Let’s jump into the Wayback Machine and travel back to October 2017 and the post written in response to the Las Vegas mass shooting. You remember, it’s the one with bump stocks that took place at a country-music festival, and it killed 60 people, right? In that post, we pointed out how mass shooters teach each other the art of mass shooting like social learning theory says they will. Take a quick look at that post for the full run down. You’ll be glad you did cuz it is chock-a-block full of sarcasm, snark, and profanity as well as real good information. When you’re done with that zip over an even earlier (January 2017) and discuss the role that prejudiced norm theory plays in spreading violence as a contagion. We’ll summarize and apply the theories to the Buffalo racist mass shooter.
The Buffalo Racist Mass Shooting
You remember the racist shooter who shot and killed ten people in a grocery store in Buffalo so that he wouldn’t get all the replacements by all the Black and Brown peoples, right? It weren’t that long ago. I think it was on 14 May.
Many of the punditing pundits vomiting their punditry on us from the boob-tube say that these mass shooters now fit a pattern: They belong to a bunch of online community posting forums where they post a lot of racist stuff and read a lot of racist tuff, including about past mass racist shooters. They write their very own manifesto or other document that purports to explain why they did what they did. They make some kind of thinly veiled or explicit statement about what they are about to do on social media. They live stream the shooting in progress on some social media platform. And, then they rinse and repeat for some other racist asshole to go shoot and murder a bunch of people so he won’t be replaced and we all wring our hands and tut-tut and mutter about common sense and hearts and prayers and parents are shocked and neighbors aren’t surprised or are surprised and excuses for the white fella are made and accusations are leveled and we all gird ourselves waiting for the next one, which usually isn’t too long after.
This time round was no disappointment. We’ve had several mass shootings since then all of them racially inspired. You can read all about it in our previous post. So, how do these things keep spreading like some common coronavirus
Sort of. There’s a reason why the Ol’ Pussy Grabber arrives on the scene white grievance hissing out of his ass in an endless overwhelming stream, and we see an increase in gun-violence, especially hate crimes. There’s a reason why all the conservative talking heads have been using increasingly naked and brash dog whistles and racist language openly talking about the Great Replacement Theory, and we’ve seen an increase in racially motivated extremism.
Prejudiced Norm Theory and Racist Mass Shootings
There is a direct connection between what we see and hear in our environment and what we will accept as normal in our environment. Not that long ago, people on TV shows and in movies, smoked. Now, they don’t. If you see someone smoking in those flickering images, you are surprised. It seems wrong. Another example, I was watching some Will and Grace episodes from the ’90’s and was shocked at the gay jokes and how insensitive and biased they were. Yet, at the time, they were cutting edge.
A similar thing is happening with racially insensitive communications and behavior leading to racist language and behavior. We had begun to eliminate open racism. People who insisted in trafficking in racist imagery and jokes had to send it on the DL and be careful with it ten years ago. Now, you’re seeing some of the most shocking racist behavior occurring right out in the open.
That is the effect of prejudiced norm theory. According to Thomas Ford, prejudiced norm theory is the prediction that disparagement humor will make biased behavior more likely to occur at the next opportunity for those listeners who are predisposed to those biases. In other words, someone who is sexist will be more likely to behave in a sexist way if they overhear a sexist joke. Or someone who is racist, will behave in a racist way at their next opportunity if they overhear a racist joke.
Why would this be true? No matter the context of the joke — I’m just joking! Like Freud said, behind every joke is a little bit of truth — the biased listener feels understood, accepted, validated. It emboldens them in their beliefs, making them more likely to act on their beliefs whether they realize it or not.
The 400 times that Tucker Carlson touted the Great Replacement Theory on his show emboldened everyone of his racist listeners to act on their racism. Whereas, every time someone was chastised for sending a picture of Michelle Obama as a gorilla, they became less likely to act on their prejudices at their next opportunity. It didn’t make them less racist; they were just less likely to express it openly.
Luckily, millennials are less likely to harbor racial bias… at least up until 2016. More importantly, it has been found that changes in implicit values preceded changes in explicit values by one to six months. This study ended in 2016, but a similar study could be done with data collected from the Project Implicit data to see how things have changed more recently. One wonders how it might could have changed since MAGA infected a third of the nation.
It seems clear that just by having all of this open and thinly veiled racism on the airways and in the ether, it has emboldened those who had buried their racism and not acted on it. It has awoken the inner racist of the white suburban voter who happily voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020.
Social Learning Theory and Racist Mass Shootings
Social Learning Theory is the prediction that learning is predicated on observing and imitating models of behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions. This racist mass shooter in Buffalo writes hisself a screed that most people are calling a manifesto trying to help us understand why he thought murdering a bunch of Black people buying groceries would help preserve the white majority in the country.
As many of the punditing class have noted there are two points of interest here: (a) it was filled with half-baked ideas and memes, (b) it referenced mass shooters who have come before him, and (c) it identifies the Great Replacement Theory — the same one Tucker Carlson has talked about — by name.
That it is poorly written and offers memes as part of its reasoning and explanation should come as no surprise. He is of the generation that has been raised on social media and messaging apps. These folks have no time for complete sentences much less to make the paragraph the unit of their writing or thinking. The meme does the thinking for them. No wonder our world is so FUBAR. But, that really is beside the point.
The point is that having seen the work of those who have murdered enmasse before them, they are not only inspired, but they have the behavior, attitudes, and emotions modelled for them. They have something they can imitate, follow up on, and, in their own twisted way, improve upon. It totally fits Bandura‘s Social Learning Theory.
Bandura identified several things that are important to learning socially:
- You remember the behavior you see. Part of that memory consists of the circumstances that that behavior took place in.
- Identifying with the model (person) doing the behavior makes it more likely that you’ll do the behavior, too. So, these mass shooters see some other racist mass shooter mucking it up with an assault rifle and figger they will, too.
- If the behavior results in some kind of desirable reward like martyrdom or infamy or whatever the shit these racist mass murderers in waiting are saying about each other on the internet forums, then it makes it more likely to be imitated.
- The reinforcement or response to the behavior won’t matter if it doesn’t meet the mass shooters needs, so all of us sitting around sucking our teeth as we offer up our prayers and thoughts or go out an protest or tweet our outrage or post memes or whatever it is we’re doing will matter no more than water on a duck’s back. It’s their peers that matter to these folks.
- If the behavior they’re imitating gets rewarded and reinforced by their environment, then they’re like to do it again. So, unless the cops rush in there and shoot the SOB dead as a black man with a broken turn signal, they’ll do it again if they’re given half a chance.
- And last, the imitator has gotta wanna imitate the behavior. No one walks into a grocery store with an assault rifle with racial epithets written on it and kills ten people unless they wanna go in there and kill people.
These racist mass shooters are even meeting the requirements of Bandura’s theory of human agency. People have the ability to influence their abilities and course of events. We do this in four ways:
- Intentionality. People make plans and use strategies to achieve them. The Buffalo shooter sure did formulate a plan.
- Temporality. People can use forethought to set goals and predict outcomes, and base their decisions on these. The Buffalo shooter sure had some ideas about malice aforethought and going down in infamy.
- Self-reactivity. People regulate themselves, manipulating their emotions, temporing reactions, hyping themselves up, and other such stuff.
- Self-reflectivity. People look at their own behaviors, attitudes, and ideas. They make judgments on whether what they are thinking or doing is a good idea. Ever notice how the more deranged a person is or stupid — Hold mah beer! — the less self-reflective they are?
Stopping Racist Mass Shootings
None of this is any good unless we can use it help ourselves. It points us in the direction of policy, law, and action. We’ve got to protest and boycott them what promote prejudiced behavior. Pressuring cable companies to allow people to opt out of paying for Fox News is one thing we can do. Pressuring reporters to calling a turd a turd is another. Racism, murder, lying all have to be accurately identified. Countering defamatory humor when we hear it is another. We have got to stop people from feeling comfortable publicly expressing their racism and shit.
Then, we have to interrupt the reward cycle of these folks. Those forums where they mass from different parts of the country have to be regulated. It is a scary thought in this day and age, but hate speech has to be monitored and removed. We certainly have the technology to do a better job than we’re doing now.
And, last, we have to start voting inline with our beliefs and desires for the country. If we want gun laws and regulations, we have to elect people who will enact them. If we want to counter systemic racism, we have to elect people who will write and enforce the regulations that will curb it. That means white people have to quit being so easily bated by racist dog whistling.
The good news is that these things are achievable and more people seem to be aware of the dire circumstances that we’re living in. Hopefully, that will result in a massive turnout in the 2022 election and the right people squeaking out a win.
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Categories: Gun Violence