Policing the internet will not stop massacres

New York Attorney General Letitia James has just released a report commissioned by Gov. Kathy Hochul on the role online platforms played in the May 14 fascist mass murder in Buffalo.

Although James’ account contains harrowing and heartbreaking eyewitness accounts of the Tops shooting spree, her recommendations for preventing similar massacres in the future leave much to be desired.

We didn’t need this report to tell ourselves that the internet was crawling with roaches, but James’ social media surveillance proposals seem like the modern day equivalent of blaming Dungeons & Dragons or heavy metal albums for our nation’s ills admit. Neither the right to free speech nor the endless permutations of internet culture and technology will permit their solutions.

James didn’t take the real cause of these mass shootings as a prelude to getting rid of those weeds once and for all: The problem isn’t the First Amendment, it’s the Second.

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Explaining the Tops massacre as a result of online political radicalization is relevant, but only up to a point. The killer’s rampage mirrored several recent racist attacks, including the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand. But how does politics explain Uvalde? Or parkland? Or Sandy Hook? Or Virginia Tech? Or Highland Park? In all of these—and many other—horrors, where was the white supremacist perspective?

Shut off the entire internet and our supermarkets and elementary schools will still be turned into slaughterhouses. AG James is on the wrong track.

What James didn’t say in her report is that the seeds of the Payton Gendron massacre weren’t sown by 4Chan or Twitch. The slaughter didn’t start there. It all started at Vintage Firearms, a quaint corner shop in Endicott, NY, who sold a young psychopath a Bushmaster assault rifle fit for warfare in Fallujah and hardly asked a question.

Big Tech cannot be blamed more than Big Guns for the mountain of casualties that have accumulated since the pivotal Columbine massacre 23 years ago.

The next Buffalo-like massacre—one that will shake the conscience of our nation even though it will be preceded by many other mass killings—is imminent, as predictable as the past dozen. Does anyone think shaking our fist on the internet will prevent this?

Don’t we know in our hearts that it is our impotent gun laws and our irresponsible arms dealers that are to blame for these absurd and entirely preventable tragedies?

Jason Yungbluth is a Monroe County representative in the New York State Green Party.