Violence in America Part 2; Two Degrees of Anonymity

We continue from  Violence in America Part 1.

(CNN) A shooting rampage that left 5 dead in West Texas started with a traffic stop.

Many attempts have been made to discover the causes of violent crime, and the reasons some societies are comparatively safe. It is hard for many to absorb that there is no one or two things that decide. It seems likely that there are many mixtures that produce one or the other.

There will be more stringent gun laws.  Mass murder is now a political issue, with greater stage presence than the NRA. Mass shootings will persist.  (MST) Mass Shootings Tracker counts 340 this year to date. Gun Violence Archive counts 280. If gun laws are enacted to the degree held tolerable by the red states, there will be almost as many shootings the following year. In five years, if we’re lucky, the incidence might be halved.

A small minority young U.S. men with vague and barely noticeable mental health issues have been energized by a deadly meme. Contrary to our expectations,  the meme is viable without connection to any ideology at all. The susceptible population of young men may be as high as 2.5%, corresponding to the prevalence of psychotics in the general population.

Our society has evolved in a direction that is a gift to the world’s totalitarian states. They now say, “Look at you. We’re not giving our people freedom to imitate that.”

We must look to the unsavory past, a past that did not respect civil rights, when by our modern standards, the “different” were persecuted, racial equality was denied, women were inferior, and allegiance  was required to false gods, both in the village and in the sky. Injustice was rife and crime was (comparatively) rare. Since then, the Republic has taken a long journey, towards anonymity.

The first degree of anonymity came after World War II. Americans became mobile, relocating in mass migrations; from South to North, East to West. With migration came a cosmopolitan anonymity. Those who relocated were immersed in megalopolises, now surrounded by people who did not know them. For the most part, they never would. The village bigots would not be replaced.

Freedom to live one’s own, distinctly individual life, within the law, but free of the pressure of conformity from unwanted peers, is a treasure of our modern liberal society. The dark side: in the postwar period, crime surged. The same odious peer pressure to conform, to live and act exactly like one’s peers, had  discouraged crime.

The desire of the criminal to commit crime while avoiding apprehension requires anonymity. As police tactics and technology improved, the veil of  anonymity was partially pierced. Crime went down. Other factors doubtless played a part.  Female empowerment, Oprah Winfrey, and TV courts may have substituted for the village bigots, reaching those disinterested in organized religion.

The second degree of anonymity came with the avatar of social media, and the fictional identity that usually accompanies it. Since law enforcement can easily discover the identity of a particular social media user, it may seem ridiculous to identify this as as crucial influence. But it is easy to overestimate human intelligence.

In  Lake Woebegon, all the children are above average. Every where else, half the children and adults are below average. This means dumb. They are not readers of this blog, but social media is very popular. Many are kind, polite, and productive. With limited ability to understand complex issues, many have considerable ability to divine the basic character of other persons, which could explain why our democracy functions as well as it does.

The bulk of criminals come from the below-average and just-average. Quoting from (Criminal Justice Research) Intelligence and Crime, Part V,

The majority of studies have found IQ differences between offenders and nonoffenders (e.g., Ellis &Walsh, 2003). On average, the IQ for chronic juvenile offenders is 92, about half a standard deviation below the population mean. For chronic adult offenders, however, the average IQ is 85, 1 standard deviation below the population mean. A study of Texas inmates who entered the prison system in 2002 indicated that approximately 23% of the inmates scored below 80, almost 69% scored between 80 and 109, and only 9.6% scored above 110 (Ellis & Walsh, 2003).

The avatar is an abstraction combined with a fiction. To the intellectually gifted, it is a pleasant fiction. To those who are intellectually challenged, the reality of the avatar as a true identity is variable. In a person consumed with ideation of violence, the delusion of the avatar may supersede the fiction. It gives the ideator freedom to act.

To save our society, to extinguish the meme of killing, something has to be sacrificed. It’s unthinkable to sacrifice our constitutional freedoms. Gun control by itself will not do away with the meme. We cherish our right to live in anonymous freedom. We don’t want the return of the village bigots.

We cannot rely on our better natures. Something has to change.

I nominate the avatar/fictional identity, to be replaced by something that every intellectually challenged, meme-consumed young male will, in every moment of his online existence, be reminded  is no shield for ideation of mass murder.