Atlanta Spa Shootings: Remembering Dignity

EPA's photo: 'Two of the spas were across the road from each other in Atlanta.' From BBC News article, 'Atlanta shootings: Suspect charged with murder as victims identified' (March 18, 2021) used w/o permission.

Eight people didn’t go home Tuesday.

Someone attacked at least five folks at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb. Two were dead when police arrived. Another two died in a hospital. A fifth victim is still alive, but wounded.

Police found three more bodies at the Gold Spa in northeast Atlanta. They found another at the Aromatherapy Spa, across the street.

Six of the eight victims are Asian women. A couple guys died, too.

Atlanta-area law enforcement identified and caught a suspect.

That was Tuesday.

News and op-eds seem to have reached a consensus:

First Assumption: Hate Crime

I think my echo chamber is broken.

Instead of seeing nothing but affirmation of my darkest beliefs, I’m seeing several different versions of what ‘really’ happened in Atlanta.

I also saw a social media service’s announcement: warning undesirables that they were not welcome.

Posted by staff on Tumblr
(March 17, 2021)
“The events that unfolded over the past 24 hours in Atlanta were not isolated incidents. Hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased nearly 150% in the US in the last year.
“Last June, in the wake up of yet another uprising in hate crimes committed by white supremacists, we released the following statement:
“White supremacists, Nazis, and other purveyors of hate can [redacted]. They are not welcome here….
“…To help the survivors and families of yesterday’s hate crimes, please consider donating to a nonprofit like [redacted]….”

I redacted Tumblr’s directive to their undesirables because I don’t like abusive language.

The nonprofit recommended by Tumblr staff may or may not be legitimate. I don’t know, I haven’t researched it.

Helping folks who are hurting seems like a good idea. So does doing due diligence before giving to a nonprofit, and that’s another topic.

As for saying who they didn’t want sullying their establishment, I see their point. “Purveyors of hate” don’t make pleasant company. Deciding where ‘freedom of expression’ ends and ‘hate speech’ begins is an ongoing discussion.

Second Assumption: False Flag

Coming from another direction in my social media feed was speculation that the Atlanta killings were a “false flag” operation.

It’s a nifty idea.

As presented, malevolent masterminds had arranged the killings: as part of their plot to persecute American gun owners.

As I said, it’s a nifty idea. And plays into ‘we gotta have more gun control laws’ headlines.

But, nifty or not, I don’t think it’s true. I’m also quite sure that I’ll be seeing more ‘anti-Asian hate crime’ and ‘gun control false flag’ assertions.

And, unless this mass murder’s allure fizzles, assorted other unlikely claims.

For example — and I emphatically do not think this is true, or even plausible — maybe the killings are a Baptist plot, intended to stamp out dens of iniquity.

Seriously: I do not believe this. Although there’s a tiny bit of truth in the nutty notion. I’ll get back to that.

Close Encounters of the Conspiracy Kind

'At the Sign of the UNHOLY THREE' cartoon, warning against fluoridated water, polio serum and mental hygiene. And 'communistic world government.' (1955)I’m not immune to conspiracy theories.

Certainly not from the viewpoint of folks who say religious beliefs are a conspiracy theory. And that’s yet another topic.

But I’m human, so in principle I could start believing that shape-shifting space-alien lizard-men are controlling my brain with radio waves from invisible helicopters.

Or that the Illuminati are putting identity chips in COVID-19 vaccines.

Or that gun control advocates and/or Baptists ordered the Atlanta killings.

But I’ve learned to have a rather high threshold for taking such things seriously. Apart from the effect they have on believers and folks who encounter believers.

That attitude comes in part from living through a half-century-plus of conspiracy buff encounters. And having read a statistical analysis of (real) conspiracies, yielding estimates on how long a given conspiracy might remain secret.1


H. Strickland Constable's illustration of 'low types,' left and right; and his preferred 'Anglo-Teutonic' sort. (1899)I figure the ‘Baptist plot’ notion wouldn’t get traction in more than maybe a few overcaffeinated subcultures. Even though the suspect seems to have been very, maybe excessively, ‘religious.’

On the other hand, I’ve braced myself for screed in my social media feeds, coming from zealots on America’s two major screwball political extremes.

In my considered opinion, I don’t know nearly enough to have a reasoned opinion regarding why eight people were killed in Atlanta.

Or why a Cherokee County sheriff’s spokesman spoke two regrettable words. And whether that blunder will end his career.

The suspect has said that his motive isn’t racial. Maybe that’s true. But his assertion that sexual addiction was involved doesn’t seem to play well in mainstream news and views. Oddly enough, he seems to really have had rehabilitation for that problem.

What we know about Robert Aaron Long, the suspect in Atlanta spa shootings
Eliott C. McLaughlin, Casey Tolan and Amanda Watts, CNN (March 18, 2021)

“…Tyler Bayless said he shared a housing unit with Long at Maverick Recovery, a rehab facility in Roswell, Georgia, between August 2019 and January or February 2020. He said that most residents were suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, but Long was being treated for sex addiction….”

My view is that the killer’s motive doesn’t matter; apart from psychiatric and judicial concerns.

The main point is that killing those folks was a bad idea. And nobody should have done it.

Next Stop: Florida?

'The Yellow Terror in all His Glory.' Artist and publication not known. (ca. 1899)On the ‘up’ side, this could have been worse.

For starters, America’s news media isn’t playing up the ‘yellow peril’ angle.2

And the suspect was apparently on his way to Florida, intending to stamp out porn.

I’m very glad he was stopped.

Now that I think of it, the ‘massage parlor/spa’ angle, the suspect’s religious enthusiasm, and what looks like his plan to attack “a hub for the pron industry” could support a ‘Baptist plot’ conspiracy theory.

But I still that a ‘Baptist plot’ scenario is as unlikely as the ‘gun control false flag’ notion.

Which reminds me. A fair number of folks assume that “massage parlor” means “brothel.” I won’t argue that prostitution is a sideline for some massage parlors. But these three places apparently offer massages. Period.

‘What might have happened’ speculation aside, part of the ‘up’ side is that the suspect’s parents helped stop their son from making an appalling situation worse.

“…Baker said [suspect] Long viewed Florida as a hub for the porn industry and ‘an outlet for something he shouldn’t be doing,’ Baker said. The Atlanta area spas were ‘temptations to him he wanted to eliminate,’…
“…Long’s parents contacted the Cherokee sheriff’s office to identify their son. They also informed deputies that a tracking device could lead authorities to his vehicle, a Hyundai Tucson. Cherokee sheriff’s spokesman Jay Baker said he didn’t know why Long was being tracked, or if he was aware of it.
“They do know that, without the GPS tracker, and his parents’ cooperation, Long, accused of fatally shooting eight people Tuesday at three metro Atlanta massage parlors, would not have been apprehended so quickly….”
(“Spa shooting suspect’s parents helped authorities catch him,” Christian Boone, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (March 17, 2021))

Maybe a few clarifications are in order. Maybe not. Either way, here they are.

Love, Respect: and Really Bad Ideas

Rembrandt's 'Christ and the woman taken in adultery' drawing. (ca. 1639-41)I think eight people should not have been killed last Tuesday.

I would think that whether they had been Asian, European, prostitutes or news anchors.

But I think prostitution and pornography, monetizing sex, are bad ideas.

All of us, each of us, has and deserves dignity. Treating someone as a marketable object isn’t dignified. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 356, 1700, 1929, 23542355)

I think human life is precious, sacred. Killing an innocent person is a bad idea. Killing a not-so-innocent person isn’t a particularly good idea, either. (Catechism, 22582279)

We’re not all alike. We’re not supposed to be. Respecting each other is a good idea. Maintaining sinful inequalities isn’t. (Catechism, 19341942)

Finally, all that ‘respect and life’ belief should be obvious — considering the two rules behind “the whole law and the prophets.” I should love God. I should love my neighbor. And see everyone as my neighbor. No exceptions. Everyone. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; Luke 10:2537; Catechism, 1706, 1776, 1825, 18491851, 1955)

I said that a couple days back.

And I’ve talked about life, death, love and acting like people matter fairly often:

1 Conspiracies happen, and get discovered:

2 This isn’t, happily, the ‘good old days:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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2 Responses to Atlanta Spa Shootings: Remembering Dignity

  1. irishbrigid says:

    Wrong word: “But I still that that’s as unlikely as the ‘gun control false flag’ notion.”

    The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

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