The Virtue-Signaling Hunger of the Smug Left
Of all the bad ideas on the landscape, one of the worst is the Left's notion that mass shooters are America's white Christian jihadist supremacists.
Read "The Religious Hunger of the Radical Right," if only as an artifact of the au courant ideological thinking that combines garden-variety Christian-bashing with the newly minted claims that mass shooters are, they chant, racist, sexist, homophobic. Given the two shootings at synagogues, they grudgingly admit anti-Semitism but never the Left's own violent brand.
Tara Isabella Burton warns: "Until we understand what really drives extremists, we will not be able to stop them." She means religious extremists, Christian specifically. Burton is not alone in pushing the white Christian shooter narrative. They come out of the woodwork to moralize with arguments less sophisticated than "children in China are starving, so eat your peas." As support, Burton references the disgraced smear artist of the twitterati, Talia Lavin, not exactly the poster girl for ethics in journalism.
It's tempting to read the screaming mimi as a more narcissistic update on "thoughts and prayers journalism." But they have a story to tell, and tell it they will. In this morality tale, the right has created the mass shooter, out of teens who can't get a date, the teen who can't get the attention of his parents or teachers or the blonde in the back row of chemistry class. There's an acceptable conspiracy theory at play that in these dark days, it is Trump, Trump, Trump.
Too much of this recent opinion piece can be read as an example of elite distain for the working poor, especially the white poor. It serves as a blueprint tracing the dodgy tactics used to incite contempt. Burton makes the point that religion no longer plays a prominent role in people's daily lives. She suggests that the search for meaning has driven people (read: straight white males) to the deep recesses of the racist, sexist, homophobic haunts on the internet. Once there, these young men are radicalized into white supremacy of a Christian variety.
Unpacking the narrative manipulations, all I can do is think "personality disorder." In the cult of incoherent identity politics, the guilty will be punished. The religious doctrine lays out the oppressed and the oppressor. It works. Vanderbilt heir and bad boy Anderson Cooper is one of the oppressed, and generic laid off Bobby Bill is a social danger, and "Fredo" is the N-word. And all mass shooters are white Christians.
Unlike Islamist jihadists, the online communities of incels, white supremacists and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists make no metaphysical truth claims, do not focus on God and offer no promise of an afterlife or reward. But they fulfill the functions that sociologists generally attribute to a religion: They give their members a meaningful account of why the world is the way it is. They provide them with a sense of purpose and the possibility of sainthood. They offer a sense of community. And they establish clear roles and rituals that allow adherents to feel and act as part of a whole. These aren't just subcultures; they are churches. And until we recognize the religious hunger alongside the destructive hatred, we have little chance of stopping these terrorists.
I will go out on a limb here...if they make no "metaphysical claims," could that be because they are not religiously motivated? But then not focusing on God would be a tip-off. No matter.
"These aren't just subcultures; they are churches."
Imagine if a conservative asserted that the patrician elitism that makes up the left erected something called The Church of the Everlasting Contempt for the Unwashed Masses and then asserted that the worshipers also had shooting ranges in the sanctuary. Naw, that would be crazy.
If you believe that religion is a fantasy that occupies the primitive brain pans of the tribe down river, then I suppose you could see religion as analogous to role-playing Dungeons and Dragons or playing computer games or spending hours on stealthy internet sites talking smack with like-minded sad sacks. The virtue of victimhood is that it has heroes and bravery and courage. And they have the chutzpah to rag on guys who hang in chat rooms for devolving into a fantasy life?
What Burton does not mention are the toxins released by misinformation crucial to identity politics, where presidential hopefuls spew pandering gibberish like the promise of abortions for "transgender women," AKA men. We live in culture. We live in a moment that holds out the offer of "justice" and "righteousness" and pure virtue for imagined injury and grievance, for the chosen few.
To be sure, the ginned up rage machine of the Left's identity role-play is not at all different from the rage machine of authoritarians of old. One could as easily say "in post-Obama America" as he could say "in Trump's America." Neither is smart or true enough to bear repetition.
The fetishization of violence is deep-rooted in costal elitism. These elitists have "strategies," "allies," and "battles." Many of their points are framed in war language as well as malice in every cockamamie notion they hold dear. Adolescent angst, rage, feelings of hopelessness, the inability to imagine yourself in a future life because your boss screwed you, your girlfriend dumped you, or you never had a girlfriend, or a job, perhaps warrant mention.
It can't be easy to live profoundly compartmentalized, bereft of insight, and so dependent on ideological malice and subterfuge that every assertion is some variation of dodgy claims of white supremacy, of nationalism.
Burton states: "Domestic right-wing terrorists, like the man accused of the shooting last weekend in El Paso, are not so different from their radical Islamist counterparts across the globe."
Who will be paying off the families of these "terrorists" treated as holy martyrs every month for the rest of their lives?
"When we ignore the religious aspect of extremist groups, we allow them to claim the monopoly on meaning. That's not ground I, at least, am willing to cede."
Why not? She ceded truth and facts and reality. What's meaning in the big picture, anyway? Why suddenly depart from the postmodern doctrine of relativism that asserts there is no meaning?
These were not religious killers radicalized in white supremacist Christianity. There is no tradition of jihad in Judaism or in Christianity — but no matter. The issue is not that the identitarian ideology that creates the virtuous victim is insidious — it is — or that it's wrong to inspire contempt, or to mistake unearned elitist superiority for sound moral judgment. The issue is that the Left assigns false blame and false charges to virtue-signal. Simply put, leftists bear false witness. Keep blaming people for what they did not do, and they may do it. They may just start playing the role of Flannery O'Connor's misfit.