Connections between cinematic portrayals of The Joker and real-world violence are nothing new, but the U.S. military is growing more concerned than ever that the upcoming film Joker may take things to a new level.
The film, which portrays many instances of gun violence, many masterminded by the film's titular protagonist, has already spawned numerous social media posts which the FBI has flagged as potential threats from extremists.
Many of these social media posts have been made by "incels."
Incels (short for "involuntary celibate") are a toxic online subculture comprised largely of young White men who believe they deserve romantic relationships despite being unable to attain one thanks to, in their opinion, society's ills.
In an email, sent on September 18, service members were told to be extra vigilant and on the lookout for signs of a potential shooter and to "identify two escape routes" when entering public spaces like movie theaters.
The email also gave recipients a quick review of the standard "run, hide, fight" advice given to civilians in an active shooter situation.
"Run if you can. If you're stuck, hide (also known as 'sheltering in place'), and stay quiet. If a shooter finds you, fight with whatever you can."
The email was labeled "For Official Use Only," and was passed along to the Army after they received a notice from the FBI.
There are no specific suspects authorities are on the lookout for and the email was meant as a purely "precautionary measure."
After uncovering "disturbing and very specific chatter" online regarding potential violence, an Army spokesperson issued a comment, saying:
"We do this routinely because the safety and security of our workforce is paramount. We want our workforce to be prepared and diligent on personal safety both inside the workplace and out."
Shooters Elliot Rodger and James Holmes (who said he "was the Joker" after opening fire in a screening of The Dark Knight Rises) were both part of the incel community and are now regarded as heroes among many who prescribe to that mindset.
The Aurora Colorado movie theater which was the site of Holmes' shooting will not screen the movie.
Families of the Aurora victims sent a letter to Warner Bros. hoping they would take a proactive role in stemming future gun violence.
"We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe."
Army officials pointed out in the email that:
"[Many incels] also idolize the Joker character, the violent clown from the Batman series, admiring his depiction as a man who must pretend to be happy, but eventually fights back against bullies."
An FBI spokesperson commented:
"While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, the FBI is in touch with our law enforcement and private sector partners about the online posts. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activity to law enforcement."
Efforts are being taken to make sure the upcoming film doesn't inspire more mass shootings of the kind most often performed by young White men.
Hopefully people are able to have a peaceful day at the movie theater.
Unfortunately with many pro-gun rights laws in some states, theaters cannot tell these shooters their guns should stay at home and despite evidence to the contrary, gun rights advocates still spread the message that everyone being armed is the only way to stop these mass shootings in the United States.
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