Another mass murder, another day in the U.S.A.

White forty year-old American man shoots up a Sikh temple in a Milwaukee suburb, killing six.  But never fear:  the U.S. Government says “it’s just a mass shooting.”

The FBI is leading the investigation, with help from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local police. Edwards said the shootings are being “treated as a domestic terrorist-type incident.”

But federal law enforcement officials said it was too early to tell what happened and why.

“Right now, it’s just a mass shooting,” said a federal official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not an authorized spokesman. “What you have is somebody who went into a Sikh temple and opened fire. Who knows what his motivation was?’’

If only every Sikh man, woman, and child over the age of 12 had been armed inside their temple, they could have protected themselves!  Yeah, that’s the ticket:  more Dirty Harry fantasies among lawful people to combat the Dirty Harry fantasies of the criminals!  And more guns for everyone!

Why isn’t every mass shooting treated as a “domestic terrorist-type incident?”  Why isn’t this mass murder getting the attention of the mass murder in Aurora, Colorado last month?  I guess it’s just not massive enough a murder, with only half a dozen dead, besides the fact that most Americans can’t really see themselves in a Sikh temple, whereas most Americans go to the movies once in a while.  (And no Batman to boot!)


22 thoughts on “Another mass murder, another day in the U.S.A.

  1. The idea that we can’t even speculate, or “know” what his motivation might be is hilarious in a not-funny-at-all kind of way. Who knows indeed! That’s some quality theorizing by the anonymous source. What on earth could it be? The murderer has known connections with the white power movement, and was allegedly covered in white supremacist tattoos. So I’m guessing he didn’t confuse the the temple with a shopping mall. Here’s a clue, FBI, heavily-armed white doodz who want kill randomly? Kill randomly (e.g., Aurora). White doodz who are targeting specific communities? Target specific communities. So I’m kind of guessing that we could start THERE with as we begin develop a theory of motivation.


  2. You know, I’m not even sure that motives matter. Looking for specific reasons for each mass murder prevents us from seeing the larger (and more obvious) connections between Aurora, Columbine, VTech, and now Milwaukee: 1) the fact that individual citizens can purchase guns and ammo without any limits or scrutiny, and 2) that almost all mass murderers are men, most are white, and they tend to skew younger rather than older.


  3. I agree with you in a general sense, but I do think in this specific instance motive is important, because it fits into a larger trend of xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism that the country needs to address, since those discourses are clearly feeding violence. Also, hate crimes and acts of terrorism follow different legal streams from other acts of mass violence – I would imagine in addition to putting someone in a different facility under more harsh conditions (obviously not an issue here, since the assailant is dead), an accusation of terrorism might enable the FBI broader powers (to do things without warrants, go after white supremacist groups the assailant was connected to, etc). Acting like mass violence is a “senseless” and “unpredictable” act – which therefore we can do nothing about – is bad enough, but projecting that onto a hate crime is even scarier, IMO.


  4. All Sikhs are supposed to be armed as a tenant of their religion. The five Ks include carrying a dagger or kirpan. So since the attack was on a temple I am guessing they were all armed. It is just that daggers do not much against guns.


  5. Well, most of us don’t “randomly” wander into places of worship. And in addition to the ties to white supremacist groups, he’s an army sharpshooter veteran. Our tax dollars at work.


  6. You’d think that the white supremacist dumbasses who were harassing and assaulting sikhs 11 years ago would have figured out that sikhs aren’t Muslims. But then, we must never underestimate the intelligence of a white supremacist dumbass, I suppose.


  7. Historiann – I know you don’t mean it that way,* but your last post rather struck a nerve. A lot of media are reporting that Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims. Implicit in that line of reporting is that a mass murder of American Muslims would somehow be justified and that reeeeallly bothers me. Though there are others who are similarly bothered, we seem to be in the minority so I feel that it is important to come out against a mass shooting of any people, even confirmed Muslims.

    You and I are both in Colorado and the shooter appears to be from here too. I’m so proud.**

    And why is it so all-fired important for every major news source to note that a tenet of the Sikh religion is that men carry a ceremonial dagger with them at all times? To me the only way that fact is relevant is to highlight that, even though it is a religious requirement for 25 million adherents to always be armed, many of them (I would venture to say the majority of those living in the US) are able to put this belief aside in favor of living peaceably in a society that can be wiggy about turbaned men with weapons. The ubiquitous carrying of guns is not so sacred and perhaps can also be put aside?

    * Internet most certainly will not convey my tone correctly and this may come off as snarky. I am not at all trying to be snarky; I was able to suss out my discomfort with the coverage of this latest shooting because of discussions on your site and so I feel safe in assuming that you and I are indeed in agreement on this matter.

    **I am NOT in fact proud.


  8. Two articles/blog posts that have been helpful in terms of language (to b_o_f, and anyone else):


    Vijay Prashad (second link) refers to Rinku Sen’s article (first link) — in short, there is nothing senseless at all because it is about the way white supremacy operates.


  9. Implicit in that line of reporting is that a mass murder of American Muslims would somehow be justified and that reeeeallly bothers me. Though there are others who are similarly bothered, we seem to be in the minority so I feel that it is important to come out against a mass shooting of any people, even confirmed Muslims.

    Indeed. The fact that news media feel obliged to explain that Sikhs get mistaken for Muslims inevitably feels to me like they’re saying that, in some incredibly sick way, the shooter’s heart was in the right place, and he just got the details wrong. “Sorry, Sikhs, it’s just a hazard of living here! Hey, at least we feel sorry that you’re dead!”

    Heaven forfend that we feel bad that people were murdered, rather than a specific subset of people. Or that the reporting of the massacre actually reinforces the fear many Muslim Americans have that they are simply not welcome here — and are, in fact, walking targets.

    This was terrorism, plain and simple. And I’ll add that, while everybody should be freaked out by this, I daresay that Sikhs and Muslims are likely especially terrorized by this particular terrorist act. Lord knows, I would be, were I of either faith.


  10. When are we gonna grapple with the fact that almost all of the most murderous vicious mass killers and other incorrigible violent serial miscreants in the United States–including serial child molestors and mass child porn purveyors–are white christian d00ds? Are we ever gonna discuss whether it is in the nature of white christian d00ds to commit the most heinous of violent mass and serial crimes, just like we do members of other identifiable racial and religious groups whenever one of them commits a crime?


  11. If the constitution allows us to be armed why can’t I buy a tank? A tank in the Sikh temple would have been a great deterrent.

    Why killing more than 3 (4, 5) people is terrorism? Were does this come from?

    The murderers have been mostly white men for decades, but does it make much of a difference? Are scientists working on a white men don’t murder vaccine?


  12. Also by classifying some mass shootings as “domestic terrorism” and not others it is easier to dismiss the common problems of available guns and weapons, lack of access to mental health, and media culture that essentializes any understanding of gender that all contribute to these events.


  13. Does anyone here seriously think that in calling white supremacists dumb for mistaking Sikhs for Muslims suggests that I approve of the mass murder of Muslims?

    Just asking.

    I hear what best_of_fair is saying, but I actually think it’s relevant to explain why Sikhs in particular have been targeted for particular kinds of harassment and violence since 9/11/2001. That doesn’t make it implicitly okay to target Muslims, it just helps explain the extra-special dumbassery involved when someone attacks people just because the men wear turbans and beards.


  14. I started to write a comment yesterday about seeking to understand why somebody acted in the way they did being wholly different from approval but then I thought I ought to listen to some of the popular reporting. It sounded not exactly like approval of the (presumed) intent but certainly a sloppy “well, that explains it then.”

    Finding an expected cause–expected because we do live in a racist nation and certain of the ways racism is expressed are tolerated–at which to point is a super diversionary tactic. No need to talk about the guns thing, it’s just a racist thing. Hell, we have a dude who makes racist statements en plein air running for president.

    I think Sikhs have always been targeted in the US, by racists and by people who wish to manipulate racist attitudes toward other ends.


  15. Remember a couple years ago when the FBI said that right-wing white guy terrorism was a problem, and everyone freaked out? Yeah.

    This article is pretty good, and a bit terrifying, with the whole Nazis having lots of military training and infiltrating police departments

    Also, regarding neo-Nazis and 14 worders ( and white supremacist militia guys, I still think woody allen said it best:


  16. Heh. But I think Schweitzer raises an interesting point I’ve never made about class. I think he’s right that class privilege (in addition to race and gender privilege) is probably a part of the mix as well, at least among the highly visible and deadly mass-murders in public spaces.


  17. Pingback: Wrung out. | Historiann

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