Let’s stipulate that we don’t yet know the motives of the shooter who killed three adults and three children in Nashville on Monday. And we shouldn’t speak with confidence on the matter until we learn more. We do know that the killer was a biological female who identified as male. And Nashville Police say that she wrote a manifesto of sorts that could shed light on her wicked thinking. Should its contents be made public? There’s a strong argument that it should not. Our mass-shooting plague is one long string of copycat crimes, each inspiring the next. Every released manifesto contributes to a growing literature of the possessed. And the screeds and online gibberish of these lunatics stimulate and reassure the sickest minds among us.
But some progressive and LGBTQ activist groups are arguing that the Nashville killer’s motives are irrelevant altogether. And when people claim that motives don’t matter, they’re usually expressing a wish.
Newsweek quotes Jordan Budd, executive director of Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere, who says, “[the manifesto] should not be published” and adds, “The focus should be on how this was able to happen in the first place. There should not be such easy access to deadly weaponry.” According to the same article, Laura McGinnis, a spokesperson for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, “said that while the manifesto could help law enforcement and policymakers identify potential warning signs to prevent future tragedies, ultimately, ‘the contents don’t change the outcome of the tragedy.’” McGinnis, in fairness, also cited the danger of copycats. But the Human Rights Campaign’s statement on the shooting is the most telling of all. It reads in part: “We still don’t know all the facts about what happened in Nashville. We do know that every study available shows that transgender and non-binary people are much more likely to be the victims of violence, rather than the perpetrators of it.”
Six people are killed by a transgender shooter and we’re urged to sympathize with transgender victims. What is Human Rights Campaign afraid of? Here’s what: that the killer’s manifesto may cite radical trans ideology as motivation for murdering children at a Christian school. To be clear, we have no idea if the manifesto contains anything of the sort. But given the possibility that it does, we can see why certain groups have decided that motives don’t matter. Because if motives matter, and the shooter was radicalized by trans ideology, then more Americans might scratch beneath the surface—beneath the fluff pieces on trans liberation, the glamour spreads of trans celebrities, the reassuring claims of movement-fearing doctors, the White House award ceremonies—and take a deeper look at what exactly has been advanced at light speed in the name of freedom, tolerance, and love. And when they do, they may be shocked by what they find. Never in American history has a phenomenon as fundamentally radical as the pro-trans campaign received so little scrutiny. And activists are petrified that it could come to an end. So, no manifesto, no problem.
And if the manifesto isn’t released for fear of guilt by association, it would be a first. Guilt by association is usually the point. Some past headlines: “Here Are the Far-Right Conspiracists the Quebec City Mosque Shooter Followed,” Vice, August 16, 2018; “Mosque shooter reportedly ‘influenced’ by Stamford’s own Candace Owens,” AP, March 15, 2019; “El Paso Shooting Suspect’s Manifesto Echoes Trump’s Language,” the New York Times, August 4, 2019; “The Buffalo Shooter Isn’t a ‘Lone Wolf.’ He’s a Mainstream Republican,” Rolling Stone, May 15, 2022; “What the shooting in Buffalo has to do with Fox News host Tucker Carlson,” NPR, May 17, 2022. Traditionally, the press treats mass shootings as opposition research on conservatives.
The motives of mass killers sure seemed to matter before Monday. And you can bet they’ll matter again. The manifestos will surely be splattered everywhere. They’ll be pored over and sifted through for names and ideas that can be safely smeared. And if the publicity inspires the next monster, so be it.