Horst D. Deckert

Two Self-Immolations Is Anything But Carelessness


We should avoid rushing to dismiss the similarities between Aaron Bushnell and Max Azzarello’s deaths

“To lose one anarcho-communist in a self-inflicted blaze, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.”

These words were not written by Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Earnest. But this paraphrase of what Wilde did write reminds us of an important rule of thumb: that when a freak event is repeated, especially if it involves the same cast of characters, it’s hard not to be suspicious that there may be some link involved.

I’m talking, of course, about the recent self-immolations of Max Azzarello and Aaron Bushnell.

Here’s what the two men had in common.

Both were self-described “anarcho-communists.”

Both had extensive histories posting on Reddit in radical leftist groups.

Both men were involved in radical leftist grassroots organizations.

Both men chose to set themselves on fire in what they described as an “extreme act of protest.” They used exactly the same words.

Both men described the sufferings they were about to endure as being miniscule in comparison to the sufferings they were protesting.

Both men intended to use their self-sacrifice to effect a “revolution” in the consciousness of the American public.

Both men appear to have been mentally ill.

People don’t set themselves on fire in protest every day. Thank God. But here we have two self-immolations in the space of less than eight weeks, in America, that bear a series of striking resemblances.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s good enough reason to investigate the two incidents as being linked.

Now, it might turn out that they’re linked only in the sense of being copycat events. Perhaps Azzarello saw what Bushnell did and thought, in his profound confusion, “Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.”

Obviously, in that case, Azzarello couldn’t have been paying too much attention, because Bushnell’s “sacrifice” was forgotten in a matter of days.

The response from “people of colour,” the intended recipients of Bushnell’s largesse, was especially brutal.

“Aaron Bushnell’s self immolation was an act of penance driven by want to absolve himself of white guilt as an active military man. He is not a martyr, and his choice was a privilege Palestinian martyrs forces to fight do not have and are not lauded for,” wrote one Twitter user. 

If Azzarello was copying Bushnell, their shared commitment to similar political principles, their shared involvement in leftist grassroots organization, their shared posting histories on Reddit—all of this would just be coincidence. I could believe that. Maybe.

After all, the X-factor here is mental illness, and when mental illness is involved, all bets are off.

In a long essay for The American Mind, I recently described how Bushnell appears to have undergone a profound crisis of identity when he joined the US armed forces at the beginning of the pandemic. He transformed from what can only be described as a normie into a self-hating white of a pretty rare virulence, even among the most libtarded of liberals.

As far as Bushnell was concerned, the only way to expiate the guilt of being born a white American male—and therefore being complicit in the worst crimes in history—was to burn himself to death in solidarity with the global brown majority.

Bushnell seems to have believed he was transgender. On Reddit, he made complaints about the US Air Force’s healthcare system and requested help finding videos on “non-binary gender identity.” He posted, “TERFS F*CK OFF” under a video of Cenk Uyghur. Out in the real world, he worked with “Serve the People”, a “queer revolutionary organization” based in Akron, Ohio, that feeds the homeless and migrants.

And in recent days, it was confirmed by a friend of Bushnell’s that he was, in fact, transgender. His real name was Lilly.

“Do not forget her. Yes, her. She went by she/her pronouns online and by the name “Lilly.” Lily Bushnell.”

As far as we know, Bushnell had not undergone any former of gender reassignment or hormonal therapy; although it’s easy to acquire medical-grade or homebrew hormones for self-neutering, with the right contacts in the transgender community.

At present, with the information that’s available to us, Azzarello appears to have suffered some kind of mental break in August of last year. Over a period of a few days at the end of that month, he was arrested multiple times, including for defacing a framed autograph of Bill Clinton in a hotel lobby; stripping to his underwear in public; and smashing a pest-control sign because he thought the company was “exterminating children and dogs.”

But in an unverified claim he posted to Facebook ten days before his first arrest, Azzarello claimed to have spent “three days in the psych ward,” after scrawling a profanity on a receipt and handing it to a cashier at a Starbucks. If this is true, it would push the beginning of his criminal spree—and the mental break that caused it—to the beginning of August 2023.

So: we can’t discard mental illness as the main motivating factor in both cases, certainly not yet. And even if we do come to the conclusion that it wasn’t the most important factor, it will have to remain at least part of the explanation. Both of these men were mentally ill.

But watch as the mainstream media grabs the mental-illness thread and pulls as hard as it can, at the expense of all the other tangled threads I’ve described above.

It’s happening already. Azzarello was described as a “mad conspiracy theorist” on the front of The New York Post’s Saturday edition, and pretty much every media outlet is going with that. Mad conspiracy theorist.

Here’s what Azzarello said of his politics in one Reddit post.

“I’m a huge proponent of left unity, and believe that only the left has the power to build a united movement to enact meaningful change. I wish more leftists realized that shouting ACAB [“All cops are bast*rds”] and memeing about guillotines and molotovs is precisely what our criminal government would want them to do. In my eyes, the only thing ‘ACAB’ stands for is ‘All Cops Are Brainwashed.’”

Does this sound mad?

Neither you nor I subscribe to this ideology, but we can’t dismiss it as incoherent. This is leftism, plain and simple. Radical leftism. This is what radical leftists do. It’s what the Bolsheviks did in 1917—it’s how they organised, it’s the methods they used—and it’s how they organise and the methods they use today, whether we’re talking about Black Lives Matter in 2020 or Antifa.

Unity, violence. Smash the system.

Virtually nothing has been made of Aaron Bushnell’s ideology or his political connections, and my prediction is that nothing will be made of Azzarello’s either.

So as you watch this process taking place, ask yourself—Why? Why deny the possibility that both men might have been acting on the basis of a coherent political ideology and organization?

Ask yourself who might benefit from the denial of violent radical leftist coordination, even as radical leftist violence and spectacles take place across the nation.

I can certainly think of one man it would benefit.

And I can certainly think of another it would harm.

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