Folie à deux

Like many other of my fellow Americans, last night my attention was fixed to the story unfolding on my television screen of the shooting in San Bernardino in Southern California:

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.—Police were still searching for a motive late Wednesday night after two shooters stormed a holiday gathering for county employees and killed 14 people in the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. in three years.

Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, dropped off their six-month baby girl with Mr. Farook’s mother early Wednesday morning, a family member said. Mr. Farook, a San Bernardino County employee, later attended a work holiday event and at some point, left the party in anger, law-enforcement officials said.

Mr. Farook, 28 years old, then allegedly returned 10 minutes to 30 minutes later, with Ms. Malik, 27. The pair, dressed in “assault-style clothing” opened fire, according to police, killing 14 people and wounding 17 others.

Hours later, the couple were killed in a gunbattle on the street with police, just 2 miles from where the mass shooting had occurred. Authorities said the pair were found armed with assault rifles and semiautomatic handguns.

Officials didn’t rule out terrorism and said they were investigating any possible connections to Islamic State, but so far had uncovered nothing linking the pair to the terrorist group.

Law-enforcement officials said they were just starting what would be a long investigation, and were searching for others who may have been involved in planning the attack. A third person was still in custody, but officials said it was unclear if that person was connected to the shooting.

Based on what we know now, the situation is a worst case: domestic terrorism and Islamist terrorism and workplace-related violence. Already there have been calls for simplistic solutions only tangentially related to this particular incident including from the president of the United States. Something I think we should keep in mind is that for some of our people a ban on certain classes of weapons is no less inflammatory (or unconstitutional) than a ban on Muslims would be to others.

Here’s my proposal. First, let’s stop the endless repetition of provably untrue generalizations. Then let’s start thinking in terms of mitigating risks rather than ending threats.

8 comments… add one
  • CStanley

    It certainly appears to have been a confluence of terrorism and some kind of workplace conflict, but for my part I wouldn’t call that a worst case. In fact in reflecting on my reaction, it feels less worrisome that this is the case, rather than a Paris style attack by a terror cell (we still don’t know if perhaps something like that was being planned, but it doesn’t seem like this attack was that kind of event.)

    Logically of course we shouldn’t be overly fearful of terrorist attacks anyway, but if /when one is successfully carried out here it indicates something about the ability of government agencies to intercept planning and also indicates the possibility of getting caught up in a random attack (however low the probability.) Workplace violence, in contrast, is something I don’t feel particularly vulnerable to and those who are might have some forewarning. I find the randomness of the terrorist attacks that occur elsewhere, a bit more viscerally disturbing.

  • Elsewhere I’ve seen it characterized as a “Rorschach test”—it has within it whatever you care to put into it.

    The reason I said “worst case” is that ambiguity is divisive and we really don’t need to be more divided right about now.

  • TastyBits

    I suspect it was workplace violence by terrorists who could not contain themselves. If so, they were working towards a larger attack, and the husband got so pissed-off he just threw a lot of resources down the drain.

    If I am his handler, I am f*cking pissed because my superior is now looking at me to strap on the suicide vest if necessary. They could have blown-up a mall or parade, but instead, they shoot-up their office Christmas party.

    Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the other top 10 terrorist producing countries should be placed upon a special list, and as part of my anti-terror covert espionage program, anybody traveling to and from there would receive special attention – some more than others, as needed.

    Travel, communication, packages, money transfers, and any other contact is subject to audit. You work from the outside to the inside and from the inside to the outside. US citizens in the US have rights. US citizens outside the US have fewer rights, and non-US citizens outside the US have no rights.

    Once you begin to capture and break terrorists, a captured terrorist becomes a liability to the organization, and I suspect one of these two undisciplined f*cks would have run their mouths.

    (The junior terrorist who brought the alarm clock disguised as a bomb did his part for the cause. If you see something, you had better keep your mouth shut, or it might be another setup.)

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