Security, Top Stories

Hashtags and Terror Narratives in Toronto

On April 15, 2013, hours after the Tsarnaev brothers set off explosives at the Boston Marathon, the #bostonstrong hashtag went viral on Twitter. A week later, at the first home Red Sox game following the tragedy, the Fenway Park public announcer declared, “We are one. We are strong. We are Boston. We are Boston strong.” Since then, the same meme has been adopted by numerous other cities in the wake of local tragedies—including my own, Toronto, which proclaimed itself #TorontoStrong following a deadly van attack that took 10 lives in April.

The idea that communities become stronger in the wake of mass murder is attractive. And sometimes, it’s even true—because outside threats stimulate a spirit of collective defiance and solidarity. But many acts of mass murder are perpetrated by mentally ill killers who have no political motive. In these cases, tragedies can actually widen fissures within society, because different factions co-opt the crime to advance their own agendas. Collective strength can exist only when citizens have a sense of common purpose.

On Sunday, Toronto suffered another mass shooting, when a 29-year-old man named Faisal Hussain attacked a strip along Danforth Avenue in the city’s well-known Greektown neighbourhood, killing two and wounding 13. During the rampage, he moved from one side of the four-lane street to the other, seemingly targeting victims at random. Hussain isn’t known to have left any suicide note or manifesto. Nor is he known to have made any terroristic war cry or ululation before dying by his own hand.

My career as a journalist began shortly before 9/11, and much of my writing over the last 17 years has been connected to terrorism in some way. During that time, I’ve seen an evolution in the way people respond to high-profile attacks. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, people usually had to wait a day or two before shock and grief gave way to arguments about terrorism’s ‘root causes.’ But thanks to social media, that cycle is now compressed. After a school shooting in the United States, tweets savaging the NRA sometimes appear in my feed before I can even digest news about the shooting itself.

Ideologues on all sides spend their lives bursting with theories about the source of evil in the world—for that always has been the one great fascination of humankind. And whenever some apparent manifestation of that evil emerges, Twitter gives them a chance to scream “I told you so” before the blood is even dry. In many cases, as with Hussain, the roots of a killer’s rage are obscure, perhaps even unknowable. But we are all drawn to the myth that evil can be tracked down to some identifiable point source within the human soul.

I have seen this pattern of tragedy-and-response play out a hundred times, and I find it increasingly exhausting and pointless—but never more so than this week. Sunday’s shooting on the Danforth was the first tragedy of this kind that played out in my own neighbourhood. Hussain’s last breaths were taken at the end of my street, three blocks from my house. And my family regularly eats at the restaurants where Hussain found his victims.

We were all at home on Sunday night, but we heard nothing—not even the gunshots that some residents thought were firecrackers. It was my daughter who first heard news of the shooting, after her friends started sharing their accounts on Snapchat. As a journalist, I’d always reflexively focused more on the people who commit crimes than their victims—because that is where readers’ interest usually lies. But in this case, my response more closely resembled that of a real empathic human being. When I heard that one of the critically injured victims was just 10 years old, my only thought was that I wanted the kid to survive. Tragically, she didn’t.

The next day, the shooting was all over my social media feed—along with shrill speculation about the killer’s motives. I ignored it—or tried to. These were culture warriors girding for battle, weaponizing their hash tags. I had done the same thing many times as an opinion journalist, but always when the dying took place far away from my own backyard.

Hussain was a Muslim, born to parents who’d immigrated from Pakistan, and lived in a working class, heavily Muslim neighbourhood called Thorncliffe Park. Reuters reported this week that ISIS claimed responsibility for Hussain’s attack. According to Toronto columnist Joe Warmington, he was “known to hang out behind his building at 43 Thorncliffe Park Blvd. with a group of 20 friends.” For those intent on branding Hussain an Islamist terrorist, that apparently was more than enough to go on. Since the attack, it has become common currency among some Canadians that Hussain’s neighbourhood is a ‘radical Muslim no-go zone.’

The threat of Islamist militancy is, of course, very real. But I was still alarmed to see how eager many Torontonians were to hammer Hussain into a pre-formed war-on-terror template. An incoming email from the Jewish Defence League—whose logo shows a raised fist superimposed over a six-pointed star—urged me to attend an “urgent meeting to discuss ISIS Terror Attack in Toronto.” According to the group, “there is an attempt by groups and the media to whitewash and cover up Islamic Terrorism. Let us meet and discuss a plan of action.”

Yet Hussain was no Tamerlan Tsanaev. Putting aside ISIS’ completely unproven claim to the Danforth attack, Hussain had no known linkage to any terrorist group. His parents, who issued a statement through a third party, expressing “deepest condolences to the families who are now suffering on account of our son’s horrific actions,” report that their son suffered from depression and psychosis that could not be treated with medication. Neighbours describe Hussain as an odd and socially dysfunctional man who had no interest in religion. Indeed, it’s difficult not to feel pity for the family: Of Hussain’s three siblings, one died in a 2013 traffic accident. Another, Hussain’s older brother, has been in a coma since 2017. He had dreamed of becoming a police officer.

It’s entirely possible that Hussain was indeed radicalized by Islamist materials he found on the internet. Mass killers who suffer from paranoia and psychosis often will attach themselves to creeds that purport to offer moral justification for violence. (Or, sometimes, they will make up their own gibberish creeds, as Seung-Hui Cho did before killing 32 victims at Virginia Tech 2007.) ISIS itself, having been destroyed militarily in Iraq and Syria, now exists entirely as digital flypaper for psychopaths. But just because isolated killers find inspiration from ISIS doesn’t mean we are a society under siege.

As for the ‘radical Muslim no-go zone’ that Hussain supposedly inhabited, I go there all the time, because it sits only a few kilometers from where I live. Many Canadian conservatives interpret their fears of Islam through the (genuinely shocking) stories that emerge from poor Muslim ghettoes in Europe. But Thorncliffe Park bears no resemblance to the ghettoes of Europe, except in the most superficial respects. Thanks to its more enlightened immigration policy, which emphasizes job skills and education, Canada has no counterpart to the cités around Paris.

When I was studying to become a Toronto taxi driver in 2015, my classmates were composed largely of South Asian immigrants, and I would sometimes give one of them a lift home to his apartment in the heart of Thorncliffe Park. In the courtyard of his building, I would encounter those groups of men Warmington described, switching back and forth from English to Urdu as they tried to figure out whether it made better sense to drive for Beck Taxi or Uber. Across the street was a mosque that holds outreach events on the front lawn, offering free fruit juice and snacks to passersby—including me and my daughter, who takes weekly gymnastics courses down the street. The idea that this is a Canadian version of Peshawar would be credible only to someone who has never set foot in the area. Any place can seem ‘no go’ to those who’ve never gone.

But this macabre game of tragedy co-option goes both ways. After Toronto’s April van attack, Canada’s progressive journalists became fixated on the idea that the alleged perpetrator—a lifelong oddball and loner named Alek Minassian—was acting out a programmed misogynistic agenda inspired by the so-called incel movement. This exercise in mind-reading was thinly evidenced, originating in a single, 21-word message that Minassian had posted to Facebook. But the theory took hold, because it dovetailed with #MeToo coverage, and with the surging claim that our society is suffused with rape culture and murderous toxic masculinity.

In the case of Hussain, there is no known evidence at all of Incel influence. Literally, none. But that didn’t stop Canada’s largest newspaper from suggesting that Hussain might have been following the call to gendercide. In a Toronto Star article entitled “What Drove the Toronto Shooter to Unleash Violence on the Danforth?” investigative reporter Kenyon Wallace acknowledged “the fact that the alleged killer is dead means we cannot ask him about his motivations.” But with barely a pause, he then added that Hussain “shared a characteristic in common with many mass murderers, one that has received particular attention in the wake of a string of explicitly misogynistic attacks: he was male.”

The rest of Wallace’s article consists largely of academics speculating on why men such as Hussain might lash out in horrible ways. Rachel Kalish of the State University of New York, for instance, tells readers that “Much of it is this idea that [men] are owed something, or that someone has taken something from them and they must reassert themselves by taking something back…So for example, if a man is passed over for a job, say, and the job is given to a woman, he may feel like that woman ‘stole his job,’ but it was never actually even his to begin with.”

None of this has anything to do with Hussain, the purported subject of the article, who apparently had little interest in women or professional life. It would appear that Star journalists spent the hours after the tragedy combing the internet for any social-media scrap that would allow them to piston-drive Hussain into their preferred incel narrative. Having found none, they still went ahead and published Wallace’s article, leaving blank the spot near the top of the piece where journalists traditionally include material one might call ‘relevant facts.’

*     *     *

Crowds congregate in Greektown following the shooting (Photo: Jon Kay)

On Monday evening, a day after the shooting, the yellow police tape came down on Danforth Avenue. Some shops and restaurants reopened for business—though the crowds represented a small fraction of what they usually are on a perfect summer night (as Monday was in Toronto). The mood was sombre but not melancholy. Later in the week, a few Danforth Strong signs went up. But I don’t think any of us felt ‘strong’ per se. We were engaged in emotional theatre, controlling our behaviour on both ends of the spectrum, seeking to betray neither a sense of off-putting anxiety nor inappropriate ebullience.

I made a point of bringing my children, the youngest of whom is six. This sort of senseless killing is going to be part of their lives, and they need to know how to bounce back from it. At one point, as we approached the restaurant where the 10-year-old girl was killed, one of my daughters said she wanted to turn back. But then we saw Toronto mayor John Tory at the corner of Ferrier Avenue, shaking hands solemnly with passersby without any kind of close police protection. It was a sign to everyone that Sunday had been Sunday, but this was Monday, another day. We took a picture with him, and one of my daughters noticed that Baskin Robbins was open.

I don’t know how much any of us actually enjoyed the outing. But that was beside the point. The purpose was to reassert the rhythms of ordinary life in the wake of Sunday night’s traumatic rupture. And we succeeded, albeit in a morbidly self-conscious manner.

On Wednesday, we went out to Danforth again, this time to attend a vigil for Hussain’s victims, which started near my home and ended at Alexander Square, the civic hub of Greektown. It was a wonderfully understated affair; very Canadian, in the best sense. My family walked east along Danforth with a small group of firemen and EMS workers—some of whom had helped save shooting victims on Sunday night—who graciously received applause from diners on patios. Two women from a group called “Hearts for Humanity” gave everyone homemade buttons, all with different handwritten phrases. There was a Christian choir singing Amazing Grace and several well-represented Muslim groups—including a large contingent from the Ahmadiyya community. My daughters saw their classmates. I saw my neighbours, a former colleague from my newspaper days, and a rabbi who’d presided over my eldest daughter’s Bat Mitzvah just down the street.

From beginning to end, it was a succession of people coming together in a spirit of respect and healing. In moments like this, geography truly does matter, both in fear and in comfort. The woman who gave me a homemade heart pin carried a small sign that urged us all to “wear the pin, spread the love…Together we can change the world. Let’s start with our own community.” I am not a sentimental person. But at that moment, it seemed like very smart and useful advice. It still does.

In the days after 9/11, pundits worried that we had entered an age of apocalyptic terror, and that episodes of mass murder would become so common such as to make normal daily life impossible. That never happened. But this fact hasn’t stopped us from launching into ideologically fueled panic and acrimony in response to those few truly terrible acts that do afflict us. My advice for anyone whose community is attacked like this is to put down your phone so you can go out and be with neighbours in the flesh. True community strength doesn’t come from hashtags. It comes from people.

Featured Pic by Kasuga


Jonathan Kay is the Canadian Editor of Quillette. You can follow him on Twitter @jonkay


  1. dave says

    “I made a point of bringing my children, the youngest of whom is six. This sort of senseless killing is going to be part of their lives, and they need to know how to bounce back from it. ”

    This is something I will always find to be weird, like feminists who force their children to attend political events. Killings will not be part of the vast, vast majority of children’s lives unless parents like you bring it to them. This overbearingly self conscious attempt to be a conscientious citizen using your kids is painful to read about. Let the kids be kids.

    • Just Me says

      It was clear from the article that there was no way these kids could have been shielded from the knowledge of this event in their neighbourhood.

      The author did the right thing, guide his children to a healthy response: face their fears reality calmly but realistically, and not let them rule your life.

    • Tim Cape says

      I disagree. I thought that this was a wonderfully sane article and that the writer has displayed a humane, compassionate and, above all, sensible response to an act of madness, driven by incoherent malevolence

    • Will Vincent says

      I disagree. Shootings are becoming more and more regular, kids WILL face some form of tragedy in their lives. Either they can confront it and learn how to process it and learn how to grieve and deal with the emotions or naively live their lives in ignorance until it happens and they’re traumatized because they dont know how to handle it. Kids need a bit of grit if they’re gonna survive life. A vigil isn’t so bad because theres a lot of beauty and support and love they can observe despite the tragedy itself.

  2. Roxanne says

    I find it weird that adults believe that shielding children from the truth benefits anyone but said adults. The job of a parent is to prepare young humans for adulthood. This is preparing them for adulthood. The world is filled with many joys, wonders, and other lovely things–it is also filled with pain, suffering, inexplicable tragedy and death. Deceiving a child is never good parenting. It sounds like you’re projecting …

    • Brian says

      Not too mention Roxanne, that one of Jon’s kids knew about it before he did. So what’s he supposed to do “safe-space” his children.

      • dave says

        Fair enough you two. I enjoy most of what’s here, and I find Mr. Kay to be very enjoyable the vast majority of the time. Perhaps this article just hasn’t clicked for me.

    • Wilson says

      Okay but you’re just jumping to the opposite extreme with no middle ground. The point is more nuanced, specifically when it’s appropriate and when it’s not, and six may be a bit young. I don’t know. What’s your cut-off? Should four year-olds be able to view R-rated movies, in “preparation for adulthood”? Waiting a few years to get real about something as unequivocally evil as indiscriminate mass murder doesn’t necessarily amount to deception. We carefully tailor these things for good reasons.

      • Just Me says

        But he didn’t take his 6-year-old to see carnage, he took her to participate in his community and neighborhood’s healthy response.

  3. Peter from Oz says

    This article is full of good sense.
    One thing that I found somewhat jarring however was the idea that twitter is some kind of reliable measure of public sentiment. Is there any more dispiriting phrase than ”#blah went viral on Twitter? Who cares? Very few people are actually on twitter. It is a platform for the unctuous: politicians, celebrities, jounalists and wannbes to signal their virtue or show off their ignorance. It has little influence and is really no indicator of what society thinks.

    • I wish all of this were true. I’m just not sure it is.

    • Mark Beal says

      I would suggest that the problem is that journalists and politicians are obsessed with Twitter, so even if the vast majority of people have better things to do with their lives – and other views than the people on Twitter – relatively small mobs with viral tweets become disproportionately influential very quickly.

      It would be great if journalists and politicians actually got out and spoke to ordinary people, but they tend to treat Twitter precisely as “a reliable measure of public sentiment”, which makes for a false narrative in the media and bad legislation being passed in Parliament. Which is a truly dispiriting thing.

  4. graham says

    “In the days after 9/11, pundits worried that we had entered an age of apocalyptic terror, and that episodes of mass murder would become so common such as to make normal daily life impossible. That never happened.”

    The last sentence should read: “That hasn’t happened yet.”

  5. Jezza says

    “pundits worried that we had entered an age of apocalyptic terror . . . . episodes of mass murder would become so common…” In fact, 9/11 was just one event among many. In the past couple of decades more than 30,000 people have been murdered by Islamic thugs. Attacks have occurred in 52 countries around the world . . . Argentina, Sweden, China, Nigeria, USA, Philippines, Europe . . .over 100,000 have been injured – there is a small girl in a wheelchair in Manchester, England because some idiot is convinced his deed will take him to Paradise. it’s all on the record. Do your own research. Google is very accessible. It is not Islamophobia to point out that a basic tenet of Islam is “kill the unb3eleiver ‘.

  6. Johnjjj says

    Just about every Islamist attack in the West has been covered up at first. Unless they actually yell Allah ak, and there are witnesses, we never get to know until much later. Every family puts out a statements saying they didn’t know, every paper hack and the senior police tells us that he is mad, every politician swims in sympathy. Every hack says there it no proof…. at first.
    John – don’t you think there is a pattern there? Di you happen to notice how good and precise he was with the gun. Do you think he was trained? For a madman he was very cool and collected.
    Two young girls killed – and this limp wash is your contribution.
    The ONLY people to tell the truth has been ISIS – right every single time. Give it time.

    • MLi says

      “The ONLY people to tell the truth has been ISIS – right every single time.”

      As-salamu alaykum. When are you going to Syria to fight the Crusaders and the rafidi brother?

  7. Kessler says

    I admit I’m increasingly hesitant to believe media narratives about such events. The language of the journalists changes, those who would scream in other cases fall silent, focus of coverage shifts. I think media would lie (not necessarily directly) to me about shootings involving Muslims. I mean in UK their media covered up rape crimes for more then a decade.

    I don’t put much credit into ISIS claiming responsibility, it’s in their interest to lie about it. But much as there is a cultural virus, that encourages school mass shootings in USA, are we certain we are not getting infected by similarly deadly virus from another culture, that we failed to sanitize by proper cultural assimilation? Because once infected, I don’t think we know a cure.

  8. c young says

    It’s not just terror that is instantly politicised.

    I’m a middle class resident of the Grenfell Tower area of London. Within a day of last year’s disaster a narrative had spread across the respectable liberal media that ‘inequality’ had caused the disaster.

    And if inequality was to blame, we, the middle class residents, must somehow also be to blame. Companion articles remarking upon our contempt for our poor neighbours, and our strange, amoral ways, proliferated. Comments beneath them implied that we lit matches under the tower.

    The head of the main opposition party in the UK suggested, publicly, that our houses be confiscated.

    We began to feel physically threatened. It was then only five years since riots in which individuals in restaurants and shops metres from my house, were physically assaulted by rampaging criminal gangs.

    This narrative continued in the media for months after facts had come to light that discredited it entirely. (Leftwing councils had installed the same dangerous materials)

    I have never been on the receiving end of this kind of othering before. I was surprised to see it coming from the BBC, the Guardian and the FT. But it brought home how dangerous it can be, and that supposed liberals are equally likely to engage in it.

  9. Lorenzo says

    Great article. It’s well balanced and makes a point obvious but woefully overlooked as we in the West lead increasingly isolated, screen-driven lives. A pleasure to read.

  10. Robbie says

    For those who think he was precise and well trained with his pistol, it’s not that simple. He was shooting at that close range on cowering victims who he knew didn’t have any defense. His stance was poor, he had recoil anticipation and he didn’t kill many of his intended victims. Its fairly clear he wasn’t trained. He obviously had practice in reloading, which is quite simple once you learn. Thank you to the Quilette staff for another great piece. There are so few readable article these days.

  11. Dr George B Miller says

    Almost all random acts of violence are associated with one of three factors:
    1. Drugs and gangs.
    2. Mental illness
    3. Ideological terrorism.
    Does it really matter which factor is the cause in every particular instance? Surely the answer to this violence is to develop and support policies to attack all three. “Carding” was recently ended in Toronto. Has this resulted in police being less likely to stop individuals who act suspiciously? The new premier of Ontario is said to be taking $300million out of the mental health budget. Will this increase the number of mentally-ill on the streets, who already account for 40% of the homeless? Are members of the Muslim community doing enough to prevent extremist Wahabe preachers from spreading hate and encouraging extremism in their mosques?

    These are all provocative and controversial questions, but “thoughts and prayers” are not enough when an atrocity like this occurs. As a society we must look at options that attack the underlying causes.

  12. Jon, Excellent piece. I most especially appreciated your last sentence: “True community strength doesn’t come from hashtags. It comes from people.” Absolutely true.

  13. Just Me says

    Canadian here. Nice article, Jon. I always enjoy your writing. Glad you found a home at Quillette after the ugliness at the Walrus.

  14. Hamr says

    Interesting mention of the Toronto Star article. This utterly bizarre ‘journalistic’ endeavor may seem strange on the surface, but it makes sense if you are aware of the SOP of the largely leftist Canadian MSM.
    Any time that a muslim(s) commits a horrific atrocity the usual characters shift into high gear and concoct multitudes of excuses/reasons (no matter how bizarre) so as to separate the perpetrator(s) from all other muslims and from islam itself. Anyone who questions this narrative is instantly tagged with the ridiculous islamiphobia meme. End of ‘discussion’. That the Toronto Star was able to give a hearty rah-rah-rah to some nonsensical radical feminist ideology, while it pursued it’s primary goal, was simply a bonus.
    This statement (so called) from the family was in fact a press release. It was out before the blood had even dried.
    Here’s a look at this “third party”….

  15. I find it pedantic that every time a Muslim inflicts terror on the west, after a deafening silence defensive voices chanting ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ has become norm. The self-castration of west and its willingness to retain the presupposition in the innate goodness and equality of people is detrimental to its culture.

    The colonial Europeans had a better measure of human nature because they had to face it day in and out at the frontier of civilisation. The west is now disarmed by mere use of just a few words like-racist, xenophobe etc. It is heartening to hear the few brave voices that are immune to those verbal bombs and are willing to defend the culture that single-handedly gave the world science, technology & the dogma of equality.

  16. Jan says

    This article falsely portrays the family as innocent. The shooters brother, now in a coma, was busted having enough chemicals to kill the entire city of a Toronto (Carfentanyl) along with a large weapons cache. Portraying him as someone that wanted to be a police officer is the worst kind of terrorist apologism. The shooter had a direct link with a serious criminal, his own brother. As for the families statement, which did not come from the family, it has proven to be chalk full of lies. The shooter was gainfully employed, had many friends and was described as cheerful by acquaintances. He was not some psychotic nutjob as described by the Muslim association which released the ‘family statement’. The elephant in the room that dares not speak its name is that Toronto is joining the long list of cities ruined by Muslim immigration. Look no further than cities free from Muslim immigration to see the difference : no terrorist attacks, no mysterious Muslim mass shooters with mysterious motives, no no-go zones and no media bending themselves out of shape to pity the family of monsters.

    • Michael says

      QUOTE: He was not some psychotic nutjob as described by the Muslim association which released the ‘family statement’. UNQUOTE

      Arguaby, one has to be some kind of “nutjob” to believe in a religion/political ideology which believes it is right and just to stone women adulters to death, toss homosexuals off high buildings and mutilate the genitals of young females.

      To even publlcly say this in my own country, the UK, would be to risk a knock on the door from “hate police” who – like the grovelling government and its compliant mouthpieces in the mass media – have already accepted dhimmitude and eventual utter capitulation to Islam as inevitable.

      Mercifully, as demonstrated by the result of the EU Referendum, a large proportion of the British people appear to feel otherwise. They have seen through the myth of multiculturalism as the path to a brighter future and wish to play no further part in the disastrous Eurabia project envisioned by our gullible and gutless political leaders.

  17. Joe says

    “Hussain’s twin brother, has been in a coma since 2017. He had dreamed of becoming a police officer.” What? No mention of the brother’s gun-stealing, drug-dealing activities – just the dream of being a cop? And he’s not his twin brother. Fahal is two years older.

  18. Kim Kim Kim says

    It is still very early days here, we can all make assumptions based on the information so far, but we don’t know all the evidence and may never know it. His parents naturally want to tell their side of the story, that their son in fact was a victim though what he did was bad. He may well have had some kind of mental illness. But let’s wait til all the info. is in.

  19. Fat Bastard says

    “Mormon Youth Goes on Killing Rampage”

    Funny how we never see that headline. Perhaps their magic underpants ward off mental illness, or perhaps we have to accept the bleeding obvious that Islam is a very problematic suite of software to run on a human brain.

  20. Susan says

    Right, there is the obligatory candlelight vigil, teddy bear offering, the singing of kumbaya and then everyone goes home to wait for the next “sort of senseless killing” that “is going to be part of their lives”. Oh, and cities continue to spend millions to protect the Eiffel Tower ($40,000,000) or put up concrete barriers on Westminster Bridge to protect citizens from killers with perpetually unknowable motives. Nothing to see here folks.

  21. Will Vincent says

    I think there is a lot of discussion yet to be had around the danforth shooter. How he got his gun. What his interactions with police in the past were like and how police currently operate. I agree with John Tory that if we hired more civilians to work the desks then we could have more cops walking the beat. But as long as the union is as imposing and dictatorship like they’ll fight any kind of modernization despite any tragedy. But I doubt any of that will make it to the mainstream media. They’ve already stopped reporting on it because they have just shrugged it off as though this is a NCR case. Even though THEIR OWN EXPERTS are saying that mentally I’ll people DONT do this. So why did it happen? I’m hearing now that the press release from the family wasnt written by the family. So who wrote it? And who commissioned that statement? How did it magically appear so quickly after the shooting? There are still many questions. Yet not only has the media decided to not cover it anymore they’ve dug up any story they could find of any example of a white guys being racist so we can all go back to seeing white men as the real problem.

    Newstalk1010 talked about this disgusting man who was yelling slurs at a mexican family. Well the guy was drunk off his ass in the middle of the day, you dont think that’s ANY indication of mentally ill self medication? But not one single mention by anyone any form of HIS mental illness and they wouldn’t take my call in to challenge them. Just go back to the coverage of the van attack. When they’re white it’s never a case of mental illness but a hate crime in the worst way. Of course mental illness is at play in all of these cases but do you think claims of mental illness are gonna help the van attacker in court? Do you think if the danforth shooter had survived he could plead mental illness in court and they’d just dismiss it? You go watch the footage of that shooting and you tell me how someone can be that well coordinated and adept with a gun while at the same time being disabled and disoriented by mental illness. Even when CBS was reporting on ISIS websites that this guy had visited, media here wouldn’t even talk about THAT as though it was an irrelevant detail till a day later when it was clear it wasn’t going to be recanted. I just wish there was consistency in the media and they’d report on truth not narrative.

  22. ADM64 says

    When this happened, I held off judgement because several motives or explanations were possible. When the shooter’s name was made public but several sources said he was mentally ills, depressed etc., and no one reported he’d shouted “Allah Akbar” or such, I assumed he was just crazy and waited to hear more. But the silence and behavior of the authorities is both disturbing and suspicious. If it turns out he was an Islamist, will it be squarely faced and debated honestly, or will the message be “No Islamophobia?”. I have far more certainty about the answer to that question than I do the shooter’s motives.

    As an aside, I am really tired of candlelight vigils and the entire kumbaya aftermath of these shootings. Perhaps the next time someone will target those leading such efforts because if anything could induce insane rage, it’s these tiresome, empty rituals and platitudes.

  23. Constantin says

    And the point was – what exactly?
    Communities unite against a named, identifiable threat, but this is not happening with ISIS because their ‘foot soldiers” are often crazy and vulnerable individuals? Has it occurred to Mr. Kay that we are “drawn to the myth of evil” because it is the only way to make sense of the hardship of existence and to form a will to stand up to it? Not at all! He stops at condemning what is natural and necessary with an intellectual equivalent of a smirk. If you wanted absolute confirmation of the fact that Jonathan Kay is a an atheist, this sentence makes the point abundantly clear: “But we are all drawn to the myth that evil can be tracked down to some identifiable point source within the human soul. “ He has not yet discovered that “evil” does not apply to any happening not governed by moral agency. An earthquake is not “evil” just as we expand this notion to crime arising of mental delusion and sickness.

    Mr. Kay goes on to say that he has seen this tragedy unfold a hundred times, but it is now zooming on his peaceful neighborhood. The fact that it is coming nearer and nearer, does not seem, to persuade him that “we are a society under siege”. Nothing to see here according to Mr. Kay who goes on attempting to desensitize his 6 and 10 year old respectively daughters by emphasizing that “this sort of senseless killing is going to be part of their life”. Huh? The presence of an ostensibly unprotected politician means that life carries on as if nothing happened, just as the sun comes up after the storm. The purpose of the walk was to “reassert the rhythms of ordinary life” – and this is the obvious purpose of this article: nothing to see here, learn to let go and move on, even if it gets closer, and closer, and closer to home.

    The subterfuge of taking on the theory of misogyny as a potential motivator was simply a trick to give the article an aura of balance and objectivity. Ignore that for a second, and you get to the heart of the matter: the equivalent of “Je suis Charlie (Hebdo)” – a fantasy of strength that has you ready to run home unless politicians signal that the street is safe… for the moment.

    I do not understand why Quillette publishes public posturing pieces like this one. We are used to more insightful commentary. It would not hurt if Mr. Kay would bother to check his “facts” also before peddling such fake information as claiming that the shooter’s brother “dreamed of becoming a police officer”. I wonder how does it feel to progress in one’s career to the point of spreading fake news of this sort. For those wanting to know more about the family of the shooter, here is a link to a truly informative segment:
    Have any of the facts disclosed in it proven to be false? Where is the weird notion that the comatose brother was planning to be an upstanding citizen, a police officer – no less, come from?

  24. Jean-Baptiste Moquelin says

    There are very many strange things about the Danforth killer. Maybe I am a conspiracy nutjob, you tell me. But here is my list:
    – the police quickly identified the killer. In a couple of hours, an initial statement was issued that the killer was 29 years old, and known to the police. But that was it. It took nearly a full day before anything further was announced about the known killer.
    – then the police finally released the name of the killer, Faisal Hussain. By sheer coincidence, at the very same moment, a CBC (canadian public broadcaster) journalist came out with a statement signed by the killer’s family. This was a masterfully crafted, polished piece of PR, humbly apologizing for the tragedy and claiming that for years, Faisal had been unsuccessfully medicated and treated for depression and psychosis. It later turned out that this was not actually written by the aging Pakistani immigrant parents of Faisal, but by a muslim activist spin doctor, Mohammed Hashim.
    – now nearly two weeks since the shootings, no information has yet been given about where Faisal was treated, when psychological treatment was given, any statement by any psychiatrist who would have made a psychosis diagnostic.
    – surprisingly for a person who was being excused of his murders on account of a deep depression and psychosis, the initial testimony of people who knew him was that he was a surrounded with people and friends, “upbeat and happy” with a “million-dollar smile”. The man who we are supposed to believe had lost contact with reality held a job. The day he massacred his fellow citizens, he did his shift in a drugstore (stacking shelves I believe), took a long break in a park, then went on his rampage.
    – as many others, the author of the article asserts that the killer was and I quote “targeting victims at random”. Yet while he had no qualms shooting at little 10 year-old white girls, he came to a man named Jaspal Singh, from Punjab, and calmy told him in the middle of his rampage, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to shoot you”, leading Mr. Singh to suppose he was spared because they shared the same brown skin – before continuing on his deadly shooting spree. Now what kind of mental illness is that?
    – we have had a couple of news organizations, namely CBS News and the Toronto Sun, that have claimed that according to their police sources, Faisal Hussain had been visited by the RCMP because of his repeated visits to ISIS websites where he left messages of support. If this proves to be true, then in my mind, it would constitute “known linkage to any terrorist group” — n addition to, well, the plain claim for the shooting by ISIS itself. Now it may be that one or more police source has lied to or misled journalists about this and the news organization had mistakenly trusted their source(s) about it – but to me this is extremely fishy.

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