Thomas Crooks: Lone nut or Self-hating Conservative?

This is one of the most common pictures circulating of would-be assassin Thomas Crooks (2004-2024), the lone gunman who attempted to assassinate former president Donald Trump. It is a high school photo of him, probably age 16. Crooks was killed by counter-snipers at the Trump speech in Pennsylvania at age 20.

Thomas Matthew Crooks, the lone gunman who attempted to kill Donald Trump in Butler, Pennsylvania, was a bit of a computer nerd whose only link to social media was a Discord account, which he rarely used.

Thomas Crooks had no ID at the time of the shooting, and his real identity was determined post-mortem using a DNA sample from his blood.

In fact, unlike many people his age who typically place loads of information about themselves and their beliefs online, Crooks actually left very little information about himself at all. There are no links to terrorist groups we know about; no manifesto; no screeds against the establishment or consipiracy-theory mongering. In fact, not much at all outside of a photo of a pimple-faced kid whom everyone who knew him described as “nice”.  On his graduation in 2022, he was one of 20 recipients for a National Math and Science Initiative Star Award.

Crooks had a job as a kitchen worker (or “dietary aide”) at Bethel Park Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center. His employer told CNN that he performed his job without any concerns and that he had a clean background check. No one in his high school years or since, has ever known him to be political. Meanwhile, he had just graduated with high honors earning his bachelor’s degree in engineering science at The Community College of Allegheny. The college had cited no record of misconduct, or of security-related matters, according to the BBC.

What seems to be at question here is how the Secret Service allowed such an amateurish assassination attempt to take place. According to former CIA security analyst Bob Ayers, the Secret Service “didn’t do a very good job” securing the area. The question of how it is possible for a young man to climb on top of a nearby building and start shooting without anyone stopping him has so far gone un-answered. “There should not have been any possibility for a person armed with a rifle to climb right up a building and shoot at the [former] president,” Ayers said.

It is certain that Crooks saw no military service, did not receive much formal training in the use of a rifle, and had no special skills in camouflage and making himself unseen. He simply drove up to a nearby building about 120 metres from where Trump was giving his speech, climbed up on the roof, and started shooting. After killing an attendee and wounding two others with stray bullets and another grazing Trump’s ear, Crooks himself was killed by sniper fire from the Secret Service.

His parents are both registered counsellors. As for political affiliations, his father is a registered Republican and his mother is a registered Democrat. Thomas himself was going to cast his first vote as an adult as a registered Republican this coming November, according to Reuters. Despite this, at age 17, he dontated $15 to the Progressive Turnout Project, which is a Democratic cause. Both contradictory facts have been declared “True” by a Snopes fact check.

The rifle used was his father’s  ArmaLite Rifle, known as an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, manufactured by Colt, purchased about six months ago, according to the BBC. This version of the AR-15 is considered a “civilian rifle”. The military version of the AR-15 is fully automatic. There is no suggegstion that his father had any idea as to what was about to take place on the day of the shooting. That day, Crooks purchased 50 rounds of ammunition, according to CBS News. On the day of the shooting, he wore a T-Shirt from the YouTube channel Demolition Ranch, a pro-gun channel with millions of subscribers. After Crooks was taken down, a search of his vehicle revealed unused explosive devices inside the car.

CBS reports that his father Matthew Crooks called law enforcement after the shooting, for reasons that were unclear. He is not yet speaking to reporters, saying that he wishes to talk to police first.

Police have been unable to uncover a motive, but according to interviews with his school cohorts, he was strong academically, a neat dresser, with a future ahead of  him. He was also known for being a member of a local gun club, but was never chosen for his high school varsity rifle team, known for being a “terrible” shooter. He argued staunchly on the Conservative side of his debating club, making it difficult for people who knew him to believe that he would either want, or be capable of, carrying out an assassination attempt on a Conservative candidate.

The Republican Party has opened a fundraising page to help the families of the victims of the shooting. It has so far raised around $350,000.

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Facepalm Newsoids XXV

Facepalm Newsoids XXV
Triple Facepalm. Another one found on KnowYourMeme, with unknown attribution.

Hardcore Barbie, carried to its ultimate futility.  Barbie makes film history as it surpasses $1 billion in revenue at the box office after only 17 days (7 Aug). Over the weekend, I noticed two new words to our lingo that I am aware of: Barbenheimer and Barbiecore. Barbenheimer reflects the oddity that a movie, Oppenheimer, about an atomic bomb and another about a blonde bombshell could be released on the same day, which they were. Barbiecore is the name of the fashion trend which the big money media organs are telling every female to wear now, consisting of a lot of hot pink. And  if you want to Barbiecore (can it be a verb too?) all the way to the core of your being, you can go to Brazil, where you can eat a Burger King hamburger with some pink substance oozing out of the patty, the colour of pink bubblegum. It is Burger King’s Barbie Combo, and the pink sauce appears to be their smoke sauce with some hot pink food coloring. With the combo, you also get a pink milk shake and a pink frosted doughnut. And if you die an early death by consuming those combos with that dodgy day-glo pink sauce, according to NBC News, a funeral home in  Ahuachapán, El Salvador has now jumped on the bandwagon by offering Barbie-themed pink coffins, with images of Barbie under the lid. (14 Jul)

An outbreak of exam violence. Students at Federal University in Dutse, Nigeria threw bottles at the head of a student who refused to let his classmates copy his exam answers which he wrote for environmental management and toxicology. The student hiding the answers, who was never named, was bleeding from his head, and had to be taken to hospital. Eyewitnesses blamed the student for hiding his answers, saying that he had failed to do “the reasonable thing” expected of him. Many more, however, are taking up his cause and are questioning the academic standards and integrity in that institution. The victim has since been released from hospital in stable condition. (29 Jul)

Mea culpa. The FBI began an investigation into which unknown federal agency purchased, against White House orders, spyware from the NSO Group, headquartered in Herzliya, Israel. NSO are the makers of Pegasus “zero click” spyware, which, after allegations of the spyware being sold to authoritarian regimes, as well as other spying scandals, began to scare away investors, and they are now strapped for cash. The US government has blacklisted NSO for quite some time. The government agency, whoever it was, seemed to know that it was doing something wrong, because it set up fake companies to make the purchase. With the investigation going on since at least April, the FBI finally concluded, that the troublesome agency was actually the FBI itself. (31 Jul)

Overheating the southern hemisphere. This blog is written in a northern country, and it is often easy to forget that while I am baking here in the Greater Toronto Area, it is winter south of the equator. I imagine snow in the southern reaches of Argentina and Chile and people skiing in the Andes. But in large swaths of this region, it is far from the case. For example, in Bolivia and Paraguay, where winter is normal this time of year, people are being hit with the hottest start to August in 114 years, with temperatures reaching 39ºC. In Chile, temperatures even broke 40ºC. The southern part of Brazil is also affected by this winter heat dome. Temperatures have been climbing in the region since mid-July. (3 Aug)


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The 2021 Release of the last of the JFK documents

There has been a slow release of previously top-secret documents relating to the JFK assassination. The official telling of the story of the assassination, ranging from the “Magic Bullet” theory to the silencing or killing of anyone who could tell the truth, left a void for many different stories. Was there a conspiracy to kill the president, or wasn’t there? The unofficial line, outlined by Oliver Stone’s movie JFK, backed up by a substantial part of what was known by th early 1990s, appeared to make more sense, but because it was a theory that involves a conspiracy, it was dismissed by Magic Bullet supporters as a “conspiracy theory”.

The assassination happened the year I was born, and after the Warren Report, the documents, it was said, would not be released for another half century or more.

Since 2017, there has been a trove of documents released to The National Archives in Washington, with digitized versions placed on the internet. The most recent release has been in December of 2021. The planned release was delayed a few months due to covid. The National Archives states that they have released over 5 million pages of documents related to the assassination.

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