Famous radio mouthpiece knows why the Las Vegas gunman did it.
While surfing my morning news feed I tripped across a new theory about the motivation driving Las Vegas mass murderer Stephen Paddock. Since investigators have not yet uncovered any agenda on Paddock’s part – nothing political, not religious, didn’t hate Country music, etc. – people are going to speculate. And our political climate being what it is, that speculation is invariably going to pursue angles that justify pre-existing beliefs.
Even so, this one is a doozy. Stay with me.
Today’s truckload of contorted reasoning arrives courtesy of conservative pundit Mark Steyn, who offers up what we’ll call the “Suitcase Theory.” You know the story.
A known smuggler crosses the border every day at a particular crossing. Every day his suitcase is searched and nothing is found. After 20 years he crosses for a last time and confides to the policeman who has been searching him all that while that he is retiring.
The policeman asks him ‘Ok – since you’re clean today and will never cross the border again tell me this – you’ve been smuggling – right?’
The man says ‘Right.’. The policeman says ‘Smuggling what?’
The man says ‘Suitcases.’
Steyn (he credits a staff member for developing the theory) builds an elaborate scenario whereby Paddock spent years accumulating an arsenal and meticulously planning the massacre. He then lugged a majority of the arsenal (most of which is redundant since he’ll never have time to use it) up to the room, which he selected for its vantage over the crowd. He made sure he had bump stocks to enable maximum damage, and so on.
His motivation? To make a spectacle of the act of mass murder.
Again: the point of staging the mass murder was to draw maximum attention to … the mass murder. Smuggling suitcases.
How meta. How utterly postmodern.
The conclusion of this line of thinking is that … wait for it … Paddock wanted to call attention to the issue of gun violence.
Okay, I have a couple responses. First, assuming I buy this as a good faith attempt to figure out what really happened (I don’t but let’s play along – more in a second) the theory doesn’t work. Paddock may not have left a note, but a guy who feels that strongly about guns – and you’d have to feel incredibly strongly about guns to take an action this radical – you’d think he might have said something to friends and family over the decades. We’d expect a conversation with his brother, for instance, to yield something like “this is so unlike Stephen. He hated guns and thought they ought to be outlawed.” So the theory asks me to believe that a guy who hated guns enough to murder half of Las Vegas kept it a secret for six decades?
And if that happened, I’m perfectly comfortable moving Paddock out of the political category over into the severe mental illness category.
Now, to the second response, which is really the more important one. Let’s take into account who Mark Steyn and his people are.
Mark Steyn (born December 8, 1959) is a Canadian author and conservative political commentator. He has written five books, including America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, a New York Times bestseller. He is published in newspapers and magazines, and appears on shows such as those of Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.
I offer this not as an ad hominem. Just because you’re conservative doesn’t mean you can’t figure something out. But source credibility matters, especially when it comes to issues as ideologically controversial as gun violence in America. That an organization like the NRA tosses a lot of money around promoting its own interests can’t be ignored. The same rules apply to me. I have a long established set of principles and understanding them helps you consider my comments in a more useful context.
That said, the Steyn Suitcase Theory leads us to this conclusion: Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and wounded 546 more with modified assault weaponry in order to advance a liberal, anti-2nd Amendment political agenda. Steyn goes so far as to suggest Paddock attacked a mostly white C&W crowd instead of a predominately black Hip-Hop event to keep Democrats from branding him a white supremacist.
To a certain kind of person, this theory probably makes all the sense in the world. It was Democrats what kil’t all them god-fearing Jason Aldean fans! Hillary! Obama!
For my part, I’m marveling at how dull Occam’s Razor has gotten. Hell, maybe The Beatles did tell Charles Manson to start a race war.
I guess the caution is fairly straightforward. We live in a world where charlatans with lucrative and/or hateful agendas masquerade as journalists and offer up utterly ridiculous ideas about how “them” are trying to destroy “us.” If we take these cynical manipulations at face value we wind up dupes, as ignorant, bile-fed pawns in a game from which someone else profits at our expense.
If, though, we take a moment or two to consider the plausibility of what we’re being told, and if we ask ourselves questions like “who is telling me this?” and “who benefits from me believing this?” we might wind up in a place where our decisions, our words and our actions enable real benefit for ourselves and our communities.