DANIEL VAUGHAN: Yelling for people to ‘do something’ is fruitless virtue signaling

August 5, 2019

In the aftermath of any mass shooting, one satirical article from The Onion gets regularly passed around by those on the left. Its headline: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”

The title gets reused with the facts changed, and people share it while yelling at their friends on social media, “Thoughts and prayers are meaningless — we have to do something.”

But in reality, the headline is false; mass homicides happen everywhere, and the fights on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere are nothing more than manufactured social media outrage. The people who rage at “thoughts and prayers” are trying to shame people over to their side of the debate while not offering a single solution.

Every time this happens, we witness the basest form of virtue signaling and moral preening. People are focused more on how they appear to their political tribe than on actually accomplishing anything.

I was watching coverage of the most recent mass shootings on cable news — CNN, Fox News, and one of the morning shows. They all reflexively went to the same thing: universal background checks, waiting periods, and other proposals that have “wide public support.”

What they always fail to note is that none of the broadly supported gun control measures would solve a single thing — not one.

It’s been studied extensively, and even researchers who went into one study trying to prove the effectiveness of gun control ended up convinced it didn’t work. That includes the so-called “assault weapons” ban.

Gun control proposals do not work.

We have to do something.”

What? Do what? Ban guns? That message falls on deaf ears when people look around and see that we have white nationalist domestic terrorists running around and shooting at random soft targets.

And that is what happened in El Paso, Texas — a white nationalist domestic terrorist attacked a soft target. He deserves the same fate as any ISIS-inspired domestic terrorists.

If your message is that we need to disarm innocent citizens to solve the problem of mass shootings by white nationalist domestic terrorists, you must be categorically insane. Pushing bad ideas that won’t work, when people die in a mass shooting, makes no sense at all to anyone who hasn’t sold their mind over to anti-gun blind tribalism.

Stop saying thoughts and prayers — they don’t work!

Thanks for your personal atheistic opinions. If you find a mass shooting to be the perfect time to air out your issues with religion in the public sphere — again — you must be insane.

If you’re offering useless ideas and blasting people who offer prayers, you’re the one with the problem.

Offering thoughts and prayers to the victims of a tragedy focuses our attention on what matters: the victims. People too busy attacking thoughts and prayers elevate their own political pandering above the victims. They aren’t just politicizing the event — they’re making that tragedy about themselves.

We should spend our time identifying what this issue is and attacking it — and it’s not guns. Mass shootings are rising at a time when the overall homicide rate is dropping.

Indeed, we don’t have a gun violence problem in this country — it and crime overall are falling. We have a mass shooting problem. And while each one of those shootings is unique, there’s also an overall pattern:

Researchers at Arizona State University analyzed news reports of gun-related incidents from 1997 to 2013. They hypothesized that the rampages did not occur randomly over time but instead were clustered in patterns.

The investigators applied a mathematical model and found that shootings that resulted in at least four deaths launched a period of contagion, marked by a heightened likelihood of more bloodshed, lasting an average of 13 days. Roughly 20 to 30[%] of all such violence took place in these windows.

We see a similar pattern in celebrity suicides: people copy the behavior. It’s no coincidence we’ve seen multiple mass shootings the last few days — that’s the pattern.

And the people driving that pattern are the media.

In the case of copycat white nationalist terrorists, the solution is more direct. We should flood law enforcement support on the sites that breed this resentment and that encourage mass shooters to take action.

But even if we do that, the media still bears responsibility for idiotically spreading the ideas and manifestos of these mass shooters desperately desire. Social media makes it incredibly easy to make mass shooters famous.

The news media should be focusing their time on the victims and celebrating their lives. Instead, the media goes for the clickbait hits, politicians scream at the other side, and shooters get granted the notoriety and attention they crave.

Moreover, the United States is not the only nation where mass killings occur. A man in Japan killed 33 people only a few weeks ago through arson.

Mass killings happen in other countries too. What the American media is trying to do is convince people that using a gun is somehow worse than these other events (hint: it’s not).

Mass killings will continue to happen because it’s easier than ever for those who want to inflict harm to learn new ways to commit evil. And we shouldn’t start repealing the right of people to defend themselves, because domestic terrorists are using our rights to kill people.

Innocent people aren’t the issue — evil is.

So instead of writing tirades on social media about how we need to do something, or about how thoughts and prayers don’t work, maybe spend that time focusing on the victims instead — or even donating blood. And if you want to prevent these events, increase law enforcement support.

None of this matches the preferred media narrative, however, so we’ll be right back in this same spot again at a later date.


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Daniel Vaughan

Daniel Vaughan is a columnist for the Conservative Institute and lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Regent University School of Law. His work can be found on the Conservative Institute's website, or you can receive his columns and free weekly newsletter at The Beltway Outsiders. Connect with him on Twitter at @dvaughanCI.