Tragedy Should Be A Unifying Force, But It’s Not

Originally published March 20, 2019

In the wake of the horrific slaughter of 50 Muslims in New Zealand last week, the world came together for a moment to condemn the attacker, mourn the innocent, and reflect on the violence that hit the town of Christchurch. A moment is approximately 90-120 seconds, and that’s how long it took for many to start assigning blame for this attack on anyone but the shooter.
Like the evil lunatics who came before, the Christchurch shooter (who should not be named lest he is given the infamy he craves) wrote a lengthy manifesto. Despite this manifesto openly stating that the desired outcome would be a world separated by ethnicity and polarized along political lines, many mainstream outlets used snippets of the manifesto to attack their political enemies, as the shooter intended. Well before the 74-page manifesto was dismissed as the ramblings of a homicidal Internet troll who sought to divide, CNN reported the shooter’s adoration of conservative activists like Candace Owens, but not the parts where the shooter referred to himself as an “eco-fascist” and said, “I want no part of [conservatism].” So, dropping all pretense of citing the manifesto, the left did what it always does and attacked those they disagree with wholesale, namely President Trump and anyone else critical of their worldview.
The Washington Post’s editorial board wrote an Op-Ed entitled, “Trump Sends the Wrong Message on New Zealand. World Leaders Must Denounce the Attack.” The editorial board pays lip service to the fact that President Trump is not directly responsible for this attack, but he’s not doing enough to prevent it. (Reminder, this was a terrorist attack in New Zealand, not the United States.) The piece writes, “President Trump is not to blame for the tragedy, despite his own history of Islamophobic statements and a travel ban that target predominately Muslim nations.” This is a truly disgusting statement. The Post’s editorial board is covering themselves by saying that they don’t blame Trump, and in the same sentence blame Trump. Did they have the same condemnation of Bernie Sanders when one of his supporters shot up a group of Congressional Republicans on a baseball field shouting, “This is for healthcare”? Obviously not, because that is not Bernie Sanders’ fault, as it’s not Trump’s when a group of Muslims on the other side of the world are murdered by a white supremacist. Then The Post doubled down, publishing an analysis by Ishaan Tharoor entitled, “The Racist Theory That Underlies Terrorism in New Zealand and the Trump Presidency.” This piece also pays lip service to not directly blaming Trump, and then blames Trump. “Trump is not to blame for the tragedy in Christchurch. But, as an editorial in The Washington Post noted, “There isn’t much daylight between the ‘garden-variety racism’ of [the shooter’s] manifesto and the far-right nativism at times espoused by Trump and his advisors.” By the time Tharoor published this analysis, it was well established that the manifesto did not espouse a clear ideology that was meant to divide, but Tharoor cited it to blame Trump and his advisors anyway.
Not to be outdone, The New York Times also blamed Trump for the shooting in New Zealand. In an opinion article entitled, “The March of White Supremacy, from Oklahoma City to Christchurch,” columnist Jamelle Bouie took a swipe at President Trump’s reaction: “…It’s in the president’s interest to downplay
, given his past equivocation on white supremacist violence and use of white nationalist language.” This was in reaction to Trump’s claim that white supremacism is a small group of people, which, by polling data, is true. It seems like a larger issue than it is because it’s a narrative that plays well in the media, but realistically it is a small group making a lot of noise.
Trump and other Republicans were not the only recipients of the finger-pointing by the left. In a viral video with nearly three million views, Chelsea Clinton was blamed directly for this attack on the NYU campus. NYU student Leen Dweik and a few other students blamed Clinton for stoking anti-Muslim hatred worldwide because Clinton criticized Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitism in February. In the video, Dweik says, “This right here is the result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put out into the world… 49 people died because of the rhetoric you put out there.” As a reward for cornering and yelling at a pregnant mother of “Jewish children,” Buzzfeed gave Dweik and the poster of the video, Rose Asaf, a guest column when the video went viral. (Dweik and Asaf are both BDS activists on the NYU campus, and Dweik tweeted on March 3, “…demolishing israel is a solution.”) Meanwhile, Donald Trump, Jr., no friend of Chelsea Clinton (at least publicly), defended her. He tweeted, “It’s sickening to see people blame [Chelsea Clinton] for the NZ attacks because she spoke out against anti-Semitism. We should all be condemning anti-Semitism & all forms of hate. Chelsea should be praised for speaking up. Anyone who doesn’t understand this is part of the problem.”
This is the latest in a long line of tragedies that could be unifying events that end up pitting political factions against each other. From Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, every tragedy that could lead to a condemnation of hatred and bigotry turns into a political boxing match. Every potential conversation about mental health or what causes people to commit these heinous crimes falls flat.
Let’s contrast this with another story that, in its own way, unified the country. Last week, a group of celebrities and Hollywood millionaires were charged and arrested for bribing officials and paying off scammers to get their children into college. It seems like the country is united in pointing out that this behavior is wrong, and leaving the blame with the offenders. Is this because this is not a tragedy? Or because the activity is so foolish that the reaction is one closer to mockery as opposed to mourning? Or is the reason deeper than that?
Human beings are only capable of wrapping their minds around so much. Parents doing everything they can to make sure their children go to a good college is something the public can understand, even though most people see the ridiculousness of the action and know that it’s wrong. Normal people do not and cannot comprehend the evil that goes into walking into a place of worship, any place of worship, and opening fire on innocent people. So, in an attempt to understand why someone would commit this act of evil, people try to rationalize it for themselves. This is why, whenever there is a shooting, there’s a national conversation about guns. Gun control advocates assume, without knowing, that if you owned a gun, you would use it for evil. Both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations claimed that a root cause of radical Islamic terrorism was a lack of economic opportunities in the Middle East. Obama and Bernie Sanders went further and blamed terrorism on climate change. This was not the first attack that the media blamed on Trump and the GOP. It is easier to attribute a tragedy to guns, lack of economic opportunities, climate change, or Donald Trump instead of attributing them to an ideology, a mental illness, or pure evil. So instead of unifying around the near global condemnation of these horrific actions, mainstream outlets and college activists blame whom they are comfortable blaming, because that’s all they understand.
The medieval problem-solving principle of Occam’s razor would be very useful during these times. It states that “simpler solutions are more likely to be correct than complex ones,” which would certainly apply in this tragedy. A complex solution to a shooting in New Zealand is that Trump wants a border with Mexico, or had a bad press conference after Charlottesville. A complex solution is that Chelsea Clinton condemned anti-Semitic remarks a month ago. A simple solution is that this white supremacist terrorist has a disgusting belief system, and that is one that is nearly universally rejected and condemned. Through that condemnation, we can unify and attack the problem. If we pursue the complex over the simple, the lines of division will widen and the problem will not be addressed.
By Moshe Hill

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