Devastating news from Colorado Springs arrived one Sunday morning after a deadly shooting in LGBTQ nightclub, Club Q, resulted in the deaths of four patrons and one bartender. Eighteen other injuries were reported in the fallout of the attack. Two heroic patrons, an ex-military veteran and a transgender woman, who were both attending the drag night event held at the venue, saved many lives by disarming the shooter swiftly and without restraint.
In the wake of this disaster, many onlookers have scrambled to find an answer as to why a horrific act of hate-motivated violence could ever take place. The answer is simple: stochastic terrorism.
What is stochastic terrorism? Stochastic terrorism has been utilized as a media weapon for as long as journalism has been alive. It is a means of employing news media to manufacture outrage towards a certain group of people to encourage acts of violence against such groups. Quite famously, stochastic terrorism was used during the Rwandan genocide. Private radio stations such as Radio Télévision des Milles Collines or RTLM, would regularly broadcast misinformation about rival ethnic groups, encourage citizens to be wary of their neighbors, and identify areas where large populations of rival ethnic groups gathered en masse. All of these choices in broadcast encouraged swaths of young people to carry out violent acts against their friends, family members, and neighbors. This mobilization was cutthroat, highly effective, and borderline hypnotic in its ability to turn people against members of their communities. Right-wing media is now doing the same.
“I don’t understand where the men are. Like- where are the dads, some teachers pushing sex values on your third grader. Why don’t you go in and thrash the teacher?” Tucker Carlson sits at his desk on April 8th, 2022 during his nightly broadcast Tucker Carlson Tonight. He rants and raves that teachers are “grooming” their students using “sex values.” The reality behind his report is a confusing three-minute segment that jumps from Pete Buttigieg’s husband leading a pledge to a gay pride flag at a queer summer camp, to how teachers are grooming your children to be gay and that you as a parent should be assaulting them. Tucker Carlson Tonight is the second most widely watched television program in the United States, and it espouses this type of anti-LGBT rhetoric regularly.
Friend of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Matt Walsh, is also an infamous transphobe. Walsh has spent the last year collaborating with his publication, The Daily Wire, to produce a documentary titled “What is a Woman?” in which he perpetuates false information about Boston Children’s Hospital and their gender-affirming care program. Walsh’s actions likely caused not one but two bombing threats to be called into the facility, which Walsh, alongside several other Right-Wing media figures, denied the legitimacy of. The shameless manner by which these media figures deflect responsibility is a meticulous form of defensive positioning. Even when they advocate for the eradication of queer people on their Twitter accounts.
The return of stochastic terrorism in the American political atmosphere is an unwelcome one. From Great Replacement conspiracy theories fueling anti-Latino shootings in Texas, to Club Q, to the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting, these kinds of media behaviors are becoming more and more gregarious since the rise of anti-Islamic messaging in news media in the aftermath of 9/11. Being aware of the strategies right-wing media has learned to employ makes you, as a viewer, less susceptible to them. There is blood on their hands, as much blood as any worker, writer, or announcer on RTLM during the Rwandan Genocide.