Few things are less tolerable than a truly senseless act of violence. People are pattern-seeking animals, and the natural impulse is to identify data points that render the inexplicable understandable. That instinct is even more intense in the wake of all-too-frequent mass shootings, and this weekend’s spasm of violence is no exception. But the derangement that compels someone to murder strangers also tends to render their worldview politically incoherent, and those who try to find some order in the chaos are often led astray.
This past weekend’s mass shootings committed by two gunmen with what appear to be diametrically opposed partisan dispositions is a useful case study. The shooter in El Paso, Texas, published a racist manifesto on a radical fringe website outlining his beliefs, leaving little to the imagination. By contrast, the shooter in Dayton, Ohio, left no such paper trail. And though his social media footprint indicates that he held far-left views and supported Democratic politicians, there is nothing explicit to suggest he was inspired by those views.