Amanda and Jerad Miller were reportedly methamphetamine addicts, paranoid conspiracy theorists, and cop killers. Over the weekend, the couple took the lives of two Las Vegas police officers before turning the gun on themselves. Beyond being deranged, the couple was apparently also fiercely mistrustful of the federal government.
They were attracted to the conservative movement’s causes and were willing to believe even the most unfounded accusations of government tyranny, including claims that the Bureau of Land Management was oppressing Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. Every broad-based movement has its demented members, and the Millers were decidedly on the conservative side of that ledger.
In a grotesque display of symbolism, the two killers reportedly draped Gasden flags over the bodies of the police officers they killed and left one with a copy of Jerad Miller’s swastika-stamped manifesto. These symbols, one signifying small, decentralized government and the other representing precisely the opposite, are linked only in the minds of those already deeply suspicious of the modern conservatism.
Enter The Daily Beast’s Editor-in-Chief, John Avlon.
Appearing on CNN, Avlon insisted that “fright-wing, hatriot politics” inspired the Vegas shooters – a serious charge supported by compelling but nevertheless circumstantial evidence.
It was a clever line lifted from his column in The Daily Beast. In that post, Avlon correctly attacks the Millers as “wingnuts,” derides their penchant for listening to “fright-wing radio hosts” like the conspiracist Alex Jones, and notes the couple’s suspicious affinity for conservative advocacy groups like Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks, and the NRA.
On CNN, Avlon blamed “hyper-partisan, agitated talk,” and not simply mental illness, for inspiring these apparently otherwise well-adjusted individuals to believe murdering police officers would spark a revolution.
“These are the wages of hate,” Avlon wrote. “The politics of incitement has a real cost when it comes in contact with armed alarmists who cross the small but decisive dividing line from being willing to die for a cause and being willing to kill for one.”
MSNBC host Krystal Ball took Avlon’s logic a step further, while being careful to avoid stating aloud the obvious conclusion to which this thought process would lead.
“The constant warnings that our very freedoms and liberty are under assault can provoke the unhinged,” she said on her program on Tuesday. “It can lead them to believe that extreme action, murderous action, is just and patriotic. It allows them to cloak their crimes, in their minds at least, in the noble cloth of revolution.”
Just like movies and video games can provoke those who are already disturbed to engage in violence, the theory goes, political speech can have the same effect. So, if some political speech is problematic, so much so that lives are at risk, and those propagating supposedly inciting rhetoric will not cease their activities voluntarily, what is to be done?
None dare answer that question honestly.
We live in an era in which politicians and bureaucrats regularly engage in the curtailing of the average citizens’ salt or sugar intake in the name of public safety. It is an era in which congressional Democrats are pushing limits on the first amendment, not to address a societal ill, but because it would be popular with their base voters. The technocrats are busy at work protecting you from yourself.
Amanda and Jerad Miller were deeply disturbed people. They were criminals, drug addicts, and, yes, anti-government fanatics. The latter condition is receiving a lot of attention today in left-of-center media while the former charges are being overlooked or undervalued.
Too many are more comfortable attacking what they perceive to be dangerous thought. Meanwhile, far too few are asking how these dangerous people slipped through the cracks.