by John Garvey
The authorities and the media sometimes seem more annoyed and frustrated at Stephen Paddock because they can’t figure out why he did it than they are about him killing 58 people and wounding hundreds. More precisely, they are annoyed and frustrated because they can’t come up with a story about why he did it that will make sense to their various audiences. All of that is an exercise in evasion.
I think that the reason he did it is quite clear–Las Vegas made him do it. Having only been there once, I’m not sure that I’m right that’s it’s the most alienating place in America. But it’s certainly right up there. The fact of the matter is that they advertise it as such:
Whether you’re a group of bachelors seeking a little debauchery or a high roller taking a change, this city has earned the slogan, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” for a damn good reason. Las Vegas has something to suit every decadence—be it abundant buffets, flowing liquor, world-class entertainment, all night poker games, the razzle-dazzle of a fancy hotel on the Vegas Strip, the kitsch of Fremont Street, a heated swim up pool bar, or a luxurious spa—there are no rules (well, barely) in Las Vegas.
The other place in the running is Disney World in Orlando. Even one of the cable talking heads observed that there could be some significance to the fact that the two worst shootings have happened in Orlando and Vegas. Nevertheless, millions of people flock to the two places every year—42 million to Las Vegas and 68 million to Orlando in 2016. And one-third of the 51 million visitors to Disney World in recent years are adults without children.
What are they finding when they get there and what are they leaving behind? Maybe the catchy slogan should not be: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!” but: “What happens at home stays at home!” Except that you can’t really escape what’s happening at home and you are not likely to find much worth finding in Vegas.
Paddock apparently spent more than twenty years playing the most alienating game in the casinos–video poker. Hours and hours, days and days; hand after hand. Here’s a description:
Makes life on an old auto assembly line sound interesting and rewarding.
It’s also worth noting that Las Vegas scores right at the top of the suicide and homicide rankings. Here’s a story from some time ago but my guess is that it’s still accurate:
But, at the end, I’d suggest that it’s not really Las Vegas–it is, in fact, our old friend money. Money made Paddock what he was and then it made him what he did. Here’s an early excerpt from Marx on “The Power of Money”:
In closing, I’d argue that it’s not guns; it’s not individual anxiety; it’s not valium or some other drug or marital misery; it’s not any of the things that they’re hoping to come up with. All may play a part in each miserable story. But, at bottom, it’s capitalism and its collapsing civilization that are the causes of the slaughters—the everyday ones that mostly escape notice and the spectacular ones that dominate the headlines and the airwaves. Paddock’s actions are both consequence and evidence of that collapsing civilization.