Atlanta Shooting Spree is Sexist Violence, Imperialism to Blame

Photo credit: Reuters

By the Editorial Board

Since Tuesday, the monopoly media has been in an uproar over the shooting spree in Atlanta in which the 21-year-old reactionary Robert Aaron Long targeted three Asian massage parlors, killing eight people and wounding another. Much of the discussion in the aftermath of the killings have focused on the fact that six of the eight people murdered were Asian women, focusing on the racial aspect and obscuring the deeply sexist, anti-women nature of the attack as well as the role prostitution played in it.

Long made headlines for blaming his murders on a “sex addiction” and claiming that he targeted the establishments in order to remove “temptation.” He was arrested later that day while driving to Florida, apparently intending to commit more murders targeting the pornography industry.

The ruling-class media has consistently connected the killing spree victims with the increase in assaults against people of Asian descent motivated by what the reactionary perpetrators believe as their responsibility for the COVID-19 pandemic. The hashtag #StopAsianHate has been trending on social media and countless corporations have issued statements expressing a hollow solidarity with ‘Asian American and Pacific Islander’ communities.

While it is important to push back against the narrative spread by reactionaries about Asians, specifically Chinese people, being responsible for the spread of COVID-19 as well as those who have stoked this hysteria like Donald Trump, in this case it does a disservice to the victims, especially those forced into prostitution.

It is no secret that massage parlors and spas like the ones targeted by Long are often fronts for prostitution and that many of the women who work there are either trafficked or coerced into it. Oftentimes they are promised a better life in the US or freedom from excessive debt in their homelands in places like Eastern Europe, Thailand, and South Korea.

International sex trafficking to the United States and the demand for foreign prostitutes is a direct result of US imperialism. As the sole hegemonic superpower in the world today, the US is responsible for a great deal of the suffering in the world today—It creates misery and destitution for people around the world and then lures them into sexual slavery with the promise of prosperity. In fact, the US military has a long history of employing prostitution to serve their bloodthirsty troops. Dating back to at least World War II, prostitution has flourished in the areas surrounding US military bases, especially in Asian countries like the Philippines, Japan, and South Korea.

In response to the brutal shooting spree, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that businesses that were targeted were “legally operating businesses that have not been on our radar” and that “we are not about to get into victim blaming, victim shaming here.” The problem with her statement is that, while trying not to defame the victims, she has glossed over another aspect of their victimhood—aside from being murdered by a vile sexist and likely ‘john’ of these establishments, she has ignored the fact that at least some of these women were almost certainly victims of sexual violence as well.

Naturally, advocates for prostitution have used this as an opportunity to once again promote the vile practice of sexual violence against women for money and call for its legalization and regulation, rather than denouncing the system that has produced it and forces women into it on a daily basis.

US imperialism and the culture that reproduces it creates sick, misanthropic people who derive pleasure from hurting and killing others. The serial killers of yesteryear have been replaced by mass shooters and spree killers—Long fits into this profile. He claimed to be a ‘sex addict,’ and while this claim is dubious at best and has been discredited by clinical psychologists, it shows that he likely visited either these or similar brothels in the past. These types of killers have an established history of hatred and sexual violence toward women, evidenced by instances of rape, the use of prostitution, and most recently the trend of ‘incel’ murderers. Finally, both state officials and many ruling-class media outlets are hesitant to make the connection to prostitution and sexual violence toward women because these businesses operate in a semi-legal ‘gray area,’ one which the city of Atlanta and countless other cities allow to persist.

While many have called to prosecute the killings as a hate crime, the designation is unlikely to make a difference—the reactionary murderer has already admitted to killing eight people and was arrested with the murder weapon. What the media coverage and general discussion around this tragedy lacks is the pivotal role that US imperialism plays—not only in the creation of spree killers like Long but also in the terrible conditions that foster human trafficking as well as the virulently sexist network of men that perpetrate this violence against women on a daily basis.

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