The Pittsburgh Shooting and the Dark, Specific Logic of Online Hatred

Source: The New Yorker

On Saturday, a few hours after eleven people were murdered at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, I put on a tuxedo and went to my cousin’s wedding. The ceremony was brief and buoyant. When it was over, a few relatives and I stood around the raw bar—yes, it was the kind of semi-Jewish wedding that has a raw bar—exchanging anecdotes about the happy couple. The news of the day came up once or twice, but, really, what was there to say? The killing was horrible, senseless. It defied all logic. I had a pedantic quibble with this, although, in the moment, I kept it to myself. The shooting was an egregious act of hatred, of course; and yet it did, strictly speaking, follow a twisted kind of logic.

Robert Bowers, the suspect in the Pittsburgh shooting, had an account on Gab, the “free speech” social network rife with hate speech, which has since been taken down. “There is no #maga as long as there is a kike infestation,” he wrote, a few days ago, using the acronym for Make America Great Again. A few days before that, he posted a link to a YouTube video called “The Mass Migration Agenda,” along with the message “diversity for you but not for jew.” He also posted various images of cackling Jewish caricatures, Holocaust-denialist memes, and a sign reading “Gas the Jews.” To the uninitiated, this all seems like blind, blithering hatred. In fact, it’s part of a pernicious yet internally consistent world view. It should go without saying that Bowers’s world view is wrong, both morally and empirically. (That this doesn’t go without saying is just one of the numbingly dystopian facets of life in 2018.) And yet it’s worth trying to parse the logic, if only to understand where we are and how we got here.

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