I’m tired. I’m tired because I stayed up late last night, following updates on mass shootings at New Zealand mosques, and then slept poorly, knowing I would wake up this morning to a staggering new death toll. Right now, it appears that 49 have lost their lives. Our understanding of this act of terror must begin with them. They were Muslims, gathered for their holy day, in prayer. This is who was targeted. This is the community destroyed. Remember them.
Remember them when right-wing ideologues, who would rather be spewing the same Islamophobic garbage they’ve poisoned us with since 9/11, take a brief pause to condemn “hate” and “violence” — without speaking to the seed of that rage. Or when the edgelords of 8chan and YouTube defend their toxic content as “just memes” and “trolling” — as though humor is never a weapon (or a recruitment tactic). Remember, too, that hate can’t be pried from the crucible in which it was forged. There’s no such thing as ironic racism — not when defenseless human beings were massacred in their place of worship.
Much of the media narrative around the attacks has been centered on the alleged shooter’s manifesto and all the shitposting it contains. Frankly, let me save you some time: Where the alleged killer’s polemic is concerned, you can skip most of it. You already know this person, one in an endless sequence of men radicalized online. Their fixations vary mildly, but all rise from a single bedrock. Strip away the pages upon pages of self-mythologizing, and you will eventually find it, stated in very few words:
That’s it, and it’s not complicated.
Nor is it an especially “fringe” idea.
The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro — who had to distance himself from a previous mosque attack when the shooter turned out to be a fan — has written that “Islam is at war with the West” and personally promoted a column on his site that called Muslims in Europe a “disease.” Just days ago, David Frum published an anti-immigration cover story for the Atlantic, using rhetoric that perfectly matches the excerpt above. Journalists identify the manifesto’s reference to alt-right persona Candace Owens as a “joke,” but Owens, too, wants countries to take up arms against Muslims living within their borders. Rep. Steve King, the loudest white supremacist in U.S. Congress, is similarly concerned about relative birth rates. The president himself has hammered almost every imaginable anti-Islam trope, endorsing or hiring those who do likewise.
What do these people have in common? They all operate in America, exporting their genocidal fantasies worldwide — and they all profit by laundering extremist views into talking points that eventually seize the minds of killers.
If you criticize academically coded racism wherever it appears in “respectable” mainstream media, just as it begins its journey to the bowels of the internet, the author is liable to answer that “Islam isn’t a race,” thinking this semantic loophole absolves them of a moral failure. But they’re still racist. Dozens of people were slaughtered at mosques in New Zealand, not as much for their religion as for being ethnic “invaders,” un-European and nonwhite. The murderer didn’t need to specify the voices that inspired him — they’re absolutely everywhere.