We Hunted the Mammoth give us the context surrounding the Lafayette theater shooting:
Police in Lafayette, Louisiana are evidently struggling to understand why the outspokenly misogynistic, racist and anti-Semitic John Russell “Rusty” Houser murdered two women and wounded 9 other moviegoers at a showing of “Trainwreck,” a film written by and starring Amy Schumer, a feminist comedian with a Jewish father, known for joking frankly about sex.
Rusty was quite the piece of work. He was a local TV station’s equivalent of clickbait. They used him to drum up traffic, much like social-justice-oriented bloggers are frequently accused of doing. From WaPo:
“I had him on strictly because he was entertaining,” said Calvin Floyd, the former host of the talk show “Rise and Shine” on WLTZ NBC 38 in Columbus, Ga. “He was radical, and when you’re looking for a person on a live show, taking calls, that’s what you want.”
“Whatever he wanted to talk about, it would generate calls,” said Floyd. “He was anti-abortion. The best I can recall, Rusty had an issue with feminine rights. He was opposed to women having a say in anything. You could talk with him a few minutes, and you would know he had a high IQ but there was a lot missing with him.”
“Opposed to women having a say in anything.” His choosing a show of “Trainwreck” as the site of his mass shooting was probably not a coincidence. He wanted to punish people for enjoying the work of a feminist comedian.
The way Calvin Floyd talks about Mr. Rusty sounds sort of like he wants to apologize for giving the guy a platform. Like he needs to explain himself. And if that’s the case, I think he’s being too hard on himself. For every bigot who takes a gun to a movie theater, there must be dozens of bigots who don’t make an impression beyond yelling at local politicians at town hall meetings. Calvin Floyd had no idea that Rusty Houser would go on to commit a mass shooting. Moreover, Rise and Shine did not make him the way he was. It simply allowed him to show himself the way he was.
Even so, perhaps a valuable lesson here is that local TV shows should find better ways to generate traffic than by giving white-supremacist, Nazi-sympathizing, patriarchal hatemongers a place to spew their bile. Maybe, just maybe, people like him don’t need to have their voices amplified.