TGIF: Conspiracy Theories and Hard Realities
All the news you need to know from the chaotic week that was.
→ Three shootings in one week: On Saturday, in Buffalo, New York, a young white man traveled to a black neighborhood to shoot up a grocery store, killing 10 people and wounding 3. On Sunday, in Laguna Woods, California, a Chinese man went to a Taiwanese church with a gun, killing one and critically injuring four. In Dallas, a young black man went to a Korean spa, shooting three.
Although the Buffalo shooter seemed to latch on to many deranged theories of both left and right wing varieties, his primary fixation was on the notion of a great replacement. This is a conspiracy that the Jews are bringing people of color into Western countries to overtake the white population and transform the character of the country. Remember how the white supremacists with the tiki torches in Charlottesville shouted “Jews will not replace us!” This was their ideology as well. It was also at least part of what motivated the Tree of Life shooter in Pittsburgh.
These shooters are all motivated by racist beliefs. Likely they are also mentally ill. (In the case of the Buffalo shooter, there were various red flags.) But somehow—and appallingly—this murderer has been cast as a . . . normal Republican. Here’s a Rolling Stone op-ed on it: “The Buffalo shooter isn’t a ‘lone wolf.’ He’s a mainstream Republican.” And after it emerged that the parishioners in the Taiwanese church tied up their shooter, Eric Swalwell, the congressman from California, wrote: “I’m sorry House GOP that the parishioners hogtied your boy.”
This is a shockingly dark way to perceive half the country. We’ve long been the country of bowling alone, and you don’t need more reminders of falling church and community organization membership or of how few friends the average American man has now. Believing that half the country is a mentally ill murderous cult isn’t going to help.
→ May their memories be a blessing: Mass shootings of innocent people has become normalized. One way to break the numbness is to read about the victims. Read about Pearl Young, 77, who was the head of a local food pantry. (All the Buffalo victims are profiled here.) And read about Dr. John Cheng, 52, a physician who charged the shooter in Laguna Woods.
→ It’s not just shootings: There was also this week news of a big annual increase in automobile-related deaths. The trend here was once reassuring: fewer deaths on the road. In 2011, America saw a low of 32,479 auto-related deaths. In 2020, that number rose to 38,824. Then in 2021? There were nearly 43,000 deaths on American roads.
(My most fascist belief is that someone caught texting and driving should be treated the same as someone caught drunk driving.)
→ The stock market continues its slide: I promise it’s not all bad news this week, but the stock market mostly is — it fell further this week. Gas prices then hit a record high of $4.59 a gallon on average nationwide.
→ Biden intervenes on formula shortage: Biden has responded to the baby formula shortage at last, invoking the Defense Production Act to speed up production and give the FDA more money for inspecting formula factories. One thing he could do more of is cutting red tape: government interference has in large part caused the crisis. European formula often doesn’t meet American government standards and faces high tariffs when imported. And the domestic formula business is dominated by a small number of monopoly firms that have exclusive contracts with states. Drop the tariffs and the rules, drop the exclusive contracts, bring in competition—and bring European formula to American shelves! (It’s better, anyway.)
→ Crypto wants a bailout, please: The wild and wooly world of crypto investing has gone from being very fun to, suddenly, very depressing. Things like TerraUSD, which to many looked like an overly complicated Ponzi scheme, turned out to indeed be an overly complicated Ponzi scheme. Meanwhile, the co-founder of Ethereum is arguing for some sort of bailout.
→ Money for Ukraine and members for NATO: In the wake of Sweden and Finland applying to join NATO, now even Switzerland is thinking about collaborating with NATO: “Ultimately, there could be changes in the way neutrality is interpreted,” said Paelvi Pulli, the head of security policy at the Swiss defense ministry in a report from Reuters. The Democratic Socialists of America came out strongly against the potential expansion of NATO, calling it “an imperialist mechanism.” Meanwhile, the Senate this week passed a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine. The vote was 86-11, with all the 11 no-votes coming from Republicans. The politics slice really weird on this one.
→ A truly amazing moment of honesty from George W: Our former president was giving a speech denouncing Putin this week and stumbled over his words. We can now rewrite the phrase Freudian slip: “The decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq . . . I mean of Ukraine,” he said, But it’s what he mumbled under his breath afterward that struck me. Pausing, catching himself, laughing, then saying softly, “Iraq too.” It’s remarkable footage.
→ Netflix lays down the law: At the end of last week, Netflix updated its corporate culture memo, which now includes a jab at the company’s increasingly agitated Red Guard: “Depending on your role, you may need to work on titles you perceive to be harmful. If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.” And this week Netflix made that decision for 150 people. The company framed the firings as “layoffs”—but 150 people doesn’t really make a dent for a company of 11,000 people. Those 150 happen to include, just by chance, some of the most Twitter-active social justice workers in the place. Netflix also announced it would cancel the upcoming animated film “Antiracist Baby,” based on the Ibram X. Kendi book.
Now, I am personally conflicted on this news. Of course I salute Netflix and Ted Sarandos for ousting anyone who tried to come between me and Dave Chapelle. On the other hand, the home screening of “Antiracist Baby: The Movie” was going to be the best party I’ve ever thrown, and Netflix stole that joy. So for TGIF, this news is a wash.