But is that really the case? Can any of these theories really explain the continuous increase in public support for his candidacy?
Why doesn’t his ever-increasing support base care about the continuous stream of negative articles about him, his speeches or his tweets? Why has the progress of his campaign been so unusually gaffe-proof?
I have an explanation for this phenomena that is both rational and somewhat depressing for the perpetually positive types. It is based on a realistic look at the dynamics of contemporary human society, especially the version prevalent in USA and similar countries. A little over two years ago, I had written a post about how the dominance of an anodyne style of communication has played a major role in destroying societal trust. In that post I had said the following:
The nature of corporate communication has now become disturbingly similar to the fake biochemical signals used by metastasizing cancerous cells and viruses to use, abuse and subvert the host. But there is another dimension to this issue which makes it far more problematic in human societies. People, unlike cells, emulate and imitate strategies which are seen as successful for the individual, even if doing so destroys the social system that keeps things going. Consequently the ‘corporatese’ lies and selective truths that permeate large institutions and organisations seep into smaller versions of them and ultimately into general society. Soon almost everyone is communicating to each other with the same attitudes, mindsets and expectations as impersonal sociopathic corporations.
Another way of reading that paragraph is that we live in a society where anyone who appears to be unusually friendly, excessively polite and willing to help for “free” in the beginning is often (almost always correctly) seen as a crook, scam artist or inveterate liar or worse who is using his relative position or some aspect of the legal system to rob, scam, abuse or kill his or her unsuspecting victims. It goes without saying that societies with such high level of systemic mistrust are very brittle, unstable and well.. unlikely to last for any significant length of time (more than a few decades)- but that is a topic for another post.
Coming back to the topic at hand, it is common knowledge that the public persona of professional politicians are basically identical to those projected by corporations. Both try to portray themselves as being moral and upright persons with high ethical standards- basically an antithesis of their real selves. Both spend an unusual amount of time, effort and money in appearing professional, knowledgeable, competent, caring, altruistic and otherwise deserving of unquestioning obedience. Of course, even a cursory look at the world around you exposes these pretensions for what they really are.. clever-sounding lies to perpetuate continued exploitation.
But what does any of this have to do with Trump’s campaign being so successful and gaffe proof?
Well.. a lot. A society where almost every single conman, fraud and parasite is projecting a carefully put together persona tends to see people who don’t have such personas as being especially honest, authentic and trustworthy. This is doubly so if that person is willing to talk about issues and subjects that the “put together”-types deflect or avoid altogether. In other words, the societies in countries such as the USA are so screwed up that Trump is correctly seen as being less dishonest that somebody like Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton. It certainly helps that he was already rich enough to never have entered politics to make a living. Now contrast that to almost every single politician who is completely dependent on continued presence in the political arena for making a living. Even extremely rich and famous politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney owe almost all of their considerable wealth to being in, or around, the political arena.
The nature of contemporary society is such that an overtly arrogant, reasonably intelligent and independently rich guy trolling the easily offended will be (correctly) seen as being far more honest and competent than people with carefully manufactured and manicured personas whose livelihood is intimately connected to continued presence in the political arena.
Will write more about this topic in upcoming posts.
What do you think? Comments?
In my previous post on this topic, I had suggested that the success of Trump’s campaign so far is a symptom of a far deeper issue- namely the ongoing falling apart of the modern nation-state. Basically, the irrational and hierarchical nature of modern nation states requires the general populace to delude themselves about the actual level of competence of those who occupy its commanding heights. In other words, the modern nation state starts falling apart once people can no longer fool themselves about the actual level of competence of those in positions of power- be they “professionals” such as doctors, scientists and or pretty much any other type of credentialed “experts”.
Belief in the competence of “professional” politician-types, which seems to infest all levels of governance in modern nation states, has taken an unusually large hit within the last two decades. Some of you might say that politicians (amateur or professional) were, historically, never widely seen as honest or trustworthy- and that is true. However politicians in modern nation states, especially those that were reasonably functional, were often seen as reasonably competent and capable of making fairly rational (if often self-serving) decisions. Now, whether this apparent competence in politicians of previous generations was real or not is controversial.
There are those who point out to past politicians who were instrumental in pushing positive socio-economic changes and then there are others who see it as some combination of a rapidly growing economy and selective memory about the past. In any case, my point about the popular perception that politicians from previous eras were more competent than their present day counterparts still holds. But what does any of this have to do with the Trump campaign- beyond the obvious fact that many voters do not hold his lack of “experience” in politics against him?
Well.. as it turns out, a lot.
The largely negative reaction by main stream media, especially its talking-/writing- heads, to his campaign cannot be explained unless you start understanding the real source of their dismay. This is especially true for the figuring out why the traditionally LIEbral media outlets are more critical of his campaign than their CONservative equivalents. How do you explain the endless stream of media hit pieces about that guy by supposedly LIEbral outlets such as NYT, WP, Bloomberg or their internet equivalents such as Salon, Slate, Dailykos etc?
It just does not make sense, at least if you believe that the people behind those media pieces want a democrat candidate to win in the 2016 presidential election. The Trump campaign has, till now, done far more damage to the presidential aspirations of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker.. and pretty much every other declared and undeclared republican candidate than it has to the presidential aspirations of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or anyone running for the democrat candidacy. The LIEbral media outlets should, if anything, be cheering him on as he gleefully destroys the public personas of an entire generation of politicians created by the post-1980s republican political machine.
And yet, oddly enough, the strongest and most persistent criticism of his campaign comes from LIEbral presstitutes, “experts” and talking heads. So, what is going on?
There are those who believe that the LIEbral media’s strong distaste for a Trump candidacy (or presidency) has to do avoiding embarrassment on the international stage or in their daily conversations. But, is that really the case? Here is some historical perspective.. More than half of all american soldiers who died (or were severely injured) in the failed attempt at colonizing Vietnam did so after Richard Milhous Nixon became the 37th president in January 1969. However he is most remembered and despised for his role in the Watergate scandal. Similarly the main stream media still portrays the Reagan presidency in a largely positive manner though it was the starting point for many of our current problems- from growing income inequality, the “War on Drugs”, exorbitant spending on futuristic weapon systems with poor real life performance to persistent large-scale dabbling in Middle-Eastern politics.
The mainstream media is also largely silent on the role of Bill Clinton’s presidency on levels of mass incarceration, militarization of the police and financial deregulation. They are now similarly accepting of the 2000 presidential election, the invasion of Iraq, the “War on Terror”, decisions that lead to the housing bubble and financial crash of 2008. Today the mass media image of George W Bush has been normalized to that of a slightly eccentric grand-father who lives in the country, rather than as the stupid and incompetent asshole whose decisions (and indecisions) resulted in the unnecessary deaths of tens to hundreds of thousands of people. I could go about the current guy occupying that office, but you get my point. The mainstream media has been remarkably quiet about the horrendous incompetence of professional politicians who were elected to the presidential office.
So why would a Trump presidency be any worse for the USA than those of Nixon, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 or Obama? And what makes somebody like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Scott Walker any more qualified to be the official republican candidates or get elected to office?
The answer to that question is as follows: there is no reason to suggest that a Trump presidency would be any more disastrous to the USA than any of his predecessors, or competitors for the party nomination. The other side of this answer is that lifelong “professional” politicians such as Hillary Clinton and her type on the democrat side are rather similar to their republican counterparts such as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Scott Walker. Consequently, a candidate who can defeat Bush, Rubio or Walker in the race for republican candidacy can do the same in the presidential race against a “professional” politician such as Hillary Clinton. As many of you know, her high unfavorability ratings make it hard for her to win against someone who is seen as a likable “outsider”.. you know like Obama in 2008.
The LIEbral media’s strong distaste for a Trump candidacy or presidency is, therefore, largely about trying to ensure a win for their “professional” politician patrons such as Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush. Those who write or make those media hit pieces have a lot to lose if their old patronage networks stop working like they used to. Presstitutes, “experts” and other assorted talking heads are primarily interested in maintaining the stability of their own income stream- preferably with the minimum of effort. They are not interested in the effects of their actions on the welfare on the general populace, who are seen as all gullible outsiders ripe for manipulation. Unfortunately for them, the combination of factors which made that a viable lifestyle in the past has largely and irreversibly dissipated.
Will write more about this topic in upcoming posts.
What do you think? Comments?