By David Futrelle
There’s no question why the man who opened fire in a Walmart parking lot in El Paso on Saturday morning did what he did: just before launching the rampage that left 22 dead, the shooter posted a manifesto to 8chan railing against what he called the “Hispanic invasion” of Texas and promoting the idea of a white “ethnostate.”
In the case of the Dayton shootings less than 24 hours later, the motive is less clear. The shooter, Connor Betts, didn’t leave behind a manifesto or even a note. But he did leave behind plenty of clues.
We can reject out of hand the idea that his attacks, which left 9 dead, as well as the shooter himself, were intended as a political act. His (alleged) Twitter account revealed that his politics were generally left leaning; he seemed to be an Elizabeth Warren fan. But Warren, unlike our current president, doesn’t traffic in hate and isn’t joined at the hip to a nascent fascist movement that kills people on the regular.
No, Betts’ motivations seem to have been rooted in his deeply troubled and troubling personal life. According to ex-friends, an ex-girlfriend, others he went to school with, and even some in the gross-out “pornogrind” music scene he was a part of, he was basically a walking collection of red flags.
Former high school classmates remembered him as a bully who liked to scare girls, and who had gotten into trouble with school authorities and the police after they discovered he had a “hit list” (and possibly also a rape list) targeting many of his enemies at school.
He reportedly reacted badly when girls rejected him, and one ex-girlfriend says she broke up with him shortly after she learned he was stalking a former ex. He reportedly told another girl, the Dayton Daily News reports, that “he fantasized about tying her up and slitting her throat.”
He reportedly spoke often of murder and suicide, and “joked” with friends on at least one occasion about how easy it would be to carry out a mass murder at a bar they were hanging out in. He was obsessed with guns and at one point tried to convince some friends to take part in an armed robbery with him; they never knew if he was joking or not.
Betts’ misogyny ran deep. As Vice News reports, he was an enthusiastic participant in the Midwestern “Pornogrind” music scene, performing as the lead vocalist in bands called “Menstrual Munchies” and “Putrid Liquid,” the former responsible for albums with titles like “6 Ways of Female Butchery” and “Preeteen Daughter Pu$$y Slaughter.”
The main creative force behind “Menstrual Munchiesm,” 25-year-old Jesse Creekbaum, insisted in an interview with Vice that the band’s violent misogyny was just a schtick and said he was shocked to learn that Betts wasn’t in on the joke. Maybe that’s because it isn’t much of a joke; “ironic” misogyny, like “ironic” racism, is difficult to distinguish from the real thing. In this case, it seems to have reinforced Betts’ wholly unironic misogyny. One can only hope that this massacre inspires those in other “pornogrind” projects to abandon them in shame. Somehow I doubt that it will.
Still, it’s rare for someone with even this many red flags todon body armor and gun down as many people as they can at a popular nightclub — including their own sibling, as Betts did. Most mass shootings aren’t political; they’re domestic — and they’re so common these days that most of them don’t even get national media attention. Was Butts’ rampage, at least in part, intended as an act of revenge against his brother? (See update below.) Or did he, and this seems unlikely, just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Whatever the precise trigger for the rampage, it seems pretty clear that the root cause of it was Betts’ toxic masculinity, driven by a need for control that led him to lash out at others, especially girls and women, attempting to bring them to heel though violence and threats of violence.
Betts’ behavior was so alarming to so many people over the years that several people reported him to school authorities and the police. But aside from a few stern talks and a suspension at school, it seems like he felt very few consequences for his actions. And so, naturally, he escalated. And now nine people are dead.
UPDATE: According to Splinter, “[a]ccounts from friends and social media profiles [indicate that the shooting victim] whose name was previously reported as Megan Betts … was a transgender man who went by Jordan Cofer … It appears that Cofer was out … to only a handful of people, and there is no indication at this time that his gender identity was a motivating factor in his death.” I’ve changed the references in the piece to reflect this.
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