I understand and respect those who say we shouldn’t publish these mass murderers’ names and report their manifestos. Indeed, there are limited ways in which this impulse may be salutary — less above-the-fold use of their picture and perhaps more secondary use of their given names. But this impulse, while well-meaning, is actually dangerous and misguided.
We don’t make ourselves safer by collectively agreeing to delude ourselves about what is happening. These far-right, white supremacist massacres constitute the violent, militarized version of an ideology we can hear every night on Fox News and other right-wing media outlets. Indeed, we can hear it routinely, in some of its most intense and inflammatory versions, from the President of the United States.
The basic terms are familiar: immigrants (focused on Muslims and Mexicans and others from Latin America) are invading our country and replacing white Americans through their high birth rates. They bring an alien culture, crime, violence, etc. Their invasion is being abetted by elites (often Jews) who are themselves betraying America. The tide can only be turned by individual, radical, violent action. The rubric they use is “The Great Replacement,” though the concept is customized for use against Muslims or immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries in different regions and contexts.
In civic terms, the most basic importance of the news is to provide information for civic action. We quite obviously need to know just what motivates these massacres, that they are driven by an ideology that is pervasive and advanced by those in power, that there are specific websites and online communities (4chan, 8chan) where these young men are radicalized.
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