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The Gamification of Death

“The New Zealand massacre was live-streamed on Facebook, announced on 8chan, reposted on YouTube, commentated about on Reddit, and mirrored around the world before the tech companies could even react.”

Drew Harwell, Twitter

“Games are the new normal.” Al Gore

“This is about fun and games but the stakes and learning could not be more serious.”— James Doyle

“Do your part and spread this brothers!” “Keep up the good fight.” 

— Patrick Crusius

This week, during the two year anniversary of More than Meets the Eye, I am writing about a subject that presses very close to home for many of us. We will take a deep look at the three mass shooting tragedies that occurred this past week, two of which happened within a 24 hour period. These murders took place in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. 

We may be going to a community festival, out to a restaurant, to the store to pick up some detergent, or to buy a new pair of school shoes for our child, when suddenly our whole world gets turned upside down by a complete stranger. With premeditated precision he loads his weapons, makes his plans and kills and maims people he doesn’t even know, for what appears to be no apparent reason. 

I do not want to simply skim over the facts surrounding the killings. I plan to examine the potential connectedness of these events to other events. As we investigate we will  determine if there are connections that may not appear to the natural eye. (I will not enter into the whole gun control debate. I think the social problem is much bigger than simply getting rid of guns. People will kill one another in earnest with or without guns, but that discussion will be left for better minds than mine.)

Lastly, we will learn to look closer to home to see if there are those around us who are hurting to the point of hurting others. I am not talking about an emotional disorder in a select few that somehow snap and go over the edge. I want us to see the deeper ramifications of harboring anger, racism, xenophobia and yes, even hatred for those who differ from us. We must see that terrorism is not just a Muslim problem, or a dilemma belonging to foreigners. It is an “us” problem. G.K. Chesterton once said, “It isn’t that they cannot find the solution. It is that they cannot see the problem.” I fear that sometimes we are looking in the wrong direction for the issues. We look without; perhaps it is time for us to peer within.

I often ask myself when confronted with problems: “Am I going to be part of the solution, or part of the problem?” I earnestly believe that we cannot be a part of the solution to these social catastrophes, until we admit that it is very likely that we ourselves are part of the actual problem. A.W. Tozer once wrote, “Of all forms of deception, self-deception is the most deadly, and of all deceived persons the self-deceived are the least likely to discover the fraud.” One thing is for certain, there is more than meets the eye in each of these tragedies. We may discover that there are connections that will disturb us, especially when they point to the possibility that the killings are being turned into a game.

Review.

Just in case you have been in a cave for the past week, here is a review.

Gilroy…On 28 July, 2019, at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, in Gilroy, California, 19-year-old Santino William Legan cut a hole in the fence, entered with a SKS variant of the AK-47 and murdered 4 people, including himself, and wounded 12 others. Police have yet to discover Legan’s motivation. Before the incident, he posted a picture with a caption that told followers to read a 19th-century, proto-fascist book, “White makes Right,” by Ragnar Redbeard. The book, which is repeatedly recommended alongside works by Hitler and other fascists on forums like 8chan, is full of anti-Semitic, sexist and white supremacist ideology. The book glorifies “Aryan” men, condemns inter-marriage between races, and defends violence based on bogus eugenicist tropes.

El Paso… On August 3, 2019, at around 11am local time, initial police reports indicated that a gunman had walked into a Walmart and opened fire. The officials said that an assault style rifle similar to an AK-47 and several magazines were secured at the scene.The killer announced the start of his rampage on 8chan’s /pol board. The poster also attached a four-page manifesto to the post, along with a document in his original post that included his name — Patrick Crusius. Twenty-two people have died and twenty-six were wounded in the mass shooting.

DaytonNine people were killed and 27 others injured early on Sunday. The gunman was shot dead by local police.The shooter was identified as 24-year-old Connor Betts, of Bellbrook, Ohio. He did not have a record with police. Betts used an assault-style rifle, a .223 caliber weapon with high capacity magazines. He wore body armor and a mask during the shooting. To date there has been no hate crime nexus identified in the Dayton shooting, which occurred outside Ned Peppers bar in the city’s historic Oregon District. Law enforcement officials confirmed that the suspect’s sister, Megan Betts, 22, was among the nine victims.

It would be easy to link all three of these events due to the proximity of their occurrence and the methodology of their attacks. Certainly, the weapons of choice are interesting, since they are similar. Two of the assailants carried variants of an AK-47. The third used an AR-15. All three were semi-automatic variants of their military equivalents, which are automatic weapons with high round capacities. All three incidents appeared to aim at random targets and gatherings of people for a variety of reasons. Children were killed in Gilroy and El Paso. The Dayton killing was in a bar. On Saturday, 8chan users passed around a Google spreadsheet listing some of these shootings: the dates, locations, and  number of kills. Anders Breivik and Dylann Roof, commonly referred to on 8chan as “martyrs,” were at the top of the list of those who kill. Patrick Crusius was at the bottom. 

What are the distinctive differences, which in my mind separate these killings in terms of how they will be investigated? For my newer readers, you should know that the term “terrorist” is a loaded term in the USA and fraught with legal meaning. So far, only one of the three is being treated as a “domestic terrorist” event. Can you guess which one from the short descriptions above? That’s right; it is the El Paso shooting. Not because more died. Not because of the place or the kind of weapon used. It will be interesting to see if the Gilroy shooting is treated as a domestic terrorist event or not. 

Why is it extremely important that we understand what terrorism is? It is a federal crime, defined by federal statutes. Murder is usually a state offense. Most states want to investigate their own crimes, so often they will err on the side of leaning towards murder, instead of terrorism. International and domestic terrorism are defined in federal law under 18 USC 2331. International and domestic terrorism are defined as violent or dangerous acts that endanger human life, and violate state or federal law. Further, such acts are intended to coerce or intimidate civilians, or to influence government policy or government conduct through mass destruction, kidnapping or assassination. The telling phrase in that definition is the presence of an ideology that is being impressed upon either its victims or the government. That is what separates the Gilroy and El Paso shooting from the Dayton event.

Though the investigators of the Gilroy and El Paso shootings are calling each one a lone-wolf domestic terrorist event, they will most likely not be considered lone-wolf events for long. Approximately 45 minutes before the attack,  Patrick Crusius posted a manifesto on a deep website called 8Chan. Looking to an archived copy of the 8chan post, it can be seen that the post was made at the Unix time of 1564848920, which converts to August 3, 2019 at 4:15pm (UTC) — or, in local El Paso time (UTC-6), 10:15am, just before the first reports surfaced of the shooting in El Paso. This original 8chan thread was deleted almost immediately by site moderators, who by now have gotten quite experienced at pulling mass shooting threads from their website. The archived version of the post has only three responses. The first is an anon claiming that 8chan is a “board of peace” which does not condone violence. This phrasing is a meme among the anons; a mocking reference to statements that Islam is a “religion of peace”. The next poster after that said simply, “Every shabbat”, expressing his hope that mass shootings like this happen every weekend.

The El Paso shooter’s manifesto and 8chan post, show his radicalization and turn towards white suprematism, the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto, and the video of his massacre, likely acting as major influences in his eventual attack. The most important takeaways from the El Paso shooting are twofold: 8chan’s /pol board continues to deliberately radicalize mass shooters. The act of massacring innocents has been gamified. I would encourage you to resist the temptation to go to the 8 chan website. It is not indexed by Google, because Google kicked them off their browser search. But they exist in the deep, unindexed web. FYI, the deep web is approximately 500 times the size of the surface web that you and I see on a daily basis. 

The gamification of mass shootings is creepily illustrated very clearly by some of the comments found online in the wake of this shooting. In this discussion thread, after an anon post screenshot of the El Paso shooter’s thread, another asks, “Is nobody going to check these incredible digits?” This statement is likely a reference to the shooter’s substantial body count. This is being turned into a white supremacist’s game, where an unofficial score is being kept.

Look at these other references going back as far as Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing, the clear reference point for white supremacist rampages. If you have not spent hours upon hours reading 8chan/pol, that statement might not be particularly legible, but within the context of months of posting, the meaning is clear. Ever since the Christchurch shooting spree, 8chan users have commented regularly on Brenton Tarrant’s high bodycount, and made references to their desire to “beat his high score.” 

What is seen here is evidence of the only real innovation 8chan has brought to global terrorism: the gamification of mass violence. We see this not just in the references to “high scores,” but in the very way the Christchurch shooting was carried out. Brenton Tarrant live-streamed his massacre from a helmet cam in a way that made the shooting look almost exactly like a First Person Shooter video game. This was a conscious choice, as was his decision to pick a sound-track for the spree that would entertain and inspire his viewers. This is an incredibly disturbing development in the world of crime and hatred.

I have provided a link to the Crime Research Institute for you to compare the occurrences of mass killings in the United States to those in Europe. Media would have us believe that mass murder is unique to the USA. This site suggests otherwise.

Why.

I hate racism of any kind. I especially despise white supremacist racism. I also do not like being lumped in with white males who are white supremacists, merely because my skin is fair. I think it is wrong to throw everyone into one pot over something by which they have no control whatsoever. Will we dump all green-eyed people into one pot? All red-haired people into another? The only right answer is to treat all humans as individuals accountable for their good deeds along with their bad ones.

The growing tension between races is a human problem that will only be solved as we learn to love and appreciate one another in the midst of all our diversity. Murderers like Santino William Legan, Patrick Crusius and Connor Betts are being used to drive a wedge between us as humans. My question is as always: Will we be part of the solution or part of the problem? Using labels to blanket groups of people by their skin tone, hair style or eye color is foolish and will only lead to the destruction of an already degenerating race of human beings. God never intended it to be this way. 

Our only hope as humans is to learn not only to tolerate one another, but to respect and honor each other as individuals. Let us love one another as human beings as God intended. Apart from that I have little hope for future generations of people. 

Action.

What can you and I do? Here are some practical ways we can help in the midst of specific tragedies such as Gilroy, El Paso and Ohio.

Ideas on how to survive a mass shooting… 

  1. Prepare mentally ahead of time for these events.
  2. Find escape routes as quickly as possible. 
  3. If you cannot flee a building, barricade yourself in a room. 
  4. Fight (but only) if necessary. 
  5. Run in the direction of law enforcement (with your hands visible).

*Read the whole article …It will help.

Here is a good article on how to prevent mass shootings.  Bottom line: pay attention to the lives of those around you. If you see something, say something.  https://www.cheatsheet.com/health-fitness/the-crazy-thing-most-deadly-mass-shootings-have-in-common.html/

Let’s move the human condition forward, not backwards.  Love your neighbor as yourself. You will never go wrong by loving others, never! In the end, that is the only hope for humanity. 

The follow-up.

Syrian army to resume operations in rebel-held Idlib… https://eblnews.com/video/syrian-army-resume-operations-rebel-held-idlib-722062

[Update] Crisis in Yemen… https://missionsbox.org/news/update-crisis-in-yemen/

The feed-back.

For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at:  david@morethanmeets.co

Resources.

For an interesting look at a comparison of mass killings between the USA and the EU take a look at this website at Crime Research. You might be shocked to see that the US is only half way up the list. https://crimeresearch.org/2015/06/comparing-death-rates-from-mass-public-shootings-in-the-us-and-europe/

https://www.federalcharges.com/terrorism-laws-charges/

https://www.deepweb-sites.com/how-big-is-the-deep-web/2/

https://www.deepweb-sites.com/how-big-is-the-deep-web/

https://www.bellingcat.com/news/americas/2019/08/04/the-el-paso-shooting-and-the-gamification-of-terror/

https://eblnews.com/video/what-do-we-know-about-brendan-tarrant-australian-man-arrested-new-zealand-attacks-633899

https://www.thealternativedaily.com/how-to-survive-a-mass-shooting

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-el-paso-shooting-and-the-virality-of-evil

https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/d3agdq/nine-people-killed-in-dayton-mass-shooting-hours-after-el-paso-massacre

https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/7x5z4a/el-paso-shooting-suspect-patrick-crusius

https://nationalpost.com/news/world/what-is-8chan-and-why-did-the-new-zealand-shooter-use-it-to-announce-himself-to-the-world

https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/8chan/

© 2019 • More Than Meets