Behind the Guns: On Meat, Trolling, and Some Manner of Nihilism


Let us not launch the boat ...
Valued Senior Member
Not Quite the Birth of an Axiom

This just reads like a real-life version of an internet argument, but with a gun.

On April 18, Republic Police Department officers were called to a Price Cutter to respond to a call about a robbery in which a man held an employee at gunpoint so that he would be served meat.

Larry Gene Gay, 70, of Springfield, is charged with one felony count of unlawful use of a weapon and a felony count of armed criminal action ....

.... In an interview, Gay said he went to Price Cutter to buy steaks. He told the "good man" who was helping him that they needed to weigh the steaks. However, the meat department was closed. Gay said at that point, he showed his gun "Just to say I'm not stealing. I need you here to help me to get a couple of these steaks. I'm not going to hurt you."

The officer asked Gay why he thought the people in the store called police and told them he was threatening them with his gun.

"I don't know," Gay said in the interview. "I have no idea."

The employee said he received a call from the meat department about a man packing his own meat. The employee approached Gay and told him that he could not be there. Gay got upset and said he was going to keep doing what he was doing. The employee said he was not going to help him with the meat.

"Once he held the gun to my throat — pushed it into my throat — I decided to comply," the employee told police.


I have never figured out quite how to explain it, but the ways in which internet-style trolling translate into living action should not be ignored. If, for instance, something about Pence's debate performance against Kaine seemd a mix of cynical Reaganesque dogwhistling and internet-style vapidity, the Trump experience itself shattered all normative standards, and Congressional Republicans have brought the shitshow to the would-be hallowed halls of the United States Capitol.

Public safety advocate Shannon Watts↱ notes, of the mugshot, "Icing on the cake: He's wearing a U.S. Concealed Carry Association T-shirt, just so everyone knows he's a responsible gun owner."

There is a nihilism about it, but I cannot tell how much of it is deliberate, or just an accident of stupidity. Consider the comparison: What does it mean if we actually take this suspect at face value? What does it mean if he genuinely has no idea that he has threatened anyone? Thus, we might wonder at the significance if he knows damn well what he's done and is trolling as hard as it sounds.


@shannonwatts. "Icing on the cake: He's wearing a U.S. Concealed Carry Association T-shirt, just so everyone knows he's a responsible gun owner. Missouri GOP lawmakers dismantled the state's permitting system in 2017." Twitter. 22 April 2023. 22 April 2023.

Schmidt, John Paul. "Springfield man charged with demanding meat at gunpoint". Ozarks First. 20 April 2023. 22 April 2023.
The common law definition of assault requires only that the target of the action be put in fear of imminent bodily harm. If the perpetrator's intent is to put the target in fear, or if the perpetrator is reckless (careless) as to whether or not the target is put into a state of fear, then the offence is established.

In most places these days, these principles are usually legislated into the criminal code.

This seems like an open and shut case of assault with a deadly weapon.

As a comment from a person who lives a safe distance away from the United States, I have to say that there is something seriously messed up about any society in which a person would believe that holding a gun to a supermarket employee's throat in order to get some meat after-hours would be a reasonable course of action.
Thus, we might wonder at the significance if he knows damn well what he's done and is trolling as hard as it sounds.
Might try giving the guy an IQ test, but I'm not sure he'd register in the chimp/human range; I know he wouldn't make it to dolphin or crow.
As a comment from a person who lives a safe distance away from the United States, I have to say that there is something seriously messed up about any society in which a person would believe that holding a gun to a supermarket employee's throat in order to get some meat after-hours would be a reasonable course of action.

And that question arises in terms of taking this suspect at face value. Do you really believe that he believes what he said? Do you really believe the gunman doesn't know what he has done wrong?

As someone who lives in this society, it's worth observing, this really looks like something we see on the internet. People will flat out say they didn't do something, except there is a record of it. And in those cases, their denial of their actions isn't really a straightforward denial of their actions, but their rejection of the person they are addressing. Like I said, there is a certain nihilism about it. The point isn't to be correct, but to offend. As a question of a society, it isn't a good indicator, and could easily be a random blip, but it is at present impossible to ignore the trolling aspect.

In a question of right and wrong, it is easy enough to pretend cluelessness. As a societal question, yes, it says something if people are playing along at this level. Except for the gun, this is the sort of performance we could see pretty much every day on major social media; even here at Sciforums, it's not uncommon.

Still, if we are to take the suspect at face value, of course there are societal questions, but they are a bit different. Certes, something is messed up, but after easy access to and a bad attitude about guns, what exactly is it? In this context, it's a sprawling inquiry, even treading into discussion of ineffective government↗ and definitions of freedom↗. And it not simply how someone like the suspect gets a gun, but also how someone so dysfunctional is left for so long without any sort of help or intervention.

Moreover, there is a particular manner of gun violence occurring at present that, historically speaking, seems just weird. Or, maybe it's not. But, for instance, there have been a number of shootings lately involving older white men with guns popping someone for extraordinarily stupid reasons. In their way, they appear to be just these guys, y'know, who have just reached their limit, and what's really sad about it is how much of what has them so upset is untrue; what is infuriating and damnable about that is how much of what stuffs those decrepit consciences to their breaking point is afforded certain respect despite its falsehood. This, however, is a tremendously fraught proposition in a marketplace requiring that all information uttered is equal by dint of someone having said it.

Perhaps it seems strange to wonder what we mean by a society; inasmuch as this is about American society, that's pretty straightforward. But in trying to understand American society, we also must account for other iterations of society in our human endeavor. For instance, Australian society is not the same as American society, but both are part of a larger iteration of human society.

And in this way, our American question becomes at some point a question about a larger iteration of human society. After all, one need not be an American to propagate, promote, protect, or justify falsehood. It is easy for non-Americans to participate in our American discourse, and it is just as easy for those foreigners to participate in the dishonesty. An American as worked up as these gunmen are getting is also affirmed by British, Russian, and even Brazilian complaints about the decline of Western society.

We've long had absurd laws about guns, and our underlying American thirst for violence is hardly new. Escalating firearm violence suggests certain longstanding processes leading to gunplay, but also implies some new circumstance, as if something new is on the table, or, mayhaps, something long constrained is now unbound.


I wish I could explain to you the morbid joke that white supremacists are somehow, and perversely, envious of the Black experience in American history. It's actually an easy joke archetype about supremacism; there is, comparably, a range of misogynistic men who seem pretty much envious of women. Or, in another aspect of this backward lament, think of how Christians complain of being oppressed simply because they cannot oppress someone else.

The thing about it is the logic. So many people are so anxious to holler about free speech that they become either apathetic or actually antipathetic toward basic questions of accuracy and sensibility. And this, too, is part of what must be examined in our society. After all, "in theory", as such, &c., but per Watts' note about the gunman's shirt, certainly you can recall the idea of the "responsible gun owner". Sure, it was always a fraught, even silly idea, but if it ever meant anything to so-called responsible gun owners, then yes, it also seems like something has changed.

And while it might seem a sweeping and imprecise statement, there are other, related ideas in American history which share a trait of having discarded a certain pride because the restraint it demands feels like futility in the face of unrelenting deprivation. And part of that perception of deprivation, and pervasive feeling of futility is the steady diet of falsehood encouraging that growing sense of alienation.

And if this issue takes on an existential tone considering the relationship between firearm and operator, then a certain sense of nihilism cannot be ignored. We can only wonder, for instance, at what point society ought to take the latest extermination rhetoric seriously, because we wouldn't want to suppress political views.

A persistent question in recent years wonders how to engage with those for whom disruption and provocation are the point.¹ One of the reasons they do this is because they seek a feeling of empowerment. And a significant part of their sense of disempowerment is being repeately criticized and rejected in contexts that, once upon a time, did not simply pass muster but were presupposed as baseline. It's kind of like at Sciforums and our perpetual need to lower the bar; our experience isn't utterly unique. And the thing about it, as such, is the logic. Not all speech is equal simply by being uttered.

If it happens that someone would tell us one thing, and someone else would tell us something else, sure, we might wave our hands about and say it's hard to tell who's right, but in many cases, there are right and wrong answers, and the presuppositions required to justify some confusion just don't speak well of the ostensibly confused. And like we see even in our own community, the people whose arguments require such shelter eventually become frustrated with the prospect of being seen being so wrong. And for some of these people, it's over and over and over again, because for whatever reason they just can't, or at least won't, stop. And with industrial-scale efforts to sustain their misinformed consciences, the disappointment and humiliation are not going to subside anytime soon.


It's like, in the time since I started writing this post, right-wing commentators have been questioning the prospect of an Hispanic white supremacist, because apparently they had never, before Mauricio Garcia, heard of Andrew Casarez, Nick Fuentes, or Enrique Tarrio. For instance, Matt Binder↱ observes discredited reporter Michael Tracey purporitng confusion, being asked if he everheard of Nick Fuentes, flatly saying no, and being reminded by reporter Carl Beijer of the time Fuentes told Tracey to his twitly face that "sometimes you are useful tool … but nobody should take you seriously beyond that". It's one of the few things Fuentes and his antifascist critics agree on. And Lucie Catnip↱ recounts Tracey actually discussing Nick Fuentes. Clearly, Tracey knows who Fuentes is.

And it's actually kind of strange watching people like Tracey, Ngô, and Cheong, who are allegedly informed enough to report on these subjects, pretend they are somehow new to the beat.

So it occurs to wonder to what degree are we supposed to believe our meat market moron really is so noncompetent: Does he really not know? Is the pretense of ignorance believable? Meat man is just the flesh and blood version of otherwise familiar behavior, and with a gun.


¹ See Nelson, 2018, "How do you engage with someone who doesn't just not care if their aggressive political stances upset you, but wants you to get upset—someone for whom 'this makes people upset' is actually the whole reason to have that stance in the first place?" See also, Sciforums, in re incels (2018)↗, gun politics (2018)↗; conservative politics (2019)↗, news media (2019)↗, appeasement (2020)↗, civil war redux (2022)↗, supremacism and politics (2022)↗, and muskovite Twitter (2022)↗.​