There are very few labels that have the impact of “white supremacist.” The term is a silver bullet that instantly relegates someone to the cultural fringe and eliminates any bit of sympathy that might otherwise be granted to him or her. Put simply, you call somebody a white supremacist, you’ve basically made that person an irredeemable monster in the eyes of most of society. Maybe this is why it was such an easy thing to say about Jerad and Amanda Miller in the immediate aftermath of their shooting spree in Las Vegas on Sunday. They were obviously a couple of white-trash dead-enders bent on starting some kind of revolution, ergo the most obvious sticker to slap on them — the quickest way to entirely dismiss the belief system that was at the core of their deadly attack — was to call them “white supremacists.” So that’s what most press outlets called them.
Except that they weren’t. The worldview that Jerad and Amanda Miller held to so tightly that they were willing to kill three people to “defend” it couldn’t be so easily categorized, at least not with labels currently in most news organizations’ vocabularies. The Millers were actually the product of a political and media culture that preaches paranoia and eliminationism, that warns that America as we know it is coming to an end, that relentlessly declares that nothing is what it seems and everything is under control. They’re what happens when lunatic conspiracy theorizing sold as absolute truth and anti-government lawbreaking sold as righteous action is taken to its logical conclusion. As Bob Cesca said earlier today, there are those in places of cultural authority or simply with very big media bullhorns who’ve been calling for violent revolution for years — all Jerad and Amanda Miller did was answer.
And yet for the most part you won’t hear otherwise responsible mainstream news outlets pulling back the layers to uncover the rotting cultural cancer at the center of the Millers’ ideology, because to do that would mean that a certain amount of blame would have to be placed and phony political objectivity would have to be cast aside. In order to truly make sense of what Jerad and Amanda Miller believed, you’d have to either directly or tangentially indict those who spent months and years declaring that people like the Millers were heroic patriots — that rather than being sad-sack nut-jobs who believed everything they were told about the reality of the world and their place in it by people like Alex Jones and Fox News, they were actually the ones being oppressed by an unrecognizable America that had become a police state.
Alex Jones told the Millers that they were being poisoned from the skies and through the water and that nothing they saw could be trusted; they were told this was the truth. Fox News told them that taking up arms against the government at the Bundy Ranch was a noble cause and as far as people like Sean Hannity were concerned, the Jerad Miller who showed up in Bunkerville, Nevada and threatened violence against federal agents was a patriot rather than a clear and present danger. Until Jerad and Amanda Miller fired the first shot that killed Vegas Police Officer Igor Soldo, they were the good guys. Not just that, they were the culmination of everything they’d been led to believe about themselves and the world by a right-wing media machine that now seeks to distance itself from them. Jones refuses to do any soul-searching in the wake of this tragedy, even though, up until a little after 11AM on Sunday morning, Jerad Miller was undeniably Jones’s poster boy.
This is the reality of who Jerad and Amanda Miller were. To ignore who helped to implant the lies that grew like a virus inside the minds of these two people is to ignore the truth. Not the truth as someone like Alex Jones sees it –the truth. They shouldn’t be dismissed as simply being white supremacists because the facts are that they believed the police were the Nazis. They shouldn’t simply be called anti-government extremists because their beliefs weren’t the least bit extreme when you take into account that many of them came from someone who has millions of followers online and has made millions in a scheme that peddles paranoia for profit, while many more were legitimized by the most-watched cable news organization in America.
There’s no such thing as absolute freedom when you exist as a member of a larger society. You may be free, but that freedom is limited by the rights of others not to have their own rights trampled. As the old saying goes, “Your right to swing your arms ends just where my nose begins.” It’s because of this that you can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theater, or willfully incite violence, or commit slander or libel, despite the fact that the First Amendment exists and provides cover for almost all kinds of speech. When the expression of your rights deprives others of their rights, you’ve made it society’s problem. And at the very least society gets to start asking some tough questions about how you’ve used and abused the freedoms you’ve been granted.
A great deal of freedom demands a great deal of responsibility, simply because it’s a requirement in exercising that freedom that you know where the beginning of that other person’s nose is and respect the boundary. You have a constitutional right to say what you want in this country, but there are limits and they include masquerading as a legitimate information outlet but in fact telling only lies. As for fomenting armed revolution against the government by telling people that their rights are being taken away and they should consider seeking 2nd Amendment solutions, well, you can only do it for so long before somebody takes you at your word and responds exactly as you’d implied they should. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater — particularly one that’s a powderkeg — and act surprised when a stampede begins. Maybe you can make the argument that what you did wasn’t technically illegal, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t irresponsible.
These are the realities behind the Miller shooting that the supposedly responsible media should be talking about right now. This isn’t political opinion, it’s a potential direct cause-and-effect that should at the very least be spoken of in the light of day. But it’s always easier to simply dismiss Jerad and Amanda Miller as white supremacists or lone-wolf extremists and be done with it.