The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

What Happened to Nathan Allen? Troubling Omens of ‘The Crazy Years’

Posted on | June 29, 2021 | Comments Off on What Happened to Nathan Allen? Troubling Omens of ‘The Crazy Years’

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you . . .
. . . you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling’s once-famous poem came to mind this afternoon while I was pondering the bizarre case of Nathan Allen, a 28-year-old from Massachusetts who seemed to have everything going for him. He got married last fall and had recently completed an advanced degree in physical therapy and . . . Well, appearances can be deceiving:

Nathan Allen was named as the gunman who shot and killed a retired Massachusetts state trooper and an Air Force staff sergeant after crashing a stolen box truck into a building in Winthrop, Massachusetts, on June 26, 2021. He left behind white supremacist writings targeting Jews and Blacks, authorities said.
He told neighbors he worked as a physical therapist, according to The Boston Globe.
The incident unfolded in Winthrop in a chaotic scene on the street and ended with police shooting and killing the suspect. Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins released Allen’s name. “Two innocent people lost their lives,” she said, adding that the murders are being investigated as a hate crime. Both victims were Black. She believes Allen, 28, acted alone.
On social media, the gunman painted a picture of a mundane and apolitical life, writing about his rabbits and being featured with his future wife in a flattering Boston Globe article that described how they got married in a nursing home so her grandfather could attend in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. He had no criminal history and had earned a Ph.D., according to Rollins. Prosecutors say those attributes were a front that hid a darker side, fueled by racism.

In nearly all such cases, there are warning signs — “red flags” — that have been overlooked prior to the suspect’s deadly rampage. For example, the infamous “incel” killer Elliot Rodger was clearly a ticking bomb whose behavior had been troubled for some time. In this case, however, there seems to have been no warning signs at all, and the only evidence of his motive comes from what Allen had scrawled in a notebook:

Rollins revealed that the suspect wrote antisemitic and racist statements.
“There is some troubling white supremacist rhetoric that was found in Nathan Allen’s own handwriting, antisemitic and racist sentiments against Black individuals,” Rollins said in a news conference. “This is a sad day. These two people protected our rights and fought for us to be safe. They were executed yesterday and we will find out why.”
In a news release, she wrote:

At this preliminary stage of the investigation, the excellent work of law enforcement has already unearthed troubling white supremacy rhetoric and statements written by the shooter. This individual wrote about the superiority of the white race. About whites being ‘apex predators.’ He drew swastikas.
There is a growing national, and global, problem with extremism and white supremacy. The FBI believes the most serious domestic violent extremist threat comes from ‘racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, specifically those who advocated for the superiority of the white race.’
This shooter was married and employed. He had a Ph.D. and no criminal history. To all external sources he likely appeared unassuming. And then, yesterday afternoon he stole a box truck, crashed it into another vehicle and a property, walked away from the wreckage interacting with multiple individuals and choosing only to shoot and kill the two Black people he encountered.

We will almost certainly learn more about Allen’s descent into murderous madness. When did he start drawing swastikas in his notebook? Did he have any online communications about his beliefs? Had something happened in his life recently that triggered this deadly rampage? Until we have more actual facts, it is irresponsible to speculate, but the disconnect between Allen’s superficially normal life and his secret racial hatred leads me to suspect that his radicalization (if we can call it that) must have been rather recent, and was probably triggered by some problem in his personal life. Nearly all hate-crime sprees like this are committed by people who could generally be labeled “disgruntled losers,” whose personal failings lead them down the rabbit-hole of racial paranoia. This guy “doesn’t fit the profile,” so to speak; Allen was employed and married and seemed to have a promising future ahead. Why would someone like that go so completely off the rails, and do it so suddenly?

Like I said, we can expect to learn more about why this happened, but at the moment, it’s a disturbing mystery, perhaps an omen of hidden danger in what Heinlein called The Crazy Years, “when rapid changes in technology, together with the disruption those changes caused in mores and economics, caused society to, well, go crazy.” When you’re surrounded by insanity, it can be a struggle to “keep your head,” as Kipling said. Somehow, I’ve managed to avoid the craziness so far.



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