The Triple-Murders in Chapel Hill

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.


6 thoughts on “The Triple-Murders in Chapel Hill

  1. I would remind the good professor that when people such as gabby giffords (the Arizona congresswoman) was shot it was almost immediately and openly assumed by various commentators that the shooter must be a right wing nut tea party person. Some people commenting (especially on MSNBC) seemed disappointed when the person just turned out to be mentally deranged. And it is no surprise that its not the ordinary person that gets the CNN reporter to interview them at the tea party rally when Obama was president, its the guy who has a sign that says “the tree of liberty is watered with the blood of tyrants”. This person gets interviewed over and over again on Fox, CNN, MSNBC etc while all the ordinary people who make up the rally don’t get one question asked of them. Fair representation?? I don’t think so.

    I have been a gun owner most of my adult life. As far as George Zimmerman is concerned, I strongly disagree with your assertions that people on the right are “funneling their private grudges and demons into an all too readily available ideological extremism that is used to justify their acts of violence”. Who is that exactly?? The applies to the left side of the aisle too. I am from Wisconsin and we had a number of people on the left calling death threats to republicans with one teacher being convicted for calling on republican legislator and saying she would burn his house down with his children inside. Is that a nut job?? I think so. Zimmerman wanted to be an authority figure. That is clear from (I believe) his taking classes in law enforcement. That has nothing to do with politics. I have seen people on the left who are in government “push their weight around” too. They get a sense of power from being a “regulator” or “authority” and maybe wearing a uniform. The gun heightens this sense of power. Zimmerman simply appointed himself as a “security officer” for the condo association all on his own. He could have simply called the police and let them handle it when he observed Martin from his SUV but chose to follow Martin on his own. Trayvon Martin as far as I know was not doing anything wrong other than walking through the condo property. If Zimmerman had not exited his SUV and started following Martin, Martin would not have approached Zimmerman to confront him about why he (Martin) was being followed. I think an argument happened, maybe Martin threw a punch, ended up on top of Zimmerman and that’s when Zimmerman said he pulled his gun and shot Martin. I do not believe it was a case of self defense in that Zimmerman by his own actions put himself in a position where he felt the need to shoot to save his life. If not for being armed, I doubt Zimmerman would ever have exited his SUV.

    • I agree, of course, that some people involved in mass shootings are simply lunatics (though “simple lunacy” seems an obvious oxymoron): what I mean is, political ideology is not really a very significant or at least very straightforward element of their lunacy.

      That said, I don’t think that you can equate the sometimes all-too-evident political bias in mainstream news media with the kind of rhetoric routinely on display in the extreme Far-Right media (or in the extreme Far-Left media, though the Far-Right media messages seem currently to be much closer to the mainstream in the U.S. than anything from the Far-Left, which has a much, much more defined presence in Europe). I am not even talking about FOX News or conservative talk radio but, instead, about very Far-Right news outlets such as World Net Daily and Newsmax, and worse. For this reason, I very deliberately used the term “Far-Right” and not “Republican.”

      I do disagree very strongly about the media focus on Obama haters. At every one of the President’s appearances, there are groups of people holding patently racist and otherwise offensive signs that are never shown in the mainstream media reports on the events. I did a post “Hating a Black President Isn’t Necessarily Racist”; it had a very long subtitle–“It Might Be Coincidental to Your Hatred of Him That He Is Black. But All of the Following Expressions of Hatred of Him Are Clearly Racist—and If You Don’t Think So, You Are Either a Racist or the Word ‘Racist’ Has Lost All Meaning.” It includes images of many of the posters held by those protesting his visits and his presidency. (By the way, I first read about these protesters in a blog item on a visit that the president made to an warehouse in Phoenix, but I saw some of this stuff personally when I subsequently went to hear him speak in Ohio.)

      Lastly, your detailed statement on the Zimmerman case goes much further than the concession for which I said that I’d be willing to settle. So, you’re not actually the sort of person at whom I was directing the challenge.

      I have gotten past hoping that those who defended Zimmerman so vehemently at the time of the trial might now be willing to reconsider their sense of his guilt. I would settle simply for the admission that Zimmerman’s preconceived notions about himself and about other types of people should have weighed much more heavily in the the trial. Otherwise, almost anything can be reduced to and then dismissed as accident, coincidence, or simply “tragic circumstance.”

      But you seem basically to have the same view about what happened as I have had.

      • “I do disagree very strongly about the media focus on Obama haters. At every one of the President’s appearances, there are groups of people holding patently racist and otherwise offensive signs that are never shown in the mainstream media reports on the events.”

        I think it depends on what you want to define as “media”. Today anyone with a facebook page or blog can get a national or worldwide reaction if the subject and conditions are adequate. You mention World net daily and newsmax. I am not familiar with World net and I am only familiar with Newsmax because they are showing interesting documentaries on their cable channel about WW II and “Dictators of the 20th Century” and I am a history buff.

        I would say that today there is very little “news” and much analysis/opinion presented as news and targeted towards an audience. The days of Walter Cronkite saying “and that’s the way it is” are long gone. I stopped watching MSNBC long ago and do not watch any of the commentators on Fox like Hannity or O Reilly. Its all about ratings now and carving out an audience (telling them what you think they want to hear). MSNBC is the left or far left, Fox is right or far right, CNN used to be “left of center” but was thought to be more fair. Now I would say CNN is more leftwing (and competing for the same liberal audience with MSNBC) because they got rid of Lou Dobbs who appeared to be the only conservative on the network. Who on CNN didnt vote for obama?? Who on fox did?? I am sick to death of media people interjecting their personal opinions as the news. There is no way a person can get a full understanding of what is going in the world if you just stick to one network and that’s a shame. I am constantly flipping between Fox and CNN to see who is covering what and how some news story gets covered and getting a smattering of coverage from networks like Al jazeera or Deutsche Welle news.

        What I find interesting is that if I tell an Obama supporter I am right of center, they act surprised when I give logical answers as to gay marriage (doesn’t bother me), 90 percent black support for Obama (why is that a surprise for the first black president) and on and on. That doesn’t mean I cant be angry though when Obama comes up with ideas like taxing my little nieces 529 college savings plan that I have been putting money in for 8 years now specifically because the bush tax cuts made funds withdrawn for college expenses tax free. I especially got angry when obama said the accounts were mostly held by rich people but then made the tax for anyone that held an account. If I complain that doesn’t mean I am a racist. That just means I disagree.

  2. Hate crime “alleged.” The investigation will be revealing. But I do find it interesting that people would not deny the possibility of it being a “hate” crime if it was someone other than Muslims. And of course the perpetual person you can despise, work behind the scenes to fire, a Palestinian.

    A Lebanese Australian writer tweeted this about the incidents “You all took from us our humanity, you made us internalize a fire of hatred against our own identities and you deny us even this one piece” and

    “We’ve worn ourselves to the bone condemning
    carrying the weight of the world
    in apologies
    that aren’t ours to deliver
    on our backs”

    Finally, I don’t think anyone thinks this is about parking.

    • I do not disagree it could be a hate crime and there should be an investigation. The way the mainstream (for lack of a better word) are handling it though is as if they want it to be a hate crime. This goes along the same lines as the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, when media people were saying they just assumed the shooter had to be a rightwing tea party gun nut. It turned out to just be a mentally deranged man. I think that’s what this is. This shooter appears to have disdain for all religion and according to neighbors, jealously guard his parking space. I had a guy once get out of his car and forcibly try to pull me out of my car just because I honked my horn in rush hour traffic because he cut me off. Lucky for him (or maybe me) we didn’t have conceal carry back then and I just calmly called the police as he pounded on my hood and drivers side window with his fists..

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