Would coverage of the Wisconsin shooting have been different if it'd been good white Christians under assault rather than strange "other" people?
NYT caption: "A vigil in downtown Milwaukee for the dead and the wounded. 'Everyone here is thinking this is a hate crime for sure,' said Manjit Singh, who goes to a different temple in the region. 'People think we are Muslims.' "
"I think that he felt that he was misdirected and that the service helped him find a direction in life."
-- Laura Page (to the NYT), about her stepson
Wade M. Page's Army service
Wade M. Page's Army service
I wanted to write something about the Wisconsin shooting last night, in which six Sikh worshippers are now reported dead, with several other shooting victims of various descriptions reported in critical condition, but there was so little information that it was almost impossible to say anything, except . . . .
And maybe I should have said it. The one thing that was pretty clear was that some armed nutjob -- true to the NRA mantra that guns don't kill people, people kill people -- set out to kill as many Sikhs as he could. Beyond that we would have had to resort to supposition, to supposing for example that the Sikh temple in Oak Creek was targeted because its worshippers were "other," ethnically and religiously. That supposition would have led us to the assumption that we were dealing with a hate crime, perpetrated by a hate criminal who took advantage of the pathological American passion for guns.
Now that we begin to find out a little about the perp, Wade M. Page, what would have been a mere supposition last night is running pretty much according to script, and then some. As the NYT's Steven Yaccino, Jennifer Preston, and Serge F. Kovalevski are reporting:
Mr. Page, 40, a United States Army veteran who served from 1992 until 1998, was shot and killed by the police in the parking lot of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee.In other reports (like this one from CLG) we're told that according to the Pentagon, while in the Army Page was a "psychological operations specialist."
Officials at the Southern Poverty Law Center said they had been tracking Mr. Page for about a decade because of his ties to the white supremacist movement and they described him as "a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band."
They said he played guitar and sang vocals for a band started in 2005 called End Apathy.
"This guy was in the thick of the white supremacist music scene and, in fact, played with some of the best known racist bands in the country," said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the center. "The music that comes from these bands is incredibly violent and it talks about murdering Jews, black people, gay people and a whole host of other enemies. It is music that could not be sold over the counter around the country."
The NYT team has in fact assembled quite a lot of other information about the shooter; and about the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin (which "began with 20 to 25 families in Milwaukee in 1997 and grew over the years to more than 300 people," and opened its 17,500-square-foot building in Oak Creek, with libraries and classrooms, in 2007) and the victims themselves, including Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, the temple's founder and president, who is one of the deceased); and about the timeline of the terrible event.
One thing the team is unable to report on is the shooter's motive, about which Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards had nothing to offer. At this point we don't know how much more we'll learn, but I don't think it's a wild or impermissible stretch to guess that the information provided by those SPLC officials, who have "been tracking Mr. Page for about a decade because of his ties to the white supremacist movement" and "described him as 'a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power [musical] band' " is going to wind up figuring in it.
The NYT team does have a bit more personal information, from an interview with the alleged shooter’s stepmother, Laura Page, 67, of Denver, who
expressed shock at the news that the boy she had known since he was 10 years old could be behind such a crime. "I can't imagine, I can't imagine what made him do this," she said.
She said that he grew up with his mother, a dog groomer, in the Denver area until she died when he was 12 or 13. Then he went to live with an aunt and a grandmother in Colorado.
After high school, he enlisted in the Army. "I think that he felt that he was misdirected and that the service helped him find a direction in life," she said, saying that after he joined the Army he did not keep in regular contact.
Personally, I'm prepared to wait for more actual fact, and am not all that concerned about the day-late release of information that presumably was available last night. Something does concern me, though, and already concerned me last night.
If the religious center that had been assaulted had been a gathering place for good white Christians, would there not have been a thundering response fomented by the Right-Wing Noise Machine in which good Americans would have been calling for bombing, well, someplace or other -- would it really matter where? Do good Americans know the difference between one foreign place and another? Or care?
Of course the Right has learned the hard way to be just a little careful about popping off too much too soon -- perhaps the only lesson mainstream American learned from the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, when the Noise Machine had blood-lusting, fake-patriotic Americans all set to bomb all those damn Islamic terrorists into oblivion, at least until we began to learn that the assault on the Murrah Federal Building was in fact an attack on the federal government by far-right-wing American superpatriots. At which point any talk of revenge or reprisals ceased immediately and permanently. You might have thought there might at least have been some public interest in the growing network of armed far-right-wing superpatriot groups. You would have been wrong.
Today fake-patriotic right-wing Christian delusionalists and outright liars have become fond of making believe that Christianity is under siege. It's a fable that, on a scale of zero to a kajillion, has less-than-zero basis in reality. But of course fake-patriotic Americans are also at war with reality.
Yesterday, in a country that was founded on -- among other cardinal principles -- a religious group was for real attacked, with pretty good reason to assume that it was for no reason other than the targets "otherness." Even without knowing who was responsible, or why, you'd think that might have been enough to provoke a storm of outrage from the defenders of religious freedom. I sure didn't hear those voices.
I'm sure we'll be hearing from them real soon. Aren't you?