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The most violent country on Earth

DOUG NICHOLLS relates the tragedy of the recent killings in Texas to the culture of violence perpetrated by the United States at home and throughout the world

YET ANOTHER crazed mass shooting in the United States, and yet more hand-wringing about gun laws. 

Some say gun laws will never be amended in the US because the Second Amendment, agreed in 1791, which gives the right to bear arms, was ordained by God.

Defeating the fierce lobby of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the profit lust of the arms manufacturers is just part of the story.

To change the US obsession with the gun requires a deep social change and a sustained rejection of its many cultural glorifications of shooting.

Alongside the longest list of starting wars in the history of the world, the US has the second-largest nuclear arsenal; 800 military bases around the world; the deployment of active-duty military troops in 150 countries; the largest military spending programme on Earth; and the longest track record of assassination attempts of political leaders it dislikes in other countries — whether Allende, Castro, Chavez, Maduro, Ocalan or many others.

It has circled Russia and China with every weapon at its disposal. It was the first to use nuclear weaponry. It is now attempting to get its nukes back into Britain. It has murderous sanctions on 24 countries, and legions of paramilitary mercenaries and hit-men.

It was the United States that has launched the most barbaric wars of our times in Korea and Vietnam, notoriously seeking to bomb those countries “back to the Stone Age.”

The bloody exploits of US imperialism are very well and graphically documented. In response to the diminishing power of its war machine, the US is now intensifying its aggression, as would a dying beast, and it has Russia, then of course China, in its sights.

This creates the constant drum of war and the normalisation of the firing gun or rocket. And real warmongering has its cultural side too. It should be no surprise that the US dominates the gaming and film and TV industries. 

Through this vast global empire of popular media the subliminal messages of violence and aggression can saturate our airwaves.

The Pentagon has joint committees with children’s games manufacturers to ensure that the prolific war games, which put the player into the position of the mass murderer shooting the “enemy.” suitably portray the GI and US forces as the heroes making humans “disappear” for the greater good of the dollar and democracy.

Gone are the days of the early Westerns like Rawhide or Bonanza where a popping pistol or two would cause trouble for robber barons and unscrupulous railway magnates and land-grabbers. Now it’s full-on, in-your-face constant images of blowing other countries and people to smithereens.

The British do the more restrained murder mystery of Miss Marple, while the US goes for World Wrestling Federation power moves. You don’t have to guess the murderer, the culprit is almost sanctified.

There are other forms of violence against the people. Class A drugs are one weapon used — among people aged 12 or older in 2020 in the US, an estimated 0.2 per cent (or about 691,000 people) had a heroin use disorder in the past 12 months. In the same year 13,165 died from heroin overdoses.

Of course the inability of the US to protect its people during Covid — so depleted are its public services, so foreign is the notion of planning and so non-existence is free healthcare provision — that there have been one million deaths from the disease. Compare this with just slightly over 5,000 in China.

The most common and regularly repeated image in any US film and TV programme is of gunfire, one person shooting another.

Add to this the morbid interest of the US-dominated social media with accounts of torture and genocide and glorification of the sociopath and you get a vision of mankind as killer by nature. Disturbed and psychotic phenomena fascinate their media moguls. 

Their love of the most lurid and gruesome horror films and promotion of the macabre combine to build up a picture of a country seething with sadomasochism. 

Even American football resembles a battlefield of armoured soldiers more than a sport, and must be the only game in the world where you can, within the rules, take out an innocent player not in possession of the ball.

Look at the very long list of US far-right and explicitly white supremacist and neonazi organisations and those which are in effect paramilitary units, either hiding out in bunkers ready for the Second Coming of Hitler, or actively still killing their fellow citizens. It’s the scariest list of outfits with hatred in their hearts in the world.

The cowboy movie, ultimately celebrating the massacre of the native Americans, the thousands of cops and robbers programmes where the state (the cop) usually triumphs and executes the bad guys, the real and actual lynch mobs, the constantly aggressive me, me, me selfishness of the acquisitive society — all of these and other violent trends create a nightmare set of images of itself which the US spreads to television stations throughout the world. 

What other culture could produce Silence of the Lambs and many like it? To be a hero you have to be a cannibal.

Even a film-maker like Quentin Tarantino supposedly mocks the American way of violence by creating some of the most shocking and violent scenes to pollute your mind even more.

Serial killing of fellow citizens is an inevitable national characteristic in the US. There have been around 3,500 US serial killers, that is nearly 68 per cent of all those recorded in the world. Sadly England’s grim claim to fame is that we are second on this list, with 166. 

Serial killing in the US does not reflect the availability of the most lethal weaponry, but the serial killing that lies at the heart of US imperialist policies. 

It reflects, too, the callous extremity of market forces and individualism that exist in the world’s most advanced capitalist economy, where everything including a drive by killing, has a price.

If young people grow up playing computer games built on the adulation of shooting others, watching television programmes that depict shootouts at every turn, hearing news of explosions and murders caused by US troops, and the most horrendous crimes against humanity, it is hardly surprising that murder might not seem that bad a thing. This is especially so if your superheroes happen to be creating a corpse a second in the name of liberty.

The response of some policy-makers in Texas currently is to hire armed security guards for primary schools. The posse is out as it was in every Western.

But don’t those law enforcement agencies, bounty hunters and lynch mobs do well? They flattened Iraq then won contracts to rebuild it and take its oil.

The US has by far the highest prison population per head of any country. There are thought to be 10.35 million people in prison throughout the world — 2.2 million of these are in the US! 

Thirteen per cent of the general population in the US are black, yet 38 per cent of those in jail are black. This is the awful cruelty of the abiding racial discrimination in the US, which is really in a league of its own at a world level.

Think how many films there are about US prisoners. Prisons, like the gun, are glorified in movie after movie. There’s no escape is the message. Rehabilitation? Not likely: US jails are notorious for breeding vile, usually racist, gangs.

And who could forget the electric chair, capital punishment, death row. Some 144 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, 28 countries have effectively abolished the death penalty by not executing anyone in the past 10 years, and 55 countries still retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes. Since 1976, 1,363 executions in the US have been by lethal injection.

The US is not the land of the free, it is a land that should be freed of the dominance of the gun — in the media, in the home and around the world. Let’s help it along and start imposing our own sanctions on the US house of horrors show. 

Having a “special relationship” with the US, especially at this time, endangers Britain. It is interfering in our politics — witness the trial of Julian Assange, the theft of Venezuelan gold — and endangering our peace with the expanding Nato manoeuvres, the potential nukes at Lakenheath, and embroiling us in US conflicts.

If the US thinks it’s still the sheriff, Britain shouldn’t be its deputy.


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