Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Pretenders

Representative Sean Duffy (R-Wisconsin) has stirred up a minor teapot tempest with his assertions on CNN that when White people engage in mass murder, those are one-off events, as opposed to groups "like ISIS or al Qaeda that [are] inspiring people around the world to take up arms and kill innocents." Whether or not this is actually true is debatable - it seems plausible that there is something of a movement out there, just not as large or persuasive of one. After all, it's likely that even ISIS and al Qaeda were at one point small enough that they could easily be ignored.

But when I hear Representative Duffy saying "There's a difference," what I understand him doing is looking to avoid being tarred by the broad brush that people often tend to apply in situations like this - it's similar, in my mind, to the woman who posted on social media that Dylann Roof didn't look White to her. If what makes groups of people bad, the logic seems to go, is that some of them do bad things in the name of bad causes, we must be constantly vigilant for the idea that any of us do bad things for bad causes.

And this strikes me as pointless.

Whether people see other people as individuals or whether they see them as members of a group is going to vary according to the person. And people are often going to vary on that depending on who they're looking at - people they like will be seen as individuals and people they want a reason to dislike will be seen as tainted by the sins of people who share something in common with them. It's the nature of the beast. The problem tends to be that many of us are discouraged from owning up to that. Representative Duffy can't openly say that he is more willing to give White Americans the benefit of the doubt that they are to give it to other people, even though most people who listen to or read his comments will likely come to that conclusion. Just like it is often frowned upon for Moslems to openly give other Moslems the benefit of the doubt while withholding it from others.

But that creates a society in which we pretend to be fair, and one in which we then feel the need to have the facts back us up - hence Representative Duffy asking for the Catalog of Sins of White radicals, in the expectation that Alisyn Camerota would be unable to come up with enough examples to undermine the Representative's stand that there's something different about Middle Easterners that Anglo-Europeans are mostly above. And so we never get to the crux of the issue. And the pretending continues.

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