Atlanta Shooting Not a Hate Crime?

The U.S. Senators and a U.S. Representative beg to differ.

The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Atlanta police do not believe last week’s shooting spree in the city’s massage parlors was racially motivated. Two Senators who have done no investigating whatsoever strongly disagree.

Reuters (“Atlanta shooting of Asian women was racially motivated, U.S. senator says“):

U.S. Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth on Sunday expressed doubts about FBI Director Chris Wray’s initial assessment that the fatal shooting of six Asian women in Atlanta-area spas may not constitute a hate crime, saying it “looks racially motivated.”

“From where I sit, I want to see a deeper investigation into whether or not these shootings and other similar crimes are racially motivated,” Duckworth, who is one of only two Asian-Americans currently serving in the U.S. Senate, told CBS “Face the Nation.”

“It looks racially motivated to me,” she said, adding the caveat that she is not a police officer or personally investigating the crimes.

Police in Atlanta are still investigating the motive in connection with the fatal shooting of eight people, six of whom were Asian women, on Tuesday. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting with the investigation.

In an interview with NPR last week, Wray said that it “does not appear” that race factored into the mass shooting.

Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” also questioned that assessment, suggesting he believes race played a role.

“We all know hate when we see it,” he said. “It is tragic that we’ve been visited by this kind of violence yet again.”

The shootings have stoked fears among those in the Asian-American Pacific Islander community, which has reported a spike in hate crimes since March 2020 when then-President Donald Trump began referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus.”

[…]

The incidence of hate crimes against Asian-Americans rose by 149% in 2020 in 16 major cities compared with 2019, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

Duckworth is among a growing number of Asian-American lawmakers who have urged law enforcement to more carefully examine the escalating violence.

“It looks to me that he knew he was going to places where disproportionately the people he shot up would be Asians, and female, and I think the investigators need to really look at these facts,” Representative Ted Lieu, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told CNN last week, referring to Long.

More information will become available but, at this juncture, it appears the shooter’s motivations were overdetermined. He seems mentally ill and a combination of religious dogma, his inability to attract women, and general self-loathing would appear at play. There is no evidence of which I’m aware that he hated Asians or Asian women but, certainly, he seems to have been sexually attracted to them and he may well have resented them for it.

Regardless, it’s simply irresponsible for elected officials to stoke the flames during criminal investigations. Absent evidence that police aren’t doing their jobs, politicians should not comment one way or the other on the guilt or motivations of the accused.

To the extent that there’s a rising tide of prejudice and violence against Asian-Americans—or anyone else—it’s certainly the role of leaders to decry that and call attention to it. But sensationalizing an ongoing investigation, particularly one that seems to be pointing in the other direction, is an irresponsible way to go about it.

Further, looking at the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism study referenced in the report, we see propaganda at work. Always, always, always be suspicious when an activist group uses percentages to make their case. For example, in New York City, we saw a whopping 833% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes year over year. But the raw numbers are 3 and 28. In the aggregate of 16 cities studied, the increase was 133%. But the raw numbers are 49 and 120. We’re talking about very small numbers here. Beyond that, because this is simply an aggregation of police reports from these cities, the definition of “hate crime” is incredibly loose and varied. In the handful of cases where breakdowns are available, the vast majority of reports are of “harassment,” “intimidation” and “vandalism.”

Obviously, a hostile climate makes more serious crimes—assaults and homicides—more likely. But it’s not obvious we’re seeing that. And it works both ways: a perception that there is an increase in anti-Asian bias will likely make Asian-Americans perceive incidents that they would not ordinarily have thought merited reporting to the police seem more threatening. This may well be akin to when we discovered “drive-by shootings” and “road rage,” where the suspicion that there’s a trend increases collection of data pointing to that trend. (We’ve also seen the same in the US armed forces. Years of increased attention to sexual assault and harassment has led to increased reporting.)

It’s certainly plausible that former President Trump’s constant blaming of the COVID pandemic led supporters to become more hostile to Asian-Americans and that this resulted in more slurs directed at random Asian-Americans they happened to encounter. But it’s not obvious that we’re seeing a significant increase in anti-Asian bias, much less a cause for alarm that Atlanta was a harbinger of a wave of Asians being murdered.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Police, Race and Politics, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. drj says:

    certainly, he seems to have been sexually attracted to them and he may well have resented them for it.

    He hated them because they weren’t giving him what he wanted. And all that despite the notion that Asian women should be (as the stereotype goes) generally submissive and responsive to the needs of (white) men.

    Being attracted to women doesn’t preclude one from being a misogynist.

    Being attracted to Asian women doesn’t preclude one from being beholden to racist stereotypes.

    Likewise, we don’t deny that a KKK member hates African Americans if said person is happy to see them quietly working the cotton fields.

    This is not hard.

    20
  2. MarkedMan says:

    The odds that race factored into these killings are very high, given his background, his church, and his specific type of religious fanaticism. But to charge someone with a hate crime we must have evidence to prove it. If Duckworth is thinking like me, what she is railing against is the rush by the police to judge it non-racist without any investigations. The Trumper police spokesman laid that groundwork before even a search of the murderers home.

    Republicans especially have a horror of the very idea of hate crime laws. “We already have laws against murder”, they wail, while neglecting to note that there are hundreds of additional laws that tack on penalties for things deemed especially injurious to society. As far as I know all jurisdictions pose additional penalties if you kill a cop, and you don’t even need to know they were a cop. In many if not all jurisdictions an accidental death is elevated to murder if it occurs during the commission of a felony. If someone is killed during a robbery you helped plan, even if you didn’t participate beyond that, you can end up in jail for life without parole.

    Why all the handwringing about hate crime legislation then? It’s pretty obvious. With the Southern Strategy, the Republican Party, at the highest level, made a conscious decision to invest their future with racism. As the Trump era has shown, alliance with racists is still a huge part of that Republican strategy, certainly more so than in 1964. Hate Crime legislation targets Republicans in a way they find very uncomfortable.

    20
  3. CSK says:

    Yesterday I cited an article that pointed out that the majority of massage spas are staffed by Asian women, a considerable number of whom are employed under duress. So purely statistically, Long’s victims would more likely have been Asian. In any case, he also killed a white woman, a white man, and injured a Hispanic man. And he had frequented the spas he shot up in the past. He wanted to eliminate the she-devils who tempted him, not necessarily Asians.

    10
  4. Not the IT Dept. says:

    He hated himself so women had to die. Because God is as obsessed with sex as he is. Too bad he didn’t belong to a church that taught that pesky commandment about Thou Shalt Not Kill.

    3
  5. CSK says:

    I just googled “massage parlors” within 15 miles of me. There are scads of them, all with names like “Chinese Massage,” “Chinese Bodywork,” and “Sunshine Asian Bodywork.” I assume, on the basis of the names, they’re staffed by Asian women. Many of those women are working under duress. This is a crime that needs to be investigated.

    7
  6. James Joyner says:

    @drj:

    He hated them because they weren’t giving him what he wanted

    I think that’s right. But that’s decidedly not a hate crime, even if Asian stereotypes reinforced his frustration.

    1
  7. Kylopod says:

    @James Joyner:

    But that’s decidedly not a hate crime, even if Asian stereotypes reinforced his frustration.

    I don’t see how that follows. I don’t see a whole lot of difference between “Asians invented Covid and therefore must die” and “Asian chicks intoxicate me and therefore must die.” Both involve racial targeting based on racist beliefs.

    12
  8. gVOR08 says:

    I confess to mixed feelings about charging hate crimes. We should do all we can to stigmatize and punish crimes motivated by racism, ethnicity, or gender. But here we do seem to be forcing a square peg into a round hole. On the other hand, why are the cops and the FBI taking his word for his motivations? He’s nuts.

    I note with bemusement that his church, the holy rollers largely responsible for his crossed wires, have washed their hands of him. And I doubt they’re going to engage in much introspection.

    4
  9. KM says:

    @CSK:

    In any case, he also killed a white woman, a white man, and injured a Hispanic man.

    But were they intentional targets or in the way? If you are white and die because you were in a room filled with minorities the KKK decided to blow up for daring to exist, you’re still the victim of a racially-motivated hate crime. You just weren’t the main target, that’s all.

    Timothy McVeigh infamous killed innocent children when he blew up the Murrah building. When asked why he placed the bomb where he did (knowing it would kill them), he replied they were “collateral damage”. He wanted to strike at what he saw was Evil and didn’t care who was sacrificed in the process. We don’t question that those children were still victims of a terrorist attack even though they weren’t the target so why does this keep coming up that “non-whites died so it can’t be about race!”? Collateral damage is a thing these killers do not care about in the slightest.

    I would imagine a “spa” run mostly by Asian women abused into prostitution would have non-whites and males such as this nut using the services; in fact, if someone else had gotten the same idea while he was there, he himself could have been a victim. Anyone there would have “deserved it” under his logic but since he intentionally went looking for this type of place, he was aiming to kill Asian women. If you were forced to work there, you died because of a racially-motivated hate crime. If you were just there to get your nails done and nothing else, you died because a racially-motivated hate crime happened. If you were there for your “happy ending”, you died because of a racially-motivated hate crime.

    10
  10. KM says:

    @James Joyner :
    If you can stomach it @James, go looking on some PUA and alt-right websites to see how they view Asian women.

    There’s a definite strain of toxic racial misogyny wherein they claim Asian women make better brides/partners/objects because they’re not as spoiled or willful as liberal culture has made white / Western women. The idea that a white male can subjugate and force his will on them is incredibly appealing to someone like Long and when he got angry about his problems, it was naturally the women’ fault for tempting and indulging him in his sin. By nature of their race, his crazy “logic” meant they deserved what they got.

    7
  11. mattbernius says:

    Honestly, all of this “is it or isn’t it” discussion really shows (1) how embedded binary thinking is in our culture, and (2) how difficult it is to codify complex subjects in law.

    Ultimately, two things are probably true about this: (1) this was a crime of intersectional hate (with components of hate against sex workers, against women, against East Asian folks) and (2) this most likely doesn’t qualify as a hate crime as codified in statute.

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  12. Kylopod says:

    @KM: The killer of Heather Heyer was classified as a hate crime, even though Heyer was white.

  13. CSK says:

    @KM:
    But statistically it was likely that he’d kill Asian women. That doesn’t make what he did any less dreadful; it just means that Asian women were more likely to be the victims.

    Long was a crazed incel, like Elliot Rodger, who killed women (white) and men (mostly Asian), because they were the targets handy. He hated the women because he felt rejected by women in general, and he hated the men because he envied their success with women.

    Rodger also hated interracial couples, and he was the son of such a couple; his mother was Malaysian.

    5
  14. Northerner says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think that’s right. But that’s decidedly not a hate crime, even if Asian stereotypes reinforced his frustration.

    Might be simpler if any crime involving hate was automatically a hate crime (as opposed to say a crime committed for financial gain, or negligence). In the end, hate is hate.

    3
  15. charon says:

    @MarkedMan:

    The odds that race factored into these killings are very high, given his background, his church, and his specific type of religious fanaticism.

    I think this is right. His main motivation was the “Purity Culture” pushed by his church, but race also factored in given SBC denomination.

    The Sothern Baptists were founded in 1845 to support slavery, and the denomination has been staffed mostly by racists ever since.

    3
  16. Jim Brown 32 says:

    During the Trump era, the media could not strike out. ANY take painting Trump as any negative trait was pretty much true.

    Now that we are back to more nuance involved in analysis–a lot of these outlets are going to swing big and miss big. Whether they will miss on this one remains to be seen.

    We know what the killer said–which is a datapoint to be considered and not simply a lie just because it doesn’t fit a preconceived narrative (he also looks pretty “pro-white” which doesn’t help). They will also do a social media analysis and see if that matches with the story he’s giving. I suspect it will. But NO ONE can really say anything that doesn’t toe the asian-hate line without the media and twitter mob coming after you for not telling them what they “know” or don’t want to hear.

    Mass-murdering racists aren’t shy about their motivations. Dylan Roof was pretty matter of fact that he killed Black people because they were Black. That’s not what we are hearing here and the absence of asian hate speech–even so much as a kung-flu post by the killer is probably a sign that this isn’t what everyone wants it to be. I suspect we would have had multiple screenshots of his posts and screeds all over the news by now. We’ve had nothing so far.

    My gut feeling, until the investigation is completed, is that this falls more in the serial-killing sexual preference category of “hate”–not the send the ch*&ks back to China category.

    We’ve seen this guy before–socially awkward, consistently rejected, then he lashes out and killed the objects of his rejection and fetish. It in the same block as misogyny–but down a weird little cul-de-sac. Im sure there is a pysch word for it.

    Bottom line for me—let them look into his background and see what the deal with this guy is and let the chips fall where they may. You can never go wrong with the truth. Whether it was asian-hate with this guy or not —doesn’t take away from the crisis of asian’s being targeted. And that’s how the narrative with this is being set up–so that a denial that THIS guy wasn’t racially motivated–means the denier denies rising asian attacks or a crisis at all.

    10
  17. dazedandconfused says:

    @gVOR08:

    re:

    “…why are the cops and the FBI taking his word for his motivations?”

    They aren’t, it’s simply the only evidence they have at this point. His statements are evidence but what everybody suspects he was thinking isn’t. It will take a few weeks for PhDed shrinks to genus/specie the bats in that kind of belfry, and in that area cops aren’t considered experts, not in the legal sense.

    2
  18. Kingdaddy says:

    Before these murders, I was already concerned that Asian-Americans were an overlooked minority. In fact, I was toying with writing a blog post about it. (Haven’t been good about writing for a while, mostly due to work commitments and post-inauguration exhaustion with politics.)

    Whether or not you think these particular murders were a hate crime, there’s a lot of anti-Asian animus in this country. Growing up in Southern California, I saw a lot of it. The influx of refugees after the fall of South Vietnam excited a lot of hatred against the latest non-white wave of immigrants. Similar feelings were directed against Koreans, who also formed a big, visible population of non-whites in the area. That’s how I got sensitized, at an early age, to the kind of bigotry directed against Asians, which ranged from the overt (people at city council meetings demanding, “Take down those signs in a foreign language!”) to subtle (the same stereotypes about Asian women mentioned in a previous comment).

    That being said, I can understand why some Asian-American leaders like Tammy Duckworth want a full investigation of how anti-Asian sentiments might have played a role in the Atlanta murders. There are at least three ways we might read the situation, once we get a fuller accounting of the motivations of a deranged person than we have now:

    (1) He wasn’t motivated by race. Still, it’s worth using the occasion to highlight that anti-Asian bigotry is more prevalent than people realize.

    (2) He didn’t set out to kill Asians just for being Asians, but bigotry added fuel to his rampage. Asian massage parlors epitomized what he wanted to destroy. Stereotypes of Asian women were part of his demonology, adding to his reasons to pick these particular targets, or go on a killing spree in the first place.

    (3) He did set out to kill Asians for being Asians. Both the massage parlors and the Asian women who staffed them were primary targets.

    It’s going to be tough to figure out which of these interpretations is more plausible, or if there’s another one that provides a better explanation. It may not even be possible to figure out the ultimate reasons. The killer may not be clear in his own mind, giving vague or contradictory answers. And, of course, we have to be humble about our ability to understand other people, deranged or otherwise. However, I do think that it’s a healthy exercise to try, if for no other reason than to delineate the lines of prejudice against Asians, which did not end with the railroad gangs, barriers to Chinese immigration, and the Japanese-American internment camps.

    8
  19. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Jim Brown 32: has summarized nicely my similar thoughts, thank you JB. The other day the writer and former sex worker Tracy Quan noted that this string of murders can also be viewed as hatred toward sex workers and when that filter is paired with Long’s sex addiction despair anti-sex worker maybe the greater hatred than anti-Asian.

    This is not to deny that the reports of anti-Asian violence and discriminatory acts that have become known over the lats few months lack veracity. Anti-Asian racism is real, but it may not be the driver of this tragedy.

    4
  20. DrDaveT says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Republicans especially have a horror of the very idea of hate crime laws. “We already have laws against murder”, they wail, while neglecting to note that there are hundreds of additional laws that tack on penalties for things deemed especially injurious to society. As far as I know all jurisdictions pose additional penalties if you kill a cop, and you don’t even need to know they were a cop.

    This is an interesting one from the point of view of Haidt’s categories, as rehashed here recently.

    If you push back on the “murder is already illegal” with this counterpoint, the immediate reaction is “that’s totally different”. And, to them, it is — killing a cop is an egregious violation of deference to authority, whereas hate crimes are (at best) a violation of equality. Since deference to authority is more important to them than fairness or equality*, and killing a cop strikes directly at rule of law and suppression of disorder, killing a cop is more egregious than murdering someone out of bigotry. It is different both qualitatively and quantitatively.

    *Based on revealed preferences of self-described conservatives taking Haidt’s tests.

    9
  21. DrDaveT says:

    @Kingdaddy: Without really disagreeing with your analysis, let me point out that bigotry does not require conscious animus. The literature on implicit bias has shown over and over that there are lots of people out there who (for example) don’t think that black people feel as much pain as white people, yet don’t realize that they believe this. They are as shocked as the rest of us to learn it about themselves. Especially the ones in healthcare professions.

    It’s easy to see how that kind of subconscious bias can lead to unequal treatment. It doesn’t have to be a hate crime in order to cause unnecessary pain on the basis of race.

    5
  22. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    But that’s decidedly not a hate crime, even if Asian stereotypes reinforced his frustration.

    That’s for the lawyers to decide, but probably not.

    However, “not fitting the legal definition of a hate crime” is not the same as “not being racially motivated.”

    As others pointed out, the murderer’s hierarchy of hate is probably:

    1. women
    2. sex workers
    3. Asians

    Based on what we know, it seems unlikely that race was not an important factor, even if it wasn’t the most important factor.

    3
  23. a country lawyer says:

    The difficulty with prosecuting a hate crime is that every element of the crime must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. The discussion on this thread shows how proving the element of racial motivation could be difficult. As a lawyer who has focused on criminal law for more than forty years, first as a prosecutor and then as defense counsel my thoughts are that there should not be a separate hate crime where the same offense exists without the hate motive. If the offense was racially motivated then that should be a basis for an enhancement in punishment. Unlike the proof required in proving guilt, in most jurisdictions including the federal courts, factors affecting sentencing, like racial motivation, have only to be proved by a preponderance of the evidence, a much lower standard.

    8
  24. grumpy realist says:

    I find it depressing that we’re arguing whether this was a “racist” crime or not while it was pretty damn obvious that he was killing these women because they were women.

    That counts as a hate crime in my book.

    (I think he wasn’t specifically killing those women because they were Asian, but it’s highly likely that his mental stereotypes of Asian women as being childish, demure, and willing-to-serve-him played into his hatred of them.)

    10
  25. MarkedMan says:

    @DrDaveT: Interesting points to consider. Thanks

  26. Jay L Gischer says:

    As an older white guy, I don’t even think it’s all that valuable for me to express my binary yes/no opinion on whether “this was a racially motivated hate crime”. My sympathies and support go out to the victims. If the Asian community – especially in Atlanta – or the black community thinks so, well, they know a lot more about it, and I’ll support them.

    Speaking as a white guy, to other white people, I will note that we need to think of another strategy for fighting racism than shaming people who do racist things. Spree killing is an act of shame. It is an outburst of shame. More shame probably isn’t going to help things. And the existence of a “lesser group” that has it worse than you is one of the primary engines of discrimination. James Baldwin once said, “when the white man learns to love himself, there will be no race problem”. Speaking as a person who likes and employs systems thinking, I would like to figure out how to dissipate the shame that drives these things. You know the sort of thing where, “I feel terrible, but it isn’t my fault, it’s THEM!” Maybe that’s going to always be with it, but it can be less powerful, I’m sure.

    3
  27. MarkedMan says:

    @a country lawyer: Exactly. And it is correct. We (presumably) can prove he committed the murders. But proving he did so out of animus towards Asians, or selected them as targets because of that animus, may not be possible. Dylan Roof made his motivations clear, both verbally and in writing.

    However, it is possible that he left behind a trail. A social media post where he described hating Asians and think they should die or equivalent. My suspicion of the Georgia police are caused by the way this is being handled. With zero investigation completed, the police immediately started putting forth the idea that this had nothing to do with race. They didn’t state it conclusively, but given how much Republicans and Trumpers and racists in general reject the very idea of Hate Crime law, I don’t think they deserve any benefit of the doubt.

    4
  28. charon says:

    @drj:

    As others pointed out, the murderer’s hierarchy of hate is probably:

    1. women
    2. sex workers
    3. Asians

    My take a bit different:

    The murderer’s hierarchy of hate is probably:

    1. Himself

    2. women

    3. sex workers

    4. POC

    Bear in mind this guy thinks his Sky Daddy condemns him for masturbating, he is stressed by self hatred.

    5
  29. Lovitar says:

    Thank you @grumpy realist.

    I find it depressing that we’re arguing whether this was a “racist” crime or not while it was pretty damn obvious that he was killing these women because they were women.

    That counts as a hate crime in my book.

    It took a 871 word Blog and 24 comments before someone stated the obvious. Killing women for being women is a hate crime.

    1
  30. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    And that’s how the narrative with this is being set up–so that a denial that THIS guy wasn’t racially motivated–means the denier denies rising asian attacks or a crisis at all.

    Yep. Welcome to political debate in the 2020’s.

    1
  31. Gustopher says:

    @drj:

    He hated them because they weren’t giving him what he wanted. And all that despite the notion that Asian women should be (as the stereotype goes) generally submissive and responsive to the needs of (white) men.

    @KM:

    There’s a definite strain of toxic racial misogyny wherein they claim Asian women make better brides/partners/objects because they’re not as spoiled or willful as liberal culture has made white / Western women. The idea that a white male can subjugate and force his will on them is incredibly appealing to someone like Long and when he got angry about his problems, it was naturally the women’ fault for tempting and indulging him in his sin.

    The women he killed were in their 60s. They would fit the Dragon Lady stereotype more than the submissive stereotype.

    I’m wondering if he was targeting older women, or whether they were just managing the shop and the first people he would encounter.

    1
  32. Michael Reynolds says:

    Just by the way, may be a hate crime, may not be, but it was possible because of GUNS in private hands. Our national myopia and denial on this is incredible. Minus a gun he’s just a nut. With a gun he’s a fucking crisis. But let’s not get off on talking about a soluble problem, let’s focus on the shit we can’t do anything about beyond tsk tsk and thoughts and prayers.

    11
  33. Gustopher says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    My gut feeling, until the investigation is completed, is that this falls more in the serial-killing sexual preference category of “hate”–not the send the ch*&ks back to China category.

    My gut feels is that the killer isn’t immune to the rising hatred towards Asians, but that it wasn’t the main reason.

    And way too many people feel too invested in the narrative that it was an anti-Asian hate crime.

    I’m more than a little curious to see if the consensus on Twitter shifts to meet the facts, or whether those people on the left are as wedded to their beliefs over reality as the folks on the right. My guess there is that it will all just be dropped as if it never happened, or the focus will shift from motive to how he got a gun that day — so better than Bill and his belief that Biden has advanced dementia and no idea who the President is, but not great.

    1
  34. Kingdaddy says:

    @DrDaveT: Right, which is why I said that we should not expect too much from interviews with the killer.

  35. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The Atlanta shooting was nothing more than an incel upset about being an incel.
    The shooter is an insecure weak little boy who bought a gun and, within hours, used it for the purpose it was designed for.
    I have no doubt there is an increase in anti-Asian animus. But I don’t think that’s what Atlanta was about. That these sex-workers happened to be Asians is a side-story…and an important one.
    But the real story here is about the ease of access to guns by people with no business having access to guns.

    5
  36. Kingdaddy says:

    On a related note, old-style terrorists, particularly the European and Latin American ones (Baader Meinhoff/Red Army Fraction, Red Brigades, Russian anarchists, etc.), were a wordy group. They were happy to bury their audiences in pages and pages of ideological and operational justifications for truly horrible acts. While they did address some important questions, such as why the killing of innocents was justified, they also did not address other obvious ones. The horrible nature of the system, whatever version of it they were fighting, was a given. They had few or no doubts about the efficacy of their actions, even if it had to be in some long term, world historical timeline. Everything that happened in between, therefore, was perfectly justified.

    Of course, what’s very, very hard to determine is whether the ideology, if the Atlanta killer even had one, is the “real” motivation. Does ideology drive people to violent acts, or does the urge to kill, springing from some other source, look for an ideology to justify it? Is the answer different for different people? In terrorist groups, there are often a mix of people with different motives, some more doctrinaire than others.

    Which is all a great excuse to quote this great scene from the first episode of Justified:

    Raylan Givens: You know, Boyd, I think you just use the Bible to do whatever the hell you like.

    Boyd Crowder: Well, what do you think I like, Raylan?

    Raylan Givens: You like to get money and blow shit up.

    4
  37. Monala says:

    @KM:

    I would imagine a “spa” run mostly by Asian women abused into prostitution would have non-whites and males such as this nut using the services

    I keep seeing this claim (that the spa was run by Asian women abused into prostitution), but has anyone verified it? Isn’t this again, something the press concluded based on what the killer said?

    I have read a few of the stories about the victims. The women employees were all middle aged women; the Chinese owner who was killed was a female entrepreneur who hired women immigrants from China to help them get their start in the US, and helped many to start their own businesses. The clients were also pretty mundane: a couple on a date, a woman getting a massage for her birthday. I’m sorry, none of this sounds to me like “sex spa where Asian women are forced into prostitution.”

    7
  38. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Yes, and as Michael Reynolds noted–a narrative strangely absent for this spree killing. Not a peep about gun accessibility–or for that matter the political inclination of the shooter.

    2
  39. Monala says:

    @Monala: I found this on ABC News:

    Police records released by the city Friday show 10 people were arrested at the two Atlanta massage businesses on prostitution charges, but none since 2013. Almost all the arrests came in undercover stings where an officer paid for a massage and an employee offered sex or a sex act for more money. The reports were first obtained by The Washington Post.

    So it’s possible in the intervening 9 years, these two businesses went legit.

  40. KM says:

    @Monala:
    If they are just-do-your-nails legit-massage spas, then his motives definitely take on a racial tinge.

    Several individuals who’ve spoken to the police and the media have said Long went to such spas specifically for sexual services. Whether it was *these* particular locations or not, Long and others have stated he went to these kinds of places often. He was aware of them and frequented them for a specific purpose. If it turns out that the affected places weren’t the illegitimate kind, then he lashed out at them because of a racist assumption that ALL Asian-affiliated or employees Asians are *that* kind of “spa”. That leads us back to hate crimes against women and Asians as the attack would have been based off hateful “logic” and motivations. If he attacked the wrong places, he did so because his bias marked them as legitimate targets and the people inside as sinners patronizing them.

    3
  41. charon says:

    https://religiondispatches.org/dont-discount-evangelicalism-as-a-factor-in-racist-murder-of-asian-spa-workers-in-georgia/

    According to Grubbs, “There’s a large and growing body of research that shows that conservative religious values are strongly linked to feelings of sex addiction. We find that men in particular are likely to interpret normal sexual urges as pathological and then act on them in ways that they find to be problematic.” As Grubbs told me in a previous interview, while some people do exhibit compulsive and dysregulated behavior with respect to pornography, “There are also quite a number of people who report feeling out of control even with minimal use.”

    If Long is telling the truth about his desire to “eliminate” the “temptations”—that is, women—that he claims exacerbated his “sex addiction,” it’s likely that he learned to think of himself this way, and to objectify women, in church. In evangelical institutional environments such as churches and Christian schools, discussions of sex are usually steeped in purity culture, that is a complex of beliefs and practices associated with an unhealthy fear of sexuality and intense pressure to remain “pure”—that is, sexually inexperienced—before marriage. I am among the many ex-evangelicals who were essentially coerced into signing “purity pledges” in the 1990s, which is just one of the many manipulative practices associated with purity culture.

    According to Grubbs, “Purity culture places heavy emphasis on temptation and evil. Pornography is considered evil and something to be eliminated. Given that framing, it’s not surprising that someone might view all sexual ‘temptations’ as evil and needing to be eliminated.” Speaking of Long, Grubbs elaborated, “I would not call this person a ‘victim’ of purity culture, but it is possible that he is a product of it.”

    https://www.salon.com/2021/03/20/evangelical-purity-culture-racism-atlanta-shooter/

    How Evangelicalism’s racist roots and purity culture teachings catalyzed the Atlanta killings

    Long described his victims as “temptations” he needed to “eliminate,” rhetoric that is common in purity culture

    Given his background, maybe we should give some credence to his stated motivation.

    1
  42. charon says:

    @charon:

    An excerpt from the Salon linky:

    Evangelical purity culture is dangerous in that, despite promising the opposite, it positions women as dehumanized, sexual objects — a walking collection of body parts that can provoke temptation — and that it is their responsibility to keep men from straying.

    This is especially true for women of color, who have long been exoticized through the church’s particular brand of colonialist missionary work.

    The word “evangelical” comes from the Greek term euangelion meaning “gospel” or “good news,” and per the New Testament book of Mark, Christians are commanded to “go into all the world and preach the good news.” Growing up in the church, I vividly remember missionaries visiting for special services once they had returned to the States to set up old-school slideshows packed with photographs from their trips. They would talk about the work — handing out Bibles, leading church services, building houses of worship — they had done in these countries, which were often positioned as almost otherworldly.

    While, as the Atlantic reported, some Christian denominations are currently trying to pull back from the “white savior complex” style of mission work in favor offering genuine humanitarian aid or serving their own communities more intentionally, the International Mission Board, which is the Southern Baptist Convention’s missionary society, still describes their work as “bring[ing] the good news to the helpless and the hopeless.”

    While Long may assert that his crimes weren’t “racially motivated,” growing up in a the Southern Baptist church, he would have been familiar with this language — language that is reminiscent of what I heard from the pews in the ’90s — that was meant to both encourage a sense of “otherness” and excuse attempts at domination, cultural and otherwise, of people of color, including those of Asian descent.

    4
  43. Kingdaddy says:

    @charon:

    While I found the Salon article interesting, the amount of advertising on that web page, including videos and animated images, is distracting to the point of making the text difficult to read.

    2
  44. flat earth luddite says:

    @Kingdaddy:
    Thanks for the Elmore reference. Now if I could just figure out a way to tie in a Richard Stark reference, my day would be complete!

  45. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    If you’re using Chrome or Firefox, there is an extension, Reader View, that makes the distractions go away. It leaves you with the text and certain images. For years I’ve known of the extension, but never needed it, but over the last few months, I find myself using it several times a day as websites use javascript to force you to view ads.

  46. charon says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    Browser issue maybe? I am using Chrome without any add-ons, while I see some ads not so many as to be a problem, no animations.

  47. charon says:

    @charon:

    I also occasionally use the “Avast Secure Browser” that comes with Avast which has some partial blocking built in.

  48. charon says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    The piece is also available at Raw Story which to me seems like it has a lot of ads though.

    https://www.rawstory.com/white-evangelicals-2651156340/

  49. Kingdaddy says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Thank you. I’ve given that Chrome extension a spin, and its a godsend.

  50. Chip Daniels says:

    What links all hate crimes is the targeting of a group.
    It is almost irrelevant is the group is Asians, or women, or sex workers or even just “those who stimulate my impure thoughts”; He didn’t target these people because they personally had hurt him, or to rob them, or for material gain. He targeted them as a group.

    This is why it’s important to label this a hate crime, because group targeting is itself a deep threat to our society, even worse than contract killing or revenge murders.

    4
  51. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    from the first episode of Justified

    What a great series that was…and Goggins got Natalie Zea, who was in most of Justified, to show up on his CBS series “The Unicorn”.

    1
  52. Kylopod says:

    @Chip Daniels:

    What links all hate crimes is the targeting of a group.
    It is almost irrelevant is the group is Asians, or women, or sex workers or even just “those who stimulate my impure thoughts”

    Except it does matter from a legal perspective. We can choose to define “hate crimes” more broadly, but presently the laws only apply to certain categories such as race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation.

  53. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kingdaddy:

    You’re welcome. What has been driving me crazy lately are the websites that grab the top half of the window for an ad then have another about an inch tall at the bottom, leaving a mail slot to view the content. Its not the ads, it is the layout.

    2
  54. Jon says:

    @Kylopod: Whether or not it *is* a hate crime, and whether or not it can be charged as one are, it seems to me, two related but distinct things. The definition @Chip Daniels used above is pretty much the same working definition I use.

    1
  55. Kylopod says:

    @Jon:

    Whether or not it *is* a hate crime, and whether or not it can be charged as one are, it seems to me, two related but distinct things.

    I agree. I just think it’s important to keep in mind what the laws are because it concerns what he or any other attacker can be charged with (and in addition to federal law state laws vary on what categories are included–I was intrigued to learn for instance that just a few states include homelessness as a category).

    1
  56. Dano S. says:

    A lot of claims here about Asian sex workers working under duress. Well, duh. Many sex workers do. The majority that I know of (I work at a bar. Many come in after their shift at the numerous massage parlors close by) freelance and do quite well judging by their clothes, their pricey drinks and their large tips. Many have told me they came over on a student visa, pay the registration fee and then rent a house with their friends and become sex workers for a couple of years before they go back to China with a stack of cash. Some decide to stay and marry a sucker who they use up and then abandon. I don’t see them as victims.

  57. al Ameda says:

    @KM:

    There’s a definite strain of toxic racial misogyny wherein they claim Asian women make better brides/partners/objects because they’re not as spoiled or willful as liberal culture has made white / Western women

    .
    I’ve been told by quite a few women (White, Hispanic, Asian) that this way of thinking is an undercurrent, a feature on the dating scene.

    1
  58. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @a country lawyer: I lean toward being passionately ambivalent about enhanced sentencing and particularly for crimes against police officers. They get to kill people with virtual impunity, so they shouldn’t get the feature of crimes against them being considered more heinous. I pretty much the same about hate crime statutes–particularly considering how high the bar for conviction seems. Still, you’ve made a good argument for why enhanced sentencing would be a better approach than defined hate crimes. For people who want to punish some criminals more than others, your argument is sound. For people like me who see punishing some people more (and longer, as Luddite pointed out a couple of days ago) is already baked in too much, the whole concept kind of falls flat.

    1
  59. rachel says:

    @Monala:

    I’m sorry, none of this sounds to me like “sex spa where Asian women are forced into prostitution.

    Thank you!

    1
  60. Mimai says:

    I have a lot of thoughts on this but will note a few things:

    1) I caution against the notion that “we” currently know or ever will know the killer’s intent, attitudes, etc. Hell, it’s difficult enough (impossible?) to get a hold of our own individual psychology, much less that of another, much less that of another who is a clear outlier.

    2) This tragedy brings to mind a tension in contemporary discussions on racism (it also exists for other -isms). As mentioned by DrDaveT, the notion of “implicit bias” (ie, below conscious awareness) is prominent in these discussions and given a lot of weight (this is independent of what one thinks about the reliability and validity of its measurement).

    Microaggressions are also discussed a lot, with an emphasis on effect (impact on the aggressed) rather than intent (motives of the aggressor).

    How does this square with our discussion of “hate crimes” and the emphasis on intent? Yes, I realize that “hate crime” has a legal definition, but I’m less interested in the legal vs. non-legal distinction than in the broader conceptual issue.

    Why does intent matter in one instance but not another?

    Should intent matter at all?

    How are OTB folks thinking about this?

    1
  61. Hal_10000 says:

    @CSK:

    Yesterday I cited an article that pointed out that the majority of massage spas are staffed by Asian women, a considerable number of whom are employed under duress

    That article is largely garbage. The reveal is when it claims they “knew” someone who saw 8-12 customers a day, which a standard tragedy porn number that no basis in reality. And they quote mostly cops and advocates using their imagination. If this industry is so massive and coercion so common, why aren’t they bringing any charges? Investigation after investigation has resulted in only prostitution charges, with very very few trafficking prosecutions. Remember the Robert Kraft bust? The NYT happily parroted the line that this was coercion and trafficking (in that very article in fact) and it turned out to be nothing of the kind.

    The national hysteria over sex work and the insistence that every Asian massage parlor is a hotbed of sex trafficking is a big part of why this happened. And the evangelical groups that push the toxic “sex addiction” nonsense that directly resulted in this attack … are also cited by the NYT as authorities on sex work.

    Race probably did play a role here. Sex worker hatred often has a racial context. For example, the “awareness” posters produced by the groups quoted in the NYT articles almost always have a black man abducting a white woman. And the hysteria over massage parlor — whether fed by the police, religious nuts, sex hysterics or the NYT — often has a racial component.

    2
  62. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mimai:
    We are at a weird moment in history when it comes to moral judgment. The more we learn about DNA, and the more we learn about childhood development, the more dilute our system of morality becomes. Last time we ‘spoke’ I defined my moral stance as resting responsibility squarely on the individual, not because it’s necessarily the right answer, but because there is at this point no practical alternative approach.

    My own half-baked belief is that we live our lives in a sort of shifting Venn diagram of DNA, experience, free will and random chance. We don’t have either a criminal justice system, or a moral code that copes well with nuance. We can’t say of a murderer that he is 30% or 60% guilty. It’s binary: guilty or not-guilty, right or wrong, good or evil. And I’m damned if I know how to design a better criminal or moral approach without things descending into chaos.

  63. Mimai says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Appreciate the thoughtful reply. This is a discussion that we (all of OTB) should flesh out at some point. I’d enjoy hearing diverse perspectives on it. In the meantime, I think you’d find the work of Gregg Caruso to tickle your brain. He’s a philosopher with some stimulating ideas about free will, moral responsibility, law, etc.