Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Lessons from Domestic Terrorism in El Paso

The horrific shooting at the Walmart store in the city of El Paso, Texas, on Saturday 3 August 2019, at around 10:00 am local time, killed 22 people and at least 26 injured. The shooting was referred to as "the deadliest mass shooting in the United States during 2019" which was carried out about 13 hours before another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, which killed 10 people and injured 19 people.

Local authorities mention that the shooting in El Paso by Patrick Crusius (21 years old) as a crime of hatred and local (domestic) terrorism, while the shooting committed by Connor Betts (24 years old) is referred to as a shooting committed by someone with an extreme political outlook and have psychiatric problems.

There is no place for hatred

The two men, generally referred to by President Trump as mentally ill and inspired by hatred which according to Trump, "hatred has no place in this country." This is a very strong criticism that the fight against hate speech must be an important concern including in cyberspace, a place where hate speech thrives and can have an impact on one's psychology for behaving badly towards others.

One thing that has become a trend, especially among extreme nationalists, is to make a manifesto, a written document that contains the views, logic, beliefs, and why the perpetrators of terror act. At least, in the past decade, there have been several manifestos released by terrorists before they act, namely, manifestos written by Patrick Crusius (El Paso shooting, Texas, 2019; 4 pages), Brenton Tarrant (Christchurch shooting, New Zealand, 2019 ; 74 pages), and Anders Behring Breivik (Utoya Island shooting, Norway, 2011; 1518 pages).

The three perpetrators of hate speech and terrorism are related to one another, inspiring one another, even though they don't know each other. Crusius, for example, acknowledged that he supported the shooting in New Zealand, in the opening sentence of the manifesto, The Inconvenient Truth: "In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto." Even so with Tarrant who was inspired by Breivik, and Breivik was influenced by erroneous views, one of which is the spread of Islam which he called "Islamic colonization" and "Islamization of Western Europe."

These three manifestos, if read carefully, actually stem from fears of others, in this case immigrants (migrants) who can replace the presence of local residents, namely white citizens. The concern was then fueled by various facts of crime against white people (as written by Brenton Tarrant), or the possibility of migrants to invade and replace culture, at least making local residents unemployed (as Crusius wrote in his manifesto).

Hatred of foreigners or xenophobia does not seem to be underestimated. Moreover, coupled with the ease of getting assault rifles that can kill so many people in a fast time. They, the white supremacists who commit terror seem to tend to make actions in places that look safe like New Zealand, the world's second safest country after Iceland, and even so with El Paso, which rarely heard any meaningful terror. El Paso's election by the perpetrators was more because there the majority of its citizens were migrants from Mexico, while the New Zealand election was because there were many Muslim migrants and what he did on Friday would have a broad impact.

Mental Illness Calling Each Other

From this we can also learn that the utterance of hatred, however small, is dangerous. People who are mentally ill will "call each other" to do the same. Problem mental illness, we learn more from the perpetrators of the shooting in Dayton, Ohio. The 24-year-old man has shown psychiatric problems in various posts on the internet, including a description of him on his Twitter account @iamthespookster: "I'm going to hell and I'm not coming back."

In addition, Connor Betts also shows as someone who is amazed at tragedy, tends to violence and thoughts of suicide (he has put a gun in his mouth twice), which can generally be called a "troubled young man obsessed with dark thoughts. " Indeed, he was not (or has not been) indicated as a perpetrator of racial violence (like Crusius), but he did so due to psychiatric problems.

Betts' former girlfriend, Adelia Johnson, in a 7-page statement about his relationship with the man, who was sent to the Dayton Daily News, said that they met for the first time in January 2019 when they were both taking Social Psychology courses at Sinclair College. They both know that they have psychiatric problems.

Once, Betts showed a video of the shooting of the Tree of Life congregation in the Pittsburgh Synagogue that left 11 people dead and 6 injured. When showing the video in March 2019, Betts explained it in detail, play-by-play. Johnson felt strange about the incident. However, he thought positively that as fellow students taking Social Psychology courses, they were used to talking about serial killings. Here, it is seen that Johnson - although he also has psychiatric problems - seeks to understand the man he likes.

An important question may be asked: Will a person who has a mental illness look for a close friend of his, who also has a psychiatric problem? When referring to the relationship between Betts and Johnson, it means that mentally ill people will look for friends who are mentally ill too. In the case of Brenton Tarrant, we haven't seen that he has a close friend who is mentally ill, but the bright fact is that he is so comfortable playing online games that are violent. Maybe, online friends that's what makes him comfortable to do what he thinks is right.

The Need for Online Consciousness

There is a tendency for people to see that problems in cyberspace are merely in cyberspace, and there is no correlation with the real world. In the early days we were close to the internet, that was true. But lately it is very difficult for us to separate between online and offline. So, if we have a friend who is indicated to be mentally ill who leads to the possibility of acts of violence, it is better to be reported to the authorities, to his family, or to those closest to him.

Online awareness really needs to be viral so that together we care about the safety and comfort of our lives in cyberspace. Mutual care means that we take care of each other's social life in cyberspace so that undesirable things don't happen. For terrorists based on anti-immigrants, xenophobia, or who are afraid of conspiracy theories that white people will continue to be eroded, they generally play on websites that provide image boards that may be mutually unknown to each other.

To sum up, if there are our friends on social media who tend to hate speech, or tend to intend to commit acts of violence, it's good we are both approached so as not to do that. Or, at least ask his close friends, or family (if anyone is known) to pay more attention to him with the aim of anticipating the possibility of the transfer of hate speech and the intentions of violence from cyberspace to the real world. *

YANUARDI SYUKUR, Assistant Professor at Department of Anthropology, Universitas Khairun, Ternate; 2019 United States of America Professional Fellows Alumni, and also Indonesian expert on terrorism in several media such as TVOne, CNN, Trans7, and I-News.

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