Boulder shooting: If leaping to conclusions was an Olympic sport, these would be the gold medalists (Update)

As Ed pointed out this morning, authorities have named the suspect in the Boulder, Colorado supermarket shooting. Ahmad al-Issa is apparently a foreign national and a believer in Islam but as Ed also noted, it’s looking like he may have some longer term mental issues. Heavy found some Facebook posts from 2019 in which he’s talking about his high school hacking his phone. It’s too early to say for sure what the motive is here but undiagnosed schizophrenia has entered the chat as a possibility.


But before we knew the shooter’s name or identity, there were lots of people on social media ready to jump to politically popular conclusions about who the shooter would be. Caleb Hull put together a thread highlighting some of the journalists and other blue-check Twitter users who ran with the white domestic terrorist narrative before having any facts.

There is a clear social media benefit to those posting stuff like this. Thousands or tens of thousands of likes for the person who tells the audience what they want to hear.

Some were quick to also make light of the possibility the shooter could have mental issues or rather to assume that those excuses would only be offered if the shooter was white.


Rosanna Arquette is on record saying she’s sorry she was born white.

In their minds, these people not only know who the shooter was, they know why he did it. It was the white virus.

Some were ready to connect it to the shooting in Atlanta to create a bigger narrative about white terrorists.

Meena Harris later deleted that tweet and issued a non-apology.

Jared Yates Sexton (who may be a distant relative) says it’s about the white culture of entitlement.


Lots of people were keying on the fact that the shooter survived as proof he was white: “We KNOW cops are capable of treating ppl humanely…just not us,” Michael Harriot wrote.

Lots and lots of clicks for this stuff. This message really sells:

You don’t have to be original just feed into the right narrative. 28,000 likes for this next guy:

The guy below tried to tie in cancel culture and only got 475 likes. Too far from the platonic ideal of the white male terrorist meme, I guess.

Here’s how you get lots of likes:

I think this guy (Alex Cole) set the record for likes on this topic:


I don’t think Caleb Hull ran out of examples I think he just got tired. I’d be willing to bet that for every one of these tweets from a blue check on the left there are dozens from people with small follower counts saying the same thing. That’s usually how it works.

So I have two points to make about this. The first is that all the people leaping to conclusions were wrong and that’s significant because it not only blows a hole in their personal credibility, it also disproves what they were saying. For instance, it’s not true that the suspect would be instantly killed by police if he weren’t white. It’s also not true that as a society we only look at the possibility of mental illness if the shooter is white.

And that brings us to my second point which is the big one. We’re seeing the same reaction here that we saw to the Atlanta shooting. In both cases, there is a particular narrative that a lot of people are very eager to embrace for political reasons. In Atlanta it’s the idea there was a racially motivated attack by a white supremacist which is getting covered up by police. In Boulder, the narrative people clearly wanted was a white domestic terrorist getting special treatment from police.

In the Boulder case, these folks were quickly proven wrong. In the Atlanta case, they may still be proven wrong. Police haven’t found proof the motive in that case was about race even after looking through the shooter’s computer and phone. That could change of course, but the point is that narratives are increasingly getting ahead of the facts. The desire to make white people and police the villains and accomplices in these tragedies is a worrisome trend.


Update: Thanks to Ed who pointed these out to me. A Daily Caller editor highlights two more examples of people in the media who jumped on the bandwagon. The first guy does fact checks for the AFP. The second is the Race and Inclusion editor at USAToday.

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