The Veteran’s Perspective “Self-Radicalization” – Where Mass Shooting Becomes Terrorism

By Elmer Ellsworth and the Veteran’s Perspective

The morning after the latest mass shooting event in San Bernardino, George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s Good Morning America asked incredulously “Is it really possible that people can become radicalized just over the internet?” Although it does appear likely that there was more activity than merely internet or social media activity that led to the “radicalization” in this instance, the “uniqueness” of this latest event demonstrates that we are at a new point in the evolution of this clash of civilizations.

Here is the Veteran’s Perspective in the aftermath of this latest tragedy.

Yes, It Only Takes the Internet to Radicalize – That is the reality in which we live. I expect that Mr. Stephanopoulos and many others in the media profession and those in the partisan world of domestic politics understand very well how easy it is to use social media to “spin up” excitement and fanfare. People on the far right and far left in our country spend enormous time and effort to convince people to become rabid supporters of their political and philosophical viewpoints. So, it really should not come as any surprise to anybody that it only takes the internet to inspire radical even fanatical and irrational behavior. After all, the recent shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility as an example of how easy it is for people to “self-radicalize.”

Welcome to the New World War – The “Type” of Terrorism is Irrelevant – Clearly people are using the framework of domestic partisan politics to try and categorize each mass shooting event in the way that best supports their particular agenda. As the Veterans’ Perspective has continuously said, if you truly want to understand and thus defeat “terrorism” you must remove all partisan agendas from your perspective. In this “New World Order”, instances of violence in the form of workplace violence, mass shootings and other atrocities that also have elements of traditional terrorism WILL be increasingly more common!! It may even become the new “normal” for terrorist attacks. People need to stop trying to turn every incident or event into examples that support their partisan political viewpoint and instead focus on ALL of the contributing factors and solutions.

Make No Mistake – This was Terrorism – The shooters in this instance clearly planned and prepared for this attack which was intended to inflict mass casualties and terrorize people. The shooters may have had frustrations with certain “workplace” matters, but make no mistake this incident was intended to send a message and illicit a “political” response. While the shooters attempted to escape without capture, all indications are they did not intend for this to be a one act show.

Terrorists Win When We Fight Over Motive & Intentions – What is very striking is how even mainstream media outlets struggled during the early stages of this event to place it within the context of the broader partisan battle that rages within American society. What is more striking is how this type of reaction is exactly what fuels terrorism. Once the public starts giving consideration to what the demands or concerns are of the “terrorists”, they have succeeded in influencing our behavior and our policies by inflicting violence on civilians and soft targets. That is precisely the intention of terrorism.

Of Course Access to Guns is an Issue, But NOT the Key Issue – President Obama is correct when he points out that the proliferation of guns is a problem. He is also correct that there are legislative actions that can be taken to make it more difficult for certain people (like people on a no fly list) to get certain types of weapons. Many laws are already on the books – loopholes need to be closed and existing laws need to be enforced. However, for President Obama or any politician (or keyboard warrior on social media) to claim that this problem can be solved simply by passing gun control laws is just as irrational and possibly irresponsible as those who claim that the availability of guns are not part of the problem.

Other Factors Contributing to “Mass Shooting” & Terrorist Events – It does not matter if this is a domestic criminal incident or an international terrorist event, both are essentially the same. From the Veterans’ Perspective, the following lessons are equally applicable to mass shooter events as they are to terrorist events:

  • Resist the natural reaction we all have when horrible things happen – which is to look for blame so we can feel better. The ONLY place blame should be directed is towards the shooters and those supporting the shooters!!
  • Yes, the availability of guns is a contributing factor that must be addressed, but to reduce these instances to the existence of weapons is a dangerous oversimplification of the problem.
  • Do not give credit to motives and intentions of the shooters or excuses for their behavior. It is their objective to have others explain, rationalize or justify their actions.
  • As long as there are evil people who wish to do harm to others, these incidents will continue to occur. And, there are most certainly a large number of evil people wishing to do enormous harm.
  • Soft targets are and always will be very vulnerable (as long as America is the land of the free). It is IMPOSSIBLE to protect everybody everywhere. These instances are incredibly easy to execute.
  • We cannot ignore that massive “media” attention and “Hollywood” glorification of violence contributes to these problems as much as the availability of weapons.
  • We also cannot ignore that the “victim culture” — where every disgruntled individual is led to believe that their problem is the doing of some other person or group — is certainly a contributing factor.

In the end, the only basis for dealing with these types of events is to be unwavering in holding people accountable for their actions and conduct. We must be a nation and a society of laws. It is the only way to enforce and instill personal accountability. Similarly, we need to stop glorifying (or even giving justification for) the motives and intentions of evil doers. After all, there can never be any justification or rational motive for killing civilian non-combatants.

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