Saturday, June 13, 2009

The myth of the 'lone wolf'

Since Wednesday's shooting at the Holocaust Museum, experts have been characterizing the lifelong anti-Semite, racist and white supremacist who committed the murder as a "lone wolf." It was an isolated incident, they say, and the elderly killer acted alone.

I say that's a myth.

Oh, I get the concept, as it relates to criminal investigations and profiling. I'm familiar with separatists' strategic move toward small cells, so-called "leaderless resistance." I know that it's impossible to prevent all violent acts carried out by motivated individuals.

The problem I have with the "lone wolf" theory is that it tends to paint a picture that begins and ends inside the head of the perpetrator -- and that's like blaming Chicago for fire.

It takes a spark.

For the second time in as many days, I'm going to quote the Ohio Constitution § 1.11, which contains an interesting phrase not found in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights:
"Every citizen may freely speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of the right..."
Our laws prohibit government from restraining or abridging speech, including objectionable and hateful speech -- and as I've said many times, that's exactly as it should be. I'm not suggesting otherwise.

Not all speech is responsible, however, even if permitted, and a right guaranteed can become a right abused.

There are consequences.

I accept the risks of this free society, the consequences of my constitutional rights, but I've yet to witness the merchants of hate, the Father Coughlins of our time, accept responsibility for tossing matches into tinder.

We should start telling the truth about that, even if they won't.

Today's questions
Was it pure coincidence that the vicious old man who murdered the museum security guard committed his act before he turned 89?

Did he come up with that number -- and the unparalleled evil it symbolizes -- what, on his own?

Still think he was a "lone wolf"?