Saturday, May 21, 2022
In November 2017, just months into his freshman year at Oral Roberts University, Andrew Hartzler was sitting in the school’s chapel, listening to the university president preach a sermon called “Holy Sex” and wondering if someone was trying to out him.
Attendance at the twice-weekly service was mandatory for students at the conservative evangelical college in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At this service, William M. Wilson invoked the biblical “Song of Solomon” to extol the thrills of married sex, enticing students to chase a “Ring By Spring,” a marriage engagement within their first year. Wilson then made a dark pivot to remind them that there was only one path to this happy ending. Under Levitical law, he intoned, “if a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable, they are put to death.”
Hartzler, who is gay, did not raise his hand, acutely aware that at ORU, being gay is an honor code offense punishable by expulsion.
At any other non-religious college, such a pledge would be a violation of a 1972 federal law that protects against sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. Since the mid-2010s, as courts and policymakers began interpreting “sex” in federal civil rights statutes to include gender identity and later, sexual orientation, these protections have expanded to LGBTQ students. But none of these protections exist for an estimated 100,000 LGBTQ students at over 200 religious colleges and universities that have taken advantage of the law’s expansive religious exemption. To qualify for the exemption, a religious college or university need only notify the Department of Education of how complying with the law’s nondiscrimination provisions would conflict with its religious tenets.
ORU wasn’t Andrew Hartzler’s first choice for college. But his father, who had raised him in a deeply conservative Christian environment, told him it was the only university he would pay for his son to attend. . . . During his time at ORU, Hartzler, now 23, assiduously concealed his sexual identity from school officials in order to avoid a punishment that would jeopardize his degree. In his junior year, he was summoned to a dean’s office after he was reported for having his boyfriend, who was not an ORU student, in his dorm room. Faced with the possibility of punishment and even expulsion from the university, Hartzler got an unexpected reprieve when Covid shut down the campus. He managed to avoid a series of “accountability meetings” with deans, move off campus and finish his degree in psychology remotely, graduating in May 2021.
Within three months of graduation, Hartzler joined a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Education, asking the court to strike down the religious exemption as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and of the students’ equal protection rights. The complaint, filed in federal court in Oregon in 2021, recounts vivid details from the initial 33 plaintiffs. One plaintiff alleges authorities at Bob Jones University combed her social media and disciplined her for refusing to disavow her support for LGBTQ rights. A gay man alleges that Union University rescinded his offer of admission after discovering he was engaged to a man; another, who felt called to ministry and enrolled at Fuller Seminary, was expelled after only a few days because he is married to a man. A common theme, according to the complaint, is how school authorities examine students’ social media posts for evidence of their sexual orientation or gender identity, or their support for LGBTQ rights.
Paul Southwick, director of the Religious Exemption Accountability Project, which advocates for the rights of LGBTQ students at Christian colleges and universities, and counsel for the plaintiffs, says that even students who are not disciplined endure a culture of pervasive anxiety and fear. . . . “your identity is forbidden.”
The Title IX religious exemption ensures that, despite historic advances in LGBTQ rights over the past decade, religious colleges and universities are not required to change their policies in accordance with those new laws — all while receiving the benefits of taxpayer-subsidized funding.
The REAP lawsuit arrives at a moment when the religious right is experiencing a surge in political power. The movement is poised to claim a major victory in its decades-long fight against abortion, and Republican legislatures and governors across the country are passing anti-LGBTQ laws such as Florida’s hotly debated law dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics, banning LGBTQ books and criminalizing gender-affirming care for trans minors. But the lawsuit challenging the religious exemption represents a potential existential threat to a bedrock of the evangelical movement. Christian schools have trained the thinkers who have promoted and defended a legal strategy that dates back to the 1970s, when the early organizing of the modern religious right centered not on abortion but on shielding Christian K-12 schools and universities from requirements to comply with racial nondiscrimination policies. Christian schools lost the battle on race decades ago, but the core argument they use to perpetuate anti-LGBTQ policies is the same: For a secular government to require Christian educational institutions to comply with civil rights law is an unacceptable violation of their religious beliefs, regardless of the discriminatory impact on the students who attend them.
If the REAP lawsuit were to succeed, universities with the religious exemption could face the same consequences as secular schools for anti-LGBTQ discrimination. (In the meantime, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has opened six investigations into the discrimination claims of REAP clients at Christian colleges and universities.) If Christian schools refuse to comply with Title IX, it could force the government to choose between enforcing the law and ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not fund unlawful discrimination, or letting LGBTQ students’ rights go unprotected, lending implicit government support to a religious view that contravenes established public policy.
The original battleground for Christian schools was not abortion or gay rights. It was race. In 1976, when the Internal Revenue Service revoked the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University because of the fundamentalist South Carolina school’s ban on interracial dating, it set off a firestorm that has defined the modern religious right.
The government, the school and its defenders argued, had no place interfering in the institution’s core biblical beliefs. Together with the IRS’s efforts to desegregate private Christian K-12 schools, by revoking the tax-exempt status of explicitly segregationist schools, and by proposing regulations to diversify others, the Bob Jones case — not abortion — was the key inflection point for the political advocacy and organizing of evangelicals into national politics and their enduring alliance with the Republican Party.
In 1983, after a protracted battle, the Supreme Court held the IRS could legally revoke the school’s tax exemption when its policies are “contrary to established public policy” — in that case, ending race discrimination in education. The logic of the Bob Jones decision was that taxpayers should not have to subsidize discrimination that the courts have determined is unlawful.
[W]ide majorities of Americans support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. Recent polling by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 79 percent of Americans favor such protections, including even 61 percent of white evangelicals. But as public opinion supports legal expansion of LGBTQ rights, at evangelical organizations, particularly educational institutions, policies have gone in the opposite direction of law, policy and the broader culture.
Fundamental religion -be it Christian, Muslim, or something other - is a pervasive evil that needs to be erased.
When John Bridgeland left a senior position in George W. Bush’s White House and joined Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in the fall of 2004, an eager undergraduate got assigned to him as a student fellow and facilitator of his seminar. . . . He remembered her as “extremely bright” and “through-and-through public-service-oriented.” She was so impressive in the seminar that he chose her to do a project with him selling Harvard students on the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and other service opportunities. “I thought the world of her,” Bridgeland said.
The young woman’s name was Elise Stefanik.
Bridgeland secured her a job in the White House when she graduated in 2006, personally appealing to Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and other former colleagues to hire her. Bridgeland later encouraged her to run for Congress, which she did, successfully, in 2014 — and the New York Republican quickly established herself as a leading moderate. “I was so incredibly happy and proud,” Bridgeland said. . . . She had the highest character.” . . . And then, he said, “this switch went off.”
Today, the world sees a much different Stefanik. This past week, after the racist massacre in Buffalo, attention turned to her articulation of “great replacement” theory, the white-supremacist conspiracy beliefs said to have propelled the alleged killer. Before that, she had been a prominent election denier, voting to overturn the 2020 results after the Jan. 6 insurrection, and then using the issue to oust and replace House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (Wyo.) because she refused to embrace President Donald Trump’s election lies.
Now, Stefanik has thrown her support, as the No. 3 House GOP leader, behind a proposal to “expunge” Trump’s impeachment for his role in the insurrection. . . . The resolution has no purpose (there’s no constitutional way to expunge impeachment) other than to sow further distrust of democracy.
It’s a story told a thousand times: Ambitious Republican official abandons principle to advance in Trump’s GOP. But perhaps nobody’s fall from promise, and integrity, has been as spectacular as the 37-year-old Stefanik’s. “I was just so shocked she would go down such a dark path,” said her former champion, Bridgeland. “No power, no position is worth the complete loss of your integrity. It was just completely alarming to me to watch this transformation. I got a lot of notes saying, ‘What happened to her?’ ”
The answer is simple: “Quest for power,” Bridgeland said. “But power without principle is a pretty dark place to go. She wanted to climb the Republican ranks and she has, but … she’s climbed the ladder on the back of lies about the election that are undermining trust in elections, putting people’s lives at risk.”
When Bridgeland saw his former protegee’s lies about the election, “I was shattered. I was really heartbroken,” he told me. Alumni of Harvard’s IOP petitioned to remove Stefanik from its advisory committee, and Bridgeland signed it. “I had to,” he said, “because Constitution first.” Stefanik called her removal a “badge of honor” and a decision on the school’s part “to cower and cave to the woke left.”
“People become totally ruined by their failure to stand up for the good and the true, but I do think she has the spark still and could awaken to it,” Bridgeland said. “It’s not too late.”
For our country’s sake, I wish I could believe that.
Sadly, a tawdry prostitute seemingly has more integrity than Stefanik.
Friday, May 20, 2022
The Atlantic suggests a return to the anti-woman, homophobic world of the 1950's is perhaps not the right wing majority's only agenda. Indeed they want to return to a more openly racist past and an era where corporations and robber barons could destroy the environment with impunity all for corporate and personal profit even as the lives of the majority of citizens were harmed in some instances shortened. With these justices, the rights of the few and religious extremist trump - no pun intended - the wellbeing of the majority. Here are column excerpts:
Following the Supreme Court’s leak of a draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade, many Court-watchers and pundits have pointed to same-sex marriage and access to contraceptives as rights now potentially at risk. And while in the long run the logic set forth in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization could undermine those precedents, the Court may eviscerate other major areas of law far sooner—in fact, with cases on its docket this current term. Notably, the Court may soon declare the use of race in college admissions—affirmative action—illegal, and it may also massively constrain the power of the federal government to protect the environment.
The questions at hand in each case—Dobbs, Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, and West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency—differ. But they all raise issues that have been the targets of conservative legal scholars for decades, and they will now be decided by a right-wing Court with seemingly little commitment to its own precedents.
The use of race in admissions has been permissible in the eyes of the Court since 1978, when Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. delivered his opinion in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Allan Bakke, who was white, argued that he had been denied entry into UC Davis’s medical school because of its affirmative-action program, which reserved 16 of the 100 seats in each class for minority students—though the school contended that his age (35) and average test scores had more to do with his rejection. Powell ruled that race could be used in admissions in concert with a host of other factors—including grades, extracurricular activities, and test scores—to build a class, because diversity was an important interest of the state’s. As such, his decision was not about righting historical wrongs, but about diversity for the benefit of the entire campus community. Over the next 40 years, the decision was upheld time and again.
In 2014, Students for Fair Admissions[“SFFA”], a nonprofit founded by Edward Blum, which represents a group of anonymous Asian American students, filed a lawsuit against Harvard claiming that its admissions process discriminated against the students because of their race. . . . SFFA explicitly pointed to one of the most recent cases that upheld affirmative action: Grutter v. Bollinger. “Grutter should be overruled, as it satisfies every factor that this Court considers when deciding to overrule precedent,” SFFA said in a filing to the Supreme Court. “It was wrong the day it was decided, has spawned significant negative consequences, and has generated no legitimate reliance interests”—a legal term referring to people who have taken actions based upon the statements of others, including the courts.
Perhaps with even less public awareness, the Court may also decimate the federal government’s power to make regulations that protect the environment. In West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, which challenges the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions, the Court could invoke what is known as the non-delegation doctrine—a theory that effectively says Congress cannot easily empower the executive branch to figure out the details of regulatory policy.
Its use was most prominent during the height of resistance to New Deal policies, in the 1930s. But it has long been roundly rejected by justices since—including the originalist Antonin Scalia, who wrote in a 2001 opinion that “we have ‘almost never felt qualified to second-guess Congress regarding the permissible degree of policy judgment that can be left to those executing or applying the law.’”
“There are five people who said things like ‘The non-delegation doctrine in the 1936 way—that had real teeth, and restricts how broad delegations can be to the government—should be a thing again, and we’re going to be happy to go along with the case.’” The Court could, of course, rule in a way that affects only this one agency rule, but it’s possible that the justices will take a much bigger swing, making any meaningful federal environmental regulation essentially impossible.
These cases haven’t received the same level of attention as Dobbs, and they fall outside the privacy issues adjacent to abortion, but they are no less consequential. And if the Court overturns these areas of long-settled law, millions of people’s lives will be affected, for generations to come.
All elections matter - something more Americans need to grasp - but presidential elections that determine who nominates justices are absolutely critical. Sadly, too many Democrats and moderates have failed to recognize this reality. We all may be about to pay a huge price for such lack of attention and failure to vote.
Thursday, May 19, 2022
How long does it take to get over a mass shooting?
Well, for the families and friends of victims of the Buffalo supermarket disaster, where 10 people were killed by a gunman with a semiautomatic rifle, obviously forever. But when it comes to the rest of the country, one man who ought to know says the public has already started to move on.
“That’s the pattern,” said Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. “Despite gun violence rates going through the roof, the country only pays attention when there’s a mass shooting, and then the country only pays attention for 24 to 48 hours.”
Murphy was formerly the congressman from the district where 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 26 people, including 20 children, with a semiautomatic rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Murphy later moved on to the Senate, where in 2016 he staged an old-school filibuster, speaking for over 14 hours to protest the fact that his colleagues weren’t planning to do anything after the Pulse nightclub shooting that killed 49 in Florida [53 more were wounded].
The gunman at the Pulse nightclub used a semiautomatic rifle. See a pattern here, anybody? And what do you think we should do about it?
A) Toughen background check laws
B) Limit the sale of semiautomatics to people with hunting licenses
C) Good Lord, just get rid of them
Yeah, C does simplify things, doesn’t it? After we learned that Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old suspect in the Buffalo shooting, had been able to buy an AR-15-style assault rifle with just a little more effort than it’d take to buy a burrito, inquiring minds wanted to know why.
It turns out that in many states, semiautomatic rifles are basically regarded as weapons of sport — the kind of thing you’d use to go hunting deer or target shooting. . . . A) Toughen background check laws
Congress did indeed ban semiautomatic rifles in 1994, in a law with a 10-year expiration date. After the ban expired, the number of mass shootings increased. And Congress responded by … pretty much ignoring the matter completely. Hey, the Republicans had taken control.
Same thing now, of course. Nobody believes anything as controversial as banning semiautomatic rifles is going to get through the current Senate.
In Connecticut, which has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, Murphy says tons of his constituents hunt and he never hears complaints about their inability to mow down deer without a rapid-fire rifle.
In some ways, the assault rifle is now a symbol on both sides. “The AR-15 to most people in the firearms industry — it’s a statement. It’s a middle finger,” said Busse, who noted that during the Jan. 6 charge on the Capitol there were AR-15 “Come and Take It” flags waving.
And the ban-that-rifle corps has to admit that getting rid of assault rifles won’t solve the gun problem as long as people in many states are allowed to own pistols and carry them when they stroll about the town.
(We will pause here to recall that the Supreme Court is reviewing New York’s law prohibiting people from toting handguns around without a compelling reason. Any jurist who vents about the sanctity of human life during abortion cases had better examine his or her conscience before ruling in that one.)
The get-up Gendron was wearing — body armor, video equipment attached to a helmet — is becoming more common. A sign of the times, I guess. Fifteen years ago, Busse notes, the firearms industry wouldn’t have allowed gear like that to be displayed at its trade shows.
Get rid of assault rifles. All assault rifles. Ban them. Hunters can work on becoming better shots. The gun industry can diversify — and maybe start marketing swords and medieval knight costumes at its trade shows. I know swords can do a lot of damage, but we live in an age when one victim at a time would definitely be progress.
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
It’s easy to caricature Justice Samuel Alito, author of the draft opinion striking down Roe v. Wade, as an arch-conservative. His relentlessly right-of-center votes tell as much. . . . Alito is not just a conservative. He’s not a consistent “originalist” in the vein of Scalia or Justice Clarence Thomas, only a “practical” one. The key to understanding Alito is not judicial philosophy or ardent conservativism: it’s his anger — an anger that resonates with the sentiments of many voters, especially white and male ones, who feel displaced by recent social and cultural changes.
In both his public actions and his opinions, Alito has a confrontational, take-no-quarter approach. It offers a sharp contrast with his fellow Catholic, fellow alumnus of the executive branch and fellow former court-of-appeals-judge John Roberts.
In the popular imagination, Brett Kavanaugh is the angry justice — thanks to his searing opening statement at his 2018 confirmation hearing. But Kavanaugh’s reasoning on the bench is legalist, his tone measured, his scholarly interests running to the technical, even esoteric. Not so Alito: In the Dobbs draft, in his earlier abortion decisions, in his opinions on affirmative action and elsewhere, there is a starkly personal and emotional quality lacking in other justices. Roe is “egregiously wrong and deeply damaging.” Same-sex marriage should not be recognized as a constitutional right because such a decision “will be used to vilify Americans … unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” The hypothetical risk of critical, First-Amendment protected speech, for Alito, sufficed to deny the dignity of marital recognition to same-sex couples.
A seething and resentful anger can be traced to a tetchy 2006 confirmation hearing, from which his wife fled in theatrical tears. It registered during the first official State of the Union address delivered by a Black president, when Barack Obama’s comments on a campaign finance ruling caused Alito to visibly respond “not true.” When his female colleagues Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan have read opinions from the bench, Alito repeatedly would purse his lips, roll his eyes, and (again) mouth “no.” Perhaps Alito subjects white male antagonists to the same openly disdainful — and nakedly unjudicial — displays of contempt. But there is no public record to suggest as much.
Instead, Alito’s anger consistently sounds in a register of cultural decline, bemoaning the growing prominence of women and minorities in American life. Writing the majority opinion in Hobby Lobby, which endorsed a company’s right to deny employees contraception coverage, Alito waxed lyrically about the “men and women who wish to run their businesses as for-profit corporations in the manner required by their religious beliefs.” The women denied medical care that facilitates participation in the labor market, in contrast, weren’t a concern. . . . .Black involvement in municipal politics, for Alito, appears as a sinister threat to public order.
In stark contrast, when the charge of discrimination is made on behalf of racial or religious minorities, Alito expresses no such solicitude. He does not search for evidence of bias. Instead, he takes an impossibly narrow view of job-related discrimination that demands women somehow instinctively know they are being paid less than male counterparts. Despite his claim to a “just the facts ma’am” approach, Alito has a distinctively constricted take on what the “facts” are. To read his opinions is to inhabit a world in which it is white Christian men who are the principal targets of invidious discrimination, and where a traditional way of life marked by firm and clear gender rules is under attack.
When it comes to the criminal justice system, Alito is a reliable vote for the most punitive version of the state. . . . It’s difficult to think of cases where Alito has voted for a criminal defendant, or any other litigant that elicits liberal sympathies.
Looking forward in anger, Alito’s voice anticipates and resonates with a growing constituency in the Republican Party. Political scientists such as Ashley Jardina call it “white identity politics.” Central to this worldview is a (false) conviction that whites are increasingly the victims of discrimination. Also important is a belief that speaking English, being Christian and being born in the United States are predicates to being American.
Where might this anger lead? In November 2020, Alito gave a keynote speech to the conservative legal organization the Federalist Society. Much criticized at the time for its partisan tone “befitting a Trump rally,” in the words of one critic, those remarks are useful because they prefigure where a court on which Alito is a dominant voice might go.
In that speech, Alito criticized pandemic restrictions by bemoaning the rise of “scientific” policymaking. He complained about the “protracted campaign” and “economic boycotts” of Catholic groups and others with “unpopular religious beliefs”
If that speech is any guide — and there is no reason to think it won’t be — the future of the Supreme Court will be increasingly one of religious censor: keeping women in their lane, standing up for Christian rights, and making sure that uppity “scientists” in the federal government don’t get their wicked way.
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Less than 48 hours after a deadly shooting by a White nationalist in Buffalo, New York, Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney minced no words in her assessment of where blame lies.
"The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism," tweeted Cheney on Monday morning. "History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them."
[T]here is some evidence to suggest that House GOP leaders -- of which Cheney was one before being ousted last year for her willingness to criticize former President Donald Trump -- have, at a minimum, been willing to look the other way as some of their rank and file have flirted with major figures in the white nationalist movement.
Over the weekend, Illinois Republican Rep. Adam, Kinzinger suggested that New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the number three Republican in House leadership who replaced Cheney last year, pushed "white replacement theory" -- the idea that White people are being purposely replaced in America by minorities.
Here's the thing: When you don't condemn and punish members of your own party when they flirt with White nationalists and White nationalist ideology, you open the door for it to happen more often.
That fact doesn't mean that the likes of McCarthy or Stefanik bear direct blame for what happened in Buffalo over the weekend. But, there is no question that Republican leaders have allowed intolerance -- and noxious notions like White replacement theory -- to fester within a part of their ranks over the past few years.
And, as Cheney rightly notes, those actions -- or, more accurately, that inaction -- have consequences.
Meanwhile, in a column in the Washington Post Gerson - who once worked in the Bush White House - makes a similar call (the history cited in the piece is exactly what many on the right do not want today's school children to learn):
The memorial dedicated by the White townspeople of Colfax, La., in 1921 was at least direct. . . . . on the white marble obelisk in Colfax was engraved: “Erected to the memory of the heroes, Stephen Decatur Parish, James West Hadnot, Sidney Harris, who fell in the Colfax riot fighting for white supremacy.”
The Colfax conflict was less a riot and more a frenzied murder spree against Black citizens who were resisting white supremacy. Most of the “rioters” took refuge in the local courthouse. The building was set aflame. Whites shot anyone who tried to put out the fire. Many Black people who tried to escape were slaughtered at close range. Later in the evening, drunk, younger White men executed the remaining prisoners by marching them two by two out of a makeshift jail and shooting them from behind. By the end of the massacre, as many as 80 Black people were dead.
All these heinous crimes were committed with impunity. Local law enforcement had no intention of arresting and convicting the guilty.
I recount this story not only because it is tragic but also because it demonstrates some enduring characteristics of white supremacy. The White people in this case were not merely acting out of racial animus (though their cups runneth over with hatred). The prejudice and violence of many White Southerners were incited and sustained by a certain historical narrative. They generally believed that violent actions by Whites — eventually organized by the Ku Klux Klan and the White League — were fundamentally defensive in nature.
This vision of victimization was set out in films such as “The Birth of a Nation,” screened by President Woodrow Wilson at the White House in 1915. Such cultural products lent credibility to White fears and knit these fears into a compelling conspiracy theory . . .
These thoughts came to mind with the Buffalo grocery store massacre. The accused killer wrote a manifesto endorsing the “great replacement theory,” popular among today’s right-wing activists and media personalities. . . . In some instances, the story alleges that the whole plot is being orchestrated by Jews.
Replacement theory checks many of the boxes of useful racist ideology. Most of all, it presents White people as the victims of a plot. . . . Their failures and suffering are no longer their fault. There are always enemies to blame. The future of White, Christian America is at stake. Those willing to fight for it, in this self-justifying myth, are heroes.
Do the purveyors of replacement theory bear some responsibility when their revisionism motivates murderers? Of course they do. . . . There is no moral world in which those who libel outsiders, justify rage, incite bigotry and allege that enemies have broken down the outer gate are innocent of the likely influence of their words.
If the Buffalo supermarket killer’s motivation was to undo the anti-racism of modernity, he is part of a long, ignoble history of racist killers.
The perpetrator of this mass murder will not be given impunity. But the racist ideas closely associated with such killing are being granted impunity daily within the Republican Party. The problem is not just that a few loudmouths are saying racist things. It is the general refusal of Republican “leaders” to excommunicate officials who embrace replacement theory. The refusal of Fox News to fire the smiling, public faces of a dangerous, racist ideology.
This much needs to be communicated — by all politicians and commentators — with clarity: No belief that likens our fellow citizens to invaders and encourages racist dehumanization is an American belief.
Monday, May 16, 2022
It was a conservative writer who coined the phrase “ideas have consequences.” The mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday, which left 10 people dead, shows the consequences of two of the horrific ideas that have taken root on the American right: support for the “great replacement” theory and opposition to gun control.
The 18-year-old arrested for the mass shooting posted a lengthy manifesto explaining his reasons for wanting to murder African Americans. . . . Like many on the right, he is enraged by what he imagines to be “mass immigration” and is convinced that it will “destroy our cultures, destroy our peoples.”
He believes there is a plot to replace White Americans with people of color; he even referred to his victims as “replacers.” He is also violently antisemitic and blames “the Jews [for] … spreading ideas such as Critical Race Theory and white shame/guilt to brainwash Whites into hating themselves and their people.” He condemns “elitists and globalists” and singles out George Soros — a favorite target of the right — for “his funding for the radical left.
The young man wrote that he got his beliefs “mostly from the Internet,” specifically from the 4chan bulletin board where white supremacists congregate. But his repugnant views are not confined to an obscure corner of the Internet. They have become mainstream within the Republican Party.
[T]he Buffalo gunman attacked ethnic diversity. “Why is diversity said to be our greatest strength?” his manifesto demanded. “Said throughout the media, spoken by politicians, educators and celebrities. But no one ever seems to give a reason why. What gives a nation strength? And how does diversity increase that strength?”
This is close to what Tucker Carlson, the most popular host on the Fox “News” Channel, said in 2018 and has often repeated: “How, precisely, is diversity our strength? . . . Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are?”
In 2021, Carlson went even further and openly embraced the “great replacement” theory that inspired the Buffalo shooting as well as the earlier white-supremacist attacks in Pittsburgh, El Paso and Christchurch. He suggested that “the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World.” (His Fox News colleague Laura Ingraham has said the same thing.)
Little wonder that a poll taken in December found that nearly half of all Republicans believe that there is a plot to “replace” native-born Americans with immigrants. Fox talking heads and Republican politicians have mainstreamed white supremacist ideology.
Republicans, of course, will insist that they never intend for anyone to commit murder, but a growing number of GOP politicians have engaged in violent rhetoric. Even those who don’t advocate violence have made it easier to carry out by eviscerating the gun laws.
The Buffalo terrorist, like so many other mass shooters, used an assault weapon. In his manifesto, he expressed concern that, after his attack, “gun control policies will be brought forth to the state and federal government,” including “Calls to ban high-capacity magazines, assault weapons including AR-15’s, and even items such as body armor.” He need not worry: Republicans will never permit these sensible reforms to pass.
Instead, they will offer “thoughts and prayers” and claim that the way to stop mass shootings is to make guns more widely available to law-abiding citizens. This theory was tested in Buffalo and found wanting: A retired cop working as a security guard was killed trying to stop the gunman, who was wearing body armor.
Unfortunately hate continues to enjoy a safe harbor on the American right. And the casualties pile up.
Sunday, May 15, 2022
Ten people were killed during a mass shooting Saturday afternoon at a Buffalo grocery store in what law enforcement officials described as a racially motivated hate crime.
Law enforcement authorities said Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old White man, approached the store in a predominantly Black neighborhood and opened fire on shoppers and employees, shooting 13 people including a security guard.
The massacre ended when Gendron surrendered to police outside the store. Later Saturday, he was charged with first-degree murder and held without bail. He pleaded not guilty.
Stephen Belongia, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo field office, said law enforcement officials were investigating the shooting as a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism.
The grocery’s longtime security guard fired back, but the gunman’s body armor blocked the shot, and the guard was killed in the encounter, Gramaglia said. He called the security guard a “hero.” Four of those killed were store employees and six were customers, law enforcement officials said.
Investigators are reviewing a screed that they suspect was posted by the gunman describing his white-supremacist motivations and ideology.
The author calls himself a white supremacist, fascist and antisemite. The document is centered on a far-right conspiracy theory that baselessly posits that the White population in Western countries is being reduced — or “replaced” — by immigrants in a deliberate plot.
Consevative writer Davis Frum has a piece in The Atlantic that looks at America's gun plague in today's politically polarized America and the reality that only gun control can stop the carnage. Here are excerpts:
Was it one of ours? Or one of theirs?
That’s the question that flashes through American minds after a mass shooting. Was the alleged killer a jihadi, like the shooter at the Pulse night club in Orlando in 2016? A left-wing extremist, like the shooter who attacked a congressional baseball practice in 2017? A vegan animal-rights zealot? Or, as apparently was the case yesterday in Buffalo, New York, a white supremacist who believed in “great replacement” theory?
In a politically polarized and heavily armed society, each new massacre rapidly becomes another occasion for mutual accusation.
After Buffalo, the accusations of lethal white supremacy feel especially apt and especially deserved. Some of the country’s loudest media voices have night after night expressed ideas very similar to those that allegedly animated the alleged killer, and those ideas are loathsome. Their words will be quoted back at them, joined to demands that they disavow white-supremacist ideology. Perhaps some of them will even do that. Will doing so make a difference?
The crucial variable in mass shootings is not ideas, but weapons. We cannot control ideas or speech and should not attempt to do so even if we could. But we could reduce access to the weaponry that converts ideology into atrocity. At least, other advanced countries find themselves able to do so. Almost every country on earth has citizens filled with vitriol, but no comparably advanced country has a gun-violence epidemic quite like America’s.
Yesterday’s alleged shooter appears to be a white supremacist. If the next killer is Muslim or vegan, many of those now most eager to assign blame to the Buffalo suspect’s copartisans will be anxious to do the opposite—and of course, those now most anxious to restrict blame to the alleged killer alone will next time be eager to spread the blame as widely as possible.
Racist ideology is an evil in itself. But the American exception that bathes this country in blood and grief again and again and again is not that we are uniquely susceptible to racism or jihadism or veganism. The American exception is the unique ease of access to weapons.
Condemn the words if you will, but understand what those words do and what those words do not do. To save lives, focus on what is taking lives. Americans die by the gun in such terrible numbers because Americans live by the gun with such reckless disregard.