Training wheels of hate

I don’t generally comment on modern horrors such as the deaths in Gaza or in US classrooms because I don’t have anything to say beyond heartfelt but trite platitudes. But there’s a detail about the ongoing situation in Maine, where a man recently discharged from a mental hospital has killed nearly 20 people, that’s worth highlighting.

At the time of writing the mass murderer Robert Card is still on the run, but there’s a growing body of evidence showing what motivated him. And surprise surprise, Twitter is in there – so much so that Elon Musk apparently had Card’s account pulled from the service, presumably because it shows how much time Card spent on Musk’s timelines and on those of other right-wingers. The logs are widely available online and it’s very much a case of Musk Musk Musk Carlson Musk Donald Trump Musk… you get the idea.

Not only that but one of the paths to his radicalisation appears to be that favourite of the far right, the supposed danger of trans people: among his recent likes on Twitter, Card liked posts from Donald Trump Jr and by Tucker Carlson railing against the supposed dangers of “trans/non-binary mass shooters” and how the trans movement is the “natural enemy” of Christians and “pushing their gender affirming bullshit on our kids”. As Wired puts it, his Twitter profile “was filled with conspiracy theories about trans mass shooters and pro-MAGA content.”

I’ve written about this before: it’s called stochastic terrorism, a way of inciting violence while keeping your own hands clean. The Donald Trump Jrs, Tucker Carlsons and other sulphurous bastards of the world don’t commit acts of terrorism. But their words are read by and fuel the hatred of people who do. And in a country where severe mental illness and domestic violence convictions are no barrier to assault rifle ownership, that hatred can lead to unspeakable horrors.

It’s too early to say definitively what caused Card to become a killer, and of course these things are multi-factorial: this particular toxic cocktail appears to include severe mental illness, among other things. But again and again we’re seeing the internet radicalising people to kill, and increasingly that radicalisation includes anti-trans propaganda – because the far right use that as a gateway to further radicalisation, the training wheels of hate.