When a crazed gunman carries out a mass shooting in a gun-free zone, it is normal to see media pundits, politicians, and prominent members of the chattering classes on both sides of the political spectrum go into spin mode, each pursuing their favored narratives. The conversation gets especially convoluted if the shooting has a racial element. Unfortunately, the attack in El Paso seems to be no different. Both the right and left used dissemination, distraction, and disinformation to score a few cheap points, without once seeking a real solution to this kind of tragedy.
The Left’s Response
The left’s response to the shooting was about as predictable as Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test revealing that she has less Native American blood than Ed Sheeran. When the shooter’s racist views towards Hispanic immigrants were revealed, left-leaning journalists flew to their computer screens and cameras to convince the American public that President Trump inspired the attack.
The New York Times published a piece titled “El Paso Shooting Suspect’s Manifesto Echoes Trump’s Language.” The authors of the article wove a compelling narrative linking the president’s rhetoric against illegal immigration to the content of the shooter’s manifesto. Over at The Intercept, journalist Mehdi Hasan penned a piece titled “After El Paso, We Can No Longer Ignore Trump’s Role in Inspiring Mass Shootings,” in which he peddled the same lines.
But it was not only the media performing the “everything is Trump’s fault” routine. Democratic presidential candidates joined in on the act, making the rounds on various news programs. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said, “There is complicity in the president’s hatred that undermines the goodness and the decency of Americans regardless of what party.”
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg indicated that Trump confronting white supremacy would be embarrassing, as the president has “helped stoke many of these feelings in this country, to begin with.”
Not to be outdone, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) also pretended Trump caused the shooting. “We have a president of the United States who has chosen to use his words in a way that have been about selling hate and division among us,” she told reporters.
But there were at least a few on the left who didn’t join the circus. Former head of the Democratic National Committee, Donna Brazile, defended the president. In an appearance on Fox News Radio, she said, “President Trump had nothing to do with the maniac, and I’m being gracious here, the maniac who shot up a Walmart store. He had nothing to do with the person who shot up the bar in Dayton.”
The Right’s Response
Many on the right also reacted to the shooting in typical fashion. Instead of dealing with the issue of white supremacist violence, some conservative pundits took the opportunity to bring up black on black crime and violence in Chicago. Only hours after the news of the attack broke, they tweeted out the usual statistics regarding black homicides and discussed it on their news programs while giving the most brief of mentions to the ideology of the killer.
It isn’t hard to see how people in the political center or on the left would view this tactic as one designed to use black homicide victims to distract from the issue of white supremacist extremism. There are times to talk about bloodshed in the inner city, but when discussions are used in this way, it comes off as cynical politicking. Indeed, conservative podcaster and blogger Matt Walsh pointed this out in a tweet of his own. He said:
“Anyone deflecting to ‘violence in Chicago’ or ‘black on black crime’ is a hack and a coward. We have a unique problem with mass shootings in this country. Two in a day. The 8 deadliest in US history in the past 12 years. It’s an epidemic. It is. It just is. Don’t deny it.”
Responses to his tweet were split, with some conservatives agreeing that bringing up black on black crime right after a white supremacist shooting isn’t an effective response. However, many others defended those conversations.
Will The Problem Be Solved?
The harsh reality of this situation is that the problem of domestic terrorism — especially the type motivated by racial animus — will never be solved if neither side is willing to discuss actual solutions. Unfortunately, it appears that both sides are choosing politics over problem-solving.
On the right, conservatives must be willing to address all forms of terrorism, not just the type committed by Islamic extremists. When a white supremacist commits a racially-motivated act of violence, conservatives are not doing themselves any favors by deflecting from it. Avoiding the issue only makes it easier for the hard left to use the situation to hurl false racism accusations.
At the same time, leftists need to be intellectually honest when they discuss tragedies such as the El Paso shooting. Not only does their normal modus operandi surrounding such incidents further divide the public, but it also obscures productive conversation on these issues. Instead of viewing these shootings as political weapons, those on both the left and the right need to work towards actual solutions.