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School Shootings and Political Tribalism

Breaking out of the cycle that follows each of these tragedies.
March 31, 2023
A Dark Culture War Crossover: Trans Rights & School Shootings | Not My Party with Tim Miller

[Editor’s note: Watch Not My Party every week on Snapchat.]

Tim Miller: A Christian school, a transgender shooter, an AR-15.

Joe Biden: It’s heartbreaking. A family’s worst nightmare.

Ashbey Beasley: How is this still happening? How are our children still dying? And why are we failing them?

Miller: This is “Not My Party,” brought to you by The Bulwark. Six are dead in Nashville, three of them not yet 10 years old. After these tragedies, people inevitably ask: why? And the answer is frustratingly simple: guns plus hate equals death.

Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell in Dumbo): That simple, huh?

Miller: Yeah, not to be a broken record here, but it’s always just that. So the obvious solution is to try to mitigate easy access to these weapons of mass destruction, especially for people prone to rage.

Jimbo Kern (from South Park): So how do we do that?

Miller: In past episodes, we’ve made suggestions: red flag laws, limiting magazine capacities, and other common-sense solutions.

Barry Berkman (Bill Hader on Barry): Lotta great suggestions.

Miller: But unfortunately, Republican politicians and the gun lobby continue to stand in the way of these broadly popular reforms.

Biden: It’s just, it’s sick. So I call on Congress again to pass my assault weapons ban.

Miller: But there is still the other side of this equation that we all have responsibility for: the hatred. Hate’s not something that we’re ever gonna eradicate, we’re all sinners, we’ve all got it.

Hank Hill (from King of the Hill): I hate you!

Stewie Griffin (from Family Guy): I hate everything.

Miller: But maybe as a culture, we should put some effort into trying to tamp it down, rather than continuing to escalate this toxic culture war.

Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Veep): What a wonderful idea. . . . Why is this so hard?

Miller: After each shooting, there’s this race online to try to assign blame. On Twitter, as we await the grisly details, you can sense that people are hoping that the shooter is gonna be from the other political tribe so they can use it as evidence to paint their opponents as evil.

Horace Cook Jr. (Aaron Stanford on Mad Men): It’s your fault.

Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland on Buffy the Vampire Slayer): I blame you.

Miller: This was super-charged this week ’cause of all the hot-button issues surrounding this killer.

Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner on Ozark): Like what?

Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan on 30 Rock): Give me an example.

Miller: That it happened in Tennessee, a state that had just passed an absurd drag queen ban in a supposed attempt to protect children.

Bill Lee: Obscenity for children is something that shouldn’t happen in this state.

Miller: That it happened in a Christian school, in a country where Christians feel increasingly like they’re being persecuted.

Republican Hype House TikTok Influencer: Conservatives need to start realizing that the left is anti-Christianity.

Miller: And that the shooter was transgender, a group that is being targeted most intensely by our culture war.

TikTok Influencer @duchessofdarkness: If they’re gonna try to jail and police you for existing, you fight them.

Tucker Carlson: The trans movement is the mirror image of Christianity and therefore its natural enemy.

Steve Smith (from American Dad!): How did this get so dark?

Hayley Dunphy (Sarah Hyland on Modern Family): This is bad.

Peter Griffin (from Family Guy): This is real bad.

Miller: Now, at the time I’m taping this, we don’t know the shooter’s exact motive, and those details are important, but let’s be real, nobody waited for that to set their preferred narrative.

Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini on The Sopranos): Well no, who’s got time for that?

Miller: Immediately, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Donald Trump Jr. were sending tweets blaming hormones and attacking transgender people.

Ava Mercer (Paz Vega on Kaleidoscope):  I can’t say I’m surprised.

Miller: The New York Post blared the most incendiary headline imaginable, and from there we enter a death spiral of online rage, with MAGA types dehumanizing trans folks, then from the left, rage-fueled denouncements and posting their creepy Christmas cards, and around and around and around we go.

Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey in The Truman Show): They just go round and round, round and round.

Miller: I’m guilty of this, we all are. There’s reason to be mad. I mean, these little kids are dead, after all. But we have to step back and realize that this online forever war we’re in is actually contributing to these deaths. You can see it in the shooters’ manifestos. The Buffalo shooter was radicalized by the reaction to Christchurch. Who knows who might be radicalized reading about the hate surrounding Nashville? It takes just one teen with access to wifi and weapons, doomscrolling through all the demonization, to determine that next time it should be them—that the other side is asking for it.

Reporter: And it is heartbreaking.

Reporter: An active shooter situation has occurred.

Reporter: Three young children and a woman–

Reporter: California, Oklahoma, another one.

Reporter: A teenage girl and a young woman died.

Reporter: We are once again talking about—

Reporter: —gun violence in America.

Devon Miles (Edward Mulhare on Knight Rider): How do we stop it?

Miller: The only way to stop this is to try to break the cycle, which means, yeah, reform gun laws, but also reform the way we treat each other online. Remember that the other side is made up of humans with souls. They’re not just a bunch of non-player characters that exist for us to despise.

Marie (Carrie Fisher in When Harry Met Sally): You’re right, you’re right, I know you’re right.

Miller: Our broken hearts go out to the victims of the Covenant School shooting. Let’s always remember them. We’ll see you next time for more “Not My Party.”

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.