The Hottest Bad-Faith Political Trend Of The Summer

The Hottest Bad-Faith Political Trend Of The Summer

For a long time, after a bunch of people were blown to pieces by a guy with an assault rifle engineered to do maximum damage to the frail human body, conservatives have solemnly talked about mental health, usually in the most vague terms possible.

Ted Cruz or Greg Abbott or Lindsay Graham or whatever shit head servant of the gun manufacturers gets in front of the cameras with pursed lips and concern in their hollow eyes and tells the nation with a straight fucking face that it was a lack of mental health services that led to the latest massacre. If only this young man could have sought and received services for his severe mental health issues – brought on my excessive YouTube watching, no doubt – the humans being dragged out of this shopping mall or classroom or marketplace in pieces would be alive and kicking today. Their families' lives would not be forever ruined. The survivors of the mass shooting would not be facing a lifetime of trauma without end.

The mental health, Republicans say. Think of the mental health. Somehow they say this while they do everything in their power to strip Americans of their human right to see a doctor, possibly to treat a mental illness. Don't be fooled: No one who opposes universal health-care gives a single shit about mental health. The political right has done everything it can to exacerbate mental health challenges in the US.

We know what it's about. We understand their post-massacre playbook. Blame mental health, blame video games, blame the existence of transgender people, blame anything but Americans' unfettered access to weapons of war. Confuse the discourse and obscure the truth just long enough for people to move on to the next societal outrage and we can get through this. The cigar champers at the gun manufacturing headquarters are counting on the media to be gullible enough to eat up the bad faith as good faith and regurgitate it all over their viewers and readers.

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Who could forget this classic bad-faith missile from Donald Trump a few hours after a white supremacist killed Latino folks in El Paso in 2019? "Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger. Not the gun," Trump said, not believing it, not caring if it was true, but simply repeating the party line to trigger the libs who would rather not have Americans mowed down by machine guns every fifth day. I would call it parody, but it is beyond parody. "Guns don't kill people," the saying goes, "insufficient mental health funding kills people."

They know mental health is not the issue. They know that we know that they know mental health is not the reason TV news coverage of mass shootings has to be interrupted to cover another mass shooting somewhere else in our diseased post-democratic nation. It's all so insulting on the most basic level. It's not just a bad-faith argument; it's a warmed over bad-faith argument the dog threw up under the couch six weeks ago. Toss it in the microwave, stir it up a little, throw some hot sauce in there, and serve it up to a grieving, anxiety-ridden nation next time the internet turns a young white man into a neo-nazi killing machine. They'll choke it down.

As if you needed to be told, it's all bullshit – this idea that a dearth of mental health services is the root cause of our nightmarish, Supreme Court-supported string of mass shootings. If Republicans – any Republican, really – wanted to stop the mass killings they have enabled, they would allow the fucking government to research the causes of and solutions to American gun violence. It's been more than a quarter century since congressional Republicans, with the help of some key Democrats, barred the federal government from doing that extraordinarily basic due diligence.

“If we magically cured all these serious mental illnesses tomorrow, which would be wonderful – imagine the alleviation of suffering – our violence problem would go down by about 4 percent,” Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, told Bloomberg News after 19 kids in Uvalde, Texas were slain by a teen with an AR-15, the official implement of mass death.

“Mental illness is not the problem," the National Alliance on Mental Illness said in a statement after one of America's recent mass killings (who cares which one, honestly). "It is incorrect and harmful to link mental illness and gun violence, which is often the case following a mass shooting. ... Pointing to mental illness doesn’t get us closer as a nation to solving the problem and doing so leads to discrimination and stigma against those with mental illness — who are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. People across the globe live with mental illness, but only in the U.S. do we have an epidemic of senseless and tragic mass shootings."

Republicans' blathering about mental health in the hours and days after a gun massacre – for we only have a few days until the next instance of public slaughtering – isn't just bad-faith horse shit. It perpetuates harmful stereotypes about people with mental illness. Ted Cruz called the Uvalde shooter a "violent psychopath" who needed mental health treatment. I heard some Texas state lawmaker on CNN call the killer "crazy" and "deranged."

Republicans – and certainly some liberals – think this language is appropriate because it identifies the problem. They think they're helping. Calling a mass shooter crazy instantly washes away all the shades of grey that color a massacre. Things become more black and white. The shooter was insane. He needed mental health assistance. Problem solved. These hardcore bad-faith pushers can go home and sleep easy because they have broken down the problem for the listening audience.

“I think people confuse having a mental health condition with being troubled, and they are not one and the same,” Hannah Wesolowski, chief advocacy officer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, told Bloomberg.

In the chaotic, anxious, fearful aftermath of a mass shooting, people might be more apt to cling to an easy-to-digest argument like Muh Mental Health. We just want to understand the situation; any explanation will do. Then we can move on.

Bad Faith Becomes Good Faith Legislation

Congressional Democrats, as naive and blundering and weak as ever, grabbed their big, shiny spoons and ate up Republican bad-faith dog vomit about mental health, making it a key component of the ridiculously insufficient guns bill designed to get us to shut the fuck up about mass shootings for a while.

The bill, hammered out by hardline gun-fucking Republicans and a bunch of goofy-ass Democrats who pretend they're in an episode of The West Wing, extends a funding mechanism for certified community behavioral health clinics. Such clinics provide 24-7 crisis care, outpatient mental health and addiction treatment, and care coordination with emergency rooms, among other services. This funding would be extended from its current 10-state reach to every state in the union with a price tag of $8 billion.

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Don't take this as a dismissal of mental health programs as a crucial service for people struggling with all manner of issues. The late stages of capitalism present a daily smorgasbord of ways to plunge a person into the sort of depression and anxiety that can't be treated without professional help. Everyday life is precarious in a faltering empire completely unable to provide decent lives for people who trade their labor for money. It's tougher than ever to pretend our house of cards isn't teetering in the wind, that everything might fall to pieces at any moment. Then there's the online aspect: Our parents are slowly curdling into Facebook nazis while our brains are being permanently altered by social media platforms designed to manipulate our brain's reward centers. Our minds, more than ever, are not our own.

All this wreaks havoc on our mental health, and an expansion of mental health care access can only be a rare positive development in these, the last days of the republic.

By including mental health funding as a key component to the fake congressional gun legislation, Democrats have transformed Republican bad faith about mental health into good-faith policy. Congressional Democrats (and Joe Biden) have conceded that mental health is a critical issue in our search for a solution to constant gun massacres. And it's not – not even close. Remember what Swanson from Duke University told Bloomberg News: Addressing mental health effectively would lower shootings by about 4 percent. The government will spend $8 billion to affirm conservative bad-faith politics on mass shootings. No one can ever again insist this is not a mental health problem because Republicans can point to this do-nothing bill and ask why liberals signed off on the right-wing argument that bolstered mental health services will stop the killings.

A 2018 FBI report on mass shootings said about one in four shooters had confirmed mental illness. The report said nothing about whether those mental health issues contributed to their horrific acts.

"There are important and complex considerations regarding mental health, both because it is the most prevalent stressor and because of the common but erroneous inclination to assume that anyone who commits an active shooting must de facto be mentally ill," the FBI report said. "Absent specific evidence, careful consideration should be given to social and contextual factors that might interact with any mental health issue before concluding that an active shooting was 'caused' by mental illness. In short, declarations that all active shooters must simply be mentally ill are misleading and unhelpful."

But now we're stuck with the bad faith argument that mental health is the cause of gun massacres. We can never again say (correctly) that it's the guns, and nothing but the guns. Way to go, Democrats. Good job. Good fucking effort.

Things We Do Not Talk About: Bruno, Mass Shootings

This week, after a few July 4 parades were interrupted by young men firing indiscriminately into crowds, I asked Bad Faith Times subscribers how they talk about these traumatic events with their friends and family.

The answer, mostly, was that there's nothing to talk about anymore. Mass killings are part of the bloody fabric of everyday American life. As David Bowie sang in a forgettable 1987 song, "When you're under the USA, someone rings a bell and it's all over."

The courts captured by the far right, the Senate made useless by the filibuster, a Democratic Party unwilling to play hardball politics with ascendent fascists: It leaves nothing to say.

Jon DiRienzo, a good and decent Bad Faith Times reader, said there's little point in expending the emotional energy to argue about mass shootings with friends and relatives who might counter with nonsense bad faith politics about mental health or video games or moral malaise or whatever the fuck else.

"The bizarre thing is that many of us have stopped communicating in person on topics such as this. We are being condition to only share our feelings online because we do not want to waste precious together time arguing which has become the societal norm," DiRienzo said. "I think my immediate family are depressed and scared about the topic. My wife (who is European) laments how pathetic a country we are. We have a place to escape in Norway but shootings in Oslo and Copenhagen in the last week are really bad indicators. The global economy may be dissipating to some degree but global violence and fascism is something I truly would like to avoid."

Fascism seems like a good thing to avoid. Hopefully we can.

I've found myself in a similar spot, chatting amiably with family members and friends in the hours and days after children were slaughtered by a man who bought an AR-15 at the local 7-11 and slaughtered people while cops sat on lawn chairs nearby. Tragedy swirls around us and while we may nod to the horror – ah yes, it's all so terrible – we try to function as if life in 2020s America is normal. It's a desperate desire to block out the decay creeping into every aspect of life, to continue on as somewhat happy, pleasant people who can still have a laugh at a cookout as the TV broadcasts the bodybags being dragged out of the school or the Walmart or the parade path.

What else can we do? Voting doesn't work. Petitioning our congressional representatives doesn't work unless you can offer their spouse a Saudi oil company job that pays eight figures. Protesting doesn't work. Any effective gun control legislation will be instantly killed by the monstrous conservatives on the Supreme Court. Americans have no recourse for ending gun violence. There is no way to address the problem.

So we complain online and leave it out of our talks with friends and family. Why argue with someone who's been programmed by Fox News to believe mass shootings are caused by gay folks in the Buzz Lightyear movie, or muh mental health, or a lack of Christian prayer in public schools.

No one's mind can be changed. And even if you were able to accomplish such a feat, it would not matter. So we go on, talking about bullshit because it feels better than acknowledging the abounding horror.

Follow Denny Carter on Twitter @CDCarter13.