The Facebook pages of James T. Hodgkinson, the 66-year-old Illinois man who shot Rep. Steve Scalise and three others this morning, are made up almost exclusively of anti-Trump, anti-Republican, and pro-Bernie Sanders memes and videos going back at least into 2015.
Anyone who spends more than a few minutes on social media has seen these types of memes from the left and from the right, and we all have a few friends and relatives who seem to have a fixation on politics and a disturbing level of anger. Most likely, Hodgkinson was “that friend” for a few people.
Here is a sampling of what was on his pages – what we were able to save before they were taken down.
Anti-Trump – “Trump is a Pig”
“Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”
The Russia obsession…
“He is Truly a POS.”
Republicans weren’t held in any higher esteem, not even the Freedom Caucus.
Republicans hate EVERYONE, in his view.
In a comment to one of his own posts: “Republicans are the Taliban of the USA” linking to a quote by James Carville saying Republicans want less government so they can get away with murder.
Sen. Bernie Sanders said from the Senate floor that he is “sickened by this despicable act” and that he “condemns this attack in the strongest possible terms,” but some commenters on Hodgkinson’s page had no problem with what he did.
“You ran a campaign full of hatred and bigotry! This is the beginning of the resistance. A message for Trrump and Trumpers alike!”
“He’s my hero! Wish he would have gotten them all!”
“77% of all terror attacks are committed by right wing extremists. You inbreds need to clam the f*** down”
Today, Shaun King is saying it’s ridiculous to link Bernie to this attempted massacre.
It’s more complicated than that.
People are asking others to not “politicize” the shooting, but that’s just not possible. Hodgkinson went out looking for Republicans to kill. He wanted to kill them because of their politics. This is a political attack – and this is a man who was influenced by the incessant drumbeat of rhetoric which dehumanizes political enemies.
When a comic posts a photo where she’s holding the (fake) severed head of the president, when a Shakespeare play is modified to show the assassination of the president, when it is okay to mock the 11-year-old son of the president because of the T-shirt he wore, and all of these things are done without a second thought, without considering that these people are human beings who have thoughts, dreams, needs and desires just like you and I have, we have arrived at a point in our civilization where we really need to take a long, hard look at what we’re doing.
I can’t know for sure, but I would suspect that when James Hodgkinson stepped on that baseball field today he didn’t see Steve Scalise, Jeff Flake, and the rest of the GOP baseball team as people. (For God’s sake, there was a child there, and that didn’t stop him.) I suspect he saw them as evil, dishonest, greedy impediments to progress who needed to be eliminated for the greater good.
Bernie Sanders is not to blame for Hodgkinson’s acts. Neither is Kathy Griffin or any number of trolls who say crappy things or wish a horrible death on President Trump, Melania Trump, Barron Trump, or Republicans in general. This is squarely on Hodgkinson.
But, the environment of “other-ing” and dehumanization of anyone who disagrees with our politics definitely played a part, which is an attitude evident in the memes and postings on Hodgkinson’s Facebook pages over the last two years – and evident on the Facebook and Twitter timelines of many people.
“I don’t care what happens to that person. I hope they suffer and die a slow, painful death. They’re getting what they deserve for voting for [fill in the blank].”
That’s what James Hodgkinson’s Facebook page says about society.