After Christchurch, we must all do better to depoliticize tragedies
As per the woeful tradition in the aftermath of a tragedy, there have been many post-mortems written about the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand. Some have been thoughtful, uplifting, and sober-minded; others have been cynical, cheap and exploitative.
The former group includes liberals and conservatives, connoting a desire for unity in mournful times. The latter has shown a willingness to use it as a bludgeon against foes. To confer on their hollow grandstanding a sense of moral purity, some have also decorated their invective with superficial calls for unity. However, their behaviour suggests they clearly don’t mean it, and that they only care about their moral aggrandizement.
All of this reflects the failures of a culture that favours the indignant and “hot takes” over those who communicate with a clear mind. Insightful commentators have adjured others to “resist the urge to blame.” A laudable request during a miserable culture war; perhaps I’m too pessimistic, but I think we might be beyond that. The allure of boosting one’s reputation amongst their ideological peers by sharing their instantaneous, combative responses to events is, at this point, resistance-proof.
It’s become a common thing that in the aftermath of these catastrophes, political skirmishes— in cyberspace, on Parliament Hill, or in Congress— often overshadow the touching tales of a community working together to recover.
As we’ve seen after Parkland and Las Vegas, too much of the focus is on clamorous talking heads babbling on about who is to blame.
So, as usual, there isn’t as much spotlight on the community efforts to assist the families of the deceased, or fellowship between religious groups, as there is on the dreadful politicization of the event.
Much of the response is at variance with anything that resembles a constructive dialogue about terrorism, white supremacy, and communal coexistence.
Ironically enough, the attack is in many ways a product of the current culture war and portends the challenges we may have to overcome in the future. As David French writes, the killer “may well have written a new cultural script” as he’s the “first mass killer to so prominently turn his massacre into a brutal, real life-approximation of a first-person shooter video game.”
The possibility of this becoming a terrorist norm is quite terrifying. Moreover, the characteristic of the attacker that’s very disquieting is how well versed he is in the culture wars. He planned it as a catalytic attack meant to escalate them.
He is, indeed, an adherent of the white supremacism that wreaked havoc in Birmingham Alabama in September 1963, and Quebec, calling Muslim immigrants “invaders of white lands” who need to be stopped. He saluted Anders Breivik, the mass killer who slaughtered 77 in July 2011 to stop what he called the “Islamisation of Europe.” Unlike Breivik whose thinking and motivations can be fully understood, the Christchurch shooter is incoherent in summarizing who he is and resolves to describe his ideology as “eco-fascist.”
What’s certain is that he wanted to stoke the fires and deepen the fissures. Lamentably, we’ve allowed him to do this, and this is our ultimate moral failure.
One can find musings on social media about new nomenclatures that can be used to implicate their opponents in terrorist attacks. These classifications include “neo-terrorist” or “stochastic terrorist,” which means people could be unknowingly involved because any utterances about Islam “created the necessary environment” for terrorism.
Sam Harris, Douglas Murray, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are all being accused of inspiring the attack because their critiques of Islam must be rooted in latent bigotry of which these massacres are logical outcomes. Thus, blurring the lines between healthy debate and incitements of violence.
In heaping these people with this sort of vitriol for expressing an opinion, Social Justice Warriors are using the tragedy to push the limitations they’ve always wished to impose on their opponents’ fundamental freedoms of speech and conscience. (I read the works by the above authors and nothing they’ve said even remotely justifies the slaughter of innocent Muslims. To say otherwise is an outrageous lie and those peddling it should be ashamed of themselves.)
Some on the Right have also been politicizing the tragedy in detestable ways. For example, far-right Australian senator Fraser Anning thought it was a swell time to ruminate on the question of Muslim immigration and the role it played in the violence. In his statement following the attack, he remarked that the “violent vigilantism” highlighted a “growing fear within our community.” Digging a deeper hole for himself, he surmised that the violence is because of immigration policies that allow “Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”
This all epitomizes the immoral discourse some people are engaging in for political gain.
Not to impute their motives, but judging by the tone of the responses, it appears as if some people anxiously wait for these events so they can weaponize them.
The shooter has achieved his objectives since, amid all our squabbles, we’ve forgotten what’s important at this moment: our common humanity. Instead, people are levelling hot-takes against others, or they’re fending off obscene accusations.
Measures to contain far-right terrorism and the spread of rogue ideologies need to be debated intelligently, as do those concerning Islamism. Regrettably, the current climate has allowed extremists to define these debates, especially in the aftermath of this gruesome deed. These crucial conversations should happen in another venue between sensible actors, once the overwhelming grief and emotion are given time to subside.