Barely a day after Robert Aaron Long visited three Atlanta-area massage parlors and killed eight people—six of them Asian women—local authorities held a remarkable press conference, suggesting at points that the 21-year-old shooter was suffering from “sex addiction” and may have been “lashing out” based on the temptation to frequent the establishments. Long also told authorities this was definitely not a hate crime, a framing that several outlets appear to be running with this morning.
“Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,” said Captain Jay Baker, a spokesperson for the Cherokee County sheriff’s department, drawing on decades of explanations for why women are so often killed by men.
Local authorities has been reticent to classify the killings as a hate crime, despite the number of Asian women murdered across three locations, and an as-yet-unconfirmed interview with a witness claiming Long yelled he was there to “kill all Asians.”
In a press conference Wednesday morning, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said authorities believed the suspect had been traveling to Florida to target more massage parlors. “I think it’s important we acknowledge the fact if this is hate crime,” Atlanta police chief Rodney Bryant added. “We are still early in this investigation, so we can’t make a determination. We are very early.”
Some early determinations were suggested, however, by officials from Cherokee County, who said Long had told them “did take responsibility for the shootings,” and had told police that he was “pretty fed up” and “at the end of his rope” at the time of his crimes. “He made indicators that he has some issues, potentially sexual addiction, and may have frequented some of these places in the past,” said Sheriff Frank Reynolds, noting the shooter “may have been lashing out.”
The massage parlors were “a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” Baker told reporters.
There’s some cognitive dissonance here, of course, not least of which is the presentation of a mass shooter’s police interview as a series of facts worth repeating. In part, it’s just how uncanny the repetition of phrases is in nearly every scenario where a certain type of person kills another, the language of schoolyard disagreements like “issues” or “lashing out” being twisted to describe horrific acts of violence. But it’s also the subtext about what kinds of crimes are classified as being “hateful,” and how willing investigators are to hint that Long’s problem boiled down to the temptation to fuck—a sexual pathology fueled by his environment rather than a crime of bitten vengeance against a class of people. It’s been said so many times, in so many venues, but I guess it bears repeating here: Violence against women is about power, not sex.