The Right Blames Everything But Right-Wing Extremism for Poway Synagogue Attack

(Screenshot / YouTube via CBS News)

This is the first installment in an occasional series about the dynamics between the political right and the white nationalist movement.

A 19-year-old man entered a synagogue in Poway, California, on Saturday and started shooting, killing one person and injuring three others, including a rabbi. Right-wing figures laid the blame for the attack at the feet of their political foes, despite the fact that white nationalist terror threats almost exclusively come from right-wing sources, and that GOP leaders have trivialized the threat posed by the movement, and sidestepped opportunities to meaningfully address it.

San Diego police arrested the man suspected of the murderous shooting spree at the Chabad of Poway synagogue on the final day of Passover this weekend. Hours before the attack, an open letter under the name of the suspect was uploaded to the digital cesspit that is the anonymous imageboard 8chan, NBC reports. In the document, someone identifying as the suspect—who essentially turned himself in when his capture became inevitable—clearly lays out his white nationalist and anti-Semitic beliefs, sentiments that are echoed on a minute-by-minute basis in far-right online watering holes such as 8chan and 4chan. In his screed, he writes that he was going to carry out his attack “to prevent the doomed fate that the Jews have planned for [his] race.” (White nationalists do not consider Jews to be part of the “white” race.) The writer also praised men who carried out other white nationalist terror attacks in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Anti-Defamation League reports that every extremist murder in the United States in 2018 was committed by right-wing extremists and that the frequency of extremist murders has been increasing in recent years. As I wrote after the Christchurch attack, the threat will persist until this country takes meaningful action, in policy and in law, against the violent threat posed by white nationalism and right-wing extremism.

However, it doesn’t appear that anyone on the political right is ready to talk about taking action yet. Instead, in the fallout following the attack, right-wing figures took to rhetorically bludgeoning their political foes.

On the day of the attack, the international edition of The New York Times published an editorial cartoon that depicted Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a seeing-eye dog, which many right-wing figures linked to the Chabad of Poway shooting in bad faith. (The Times has since apologized for publishing the cartoon.) Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas criticized the cartoon, claiming that “the left has normalized anti-Semitism under the guise of criticizing US-Israel foreign policy” and that it “is radicalizing people.” Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas posted no response to the Poway synagogue attack this weekend but took to Twitter the next day to criticize the “anti-Semitic Left,” of which he included Rep. Ilhan Omar and The New York Times. “Responsible Dems need to say Enough is Enough,” Cruz wrote.

Turning Point USA president and founder Charlie Kirk wrote that if “any center-right outlet published an anti-Jewish cartoon like that they would be blamed for inciting hate crimes and violence.” Pizzagate proliferator, Jack Posobiec, attempted to link the New York Times cartoon with the shooting more explicitly.

The Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra, who once called for the crusades to “come back” after a terror attack in London, also criticized the New York Times cartoon in the context of the attack. Evidently experiencing some form of ego death, Saavedra went on to write a piece for Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire that criticized Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for “instantly politicizing” the Chabad of Poway attack.

Mike Cernovich ran interference after the attack by sharing links to articles about bad behavior by leftists, and arguing the media outlets incite violence. Hours after the attack, far-right YouTuber Stefan Molyneux wrote that members of the press were “encouraging far right violence” by “ignoring far-left violence.” Molyneux followed up by tweeting that the “most certain way to create radical nationalists is to viciously abuse anyone who even questions the value of mass immigration.”

Alan Dershowitz acknowledged via Twitter that anti-Semitism “from the hard right is also inexcusable,” but added a caveat that “the center right generally condemns it.” However, he continued, “the center left too often gives hard left Antisemitism a pass, especially if it is disguised as anti-Zionism.”

Right-wing figures also defended themselves and President Trump of any culpability for the attack, citing that the writer of the attacker’s manifesto expressed his disdain for “conserve nothing” conservatives and described President Trump as a “Jew-loving, anti-White, traitorous cocksucker.” What their defense obscures is the fact that political radicals often express disdain for authority figures and view them as disingenuous proponents of the causes they claim to represent, regardless of party affiliation. In other words, the writer of the manifesto went so far right that he wound up hating right-wing political leadership.