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October 30, 2018

STACY MCCAIN: Why Do We Know Almost Nothing About Pittsburgh Gunman Robert Bowers?

There has been a remarkable failure of journalism in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. The gunman, 46-year-old Robert Bowers, remains a cipher. Except for the fact that he posted anti-Semitic rants on the Internet, worked as a truck driver and lived alone in an apartment, we know nothing about Bowers. Who are his parents? Does he have any siblings? Girlfriends? Did he have any hobbies other than hating Jews?

We know none of the answers to such questions. The guy’s a complete mystery. If there are any reporters trying to fill in the background on this guy, so far they have produced nothing, and so the question of why and how this guy turned into a mass murderer cannot be answered.
This bothers me, for some reason. Think about any previous mass murder or terrorist attack — the Boston Marathon bombings, the Parkland massacre, etc. — and remember how within 72 hours we had a vast pile of biographical background on the killers. Obviously, we want to know this information, since it helps us understand the motives. What created the monster? What are the warning signs? Who is vulnerable to online appeals to hate? But in this case, we’ve got nothing.

Three reporters for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette worked on a profile of Bowers, who dropped out of Baldwin High School sometime after his junior year. His photo appears in the school’s 1989 yearbook, however: “He is not listed as taking part in any clubs or activities, and classmates reached by the newspaper said they had no recollection of him.”

A total blank — a neo-Nazi NPC, you might say. The blankness of Robert Bowers should disturb us.

Evidently, any random loner — the quiet, nondescript high-school dropout with no friends or family — could log onto the Internet, find some kind of hate that appeals to him, and become a mass murderer. And in all the world of journalism, nobody except some reporters for the local newspaper will expend any effort to figure out what went wrong in this guy’s life. Why? Because they can explain it all with one word: Trump.

That’s the answer, you see.

If they’re not telling us anything, it’s because they’re afraid anything they told us would hurt the narrative.