The terrible murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, seemed, initially and superficially, an all-too mundanely tragic event: a long-festering dispute over parking spaces led a guy to kill his neighbors with a gun. On the surface, the only unusual detail seemed to be that the guy had killed three people. Usually these kinds of very personalized rage killings do not escalate into mass killings.
But as soon as it was widely known that all three victims were Muslims, there was rampant speculation that the murders may have been hate crimes motivated by Islamophobia. This speculation was reinforced when the father of two of the victims asserted that the murderer had repeatedly expressed a hatred of the victims’ religion and when it was reported that the victims were killed “execution style” with close-range gunshots to their heads.
All of this will, of course, be addressed in the police investigation of the murders and in the trial of the killer. (I would say “accused killer,” but there does not seem to be any doubt whatsoever that he killed these three people. If there is a trial, it will be either because he has decided to plead insanity or because his attorneys wish to make some sort of case for some sort of a reduced punishment.)
But what is now playing out in the media—in particular, in the Far-Right media—is fascinating in a very macabre way. For instance, this afternoon, World Net Daily ran an item with this title and subtitle: “’Hate Crime’ Alleged as ‘Progressive’ Accused of Killing 3: Suspect a Fan of SPLC, Rachel Maddow, Blasted Religious People.”
Apparently, a review of the killer’s web presence has revealed that he “liked” the Facebook pages of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Rachel Maddow show and blog, the Huffington Post, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” Neil de Grasse Tyson, “gay-marriage groups, and a host of anti-conservative and anti-Tea Party pages.” So, the evidence of perverted ideology seems manifold—at least for those wishing to jump to the conclusion Progressivism and its evil twin, atheism, caused this guy to target people with strong religious beliefs. And that assertion is not made at all implicitly; rather, it is stated quite directly and forcefully.
So, you can quickly grasp what is at work here. In essence, the Far-Right media is jumping on the opportunity to assert that the real “gun nuts” are Progressives–and, more broadly that standing against festering hate is itself a kind of festering hate. And, in order to illustrate that they themselves are not simply exploiting a terrible murder that has somewhat singularly been committed by an apparent Progressive, they have resurrected accounts of an attack on the offices of the Family Research Council in Washington state, which occurred more than three years ago:
“Chief U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts in Washington sentenced homosexual activist Floyd Lee Corkins to 25 years in prison for attempting a mass shooting at the headquarters of the Family Research Council.
“The judge noted it was clear the defendant intended to commit mass murder because he had rehearsed his crime, practiced shooting his weapon and had brought 95 bullets with him on the day of the crime.
“It was Aug. 15, 2012, when a heavily armed Corkins walked into FRC headquarters and began shooting with the intention of killing ‘as many people as I could.’
“He managed to shoot and injure just one person, facilities manager Leo Johnson, who is credited with heroically stopping the attack.
“Corkins admitted he picked FRC because the organization was listed as an ‘antigay’ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center on its website.”
It is all too easy to point out the ironies in this ideologically-driven and expedient media strategy: for instance, the irony that this “argument” rests on just two cases, and one of them involved a crime that was never successfully carried out; the irony that neither Progressives nor those on the Far Right are as easily defined as the rhetoric simplistically suggests—that is, all atheists are not Progressives, and all on the Far Right are not deeply religious; the irony that the Far-Right is, in this instance at least, very willing to characterize Muslims as victims of a hate crime, rather than as simply the perpetrators of terror; or the irony that the very loaded characterizations of this killer and the “wannabe mass murderer” sentenced in the Washington case serve to illustrate that the Far-Right is so used to promoting hateful stereotypes that it does not even recognize that, even as it is trying to deny that it does it, it is actually confirming that it does it.
But the much broader irony, at least to me, is that the Far Right has asserted that this killing—and, by implication, any killing–committed with a gun can be attributed to an extremist ideology that has fundamentally warped the killer’s attitudes toward many other Americans.
To make the most of this small rhetorical opening, I am very willing to admit that there may be some extremists on the Far Left who are all too willing to express their ideological discontent with a bullet. Let’s see if anyone on the Far Right is equally willing to admit that the “gun nuts” whom they have defended to the point of absurdity are, likewise, twisted individuals funneling their private grudges and demons into an all too readily available ideological extremism that is used to justify their acts of violence—their acts of madness.
To frame this proposition much more narrowly and very specifically, if Progressives can admit that there may be some “gun nuts” on the Left side of the political spectrum, will anyone on the Far Right finally admit, at the very least, that everything that George Zimmerman has done since his trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin has indisputably confirmed that he never ought to have been permitted to carry a gun or to serve in any sort of security patrol?
If asking that is asking too much, then the outrage expressed in the Far-Right media coverage of these most recent, terrible murders is absolutely shameless and, by their own convolutedly expressed standards, absolutely unworthy of anyone claiming to be devoutly religious.
And I am willing to stand by that judgment even though I myself am not religious.