Following the horrific events over the weekend, news pundits — from print to cable — began to weigh in on the motive most people had begun to assign for why the shooters acted (and to clarify: there are still a lot of questions about both shooters and what motivated them).
But the easy one, the one that made the most sense since both shooters were young white men and one had explicitly left a manifesto detailing his paranoia about Mexicans crossing the border and using up natural resources (because, as an environmentalist, he had been trained to think the world may end in 12 years), was the cry of “white nationalism.”
Which became “white supremacy” and “white terrorism” quickly enough.
And this led to a battle in the media, with journalists and pundits helpfully telling America what to think. In turn, those positions were that white terrorism was “stunning” in its parallel to the Islamic State, and that is was nothing more than a hoax cooked up to divide us.
First, the New York Times gives us this gem, “White Terrorism Shows ‘Stunning’ Parallels to Islamic State’s Rise.”
Many scholars of terrorism see worrying similarities between the rise of the Islamic State and that of white nationalist terrorism, seen most recently in the carnage in El Paso, Tex.
“The parallels are stunning,” said Will McCants, a prominent expert in the field.
And they are growing more notable with each new attack.
Experts say that the similarities are far from a coincidence. White nationalist terrorism is following a progression eerily similar to that of jihadism under the leadership of the Islamic State, in ways that do much to explain why the attacks have suddenly grown so frequent and deadly.
In both, there is the apocalyptic ideology that predicts — and promises to hasten — a civilizational conflict that will consume the world. There is theatrical, indiscriminate violence that will supposedly bring about this final battle, but often does little more than grant the killer a brief flash of empowerment and win attention for the cause.
Then Tucker Carlson, on his show Tuesday, dismissed the idea that many young white men have indeed crossed a threshold of hate (I’d argue they’re mostly on the left rather than the right, for what it’s worth), despite the very real scourge of mass shootings that, if they appear senseless or political in nature, involve mostly white men. (I used the Newsweek piece on Carlson to highlight that outlet’s own attempt to manipulate because their embedded clip is not actually the clip where Carlson discusses white nationalism at all. Rather, it’s intended to make him look anti-immigrant to draw a parallel (there’s that word again) with the El Paso shooter).
“It’s not the job of this show to defend the president and everything he says,” Carlson said after airing a clip demonstrating the media criticisms of Trump’s speech on Monday. “Some things we are not going to defend. But in point of fact, he never endorsed white supremacy or came close to endorsing white supremacy. That’s just a lie. But he condemned it anyway. Their response, ‘he didn’t really mean it.'”
Carlson goes on to allege that “the whole [white supremacy issue] is a lie.”
“If you were to assemble a list, a hierarchy of concerns of problems this country faces, where would white supremacy be on the list? Right up there with Russia probably,” he said. “It’s actually not a real problem in America. The combined membership of every white supremacist organization in this country would be able to fit inside a college football stadium.”
The point is this: if you feel manipulated and overwhelmed by all of this in the face of a very real and frightening tragedy, it’s because you are being manipulated to feel frightened or foolish depending on which side you come down on.
So…get out there and talk to your neighbors about it, particularly the ones who don’t look like you. They’re in this with you. Make up your own minds about it. That way, when you face the media manipulation, you can keep the parts that are informative and dismiss the parts intended to drive wedges between us.