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Aaron brings over thirty years of experience as a first responder, emergency manager, and consultant, resulting in a specialized understanding of risk, crisis, and consequence management. Focusing on what his wife describes as “messy medicine,” Aaron applies his experience as a First Responder and Emergency Manager to engage organizations and maximize their resilience in the face of both tangible and intangible disruptions. As an equal parts instigator, facilitator, and educator, he has dedicated his professional life to proving his point that we are all out of good options once a response has begun.

To set context – I am currently working on several projects involving development of individual and organizational capabilities for the prevention of Active Assailant (formerly known as Active Shooter) incidents. I have spent the last year immersed in the works of Calhoun and Weston and other behavioral health professionals examining motivations and diagnostic/indicating behaviors for individuals moving along a Pathway to Violence from ideation to action.

We Live in Interesting Times

I am watching the MSM coverage of the Atlanta Massage Parlor shootings – and I find myself feeling a strange combination of amused and concerned. The MSM, and large portions of other media sources, are presenting a narrative that claims the shootings were racially motivated, focusing on an animus against Asians. The reporting on the victims of the shooting focus on the point that the majority of them were of Asian heritage. There is very limited acknowledgement of or discussion about the non-Asian individuals who were killed or wounded.

The shooter, now in custody, has reportedly made clear statements, documented in several outlets, that his motivations were related to a sex addiction and had nothing to do with the race of his victims.  The massage parlors were “temptations” that he wanted to eliminate. Interviews with close associates confirmed that the shooter has been/was being treated for a diagnosed sex addiction and that there were multiple environmental stressors and behavioral indicators that demonstrated he was on a Pathway to Violence. On the surface, none of the described stressors or indicators were related to racial issues – they all related back to his addiction and his interactions with family and employers in that context.

Knowing Someone Better Than Themselves

I have now read several editorials stating that the shooter obviously did not know himself, and that his motivations HAD to be racist in nature. I think the most bombastic statement was that this is a White Male who hyper-sexualized Asian Females, and then killed them. That correlates to an act of White Supremacy. The lengths to which some individuals are going to change a correlative relationship (there were Asian individuals at the massage parlors that were targeted) to a causative relationship (the shooter targeted Asian people who happened to be at massage parlors) is amazing. The secondary questions about why there is a prevalence of Asian females in that part of the sex trade is an entirely different conversation – and I think it is worth having but it is not directly related to this line of thought.

Watching the frenzy of talking heads all proclaiming that this was a racially-motivated attack reminds me of the ‘feeding frenzy’ video that shows up on television every year during Shark Week. Dozens of individuals all thrashing about mindlessly, locked into a pattern of involuntary reflex behaviors because there is blood in the water. Each voice attempting to be more extreme that the last, fighting for the public’s attention in an attempt to claim every last click or view that they can. Labeling something as being racially-driven is a proven technique for accomplishing this. It’s a dog whistle – capturing attention without providing anything beyond noise. Unfortunately it is extremely effective. And because it is so effective, it is not going away anytime soon.

Words Have Consequences

The PIO for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office has now been removed from his role in the case due to complaints about his “rhetoric” regarding the shooter and his motivations. I believe the problematic statements were “He had a bad day,” and a clear statement that the incident was not racially motivated. I think the “He had a bad day,”  statement was a problematic – a better description of the escalation of stress and the failure of coping strategies could have been presented. The reporting of the shooter’s statements regarding his motivations was factual. As I mentioned earlier, those statements by the shooter have been verified by multiple sources.

I am concerned that we are watching the active politicization of a horrible crime. I am also concerned that we are watching the active use of disinformation about that crime to drive a social agenda.

If all crimes are now hate crimes…. what is next?