Amanda Marcotte’s byline on Salon describes her as a “politics writer,” though she scarcely addresses the art of compromise. She’s built a career on absolutist, Girls-era feminism. The woman is a standard-bearer for the very worst characteristics of American identity politics.
I’m not a journalist. I cannot credibly comment on her professional challenges. However, I can notice patterns, such as this: mass shootings are a windfall for those who pay their rent sewing contempt for select demographic groups. Ms. Marcotte usually selects men.
It makes sense, of course. By most measures, men do behave more violently. Of the various types of violence we engage in – physical assault, domestic abuse, spontaneous homicide, serial murder, even warfare – few are more uniquely masculine than the comparatively recent phenomenon of the mass shooting. Even the most generous estimates don’t assign women guilt for more than two percent of mass shootings. The mass shooting is the behavior most characteristic of my demographic.
This damning feature of American masculinity has been a cornerstone of Ms. Marcotte’s career. Mass shootings provide a very pure, distilled case study to support nearly any unflattering conclusion about American men. The roadmap to success is simple: She’s a gifted writer, and she has the work ethic to produce well-written essays within hours of a massacre. If I enjoyed either of those qualities, I’d joyfully spend the next quarter century building a career and supporting my family preaching the Good Word of violent, toxic masculinity. How frustrating must it be when such a reliable business plan fails to produce? Ask Ms. Marcotte: Insofar as it relates to her tried-and-true narrative, the San Bernardino shooting was a stillbirth.
We won’t admit it, but most Americans have a mass shooting ritual. Upon hearing the first reports, we struggle – with varying degrees of success – to not speculate as to the demographic of the “shooter.” While perhaps not ethically justifiable, this anxiety is certainly understandable. A mass shooting represents high-stakes political intrigue.
What race is he? Where does he worship, or does he worship at all? How does he vote? These are the cornerstones of American identity politics, and they all play second fiddle to the most durable, reliable social division: gender. Conveniently, there’s rarely much speculation on that topic.
Deviation from the norm is exciting, and a married 27 year-old immigrant mother of a newborn could not possibly deviate further from the American mass shooter “norm.” Breitbart‘s banner headline read “The Jihadette.” It featured the stoic, veiled image of a young woman who shares nothing in common with James Holmes or Adam Lanza. What’s a stunned gender critic to do?
Wholly ignoring the most sensational aspect of the story is one option. The journalist who’s scarcely missed an opportunity to opine on the relationship between gender and high-profile violence has yet to discuss the most distinctive, newsworthy characteristic of this mass shooting.
The false equivalence is also useful. About a week prior, a gunman attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, CO. Apart from his age (57), he perfectly represented our stereotype of the American mass shooter: white, male, right-wing, neglected mental health problems, etc…
The two attacks could scarcely have been more different. The Planned Parenthood attack involved a single shooter. The attacker did not personally know his victims. He did not seem to have a well-thought out, rehearsed plan. He was a reclusive person with a history of petty crime.
The San Bernardino shooters operated as a team. Their plan was deliberate and coordinated. They were well-socialized, active members of society. Neither had criminal history, but nevertheless killed 14 people. By contrast, the Planned Parenthood attack doesn’t even register as a proper “mass shooting” by some metrics.
A good narrative is impervious in the hands of a talented ideologue. Two days after the San Bernardino attack, Ms. Marcotte writes,
…this country experienced what appears to be two religiously motivated terrorist attacks in the span of a week: The San Bernardino shooting and the Colorado Springs shooting at Planned Parenthood. But in a demonstration of how bizarre modern American politics really are, these two nearly identical shootings somehow are seen as entirely different in the context of partisan politics.
We see these attacks as entirely different because they are entirely different. They are different in concept, in execution, in casualties, in nearly every sense we use to differentiate mass shootings, these two incidents were different. The only sense in which they are similar is that each of the three criminals did, in fact, seem to hold some level of religious belief. That’s it. There is little compelling evidence thus far to suggest Robert Lewis Dear’s religious belief was his primary motivator.
If during the standoff, Mr. Dear had taken the time to write a Facebook post on his Christian faith, or if he’d opened fire to a war cry of “Jesus Loves Me!,” we could reasonably characterize his crime as “Christian terrorism.” In any case, Mr. Dear was captured alive, so we’re sure to learn more of his motivation in the coming months. I could be entirely wrong. We’ll see. By contrast, our faithful Jihadette and her husband explicitly declared their allegiance to ISIS either immediately before or during their attack, moments before their martyrdom at the hands of disciplined and unhesitating California policemen.
Ms. Marcotte seems disarmed and disoriented when violence does not comport with her preferred themes. White privilege doesn’t work. Toxic masculinity doesn’t work. She can’t even criticize American Christians. The San Bernandino attack represents a significant deviation from the norm. For many writers, such a deviation is fresh, fertile ground. It is an opportunity to tell a new story, one that could be a harbinger of future incidents.
It’s not an opportunity for Ms. Marcotte because understanding and telling a story isn’t what she’s trying to accomplish. Her objective is promoting a poisonous and divisive brand of intersectional feminism. She does so by leveraging high-profile violence to buttress pre-formed “conclusions” that are the foundation of her intellectual identity.
She is desperate to equate the worldwide epidemic of Jihadist violence with extremely infrequent instances of genuine Christian terrorism. She is forced to stretch and redefine terrorism so that it includes most violence perpetrated by her Usual Suspects. She defaults to conclusions that present her chosen oppressors – the West, men, and white Americans – in the most unflattering light possible.
Given an act of terrorism without precedent, she nevertheless cannot deviate from her white privilege, male privilege narrative. When the world around us starkly deviates from what we’re used to, refusing to notice and acknowledge as much is, necessarily, deviant.