Category Archives: terrorism

The Preachers of Hate

PittsburgMemorialThe last of eleven funerals was held today. Eleven people, shot dead in simply because they were Jewish.

A federal grand jury has charged 46 year-old Robert Bowers with 44 crimes including hate crimes resulting in death. Bowers has pleaded not guilty. So we’ll do the journalism thing and note that he is the “alleged” assailant and that he is considered innocent until proven guilty. We will also note that the indictment alleges that on the morning of the Sabbath, October 27, 2018, Bowers drove to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, entered the building with multiple firearms, and opened fire. He also engaged public safety officers, wounding several before he was wounded and captured. While inside the Synagogue, Bowers made several statements indicating his desire to “kill Jews.”

It was the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. But of course Jews have faced many millennia of persecution and oppression and even in America Jews are no strangers to anti-Semitic incidents, which an Anti-Defamation League audit found rose 57% in 2017.

Yes, Bowers is deranged and yes, most responsible Americans don’t really mean to advocate religious murder when they rant and rave about threatening “outside” forces “invading” and “replacing us.” But it is more than about time they accept responsibility for the climate their irresponsible actions create. A climate in which dastardly deeds are not only acceptable, but a logical solution to the perceived problem presented by anyone who is not like themselves.

Even without his statements at the Synagogue, Bowers’ social media footprint makes his motive clear:

Bowers

HIAS, founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in 1881 to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, declares its purpose is to, “Welcome the stranger. Protect the refugee.” It is not surprising. This has been a core value for Jews for some time. See Genesis 18:1-22:24.

But what has clearly caught Bowers’ attention here is the concept of “invaders”. And we all know where that comes from:

TrumpInvaders

HIAS does help people seeking refuge in the United States. And just in case you missed that dog whistle, consider, President Trump Trump also says he ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ if an unfounded conspiracy theory about George Soros funding the caravan is true. There is no surprise in that comment either. Trump rather famously refused to condemn white supremacists when they marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, wielding flaming torches and shouting, “Jews will not replace us” ahead of deadly violence, Trump said there were some “very fine people on both sides”.

George Soros has become the whipping man and proxy for all the anti-Semitic claims of the right. Soros is not only Jewish, unlike Trump he is also really a self-made billionaire and has taken the giving pledge, promising to donate most of his wealth to worthy causes. There is no evidence that Soros is helping to fund the so-called “caravan”. But that hasn’t stopped mainstream Republicans, from Trump on down, from repeating the rumor.

Fox talking heads Laura Ingraham, Maria Bartiroma and Lou Dobbs have suggested that the migrants are getting outside funding. And Cesar Sayoc, the Florida man authorities have accused of mailing more than a dozen bombs to people who have criticized Trump, appeared to be obsessed with Soros, mentioning him dozens of times on one of his Twitter accounts.

A whole catalog of Republican elected officials have joined the anti-Semitic chorus:

McCarthyTweet

That Tweet, adding Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, two other Jewish billionaire philanthropists who support progressive causes, came from Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives. If the GOP retains control of the House this man could be the next Speaker of the House.

And then there is the case of Radio Marti’, part of the Trump administration that broadcasts to Cuba, which reportedly aired a Spanish language program earlier this year describing Soros as a “multimillionaire Jew” and repeating some of the right wing conspiracy theories about him.

This is the climate in which demons like Bowers and Sayoc flourish. These are weak men, spurred to action by the words and examples of far stronger men dedicated to the cause of retaining power through any means necessary and exploiting the fears of others. They want us to be afraid. They need us to be afraid. So they whip up controversy over a few thousand mothers and children heading our way. They tell us that we are unable to sort out the real asylum candidates, which we are required to accept by our own law, from the handful of those who will seek to take advantage of the situation to sneak into our country. To meet a few thousand mothers and children, Trump talks about sending 15,000 regular soldiers of the United States Army, to stand in addition to the Border Patrol, National Guard and local police authorities already at the border.

CaravanNYDailyNews

Are you afraid? Don’t be. And don’t let the preachers of hate get to you. Remember the principles on which this great country was founded. Never again.

No. Just No.

I’ve had it. I’ve had it with whataboutism. I’m done with false equivalency. No more political correctness. You can take your gaslighting someplace else. I’m tired of demonizing, of disinformation, of scapegoating, of rationalization and of lying and deception of all kinds.

Thirteen pipe bombs were sent to prominent Democrats, including former presidents Obama and Clinton, and other Trump critics. That’s a fact. The FBI has arrested Cesar Sayoc, 56, and charged him with a long list of crimes in connection with the bombs. That’s a fact. They also impounded a white van, which they say was Sayoc’s, its windows covered with political images and stickers of President Trump and his critics, including pictures of some of the bomb recipients with gun sights superimposed on their images. That’s another fact.

This is the time when you would expect calming words of reassurance from the White House. The kind you would have heard from Ronald Reagan, from George Bush (both of them), from Bill Clinton and from Barack Obama. What did we get from the current occupant of the Oval Office?

TrumpBombTweet

That’s right. Trump blames “Bomb stuff” for distracting from his political message. Yes of course the alleged bomb sender Sayoc is a nut job. But this is not the same as the case of James Hodgkinson, shot and killed by police after he opened fire on Congressional Republicans practicing for a charity baseball game. Hodgkinson wounded four including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who  nearly died.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders immediately claimed an equivalence. But it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Hodgkinson once volunteered for Independent Senator Bernie Sanders during his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. But there is no record of Senator Sanders urging violence on his supporters and the Senator, upon learning of the loose connection, took to the Senate floor saying, “I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act. Let me be as clear as I can be, violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.”

Trump, on the other hand, has a long history of exhorting his supporters to, well, just read the quotes yourself:

TrumpQuotes

Of course Trump didn’t send the clearly deranged Sayoc out to cause mayhem. But he created the climate which can trigger an unstable person to act. In this he is aided by conservative media led as always by Fox. I have never seen anything like the Fox channels which, with apologies to Shepard Smith, spend most their on-air hours serving as Trump mouthpieces. Here’s Lou Dobbs of the Fox Business Channel:

DobbsTweet

Also on Fox, Geraldo Rivera said the bombs may have been sent by “someone who wanted to embarrass President Trump, somebody who wanted to affect American political life. It could have been a Russian invention.”

Conservative radio was all over the conspiracy theory. Rush Limbaugh suggested a “Democratic operative” may have sent the bombs. “Republicans,” he said, “just don’t do this kind of thing.” Michael Savage said there was a “high probability that the whole thing had been set up as a false flag to gain sympathy for the Democrats.”  And from conservative commentator Anne Coulter:

CoulterTweet

It’s time to get a grip. Deranged people do deranged things. But if you promote violence through a steady stream of exhortations to commit violent acts, conspiracy theories and lies, you have some responsibility when others put your words into deeds.

The best summation of this entire escapade I’ve heard comes from John Oliver, the host of HBO’s “Last Week with John Oliver”, who I find to be one of the most astute political commentators of our age. Oliver said:

“OK, I’ve got it: So Obama flew to Florida, mailed a bomb to himself in Washington, then flew back just in time to avoid it—all to frame this guy,” said Oliver, pointing to a photo of the bombing suspect. “Now, I’m not saying that that man’s theory doesn’t have any holes in it, but at least we can all agree: He really outsmarted Geraldo Rivera.”

I say amen.

9-11 + 15

9-11_memorial_namesI did not go to witness the ceremony of remembrance at the 9-11 Memorial today. I am never comfortable when I am at the 16 acre site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. It’s not the memories. Those come and go depending on what is going on in the world. It’s the images which lingered before me for months after that day. Now they almost never return. Unless I am at the site.

On September 11, 2001, my wife Amy and I lived in Battery Park City in lower Manhattan. We had moved there from midtown just a few months earlier. Our apartment building was at the south end of the neighborhood, south and west of WTC Tower #2. I was the New York Bureau Chief and Senior Correspondent for public television’s Nightly Business Report and the newsroom/production facility/broadcast studio was just across West Street, even closer to the tower, due south of the site. Tower #2 filled the window of my bedroom, and of my office.

I was putting on my tie when I heard a noise I later described as the sound of a dump truck unloading gravel at my feet. Running to the window, I saw smoke coming from the top of tower #1, the view partially obscured by #2, which was closer to me. I had been through the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, so I did think of that. But I thought in terms of a bomb planted inside, or an explosion on one of the equipment floors toward the top of the building. It was 8:46am.

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