It’s a scene that’s played out with such familiarity that you can almost, sadly, set your watch by it. A school shooting happens, and before the police have fully cleared the scene or the investigation has begun, the cable news networks begin speculating on the shooter and every little detail about him.
Was he a loner? Did he use an AR-15? Was there a Facebook manifesto? Was he wearing any incendiary clothing that might expose his motive?
Aside from the general ghoulishness of this, much of this speculation turns out to be flat-out wrong. Take, for instance, the weapons Santa Fe, Texas, shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis used — a shotgun and a revolver. Hardly what anyone would call “assault weapons.”
Red flags? Well, he wore a shirt that said “Born to Kill” on his Facebook account — but there are probably thousands of people who have done that.
So, without those narratives to push, the media latched on to a story that seemed to fit: The shooter had allegedly worn Nazi paraphernalia.
“On the now-deleted Facebook page, Pagourtzis had also uploaded photos of a military-green trench coat with what appeared to be Nazi-related insignia and a reference to ‘kamikaze tactics,'” a piece from listicle clearinghouse BuzzFeed reported.
BuzzFeed left out quite a bit of information in that paragraph, however, as a screen shot of the post shows:
As you can see, the coat has an Iron Cross on it — which can be associated with the Nazis, but has been a military decoration used by the German military from the 19th century until the end of World War II. Given that history, you could certainly associate it with the Nazis, and many neo-Nazis do choose to wear it. The same, however, cannot be said for the other decorations on the shooter’s coat — one of which is the communist hammer-and-sickle, a decidedly un-Nazi symbol.
This didn’t stop irresponsible journalists — including the national editor of The Daily Beast — from repeating the information regarding the Iron Cross without mentioning the other paraphernalia.
Two students independently confirmed Pagourtzis wore long black coat to school that on Facebook he pinned a Nazi medal pic.twitter.com/yRutVSBjbo
— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) May 18, 2018
The Daily Beast, it must be mentioned, is named after the profoundly unethical fictional tabloid from Evelyn Waugh’s “Scoop.” The website’s moniker was originally meant as a kind of joke. It’s become significantly less humorous and more apropos over the years.
Writer Stephen Miller pointed out that there was a little problem with Justin Miller’s Nazi hypothesis:
Also seems to be something else pinned to that jacket pic.twitter.com/9bNz3RO4YA
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) May 18, 2018
Justin Miller continued to defend his original position, noting in his Daily Beast article that the shooter used an album cover from Perturbator, a French electronic artist whose “music has been co-opted by members of the Fashwave movement,” as his Facebook header (although there’s no evidence he actually ever listened to them).
Fashwave, for the uninformed, is an extremely minor musical subgenre that embraces fascism and (to a certain extent) neo-Naziism. Perturbator is considered to be a part of of the movement, even though his music has no lyrics and has also been featured in mainstream video games, something neo-Nazi artists usually don’t get to do. (As we’ll see later, he’s also vehemently opposed to the Fashwave genre.)
To further point out how silly this entire argument is, according to Heavy, another band that’s been lumped in with the Fashwave movement (in part thanks to Richard Spencer’s inexplicable fanboy status) is Depeche Mode. That’s right, the openly left-leaning group behind “People are People” and “Enjoy the Silence,” a band whose latest album is a lament against Brexit and Trump’s election, is somehow now a vanguard of the fascist musical revolution.
For his part, Mode frontman Dave Gahan has gone on record as saying that “Richard Spencer is, first of all, he’s a c— — and he’s a very educated c—, and that’s the scariest kind of all.” (I’d vehemently disagree with the “very educated” part, but I’m otherwise behind Gahan.) Perturbator also made it clear they want nothing to do with Fashwave: “Perturbator and Blood Music (their label) are not political projects. None of us personally involved with Perturbator nor Blood Music support violence in any form … This is sensationalism, is completely irrelevant to the case at hand, and we do not want to be a part of selling newspapers, ad clicks, or help keeping this gossip-mongering in business.”
Did the shooter embrace Fashwave or fascist ideals? It’s utterly impossible to ascertain that, at least with what we now know. However, there were a few more insignias that the shooter sported on his clothing that indicate otherwise, and they got a bit less play in the media.
NEW: Texas shooting suspect posted neo-Nazi iconography online https://t.co/RLPhW3VxJd
— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) May 18, 2018
Yes, yes, more Nazi innuendoes from Justin Miller. Unmentioned in the tweet, however, is the pin on his hat in the picture. Amber Athey of The Daily Caller pointed out what Miller refused to:
He also had a bisexual pride pin on his hat and a USSR pin on his trench coat. Stop selectively sharing only a portion of the facts in order to prop up your narrative. https://t.co/96D2ZGLshB
— Amber Athey (@amber_athey) May 18, 2018
That’s right — he was sporting a bisexual pride pin, too. Did that have anything to do with the shooting? Could the rise of the LGBT community be responsible for the Santa Fe massacre?
No, of course not. Saying something like that would be irresponsible, bigoted and offensive. Let’s also not forget there was a rising sun pin that was supposed to represent “kamikaze tactics” and a pin of the idol Baphomet which was supposed to represent “evil.
Were Japanese nationalism or Aleister Crowley ever mentioned as possible motivating factors in the Texas shooting? Nope. The politicized left-leaning media went straight to the Nazis because it was yet another opportunity to tie this all to the extreme right, which is now mainstream media shorthand for anyone less liberal than John McCain.
While calling the shooter a Nazi doesn’t qualify as bigotry, per se, it’s still irresponsible and offensive. It’s irresponsible because listening to some random techno band and wearing the Iron Cross is hardly definitive proof that the shooter was a Nazi, the same way the hammer and sickle doesn’t prove he was a communist or the bisexual pride pin that he was some sort of militant LGBT activist.
It’s offensive because this is nothing more than shock journalism, part of yet another attempt to push a narrative that there’s some sort of white nationalist groundswell that Donald Trump’s election was a harbinger of.
The only thing all of this proves is that the shooter was an incredibly confused person suffering under some fiercely dark cloud of mental illness. To blame it on an Iron Cross pin or “fashwave” is giving in to the same sort of lazy, sensationalist journalism that fueled the Satanic panic of the 1980s.
Justin Miller — and any other reporter who bought into this nonsense — ought to be ashamed of themselves.
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