At least 20 people are dead in El Paso, Texas, and once again some ghoul with a rifle has reignited the moronic inferno of online commentary that follows such events. Was this an act of terrorism? If the gunman’s alleged manifesto proves genuine, does that mean the so-called alt-right or online white nationalism shares blame for this atrocity? Should zealots have access to deadly weapons? Is Donald Trump—recently seen on Twitter gloating about the burglary of a congressman’s home in Baltimore—capable of a statesmanlike response that acknowledges and repudiates his support from those who openly or tacitly celebrate the crime? (A second mass shooting, in Dayton, Ohio, in the early hours of Sunday morning, left at least nine dead; the motive there remains unclear, but that has not restrained similar speculation.) If you are spending any time at all litigating the perfectly obvious answers to these questions, you should stop, drop, and roll, because the flames are consuming you, and pretty soon nothing will be left but a pile of soot and a charred iPhone.
A four-page statement appeared online minutes before the shooting yesterday. Police are investigating whether the gunman wrote it. It is, unlike the Christchurch, New Zealand, manifesto, straightforward and written in language comprehensible to normal people, rather than in allusive, wink-laden online jargon. One benefit of that straightforwardness is that, if police confirm the strongly suspected link between the gunman and the manifesto, no debate will be necessary about what motivated the killer, or what fountains of ideas he drank from.