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Gavin Long. Micah Johnson. James Hodgkinson. Frederick Scott. Emanuel Samson.
These men have something in common, dear reader. Do you know what it is? Try answering without the aid of references.
Difficult, no? How about an easier one.
Who is Dylann Roof?
You probably already have an image of him in your mind. White. Angry. Armed.
Roof, of course, is the mass murderer who killed nine blacks on a Sunday morning in June of 2015. He hoped to start a race war. Instead, Leftist activists used his act of violence as justification to remove the Confederate flag from the Civil War Memorial in front of the South Carolina capitol.
But you already knew that. The media/corporate/ideological axis of influence made sure of that. Roof’s terrorist act was the subject of innumerable thinkpieces, sermons, and national conversations about race, hate, and violence.
But those first five names? You probably had to look them up. I certainly did.
Gavin Long is the black separatist who murdered three police officers and wounded three others in the wake of protests of the police shooting of Alton Sterling in 2016.
Micah Johnson is another black man who murdered five Dallas police officers and wounded nine others, also in the wake of protests over the death of Alton Sterling in 2016.
James Hodgkinson was the left-wing activist and Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer who attempted to assassinate the Republican congressional baseball team in Arlington, VA in 2017.
Fredrick Scott is the serial killer who murdered five white men on Kansas City hiking trails from 2016 to 2017. He was motivated by a desire to “kill all white people.”
Emmanuel Samson is a Sudanese migrant who murdered one woman and shot seven other worshipers in a Tennessee church service in 2017 as revenge for Dylann Roof’s mass shooting in South Carolina.
None of these men are household names. None of them sparked “national conversations” about the need to tone down anti-white or anti-conservative hatred and prejudice. No flags were removed because of their actions.
Other than concerned attention by some on the political Right and detached “just the facts, ma’am” reporting from the establishment, these terrorist incidents have disappeared from our national collective consciousness.
Indeed, some of these incidents never even entered into the local consciousness in the places they occurred. Fredrick Scott was charged with three of his murders the same week that Heather Heyer was killed during the Charlottesville riots. That Sunday I happened to attend a mega-church in Kansas City. The pastor spoke passionately against the “hate” and “anger” that lead to Heyer’s death in Virginia a thousand miles away, but didn’t say a word about the racist serial killer in his own backyard.
In the wake of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting this morning in Pittsburgh, allegedly committed by Robert Bowers, an extremist with a long standing hatred of Jews, it is reasonable to expect that the incident will garner plenty of attention. Indeed, Twitter is already aflame with accusations that Trump and the America he represents abetted this attack.
Instead of being flushed down the memory hole, the incident will almost certainly become a centerpiece for another “national conversation” about Donald Trump’s rhetoric, the supposed widespread irrational prejudice on the American Right, and the need for additional censorship of “hate-thought” by Silicon Valley’s techno-oligarchs.
The question of whether or not an atrocity will be forgotten or remembered rests entirely on the identity of the perpetrator and the victims. If the victims are members of protected liberal classes—such as Jews, blacks, and Muslims—and the perpetrator is not, i.e., he is a white male, then the attack will become a touchstone for lectures on tolerance and the need to fight hate, conveniently defined as the entire conservative right.
If the identity of victim and perpetrator are reversed the attack is simply “heartbreaking” to the extent it is acknowledged at all. Then it is forgotten.
This is how the politicization of tragedy works in our America.
Photo Credit: Laura Buckman/AFP/Getty Images