Stephen Paddock, the retiree responsible for the slaughter, used to spend $10,000 a month at the casinos. One of the leads followed by the police is indeed tied to Vegas’ “core business” as a possible motive. Some sort of tragic revenge against the shining world for which the shooter may have harbored disappointment and resentment. The slot machines are the most wicked and cruel version of the American Dream. This city’s birth and fortune are owed to the exploitation of mass naiveté.
This is just a hypothesis, as Paddock is the first “pre-modern” terrorist. He did not leave clues and goals on social media. This is another unprecedented implication of this story. With a Pavlovian reflex typical of our time, everyone rushed to look for clues to his motives on Facebook and other platforms. Nothing turned up. Suddenly, social media offer no help when dealing with someone who kept his thoughts to himself. Technology becomes useless when you need to decipher an offline life.
Donald Trump’s first test in the face of a domestic massacre coincides with his visit to Puerto Rico. Between today and tomorrow, the president will have to face the sites of two tragedies. The island is worn out by the slowness of aid, whereas tomorrow, here in Vegas, the president will be on his “home ground.” This is literally Trump’s America; it even has a golden casino that carries his name. Barack Obama tried to find a moral and political lesson when dealing with national tragedies (Sandy Hook, Charleston.) Trump instead referenced God in his early words, not very convincingly, and later tweeted an evasive sentence on the arms issue, in order to avoid/delay any debate.
How does the American right “process” grief? By highlighting heroism and selflessness. Watching Fox News is necessary in order to understand how the right’s brain works. The narrative shifts to single cases of self-denial, of solidarity among victims, of police courage, so that it can avoid inconvenient questions about arms. Television offers an orgy of consoling patriotism to set a wonderful America against the criminal madness of a deviant individual. Those on the left who dare to grapple with the taboo subject of arms are accused of wanting to “politicize” a tragedy.
America’s astonishment before the vastness of Paddock’s arsenal rings false. The police want to find out how he was able to gather dozens of military weapons and explosives, but Nevada’s laws are so lax that anyone could do the same.
The subject I brought up yesterday, i.e., the fact that the mourning did not interrupt a single show in Las Vegas—“the show business must go on”— is the perfect backdrop for a country which stubbornly refuses to change while going from one shooting to the next.
We are now waiting for the police to talk to Paddock’s (ex?) girlfriend, who was traveling to Japan at the time of the shooting.* Since, according to the investigators, she was unaware of his plans, she is for now cleared of all suspicion of her complicity. However, she could still offer some insight into the man’s mind.
*Editor’s note: Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, had previously been in Japan, but was in the Philippines at the time of the shooting.