Mass Murder Is Not About Bullying

PHOTO COURTESY | WIKI COMMONS
Conspiracy theorists have now moved on from crisis actor schemes to victim blaming

I really didn’t want to write this article. Frankly, I wanted the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to quietly take its place in the canon of horrible tragedies, the students to process their trauma and have their peace, and maybe catalyze some sort of meaningful legislation or at least constructive discourse among politicians and community members rather than more disingenuous steam from those who haven’t set foot in a public school in years.

Most of all I wanted it to stop drawing out the absolute worst in so many people close to me. Yet, somehow the subject has only picked up steam and the surrounding discourse has become increasingly dark with every passing day.

By dark, I mean that multiple people who are known to myself and most likely to my readers as well have moved on from understandable rhetoric, like claiming Constitutionalism, to straight up victim blaming the children who were massacred and defending and romanticizing Nikolas Cruz because he was “bullied”.

  • Sound messed up? Yeah, I agree.

Let’s take a step back for a second and remember that Cruz was a grown man who hadn’t attended the high school for around a year, and made the choice to murder seventeen high school students in cold blood. Read that word again- Murdered.

There are real people in this world who think that mass murder is somehow worthy retribution for being “bullied.” I don’t know about you guys, but I got my share of trash talk and gossip just like anybody in high school, for everything from my sexuality to my mental health status and can solidly say that I never wished death on anybody.

Honestly, it probably helped make me a nicer person, not the other way around.  But that’s not the point because frankly, I don’t buy this new and genuinely gross claim that bullying causes school shootings or is somehow the fault of the students in the first place.

The most depressing part of this rhetoric is the viral meme about Emma Gonzalez “admitting to bullying Nikolas Cruz for three years until he cracked”. For starters, it’s not even remotely true. The “source” that people refer to any time I ask for documentation of this is a video interview in which Emma states:

“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities again and again. We did, time and time again. Since he was in middle school, it was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter. Those talking about how we should not have ostracized him, you didn’t know this kid. OK, we did. We know that they are claiming mental health issues, and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue. He would not have harmed that many students with a knife.”

Conspiracy theorists have taken this out of context so far that they can somehow draw from it the claim that she “bullied him since middle school.”

I honestly think this is because they don’t know what it means to ostracize someone- ostracize doesn’t mean to bully, it means to leave behind or exclude from a group, which is completely appropriate in this context. I’m sorry, but choosing not to be friends with somebody because they are racist, abusive, and torture animals is not bullying, it’s common sense and I’m sure that you would do the same if you were in her situation.

Cruz was not some harmless, quiet kid who just wanted friends as people are making him out to be. It is well documented by multiple news outlets that he abused his high school girlfriend, tortured animals and posted pictures of the deed online. He was openly racist and antagonizing toward his peers.

He also hinted at the fact that he was planning the shooting in incredibly unsubtle ways, frequently posting pictures of large weapons caches on social media and even telling online friends “I think I want to kill people.”

Furthermore, Emma Gonzalez was two years younger than Cruz at the time of the shooting, and Cruz hadn’t attended the school for almost a year at that point. You have to be doing some serious mental gymnastics to think that a grown man decided to kill a bunch of kids because somebody two grades below him that he didn’t even attend school with anymore somehow caused him to “crack”.

Let’s also have a chat about how the same people blaming Emma Gonzalez’s “bullying” for Nikolas Cruz’s actions have spent the last four years or so calling people snowflakes and are now sharing comments and memes calling Emma Gonzalez “Golem”, “Goblina” and photoshopping her into a racially stereotyped caricature. 

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I pity your innocence and encourage you to Google it, and have fun losing your faith in humanity. Really good ideological consistency there you guys.

Another thing I take issue with is the immediate move by adults to quell entirely valid feelings of horror and indignation in young people by conveniently inventing the “Walk up Not Out” campaign to shut up the Walk-Out participants.

It is our job as adults to listen to and protect children, not gaslight and blame them for the unimaginable trauma of living through a mass shooting.

When you have a generation that is living in genuine mortal terror while doing something as simple as going to school, the correct response is to figure out how we can make sure this never happens again, not to find a fluffy way to tell them to shut up and be nicer to the Nazi kid. You don’t have to think of a real solution this way.

Students like Cruz are likely dealing with intense issues far beyond the scope of an untrained kid’s abilities, and to thrust the responsibility of maintaining their classmates’ mental health upon school children is laughably impractical. The type of person who internalizes this message and begins seeking to “fix” dangerous and abusive individuals like Cruz with no formal training or education in Counseling Psychology is setting themselves up for a lifetime of disappointment and putting themselves in danger of being an abuse victim themselves.

This isn’t to say that a person like Cruz couldn’t or shouldn’t have been saved, but if he was going to be saved, it should have been done by a team of highly trained professionals over a long period of time. Not some poor teenage girl at his lunch table.

People can deflect and victim blame all they want , but the facts are here to stay, and every single one of them points to Cruz being a violent and dangerous murderer who premeditated a massacre for a very long time. Stop humanizing him.

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