So desperate and uncontrolled was this ghoulish attempt to blame [Tucker] Carlson for the Buffalo shootings that my email inbox and social media feeds were festering with various liberal pundits demanding to know why I had not yet manifested my views of this shooting — as though it is advisable or even possible to formulate definitive opinions about a complex mass murder spree that had just taken place less than five hours before.
“Still working on your talking points to defend your buddy Tucker or are you holding off on trying out your deflections until the bodies get cold?,” wrote a pundit named Jonathan Katz at 6:46 pm ET on Saturday night in a highly representative demand — just four hours after the shooter fired his first shot. Demands to assert definitive opinions about who — other than the killer — is to blame for a mass murder spree just hours after it happened can be called many things; “journalistic” and “responsible” are not among them.
As it happened, I was on an overnight international flight on Saturday and into Sunday morning; I deeply apologize for my failure to monitor and speak on Twitter twenty-four hours a day. But even if I had not been 40,000 feet in the air, what kind of primitive and despicably opportunistic mindset is required not only to opine so definitively about how your political opponents are guilty of a heinous crime before the corpses are even taken away, but to demand that everyone else do so as well?
In fact, Katz was particularly adamant that I opine not just on the killings but on the list of pundits I thought should be declared guilty before, in his soulless words, “the bodies get cold” — meaning that I must speak out without bothering to take the time to try to understand the basic facts about the killer and the shootings before heaping blame on a wide range of people who had no apparent involvement.
But this is exactly the morally sick and exploitative liberal mentality that drives the discourse each time one of these shooting sprees happen. Rachel Maddow had far more known connections to [Rep. Steve] Scalise’s shooter James Hodgkinson than Carlson has to [Payton] Gendron. After all, as Maddow herself acknowledged, Hodgkinson was a fan of her show and had expressed his love and admiration for her. His animating views and ideology tracked hers perfectly, with essentially no deviation.
And yet — despite this ample evidence that he was influenced by her — it would never occur to me to blame Maddow for Hodgkinson’s shooting spree because doing so would be completely demented, since Maddow never told or suggested to anyone that they go out and shoot the political enemies she was depicting as traitors, Kremlin agents, plotters to overthrow American democracy and replace it with a fascist dictatorship, and grave menaces to civil rights and basic freedom.
The attempt to blame Carlson for the Buffalo shootings depended entirely on one claim: Carlson has previously talked about and defended the view that immigration is a scheme to “replace” Americans, and this same view was central to Gendron’s ideology. Again, even if this were true, it would amount to nothing more than a claim than the shooter shared key views with Carlson and other conservative pundits — exactly as Hodgkinson shared core views with Maddow and Sanders, or the numerous murderers who killed in the name of black nationalism shared the same views on the police and American history as any number of MSNBC hosts and Democratic Party politicians, or as Pim Fortuyn’s killer shared core views with animal rights activists and defenders of Muslim equality (including me). But nobody is willing to apply such a framework consistently because it converts everyone with strong political views into murderers, or at least being guilty of inciting murder.
But all bets are off — all such principles or moral and logical reasoning are dispensed with — when an act of violence can be pinned on the political enemies of liberals. If a homicidal maniac kills an abortion doctor, then all peaceful pro-life activists are blamed. If an LGBT citizen is killed, then anyone who shares the views that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had until 2012 about marriage equality is blamed. If a police officer unjustifiably kills a black citizen, all police supporters or those who dissent from liberal orthodoxy on racial politics are decreed guilty.
But liberals are never at fault when right-wing politicians are murdered, or police officers are hunted and gunned down by police opponents, or an anti-abortion group is targeted with firebombing and arson, as just happened in Wisconsin, or radical Muslims engage in random acts of violence. By definition, “moral reasoning” that is applied only in one direction has nothing to do with morality and everything to do with crass, exploitative opportunism.
Though it does not actually matter for purposes of assigning blame, it is utterly false to claim that Carlson’s ideology — including on “replacement” — is the same as or even related to the views expressed by the killers in Buffalo or New Zealand. Indeed, in key respects, they are opposites.
Both [Brenton] Tarrant and Gendron targeted citizens of the countries in which they carried out their murder spree. They justified doing so on the ground that any non-white citizen is automatically an “invader,” regardless of how long they have been in the country or how much legal status they have. “It would have eased me if I knew all the blacks I would be killing were criminals or future criminals, but then I realized all black people are replacers just by existing in White countries,” Gendron wrote.
To claim that Carlson ever said anything remotely like this or believes it is just an outright lie. Indeed, with great frequency, Carlson says that the priority of the U.S. Government should be protection of and concern for American citizens of all races. Tarrant and Gendron believe and explicitly say that any non-white citizen of a European country is automatically an “invader” who must be killed and/or deported to turn the country all-white.
Carlson believes the exact opposite: that the proper citizenry of the United States is multi-racial and that Black Americans and Latin Americans and Asian-Americans are every bit as much U.S. citizens, with all of the same claims to rights and protections, as every other American citizen. His anti-immigration and “replacement” argument is aimed at the idea — one that had been long mainstream on the left until about a decade ago — that large, uncontrolled immigration harms American citizens who are already here. There is no racial hierarchy in Carlson’s view of American citizenship and to claim that there is is nothing short of a defamatory lie.
But even if these liberal smear artists were telling the truth, and Carlson’s view of immigration and “replacement” were similar or even precisely identical to Gendron’s, one could certainly say that Carlson holds immoral and despicable views. But he would still no more carry blame for the Buffalo murders than liberal pundits have blood on their hands for countless massacres carried out in the name of political causes they support and theories they espouse, whether it be animus toward the police or anti-imperialism or opposition to Israeli occupation of the West Bank or the belief that the United States is a fundamentally racist country or the view that the GOP is a fascist menace to all things decent.
The distinction between peaceful advocacy even of noxious ideas and those who engage in violence in the name of such ideas is fundamental to notions of fairness, justice and the ability to speak freely. But if you really want to claim that a public figure has “blood on their hands” every time someone murders in the name of ideas and ideologies they support, then the list of people you should be accusing of murder is a very, very long one indeed.