News Brief: Right-Wing Media’s Increasingly Goofy, Hyper-Militarized Non-Solutions to Mass Shootings

Sean Hannity has opinions on the shooting in Uvalde, Texas. (Courtesy of Media Matters)

[Music]

Nima Shirazi: Welcome to a Citations Needed News Brief. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: You can follow Citations Needed on Twitter @CitationsPod, Facebook Citations Needed, and become a supporter of the show through Patreon.com/CitationsNeededPodcast. All your support through Patreon is so incredibly appreciated as we are 100 percent listener funded. We do these News Briefs in between our regularly scheduled full length episodes when the news requires it and where we’re seeing a lot of tropes that we really want to dissect. That happens, of course, all the time, kind of the basis of our show in general. Adam, this week, the United States has seen yet another mass shooting at a school, this time in Uvalde, Texas. I am beyond furious at the country that we live in, and so this has been kind of all-consuming lately. The media has been covering this consistently. We wanted to talk about how the media covers these, but also namely what we are seeing in terms of excuses for the impossibility, of course, the political infeasibility of doing anything about the fact that this happens all the fucking time and that children’s lives in this country are apparently not important enough to actually try and protect with reasonable policy, what we’re seeing from the right-wing echo chamber in terms of their own solutions.

Adam: Yeah, so, I mean, look, it is a legitimately complicated question. I think there are basic bottom-floor things any country can do, any society can do.

Nima: And that every society but ours does.

Adam: Right. Well, yeah, a vast majority of them do. Which is things like basic background checks. We’ve had an episode on the show before where we argue against carceral solutions, specifically, the liberal tendency after school shootings to pass laws on a local and state level that tack on five to 10 years to people’s prison sentences. So anyone who’s dealt in criminal justice reform knows that one of the huge drivers of mass incarceration and how many years people spend in prison is gun laws. So you have to be careful not to just immediately start criminalizing poor Black kids to get some kind of vengeance because the right doesn’t really care about that. So they kind of let it happen. The non-carceral solutions, like universal background checks, things like going after gun manufacturers to make them criminally and civilly liable. Things that are non-carceral that are incredibly basic that I think everyone can agree on would not in any way eliminate mass shootings, but would certainly reduce them. I think there’s a ton of empirical evidence that shows that’s the case. That’s off the table in this country.

Nima: Of course, always.

Adam: Because guns are such a, you know, I don’t want to get too much into the sort of psychological profile or the pop-psychological or sociological profile, but they are a quasi-religion. They’re tied up in all kinds of patriarchal and racial inferiority complexes. Again, I will sort of spare you that, because I know most people sort of know that, but it’s a very visceral, very emotional topic for a certain cohort of, I think it’s fair to say, partisan Republican. Obviously there are pro-gun Democrats, but I don’t think it carries the kind of psychosexual baggage it does for Republicans.

Nima: Well, and also pro-gun Democrats are also very pro-background checks and shit like that.

Adam: Yeah, it’s a fairly recent phenomenon. It wasn’t so staunchly and aggressively partisan until fairly recently. But one thing you do see is every single time there’s a mass shooting, Republican senators and Republican pundits and Fox News and partisan messaging apparatuses of those institutions, they clearly have a whiteboarding session where they come up with new reasons why gun control isn’t the solution, and we wanted to sort of start off by, and much of what we’re going to be citing today is this from the people at Media Matters, again, who document Fox News, and so we’re grateful for that.

Nima: Yeah, absolutely. So that we don’t have to actually watch —

Adam: We’re gonna start off playing a video by Katherine Abughazaleh at Media Matters who did a montage if you will, a supercut of pundits on Fox News giving solutions to mass shootings, none of which involve any kind of gun control at all.

[Begin Clip Montage]

Man #1: I advocate always for an armed security guard

Man #2: Armed School Safety Officer

Man #3: Armed deputy

Man #4: Arming teachers

Man #5: Potentially arm and prepare and train teachers and other administrators

Man #6: Armed school staffers

Man #7: Bring in policeman

Man #8: Training. The students themselves

Man #9: Retired military, retired law enforcement, we can offer them tax breaks.

Man #10: If you give law enforcement the opportunity to impose martial law we can guarantee safety and security.

Man #11: Securing that perimeter, kind of provide a kind of a ring of steel

Man #12: If you have the fences, you have the main administration building and then you have wide gaps on either side. The fencing is not very high.

Woman #1: Were the doors locked?

Woman #2: Bulletproof glass

Woman #3: All of these shootings have happened at the same time that we see religion and Christian values and Judeo Christian values declining.

Man #13: Anybody who decides that they want to do something like this should immediately know that attacking a school is a death sentence for them.

Man #14: Kids are afraid of being the school snitch.

Woman #4: We have to stop letting these schools be gun free zones.

Man #15: People need to put their phones down and get to know the person next to them.

Woman #5: We have spent billions of dollars on COVID related measures for our schools. Let’s take some of that money and divert it over to hardening these soft targets.

Man #16: A lot of these private schools, they take security way more serious.

Woman #6: Parents take your children to church.

Woman #7: This anti-police narrative is forcing people not to call police.

Man #17: A series of interlocking doors at the school entrance that are triggered by a tripwire and it traps the shooter like a rat.

Woman #8: God is the answer to that.

Woman #9: There’s a moral rot going on that we all need to dig in and try to address.

Man #18: I vote for decreasing social media exposure.

Man #19: We need to start focusing on mental health.

Man #20: Tell us why you think it’s important to pray in a moment like this.

Woman #10: It calls for faith and prayer.

Woman #11: Why is it that schools aren’t protected in the same way that airports.

Woman #12: There are some people who don’t want police officers in schools with guns because other people are triggered.

Man #21: Assault rifle and enhanced body armor

Man #22: Notification system to let everybody in the school know what’s happening.

Man #23: Single point of entry.

Man #24: I don’t like talking about this stuff as it happens because I don’t think it contributes to anything positive.

Man #25: Parents should be held accountable for raising their children properly.

Woman #13: Ballistic blankets,

Man #26: We just don’t have the resources to get law enforcement there quickly.

Man #27: How about an executive order for these mental health facilities

Woman #14: We have to start rebuilding this country and returning to God.

Man #28: I arm myself everywhere I legally can.

Man #29: It’s up to you to protect yourself.

[End Clip Montage]

Adam: They get increasingly goofy. Senator Ted Cruz proposed, Nima, that we need to limit the amount of exits and entrances in schools to one.

Nima: There are too many doors in schools. So that seems to be something that we really need to figure out in this country, Adam, the guns obviously are not the problem. The doors, doors, too many fucking doors. As they say on Reading Rainbow, ‘don’t take our word for it,’ you have to hear the too-many-doors argument from Ted Cruz himself. Senator Ted Cruz of the State of Texas said this on Fox News on May 25.

[Begin Clip]

Ted Cruz: One of the things that everyone agreed is don’t have all of these unlocked back doors. Have one door into and out of the school and have that one door armed police officers at that door. If that had happened, if those federal grants had gone to this school, when that psychopath arrived, the armed police officers could have taken him out and we’d have 19 children and two teachers still alive.

[End Clip]

Nima: Of course, you know, more locked doors, fewer doors, that is but one of the options of course in that supercut that Media Matters put together, we are losing our Judeo Christian values, Adam, we need more God in school. That’s the problem.

Adam: That’s a classic mainstay, that’s not new. One of the newer ones, which I find to be probably the most cynical because it really, we’re going to be talking about this on next week’s episode to some extent, but the idea that lockdowns, COVID lockdowns because supposedly one reporter said that this particular mass shooter who we will not name, stopped going to school after COVID, and so we’re going to listen to the absolute most, content warning here you have to listen to Tucker Carlson speak.

Nima: Yeah, sorry about that.

Adam: I’m not being ironic. I know that it’s actually somewhat disturbing to certain people because of the fucking way he talks. So we’re going to listen to Tucker. Now of course, this was the line all day on right-wing media, Zaid Jilani, others have pointed to the COVID lockdowns are what caused the shooting.

[Begin Clip]

Tucker Carlson: Oh, so the lockdowns dramatically increased the incidence of mental illness among young people and in 10 days we’ve seen two mass shootings by mentally ill young people, could there be a connection? Now that’s not finger pointing, it’s not to blame Fauci for yesterday’s shooting, we’re not that low. We’re not Joe Biden. But if people are becoming mentally ill because they’re disconnected from others, what can we do to connect them to others and thereby reduce the incidence of mental illness? That’s a real conversation. Is there a more important one?

[End Clip]

Adam: Clearly here what you, what we’re seeing is that they need to come up with new excuses, because the old ones don’t really seem to, the thoughts and prayers is not working anymore.

Nima: New excuses to pretend that they care, right?

Adam: Right.

Nima: They don’t give a shit that this happens all the time, on an average of more than one mass shooting a day, and then when there are things that happen like in Buffalo, that then becomes a different kind of media cycle, as well it should when these horrific things happen, that are even less ordinary than the ordinary mass shootings that just fucking happen every day. But Republicans obviously have no interest in changing any gun laws and curbing anything about gun manufacturers, doing anything about this and so they resort to let’s come up with some things that we can say to hand wring, and obviously blame liberals, blame Democrats, blame progressives and certainly the far left for all of this that of course has nothing to do with the right-wing refusal to do anything about this. It is all about — what? — making sure people are safe during a pandemic or maybe, I’m sure, mask mandates probably drove mass shooters to this point, right?

Adam: Well, their only solution is to come up with an increasingly militarized school system which we already have, and of course, we know that the police officers who were present based on reporting right now, I hesitate to be too harsh —

Nima: Right. That there were law enforcement officers on site.

Adam: Based on current reporting, again, we could learn more later so I don’t want to be too smug about it, but from what it appears that the law enforcement who were there were fucking useless.

Nima: But that’s why, you know, Rambo teachers just need to have AK-47s in the classroom.

Adam: But as we know, with all kinds of carceral ideology, it can never be disproven. So if there’s five cops there, and they all run away, we actually need 20 Cops, and we need to turn teachers into cops, and then the cops themselves need to be super cops, and then the cops need to mate and have sub cops and then they need other cops, and then basically, we should just have a school that’s like 500 Cops and 10 students —

Nima: Who turn into Robocop.

Adam: This is the solution, just have 15 ED-209s roaming the hallways, I mean, this is, I mean, I’m being sarcastic, obviously, but every single time there’s a mass shooting, the solution Republicans come up with is to just throw more fucking police, law enforcement and armed teachers at the problem because they obviously can’t touch the third rail of sensible gun laws.

Nima: And also turn personal safety, the ability for, say, children to stay alive at fucking school into a personal responsibility.

Adam: Of the teachers and the children. Right.

Nima: Right. So they need ballistic blankets, they need to know how to hide better, they need more places to hide.

Adam: Again, a clip pulled by the Franciscan monks at Media Matters, this is from Nicki McCann Ramirez who pulled this clip from Fox News guest Maureen O’Connell, who is said to be a former FBI agent.

Nima: Hmm. Yes.

https://twitter.com/NikkiMcR/status/1529231148689285120

[Begin Clip]

Maureen O’Connell: I mean, this is just beyond shocking. I would like to see this national push toward, instead of parents buying their kids all these tools and toys and games, invest in the classroom to make it safer. There are companies out there that will do that, they’ll come out and they’ll do threat assessment of the whole school, they’ll say this is an area of vulnerability that you might want to address and this is how we would address it. And they have, I mean, they have blankets that you can put up on the wall that are colorful and beautiful, but they’re ballistic blankets. I mean, there are ways to obscure the classroom windows so that the shooter can’t have target acquisition. I mean, there’s just a million tools out there, and we’ve been banging this drum for years. Let’s start investing in our kids and in the safety of our children.

[End Clip]

Nima: Okay, so that’s just fucking ridiculous, right? That she’s hand wringing and saying, ‘Oh, my God, let’s care about the children finally, let’s put up Kevlar tapestries in schools,’ that that’s the way to care about kids that, you know, there are so many things they can do, Adam, right?

Adam: Yeah.

Nima: There’s so many solutions, except the obvious ones.

Adam: Yeah. And then there’s the sort of other argument that you see from, I don’t want to get Democrats totally off the hook here, but for the purposes of this episode we’re going to focus on, well, there was the Matt Yglesias take that was, would have been infamous which is, quote, “For all the very real problems, one shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the contemporary United States of America is one of the safest places to live in all of human history and there’s a reason tons of people of all kinds, from all over the world, clamor to move here.” Setting aside the narcissism and chauvinism of that statement —

Nima: Oh great, the Nick Kristof argument.

Adam: Yeah, what the people will say very often is that school shootings are actually very rare, that you shouldn’t legislate around what is basically a one in a million chance of your kid dying, you shouldn’t sort of live in fear of the one in a million chance of dying. And while that’s true, the US still has way more gun deaths in general and also way more mass shootings than even countries with comparable amount of guns, forget the comparable population, just actual amount of guns, because there’s basically no regulation and the last two major mass shootings would have been stopped, had there have been some form of background check. You know, they say, ‘Well, bad guys are going to get guns no matter what.’ Some will, but some won’t, and the point is mitigation and lowering the possibility.

Nima: Seatbelts don’t save everyone in every single fucking car crash. But seatbelts are important, right? It’s about mitigation.

Adam: Yeah. And so this leads us to the next, this is not a new one, this has been popular forever, which is this idea that the left only cares when white suburban kids are killed in these mass shootings, which of course are definitionally senseless and have no, you know, there’s no sort of social factors. They’re random, this is why they strike at the heart.

Nima: Right. That’s the narrative that these totally come out of nowhere, unforeseen.

Adam: Whereas largely Black and brown children who die from gun violence in cities throughout this country, that the left doesn’t sort of care about them. Now, aside from the fact that that’s not true at all, there is obviously a lot of left-wing activism around guns in cities, interventions, violence disruptors, there’s tons of grassroots left-wing activists who deal with violence every day. lobbying to build up things like mental health social programs, after school programs, that all gets cut by asshole, you know, conservative governors and cop pumping Democrats. That aside, it’s a very popular refrain. So we’re going to listen to a Sean Hannity clip here which, again —

Nima: Yeah, so apologies for Sean Hannity.

Adam: This is pretty sick stuff, but we want to play it real quick because we want to give you a sense of how popular this is, a line they use every six months since I was in high school.

https://twitter.com/ndrew_lawrence/status/1529632441786322944

[Begin Clip]

Sean Hannity: In fact, they don’t even really seem to care about gun violence at all, unless and until it fits a preferred political narrative. Now, take a look at your screen. Since 2019, 4,598 children have been shot and killed in the United States. Of those, of that number, 43 of those deaths were school shootings, and of course, we on this program have stated over and over again, you know, this literally is our national treasure, these lives, these precious kids, all lives definitely matter. One death is a tragedy. So why on the left, why do they seemingly always ignore the young kids routinely being gunned down in cities like Baltimore and Washington D.C. and New York, Los Angeles, Chicago every single week. We had 28 people shot in Chicago last week, by the way, that’s on the low side for a typical weekend there. No one on the left ever talks about it. They don’t seem to care. On this program, we have been scrolling the names of murder victims, people that have been involved, that have been shot in the Windy City. We have done this since 2009. Since that time, 1,381 children under the age of 19 have been shot and killed in Chicago. That includes eight years of the Obama/Biden presidency and vice presidency.

[End Clip]

Adam: So obviously Sean Hannity is very concerned with poverty inside South Chicago. Now, notice that Fox News always references Chicago when they talk about high murder rates, gun violent rates, right?

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: There’s a reason for that. It’s a racial watchword. It’s meant to diminish Obama. It’s a holdover.

Nima: Yeah. It’s just a shorthand. It’s just a dog whistle.

Adam: So they focus on Chicago because it’s a racial watchword, since the Obama era. It’s sort of this Obama, it’s Fox News shorthand for what about Black on Black crime? It’s a go to retort, right? Now, Chicago, depending on what metric you use, doesn’t crack the top 20 in murder rates of American cities, and in some metrics that doesn’t crack the top 10. Cities that have higher murder rates, St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans, Detroit, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Memphis, etcetera, etcetera. But that’s not shorthand, right? So you never hear them say what about, sometimes they’ll do Baltimore, because that’s also very racialized, but you’ll never hear ‘What about Kansas City or St. Louis?’ Because it doesn’t quite have the racist code punch. Now, of course, Sean Hannity doesn’t give a shit about Black kids dying from gun violence in Chicago, or anywhere else, for that matter. It is a way of hand waving away or distracting from the central issue and so they have to sort of unload the crocodile tears and what about Black on Black crime?

Nima: And he literally says “all lives matter” in that clip.

Adam: Yeah, literally that day, Governor Pritzker had passed a law banning ghost guns. Again, we can debate the sort of carceral response, whether that’s wise or not, this was not as bad. But it’s not as if big city liberal Democratic mayors are not passing gun control or don’t talk about gun crime in their poor areas. They do it all the fucking time. Now, again, we can debate the solutions to that, but it’s quite literally probably the thing they talk about most, and then when they say the liberals don’t care about that, that’s obviously just fake. I mean, they’re throwing slop to their pay pigs, right? I mean, it’s just this sort of lowest common denominator, then they love to say, ‘Oh, it’s the Democrats who are politicizing it.’ Well, it’s a political issue.

Nima: Right.

Adam: We’ve said this before on the show, I’ll say it again, 100 times out of 100 whenever someone says the other side is politicizing something, they’re mad because they’ve long politicized the issue, and they’re just mad someone else disagrees with them.

Nima: Right, because it is a major political issue for them and their base.

Adam: Politicizing is saying, ‘Well, I don’t want any competition in the ideological space. I just want to have my own way.’ Now someone is criticizing my worldview, ‘Oh, you’re politicizing a tragedy.’

Nima: Right.

Adam: One of these things that exist outside of politics, someone please let me know what those things are. I have yet to see them.

Nima: Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers Adam. That’s what exists outside of politics.

Adam: Yeah, Ted Cruz really raised the stakes of thought and prayers, because again, the thoughts and prayers thing is now a meme so they can’t do thoughts and prayers anymore. So now they’re having to reword they’re completely morally unserious responses to these shootings. So for example, Ted Cruz says, “Heidi and I are fervently lifting up in prayer the children and families in their horrific shooting in Uvalde.” This is the senator from the state where the shooting happened.

Nima: Yes, who incidentally gets the most campaign funding from the gun lobby.

Adam: Right. So Ted Cruz can’t do thoughts and prayers so now we’re raising the stakes, we’re adding an adverb. “Heidi and I are fervently lifting up in prayer.” “Fervently.” Oh, you strenuously object? Oh, well, by all means.

Nima: It’s fervent. Fervent lift.

Adam: So again, this is obviously a political faction that is completely, the idea that you wouldn’t even consider things like something as simple as a background check is so out of bounds that you have to come up with a sophistry industry that comes up with excuses which liberals mock because they’re so absurd on their face. I mean, the solution is to have an increasingly hyper militarized public education. Of course they just want to gut public education in general.

Nima: Well, that’s also amazing, I mean, they hate teachers, they hate public education, but then when these things happen they say they want to then arm the teachers who they hate, right? So they can’t trust teachers not to brainwash their kids with accurate history of this country, but we can give them guns, that somehow those same teachers can be trusted. When they’re not busy grooming their kids, they can defend them with firearms.

Adam: Yeah, one quick thing, so while we’re recording this, over the wire here, the AP has confirmed apparently many witnesses say the cops literally just stood outside. So that’s another data point indicating that the cops sat there and did nothing. Heavily armed police. So, you know, carceralism cannot fail, police ideology cannot fail, we just need more of them.

Nima: Right. We need more good guys with more guns. It was the lack of enough good guys with guns.

Adam: Yeah.

Nima: Not that they weren’t there to begin with, which apparently they were there but they weren’t good enough Adam, we need gooder guys with gooder guns.

Adam: Well, we need just one entrance and exit. We need a two by two square.

Nima: Right, and razor wire fencing, and there were also talking about, you know, these schools described as quote-unquote “soft targets,” which I mean, what the fuck is wrong with everything here? Need more, maybe booby traps outside, right? So, we need to do the thing where, you know, Swiss Family Robinson catches a tiger outside of our public schools so that our children can be safe.

Adam: Don’t you love all of our fresh references. All the Zoomers listening going, Swiss Family Robinson? Yeah, I’ve definitely seen that. Hey, kids.

Nima: Hey, that’s what you get, Ol’ Man River here.

Adam: How old are you again? I feel like you’re lying about your age. I feel like you’re actually 75.

Nima: I’m 76 years old.

Adam: I made a reference to Robocop which is already very borderline and you’re going back to the ’50s. Not good. Anyway, kids.

Nima: Anyway kids, don’t watch Swiss Family Robinson because it’s super racist. But also don’t watch Fox News because it is super racist. All you will see are these ways to launder doing nothing, pretending you care and ensuring that this happens again and again and again.

Adam: Yeah, pretty much.

Nima: That will do it for this Citations Needed News Brief. Thank you all for listening. Of course you can catch the show regularly on Wednesdays when we drop our full length episodes. In the meantime, of course, you can follow us on Twitter @CitationsPod, follow us on Facebook at Citations Needed, and if you’re so inclined, please do support our work through Patreon.com/CitationsNeededPodcast. We are 100 percent listener funded so your support is so appreciated. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Citations Needed is produced by Florence Barrau-Adams. Associate producer is Julianne Tveten. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. Newsletter by Marco Cartolano. Transcriptions are by Morgan McAslan. The music is by Grandaddy. Thanks again for listening, everyone. Be well. We’ll catch you next time.

[Music]

This Citations Needed News Brief was released on Friday, May 27, 2022.

Transcription by Morgan McAslan.

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