bombs for clicks

They believe in something. Enough to kill people, including themselves. Federal authorities arrested a NY man in his 50’s for plotting to blow himself up with a 200 lbs bomb on the Washington Mall on election day. While this may seem entirely mad, there is a rationale that motivated his behavior. He wanted to draw attention to his idea of a better form of government – sortition – where representatives are randomly selected as opposed to using voting polls to determine the legislative body. While it has been suggested that rampage actors may kill to gain personal notoriety or fame, it may be more likely that they wish to draw attention to an issue or more importantly, a solution that they feel would resolve an injustice.

As one commenter on an article stated:
“So, here’s the plan… I blow myself up, right… and then, there are no remaining believers in ‘sortition’… wait, this is the best part… so, then the press has to figure out what the heck ‘sortition’ is and they will finally have to look at my web site cause that’s the only place you can find it.”

And suddenly, millions of news absorbers learn about this new concept. This is not far from the new awareness about incels that came from a man who drove down people on the streets of Toronto in April of this year. It was the stated intention of Anders Breivik who murdered scores of children in Norway just to publicize his Manifesto. While it can be misleading to focus on the ideology itself as the root cause of the violence, we need to understand the enabling publicity that they garner for these actions. They may do it for the attention that they will inevitably get. There has been a recent media movement to avoid saying the name of the accuser but this may have limited impact on reduction. What they really want is attention to their cause, the injustice that they perceive and sometimes the solution that they desire.

The sad reality is that there will always be widespread coverage of these events. The absurdity of the act will naturally lead to questions about why they did it. A haunting remnant of the Las Vegas concert shooting is the apparent lack of motive. Many in the news and social media posts will demonize whatever ideology backed the assailant’s reasoning but the truth is that every belief system has it irrational and dangerous fringes. Finger pointing and accusations just tends to lead to further division and animosity.

So what solutions can work to prevent rampage violence? There is no simple, single answer but we can look at what did stop this tragedy from occuring. A bystander, a person who know about the potential danger came forward and reported it. We need to thank the law enforcement officers who intervened but that would not have been possible unless someone stepped forward. Oddly enough, it is not uncommon for perpetrators to “leak” information about their intended rampage. It is perhaps the same desire for their plan to get attention from the media after the incident that leads them to tell others beforehand. The best hope to stop these tragedies from occurring is for people to be aware of potential threats and to decide to do something. Thank you to whoever came forward about this thwarted bombing planned for November 5th.