There’s a lot being said about the shooting that occurred in Buffalo, New York, but as both myself and Joe Cunningham have been discussing, the underlying issue concerning all of it is the mental illness factor.
Everything we know about the shooter so far suggests that lurking below his ideological radicalism is a disturbed person.
(READ: The Buffalo Shooter’s Ideas and Beliefs in One Easy Thread Helps Paint a Larger Picture)
Outside of the fact that he walked into a store and shot innocent people, his past interactions with authorities and fellow classmates indicate a delusional young man who acted bizarrely at the best of times. He would openly declare that he believed the best kind of state is one that mirrored Nazism almost one to one. He would wear entire hazmat suits to school.
At one point in 2021, he made a general threat to his community resulting in authorities taking him in and performing a psych evaluation that lasted a day and a half and, so far as we know, didn’t seem to lead anywhere to the kid getting help.
I couldn’t help but wonder about a few things and reach a sad conclusion.
Firstly, and most obviously, our society does not value discussions surrounding mental illness as well as it should. People either think that kind of discussion is only going to create weaker minds. This is especially applied to men who are just expected to suck it up and walk on. Men who do reach out are often considered weak and looked down on, up to and sometimes including their own significant others.
Men are encouraged, both directly and indirectly, to keep their feelings to themselves lest they be the target of ridicule by both strangers and those close to them.
So here we have a boy who was clearly disturbed, doing bizarre and odd things, openly declaring his attraction to extremist ideologies, and it would appear no one lifted a finger to help him until he made a general threat. While I’m not saying that this kid deserves sympathy, I have to wonder if this could have been avoided if he had found someone willing to help him get to the bottom of his behavior.
This leads me to my second point; the people who did talk to him.
As the shooter himself testifies, he became radicalized on 4Chan after browsing /pol/, one of its politically focused forums. To be clear, 4Chan is not a site wholly dedicated to sympathetic talk about Nazism, but it definitely is there.
The shooter says that he began browsing 4Chan in May 2020 due to the extreme boredom brought on by COVID. He was seduced by the various information thrown his way, memes, economic figures, etc. until he arrived at the political point he is now.
Let’s zoom out for a second and look at the big picture.
We currently live in a time where it is acceptable in mainstream culture to look down upon white men. They’re blasted for not having our own culture, for being the root of evil. They’re blamed for misogyny, slavery, income inequality, and climate change. I’m not exaggerating on that last one.
(READ: Alexandria Ocasio-Crazy: AOC Sinks to Blaming White People for the Death of Her Grandfather)
This attitude has had a very wide-sweeping effect but few are actually willing to stand up and fight against it for fear of being labeled as a white supremacist, racist, or fan of the patriarchy.
Now imagine you’re a disturbed white boy who is clearly outcast by his peers in the midst of a society that tells him he’s as good as the freshest pimple on Satan’s behind due to his sex and color. During a time when being disconnected was at its peak, he seeks connection and finds it in one of the worst places you possibly can. This disturbed kid is fed hate and acceptance in equal measure, acceptance of his color and sex to the point of supremacy, and hate for everyone else. He drinks it in like a person who hasn’t had a sip in days.
He becomes radicalized, just like his new community. Toss in his mental illness and you have a kid who’s angry for all the wrong reasons, reaches all the wrong conclusions, and decides to take all the wrong actions.
We have a society that doesn’t value mental health the way that it should and is very selective about how it’s provided when they do. The Buffalo shooter is clearly one of those people who, as Cunningham put it, slipped through the cracks despite all the signs being right in front of us. It’s a perfect, volatile mixture that had a very high chance of leading to dead, innocent people.
One has to wonder how many people would still be alive if others had gotten to this kid before the radicals did and really tried to help him. One has to wonder how this would have played out differently if hatred toward white men wasn’t so accepted in our country. I’d say we’ll never know now, but this won’t be the last mass shooting we see coming from this kind of person.
So the real question becomes: When will we learn?