by Shree Paradkar
We’ve seen them before: the monsters who are interchangeable, their victims who are not.
There was horror this past weekend for the four people injured by a madman driving in Edmonton, knocking them down Saturday, horror for the police officer who had just been hit and stabbed.
Horror also for the 59 people who died, including Canadians Jordan McIldoon and Jessica Klymchuk, and the hundreds injured as the site of a country music festival in Las Vegas turned into a killing field Sunday.
There’s the continuing shock for the witnesses to the tragedies.
There is unending sorrow for the families left bereaved. McIldoon was 23, in the city to celebrate his impending 24th birthday. He was someone with a sense of humour. “God you’re hideous,” a friend commented recently on a Facebook photo of him. “God I know,” McIldoon responded, dryly.
Klymchuk, who left behind four kids, appeared to have been madly in love with her fiancÈ. “Brent you are heaven sent. You are my one and only. You’re one of a kind,” she told him in a Facebook post just last week.
One day you’re imagining a life together. Suddenly that life is irretrievably lost. Gone. Each victim lies in the centre of a ripple of grief. Each needs to be mourned. Their loved ones need support.
That’s not enough vicarious suffering, though, for some of those watching from afar.
If online forums can be regarded as substitutes for the street corners of yore, discussions reveal that the first instinct of those asking, “Who?” is to seek to confirm biases and politicize the violence.
Then basic identifiers are placed in neat boxes.
Muslim – terrorist. Black – violent criminal. Refugee – freeloader. White – mentally ill.
Tragedies are exploited, victims are pushed aside and narratives are created to suit agendas.
The alleged Edmonton attacker whom police identified as Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, 30, faced the triple threat of being Muslim, Black and a refugee, leading to hysterical calls to ban Muslim immigration and dire warnings of Canada’s definite slide into a land of sharia law that nobody is asking for.
The next day, a white man’s senseless violence in Las Vegas appeared to leave people bereft of identity-based hate hooks, so the bickering rolled down the now ritualized path of gun control versus the second amendment – a necessary argument that could have easily waited a few hours.
The Washington Post rushed to eulogize the killer with a soft-focus lens, calling him a man who “enjoyed gambling, country music, lived quiet life before massacre.” That was the headline of a story that described him as having gambling problems and a father who was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
If the aftermath of tragedies reveal the best in humans – the heroism of those risking their lives to save others, strangers donating blood, the first responders, the police – they also bring out the parasites who feed on pain, the bottom feeders of disasters.
These are people who take pleasure in circulating images of fake victims or fake perpetrators.
On Monday morning, far-right trolls spread the “news” that the Las Vegas shooting suspect was a man named Geary Danley and said he was a fan of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. They called him a Democrat and said he was associated with an anti-Trump army.
After the attack in Manchester following the Ariana Grande concert in May, a YouTube personality who calls himself Review Brah was falsely listed as missing. There was his picture again Sunday night, with the words, “My brother was in Las Vegas the strip tonight. He’s not picking up my call! Has anyone seen him? Please help.”
Projecting comedian Sam Hyde as mass-shooter has become a favourite among trolls, according to a Buzzfeed list of hoaxes about the Las Vegas shooting.
Earlier this year, a tweet with Hyde’s photo read: Suspect in #Kalamazoo shooting identified as Klansman Stan Hider. In 2016, after a racist attack on a Missouri campus, a tweet captioned Hyde’s photo thus: Sam Hyde confirmed KKK white racist on #Mizzou campus.
As if on cue, his photo popped up again Sunday:
#Mandalay Bay shooter identified as 32 year OLD ISLAMIC CONVERT SAMIR AL-HAJEED #mandalaybay
A couple of accounts that now appear to be suspended shared a photo of porn actor Johnny Sins and said, “My dad is missing after Las Vegas shooting. Please RT and share. We are distraught.”
It has responses such as “I hope your dad is ok. Sending prayers from BC Canada.”
The tragedy, the fake cry for help, the compassion of strangers – these are fodder for humour for the unspeakably sick among us who delight in mining trauma for memes.
That life goes on is both platitude and fact. Tragic will be the day when misfortune comes knocking at the doors of the heartless and there’s no one to cry for them. Then, too, life will simply go on.
Shree Paradkar writes about discrimination and identity. You can follow her @shreeparadkar
Copyright 2017-Torstar Syndication Services