Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

36 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.


Buffalo Police on scene at a Tops Friendly Market on May 14, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. According to reports, at least 10 people were killed after a mass shooting at the store with the shooter in police custody. (Photo: John Normile/Getty Images)

The Nobody: Name the Plague, Not the Murderer in Buffalo

The biggest problem with naming this nobody is that it will attract others like him, people who sense their own non-existence and want to affirm themselves by seeing their names in print or their picture on television.

Richard Eskow

Since the shooting in Buffalo, articles and commentaries have been appearing that condemn the shooting, but which include the name and personal history of the shooter. Why would anybody do that? He's nobody.

Oh, I don't "nobody" as in, "Nobody was born in upstate New York eighteen short years ago." I don't mean "nobody" as in, "Nobody was radicalized online and by cable television." And I certainly don't mean "nobody" as in, "Nobody went out and legally purchased a weapon capable of delivering mass death at a moment's notice."

Of course there was somebody. Someone with a body, a nervous system, and access to society went out and did a terrible thing.

I mean "nobody" at a much more fundamental level, perhaps at the level of subatomic particles and time-travel paradoxes. Nobody is capable of such monstrosity. Nobody can generate such terrible thoughts about an entire class of people.

Nobody can think and act that way without losing the essence of what it means to be human, of what it means to exist as a person among people.

Commentators who use the killer's name are making an ontological error. There is no such person. That name defines a null set. There is a person-shaped hole where that individual once stood. No, not a hole. A tesseract, a wormhole, a curvature in space-time that connects to every other nobody with a gun, a keyboard, a TV camera. Each nobody is a tunnel to all the other nobodies, to that starless vacuum where nothing lasts except the darkness.

"The great replacement"? The only person who could possibly fear replacement is the person who isn't there. The one who fears replacement already senses that there is nothing left to replace.

But don't we need to find the killer and stop him? Isn't some sort of punishment in order? Yes, of course, the same way we need to close the door to keep out a cold night breeze. Don't we need to identify and denounce the hateful ideas that turn people into nobodies? Of course. But we don't do that by elevating the people who preach or act on those ideas. They aren't even human beings anymore, in any reasonable definition of the term. They are the plague itself, given arms and legs. They are vectors. They are drones in a hive.

That's why zombie movies are so popular. We know that the once-living walk among us. Perhaps they can be restored to life again, but that would take time and the profound light of a forgiveness that isn't ours to give. It belongs to the victims alone. And, even then, redemption is far from assured.

In the meantime, the biggest problem with naming this nobody is that it will attract others like him, people who sense their own non-existence and want to affirm themselves by seeing their names in print or their picture on television. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does the vacuum itself.

Human beings can never replace one another. Each of us is unique. We complement each other. We enrich one another. We have evolved for cooperation. That's why we have mirror neurons. That's why we protect, and punish, and forgive.

"You will not replace us," they chant by firelight. Replace who? There's nobody there. There is nothing but a vast screaming silence, a void that can only be filled with love.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Richard J Eskow

Richard Eskow

Richard (RJ) Eskow is a freelance writer. Much of his work can be found on His weekly program, The Zero Hour, can be found on cable television, radio, Spotify, and podcast media. He is a senior advisor with Social Security Works.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Naomi Klein: The US Is in the Midst of a 'Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup'

"The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over," warned the author of "The Shock Doctrine."

Jake Johnson ·

Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·

Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·

Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·

'Payoff for 40 Years of Dark Money': Supreme Court Delivers for Corporate America

"It was the conservative court's larger agenda to gut the regulatory state and decimate executive powers to protect Americans' health and safety," warned one expert.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo