Nursing Resentment Is a Path to Murder

Perhaps the on-air murders should make politicians think twice about nursing resentment as a strategy to gaining power and staying in power.

The Associated Press reports, “Gunman in on-air deaths remembered as ‘professional victim’

The man who was news director during Vester Flanagan’s rocky tenure at Virginia station WDBJ-TV described him as someone who constantly saw himself being victimized by others.

Dan Dennison described Flanagan, who shot and killed a reporter and a cameraman on live television Wednesday, as a “professional victim” during his time at the station before being fired in 2013.

“He was victimized by everything and everyone and could never quite grasp the fact that he was the common denominator in all of these really sometimes serious interpersonal conflicts that he had with people,” Dennison said.

Flanagan, 41, interpreted efforts by the station to improve his performance and persuade him to work more cooperatively with colleagues as discrimination, said Dennison, who now works as a communications manager at the Hawaii state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

On the day he was fired, Flanagan pressed a wooden cross into Dennison’s hand and said, “You’ll need this,” as two police officers escorted him out. Flanagan’s departure then was filmed by Adam Ward, the cameraman who was killed along with reporter Alison Parker during an on-air interview Wednesday morning.

It hit me while I was thinking about Vester Flanagan that my political analysis has been insufficient. Yes, politicians need to feel needed. Yes, a powerful means to that end is fear of an enemy. So politicians engage in constant threat inflation so we will turn to them to be kept safe. This allows them to destroy populations overseas and put us in prison at home, and expect us to thank them for it.

mencken politics quote

Another way to feel needed is to inflate the threat of insecurity or other domestic problems. The economy and the quest for an education that will guarantee a better economic future are both desires that allow politicians to manipulate us. Since they have done nothing but degrade our economy and our ability to educate ourselves, there is plenty to use to make us fear. Their credibility as rescuers, however, is the weak link in this strategy.

But there is a third way: the lust for revenge. It is in every politician’s best financial and career interests to make people believe that they have been hurt by others. Nursing resentment has no downside because, while politicians can’t really keep us safe or make our lives better, they can execute revenge on public scapegoats. People going from bad to worse under their rule will cheer them for hurting others.

Actually, there is one possible downside.

In the process of nursing all these resentments, we might see the problem of a growing number of people acting on their own against the targeted scapegoats.

Just like Vesper Flanagan did.