In the three days since the horrific mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival, we’ve borne witness to a repeat of the character narrative that tends to follow immediately after similar acts of terrorism.
First, speculation over the religion and ethnicity of the killer – that is, until he (it is almost always a man) is proven white and non-Muslim; then attempts (usually owing to his whiteness) to humanise the mass shooter; and finally, feeble acknowledgement of the killer’s history with abuse. It’s called “the three-day story” and Helen Lewis wrote it in the New Statesman just four months ago in a piece exploring the likelihood of terrorists’ demonstrating abusive behaviour towards women. And it appears, right on cue, that there is evidence that Stephen Paddock, the man responsible for the deaths of 59 people this weekend, may have verbally abused his girlfriend in public on several occasions.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, a barista working at the shooter’s local Starbucks in the Virgin River Casino revealed that Paddock regularly “berated” his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, in public.
Esperanza Mendoza, the Starbucks employee, said: “He would glare down at her and say – with a mean attitude – ‘You don’t need my casino card for this. I’m paying for your drink, just like I’m paying for you.’ Then she would softly say, ‘OK’ and step back behind him. He was so rude to her in front of us.”
As a number of people have warned for years, the deadliest threats to society are not Islam, or brown and black people – it’s continuing to let hypermasculinity go unchallenged.
According to a report from Everytown For Gun Safety, the majority of mass shootings in the United States (54 per cent) between 2009-2016 “were related to domestic or family violence” but even in instances where the violene is not aimed at their families, there is often a history of abuse: the Charlottesville rally killer, James Alex Fields Jr., had physically abused his mother, for example. In the UK, the man responsible for the attack on Westminister in March, Khalid Masood, was also revealed to have been abusive towards his former wife, Faranza Isaq, as was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who drove a truck into a crowd in Nice on Bastille Day. The examples are endless. And the connections needs to be acknowledged.
As a number of people (namely women, gun law reformists and academics) have warned for years, the deadliest threats to society are not Islam, or brown and black people – it’s continuing to let hypermasculinity go unchallenged.