Reason Roundup

After El Paso and Dayton Shootings, Threatened Crackdowns on Guns, Immigrants, and Internet Speech

Plus: the trouble with "national conservatism," the decline of the mortgage interest deduction, and more...


The answer to a murderer targeting immigrants is…more immigration control, according to the president. On Monday morning, Donald Trump reacted to the two recent mass shootings by offering what sounds like a quid pro quo to liberals: Give me my border plans, and I'll give you gun control.

This weekend saw two mass shootings in America, the first in El Paso, Texas, and the second in Dayton, Ohio. We cannot let the victims of these shootings "die in vain," Trump tweeted. "Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying…this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform."

The Dayton killing spree doesn't have any known connection to immigration and would not have been changed by stricter background checks. The shooter—Connor Betts, 24—killed his sister and eight others while wounding 27 more people after opening fire in the city's popular Oregon District on Saturday night. "The guns had been legally purchased, police said, and there was nothing in Betts's background that would have raised concerns—he had only traffic tickets, for speeding and failing to yield," notes The Washington Post.

The man arrested for the El Paso shooting, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, opened fire in a Walmart on Saturday, killing 20 people and wounding more than two dozen others. This time, immigrants were involved—as the target of the suspected shooter's hate.

As Eric Boehm noted here over the weekend, Crusius apparently published "a hate-filled diatribe in which he called Hispanics 'invaders' and criticized the supposed takeover of the U.S. government by pro-immigrant corporations." NBC has reported that "law enforcement was analyzing the document before the shooting began but were unable to verify the author's identity or potential target in advance."

The "manifesto" was hosted on the forum 8chan. Web hosting company Cloudflare subsequently announced that it would be terminating 8chan's account.

"In the case of the El Paso shooting, the suspected terrorist gunman appears to have been inspired by the forum website known as 8chan," wrote Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince in a blog post:

Based on evidence we've seen, it appears that he posted a screed to the site immediately before beginning his terrifying attack on the El Paso Walmart killing 20 people.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Nearly the same thing happened on 8chan before the terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. The El Paso shooter specifically referenced the Christchurch incident and appears to have been inspired by the largely unmoderated discussions on 8chan which glorified the previous massacre. In a separate tragedy, the suspected killer in the Poway, California synagogue shooting also posted a hate-filled "open letter" on 8chan. 8chan has repeatedly proven itself to be a cesspool of hate.

8chan is among the more than 19 million Internet properties that use Cloudflare's service. We just sent notice that we are terminating 8chan as a customer effective at midnight tonight Pacific Time. The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths. Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit.

Prince seems to suffer from the common delusion that absent some particular platform, bigots and monsters won't find a place to spew hatefulness and won't wind up acting on their worst impulses. There is no evidence this is true, and a vast number of forums and tools in the digital sphere where these folks can find refuge.

As Prince himself has noted, Cloudflare decided two years ago to terminate account services for the far-right site The Daily Stormer. "That caused a brief interruption in the site's operations but they quickly came back online using a Cloudflare competitor. That competitor at the time promoted as a feature the fact that they didn't respond to legal process. Today, the Daily Stormer is still available and still disgusting. They have bragged that they have more readers than ever. They are no longer Cloudflare's problem, but they remain the Internet's problem," Prince wrote.

Cloudflare can obviously do as it pleases as a private company, and the fact that companies can choose which messages to broadcast is a good thing. But Prince's description of the Daily Stormer episode showcases the futility in acting like this is some sort of salve for maniacal violence.

The company's decision to dump 8chan, meanwhile, goes beyond the precedent set with Daily Stormer. The latter is a site specifically dedicated to white supremacy, while the former is merely an open forum where some odious people communicate. Canceling web venues where some users are awful will shut down social media as we know it really quickly.

"In 2019 8chan is no longer a refuge for extremist hate—it is a window opening onto a much broader landscape of racism, radicalization and terrorism," suggests Buzzfeed's Ryan Broderick. "Shutting down the site is unlikely to eradicate this new extremist culture, because 8chan is anywhere. Pull the plug, it will appear somewhere else, in whatever locale will host it. Because there's nothing particularly special about 8chan, there are no content algorithms, hosting technology immaterial. The only thing radicalizing 8chan users are other 8chan users."


Will Wilkinson opposes the new "national conservatism": 

The practical implication of the nationalist's entitled perspective is that unifying social reconciliation requires submission to a vision of national identity flatly incompatible with the existence and political equality of America's urban multicultural majority. That's a recipe for civil war, not social cohesion.

More here.


The mortgage interest deduction is dying and nobody cares. "A beloved tax break bound tightly to the American dream of homeownership, [it] once seemed politically invincible," say New York Times business writers Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman.

Then it nearly vanished in middle-class neighborhoods across the country, and it appears that hardly anyone noticed….The people selling and buying homes do not seem to care much that President Trump's signature tax overhaul effectively, although indirectly, vaporized a longtime source of government support for homeowners and housing prices.

The 2017 law nearly doubled the standard deduction—to $24,000 for a couple filing jointly—on federal income taxes, giving millions of households an incentive to stop claiming itemized deductions.

As a result, far fewer families—and, in particular, far fewer middle-class families—are claiming the itemized deduction for mortgage interest. In 2018, about one in five taxpayers claimed the deduction, Internal Revenue Service statistics show. This year, that number fell to less than one in 10.