Friday, July 24, 2015

Frightening Picture Emerging of Yesterday's Shooter, John Russell Houser: "Westboro Baptist Church May Be the Last Real Church in America"

The disturbing picture that is now emerging of John Russell Houser, the man who opened fire yesterday in a theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, at a screening of Amy Schumer's "Trainwreck,"killing Jillian Johnson and Mayci Breaux and wounding nine others:

John Russell Houser apparently penned anti-government, anti-media blog posts. He was subject to a 2008 restraining order in which his then-wife and daughter were "fearful of him," police said. The one-time bar owner spent time that year and the next getting treated for mental health issues. And last year, he was evicted from a house he used to own in Phenix City, Alabama, and returned to vandalize the property, the sheriff there said.

Emerging reports also indicate that Houser was a far-right activist. Houser appears to have been a fan of the Tea Party, the Westboro Baptist Church and Golden Dawn — and extreme right-wing neo-Nazi political party in Greece. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Houser attended a conference hosted by former KKK leader David Duke in 2005 and the host of a talk radio show Houser frequently called into, described the 56-year-old as a "radical Republican."
"He was anti-abortion. The best I can recall," former radio host Calvin Floyd told the Washington Post. "Rusty had an issue with feminine rights. He was opposed to women having a say in anything. You could talk with him a few minutes, and you would know he had a high IQ but there was a lot missing with him," Floyd explained.

In other online posts, Houser praised Adolf Hitler, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and the Westboro Baptist Church, according to The New York Times. [Ed] Hostilo [a friend of Houser] recalled that Houser's rants were initially focused on local politics, but as the years went on, his shift started to focus to criticizing gay rights and arguing that the South was being ill-treated by the rest of the country. 
"Everything was a plot against the South," said Hostilo, who said Houser expressed a fear that the U.S. government was trying to destroy the Confederacy. "I told him, "the Confederacy was already destroyed." 
Hostilo described one occasion when Houser burst into a town meeting about water rates, and tried to blame gay people for the increase in rates.

Can anyone say "Dylann Storm Roof"? John Russell Houser was, it seems increasingly clear as more details about his life are being released today, yet another white supremacist, misogynistic, anti-gay, male terrorist, in the vein of others who have acted out in similar mass shootings with alarming regularity in our nation's recent history. Already, this is being spun, as inevitably happens when the shooter is a white male loner, as the story of a mentally ill "drifter" who simply inexplicably took a gun into a showing of Amy Schumer's new movie and opened fire.

Of course, the men who act out in this way are mentally disturbed people. But they're also people situated within a frightening ideological matrix whose contours are obvious to anyone who gives more than a passing glance to these stories, one after the other of them cut from the very same cloth. There are in one after another of these stories the ties of these men to white supremacist groups, the fulsome praise of violence against women (coupled with patriarchal claims that "our" women need to be protected against "them"), the gay-bashing, the shouts that the heritage of the South is being extinguished by fiat of a dictatorial federal government.

There's the sense of "aggrieved entitlement" of angry men, many of them white and privileged like Houser, who believe that their country is being taken away from them. There's the sense, sounding like a warning siren from each of these narratives, about threats to the masculinity of the shooters that warrant their taking guns and ending lives.

None of this is accidental. None of it can simply be wiped from the screen when we learn that the men acting out in this way are mentally disturbed and socially disconnected. Their social disconnection and mental disturbance are situated quite predictably within ideological parameters that tell us, if we're willing to listen, that something else, something darker and more dangerous, is going on with such men: that they feel entitled to use violence to express ideological grievances that are nurtured inside their worldview of aggrieved entitlement and threatened masculinity.

Is this — is John Russell Houser — what Justice Scalia meant when he observed in his Obergefell dissent that the perspective of Southerners was not included in the majority opinion? Is John Russell Houser, with his rants about abortion and how the gays are increasing water rates and Westboro Baptist church is the last real church in America and the Confederacy is being destroyed what Justice Scalia meant when he said the perspective of the South was not included in the Supreme Court ruling supporting marriage equality?

Seems so to me. Seems this is precisely what Scalia meant. And I think he should own some responsibility — quite a bit of responsibility, in fact — for shooting his mouth off in that dissent statement about how the majority opinion was tyrannical because it didn't include the Southern perspective.

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