There’s something off about press coverage of the shooting rampage in Atlanta earlier this week. Nearly every corporate media outlet has framed the killings as a racially-motivated “hate crime” against Asian Americans, noting that six of the eight victims are Asian and the alleged shooter is white.
Yet race doesn’t appear to be a significant motivating factor here, at least not according to the accused gunman, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, who was arrested Tuesday evening after targeting three different massage parlors in the Atlanta area. Long denied that he chose his victims based on their race and told authorities that he had a “sexual addiction” and that he carried out the killings to eliminate his “temptation.” (Two of the dead, a man and a woman, were white, and a third victim, who was injured, was a Hispanic man.)
That motive has since been corroborated by at least two other sources. According to a former roommate, Tyler Bayless, who met Long in an Atlanta halfway house for recovering addicts, Long would frequent these massage parlors “for explicitly sexual activity.” Bayless told Reuters that Long was “deeply religious” and became “very emotionally distraught that he frequented these places.”
Another former roommate, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity, said Long went twice to rehab for sexual addiction last year. The roommate reportedly lived with Long for several months in summer 2020 at a transition house for people exiting rehab, and called police after recognizing Long in a surveillance photo after the shootings Tuesday night.
There’s also evidence Long had other targets in mind that had nothing to do with race but much to do with sex. When police caught up with him Tuesday, he was headed to Florida, where he was planning to attack “some type of porn industry,” according to authorities. Another law enforcement source told CNN that Long was recently kicked out of his parents’ house because of his sexual addiction, which included frequently spending hours on end watching pornography online.
By contrast, there’s little evidence so far that Long was motivated by racial animus, which in turn suggests a much different scenario than what corporate media has almost unanimously presented as a racially-motivated killing spree. Corporate media, like nearly every other elite institution and industry in America today, can be expected to obsessively focus on race and see a race angle in every story. But in this case, perhaps the laser-like focus on race belies a reluctance to discuss the role of sex, and sexual pathology, in our hyper-sexualized culture.
After all, if Long was addicted to pornography, and addicted to paying for sex at massage parlors, the story takes on a different narrative shape. Instead of being about an angry white man taking out his racist hatred on Asian women—and thus fitting neatly into a larger media narrative about racism in America—it becomes a story about a deeply disturbed young man addicted to pornography and sex in a society that treats both as harmless.
Of course, that Long is a sex-addict makes him no less culpable for his alleged crimes, but it does shift the narrative frame into something our cultural elites are loath to confront because of their complicity in it. The media want to use this tragedy to indict supposedly racist attitudes in America, but it appears rather to indict prevailing attitudes about pornography, casual sex, hook-up culture, the sexualization of children, and the normalization of gender dysphoria. We are told these things are okay, that they are normal, that we should accept them and not judge. We are never told that they are dangerous, or that there might be consequences—dire ones—for embracing these attitudes as cultural norms.
It becomes a story, in other words, that forces us to confront our priors about sex and sexuality. Maybe, just maybe, all of these prevailing attitudes about sex come with some pretty serious societal pathologies and some pretty heavy human costs. Maybe these “blessings of liberty,” as David French might call them, are in fact curses. Maybe we were wrong about all of this. Maybe unfettered sex and ubiquitous porn are not compatible with a healthy society. Maybe they are actually evil, and maybe we should start talking about how to push back and help unwell young men like Long before their lust turns to bloodlust and they go on murderous shooting sprees.
Our cultural and media elite don’t want to talk about any of that. So they’re making this a story about race, even though everyone knows what it’s really about.