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Friday, March 29, 2019

Why I Did Not Become a Terrorist

Why I Did Not Became a Terrorist

We Must Pay Attention to Stories, because the Stories We Tell Inform Our Actions.

In 1994 I traveled to Bloomington, Indiana in order to pursue a PhD. I had worked my way through college as a nurse's aide, and then served in Peace Corps. As with my previous jobs, I was inspired to attend graduate school as part of my drive to serve. I had come to recognize that universities are the manufacturing plants that churn out truth. I wanted to have my hand on the assembly-line lever. My parents were immigrants from Eastern Europe. Coal mining and the one immigrant lynching in the family were decades in the past, but invisible forces as toxic coal sludge remained. When I told new acquaintances my name they snickered and told me a Polak joke, or told me how anti-Semitic Poles are, or, weirdly, insisted that I was a recipient of white privilege, so there was no excuse for me or my family members to be poor, and to work low prestige, manual labor jobs. I would produce the scholarship that would change all that.

I had no money, but I was put to work for a professor. That would take care of tuition and pay a small stipend. My first semester at IU, my father died. I missed four workdays in traveling home to New Jersey. Upon my return, my professor harassed me. After a month, I reported this harassment to a dean. She asked me to testify against the professor. The dean said that the professor was a psychopath who had ruined many, who had almost killed someone, but that no one would risk speaking up against her for fear of being labeled racist and sexist. The professor was a black woman. My testimony was necessary to protect others. Only I could perform this important service, I was told, because, unlike others, I had no standing, no fellowship, no pension, no connections with powerful people that would be put at risk by my testimony. I had, I was told, "nothing to lose." I did testify. I had to meet with many powerful university officials over the course of six months. I did this while taking a full load of graduate courses and mourning my recently deceased father.

I became quite ill. I had no health insurance and just enough money for bare survival. I had to beg to see doctors, and when I saw them, they had no idea what I was talking about. My own research lead to my diagnosis. Nystagmus, this sudden, new, involuntary darting of my eyes back and forth, was the telltale symptom. Eventually I would be diagnosed as having a perilymph fistula, a wrecked inner ear. These can be caused, they say, by scuba diving, weight-lifting, and childbirth. I had done none of those, but I had cried very hard and I had been under a lot of stress.

Imagine that you are trapped in the bottom of a mesh sack, and that sack is being spun around constantly by the fist of a giant ogre. Your feet never touch ground. You can't tell left from right, up from down. Your vision is so blurry you can't recognize your own face in a mirror, never mind read or write. You vomit constantly. You curl up in the corner, shutting yourself down, waiting and praying for the ogre to release you. These symptoms plagued me, intermittently, for six years. During those days when the symptoms were more or less in abeyance, I knocked on doors. I wrote letters. I begged. I pleaded. I needed medical care. I was turned away again and again, by priests, by senators, by Oprah.

Graduate student life is materially bleak for low-income students. You work, you study, and you sleep. There's no time or money for parties, travel, or even normal socializing. I lost friends, but I rationalized it by saying it was only temporary. Once I got sick, though, I entered a blurry, blighted, parallel universe where I was the only living thing, and I was barely living at that. The idea that I was going through all this hell for a higher good – the work I would do for people like my parents – was a cruel joke. The nystagmus made it, much of the time, impossible to read or write. People with normal lives lived in a different universe that never made contact with mine. Fortunate people don't intend to abandon and erase their friends and neighbors when their lives go south. But they do.

The people around me who were supposed to represent decency, compassion, and justice had all closed their doors on me. University officials who were supposed to represent high ideals had allowed a monster to blight the campus. They did so because they were cowards, enslaved to phony race narratives. I had been told that I couldn't receive a fellowship because I was "the wrong minority." I enjoyed "white privilege," and the fellowship I might have gotten had to go to a black student. In fact this black student was middle class. And yet I was also told that I had "nothing to lose" – no fellowship, no pension, no standing – so of course I was the perfect human sacrifice to do the university's dirty work for it and blow the whistle on the plague their cowardice had created.

I'd been politically active since my teen years. I had long known people who colored outside the lines of the law in their search for what they understood as justice. I had once worked on a campus with many Palestinian students and employees, and we debated terrorism a lot. One of my co-workers self-identified as a terrorist. He said that he could tell that my thirst for righteousness was as strong as his. He asked me to marry him and join the cause. I also knew an eco-terrorist who torched a housing development. Certainly during my years in Peace Corps, and in Poland in 1988-89, I had witnessed violent upheaval.

Unbidden, a vision sprang up in my head. The vision involved violent death for those who had done me wrong, and who, because of their venality, were probably doing others wrong, as well. As I had been told again and again, I had "nothing to lose." I could not assess those who had wronged me as worthy of the protection accorded to the innocent.

It's normal to want to hurt others whom we understood to have hurt us. In August, 2004, scientists published "The Neural Basis of Altruistic Punishment" in Science magazine. Researchers instructed two subjects to play a game. If player B cheated player A, player A was offered a chance to retaliate against player B. Player A was attached to a PET scanner. The researchers discovered that while player A contemplated revenge against player B, his dorsal striatum would become active. If player A decided on a large punishment, his dorsal striatum fired intensely. "Many people voluntarily incur costs to punish violations of social norms," they wrote. "Evolutionary models and empirical evidence indicate that such altruistic punishment has been a decisive force in the evolution of human cooperation … people derive satisfaction from punishing norm violations" The dorsal striatum "has been implicated in the processing of rewards that accrue as a result of goal-directed actions." In other words, "revenge is sweet."

In order to want to hurt others, most normal people need to be convinced that they have been hurt themselves, and that there is no other route to righteousness other than violent revenge. When I first watched Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstahl's documentary of the 1934 Nuremberg Nazi rally, I was struck by Hitler's speech that closes the film. The viewer has just been overwhelmed with the massive, intimidating power of Nazi Germany. Thousands of uniformed Nazis stand in formation. Hitler, though, focuses on Nazis as starting out as a tiny, vulnerable "minority" who encountered "bans and persecution" and must be willing to "sacrifice." SS chief Heinrich Himmler takes the same tack in his Poznan speeches that justify genocide. All these Jews and Slavs we are slaughtering are actually dangerous threats who would otherwise victimize us, Himmler insists to his audience of mass murderers.

Like those who have committed terroristic crimes against humanity, I had reason to feel aggrieved. In spite of my grievances, I never gave in to my vivid terrorist fantasies. There's a very specific reason why.

I've long been a student of the Shroud of Turin. Most studies of the Shroud focus on its remarkable physical properties: its encoding of 3D data; its lack of pigment; the mystery of the image's formation. To me, it was an aesthetic, rather than a physical aspect of the Shroud that confounded me. I knew that no one was creating images comparable to the Shroud in medieval Europe. This anomaly inspired me to read every book I could find on the Shroud. Given that the Shroud depicts the frontal and dorsal images of a scourged and crucified man, those arguing for its authenticity, from Yves DeLage to Frederick Zugibe, have had to demonstrate that the Shroud's depiction is accurate. Reading their work, one is guided through a grisly curriculum on the science of Roman crucifixion. Zugibe went so far as to simulate crucifixion with living volunteers.

Growing up Catholic, I had been almost blind to images of crucified men. We are surrounded by such images, from large crucifixes that dominate altars to small crucifixes on necklaces and rosaries. I never gave much thought to what Jesus endured. Reading about the science of crucifixion, though, was a gut-wrenching experience. Every detail, from the retraction of the thumbs to the high bilirubin content of the blood on the Shroud, documented horrific torture. The man on the Shroud is covered with bruises consistent with a Roman scourging. Even before being crucified, many victims were scourged with a flagrum, a whip terminating in lead weights or animal bones. These weights dug into the victims, tearing off so much flesh that internal organs might be exposed, as described by Eusebius. "Bystanders were struck with amazement when they saw them lacerated with scourges even to the innermost veins and arteries, so that the hidden inward parts of the body, both their bowels and their members, were exposed to view."

Similarly, I was not as impressed as I might have been by Jesus' words, spoken from the cross before he died, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Don't get me wrong. I believed in Jesus, and the crucifixion. It wasn't till I was immersed in study that I really got what Jesus endured, and the implications of his words, "Forgive them." Or, indeed, of the words I said multiple times a day as part of the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." The reciprocity of that line put the brakes on my vengeance fantasies in another way. When my lizard brain took dark turns, I reminded myself: God loves the persons who hurt me every bit as much as he loves me. He died for them, just as he died for me.

Yes. Yes. It was excruciating awareness of Jesus' suffering, my conviction that Jesus endured that suffering for me, and Jesus' insistence on forgiveness, that made it impossible for me to give in to my anti-social fantasies of terroristic revenge. Further, the line "forgive us our trespasses" forced me to confront my own failings. Yes, I had been sinned against. But, yes, I was also a sinner. When I was a kid, I had engaged in physical and verbal assaults on other kids. I cringe in shame now when I think of things I said and did that reduced my fellows to tears. I can't turn back the clock. I don't want to live with those blots on my soul or character. Only God can forgive me. And he has.

No, this is not a religious tract. Not at all. I'm not asking anyone to believe as I do. Rather, I'm saying this: there are many hurting people in this world. There are many wrongs. Terrorism is a seductive siren. The voice says, "You have been wronged. You are utterly outside of any system that can right that wrong. There are people out there who have hurt you. You have the opportunity, and even the duty, to right this wrong. If you don't do it, no one else will." Recruiters know very well that they can fatten their ranks and weaponize their troops by instilling a sense of victimization. ISIS recruitment videos focus on Muslims as helpless victims. Researcher Charlie Winter wrote in 2015, "Like all jihadist groups, Islamic State relies heavily upon the victimhood narrative – the idea that Sunni Muslims are being persecuted by a global conspiracy – to justify not only its most heinous acts, but also its very existence. In many of its most renowned, brutal videos, victimhood is closely entwined with the 'punishment' that follows." In other words, ISIS, before committing a sadistic atrocity, "justified" that atrocity by citing victimization of Muslims.

People build their lives around the stories they believe. If you believe a story that says that God's son, an innocent and good man, endured unspeakable suffering and died for your sake, and instructed you to forgive, that makes it very difficult for you to justify terrorism or violent revenge of any kind. Yes, it is possible for someone to self-identify as a Christian and to become a terrorist. No doubt that combination involves a great deal of cognitive dissonance. If you believe a story circulated on an internet video telling you that whites face genocide unless you shoot up a mosque, you invest in that narrative.

My friends hate it when I say this, but I keep repeating it. My Arab, Muslim friends who have voiced, to me, approval of terrorism are not horrible human beings. They are people who have shown me great hospitality and care. They are hard-working, law-abiding and loving family members. Rather, they have been indoctrinated by the story they grew up with. In their story, the god they have been taught to believe in tells them that it is their duty to right wrongs with violence. When I talk to Muslims about jihad violence, they almost always lead with, "But we have been so victimized." They are awash in stories of Muslims being hurt, being wronged, and being helpless. They believe that violence rights these wrongs.

In her memoir, I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai describes her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, as a truly great man who defied the misogynist customs of his village and raised a daughter who would go on to be the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in history. Even such a fine man was not immune to the story his culture told. "The talib [singular of Taliban] talked of jihad in such glorious terms that my father was captivated. He would point out to my father that life on earth was short and that there were few opportunities for young men in the village … Heaven with its seventy-two virgins sounded attractive. Every night my father would pray to God, 'O, Allah, please make war between Muslims and infidels so I can die in your service and be a martyr.'" Ziauddin is not alone. Many other Muslims talk about their attraction to jihad in their youth.

Christian evangelist Al Fadi was a Saudi-born Wahabi Muslim. "During my high school years I was fascinated with the idea of jihad to the point where I was seriously considering going to Afghanistan when the Soviets invaded," he says. "I was fascinated with this idea of not just fighting but dying as a martyr for all these rewards that I was reading about, the rewards for martyrdom."

Dr. Tawfik Hamid, author of the excellent book Inside Jihad, describes how though he was raised by a liberal mother and an atheist father, the Islamist material he was exposed to in school molded him into a wannabe terrorist. At the same time, he was taught that "al-fikr kufr," or, "one becomes an infidel by thinking critically." Koran 21:23 was cited to insist that any questioning of Islam is sinful. In short, he was forbidden, on pain of eternal damnation, to question the story he was being told. Hamid had had Christian friends, friends he liked and respected. In Arabic language class, he was taught hadiths that caused him to look at Christians with disdain. He became convinced that it was his duty to kill Christians. In fact some of his fellow students assaulted a Christian teacher and broke his arm. "I grew a beard, lost my sense of humor, and became aloof and judgmental … It's difficult to kill an innocent person if you don't hate that person. Hatred toward the infidels … fits in the mainstream of Islamic teaching … Jihadism suppresses the conscience of its adherent by pressuring them to accept, promote and praise acts that are entirely at odds with normal senses of decency and justice, simply because such acts are recorded in the religious books." Rejection of such beliefs would result in "eternal damnation." His jihadi training, he wrote, was designed to suppress "the conscience of its adherents by pressuring them to accept, promote and praise acts that are entirely at odds with normal senses of decency and justice, simply because such acts are recorded in the religious books. We used to praise Prophet Muhammad for marrying a girl of seven when he was 52 years old. We openly advocated stoning women to death and killing apostates … we even supported enslaving female war prisoners and having sex with them … if we advocated [these ideas] paradise awaited us; if we even questioned these beliefs, we faced eternal damnation."

The mosque shooter in New Zealand also focused on a sense of victimization and the righting of wrongs that could be righted in no other way. His guns were inscribed with words about non-Muslim victims of Muslims. One word was "Rotherham." Rotherham is one site of the notorious grooming gang scandal. Muslim men groomed desperate, underage non-Muslim girls. They drugged, raped, beat, prostituted, and in some cases killed these girls. Yes, this is a horrible wrong. Murdering innocents praying in a mosque 12,000 miles away did nothing to right that wrong. Sammy Woodhouse, a Rotherham victim, made this clear. "My thoughts go out to all the victims killed today in New Zealand. Such an evil act. As a Rotherham survivor, I would like to add a message from me and my family. This was not done in our name." Clearly, Sammy Woodhouse, who has told me via email that she is not a Christian, is nevertheless listening to a very different story than that believed by the New Zealand shooter.

The exploitation of narratives of suffering to support the commission of atrocities occurs constantly. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan exploited the New Zealand mosque shooting to threaten to send anti-Muslim tourists home "in caskets." He linked this threat to Australian and New Zealand WW I casualties in the Gallipoli campaign. He also repeatedly screened the shooter's mosque shooting video. Images of defenseless Muslims begin gunned down will arouse in Erdogan's audience a thirst for vengeance. Erdogan insisted that not just the one shooter was responsible, but potentially any non-Muslim. Erdogan also threatened to even the score. New Zealand does not have the death penalty. "If New Zealand fails to hold the attacker accountable, one way or another we will hold him to account … They are testing us from 16,500 km away, from New Zealand, with the messages they are giving from there. This isn't an individual act, this is organized." Erdogan did all this in the context of an election campaign in Turkey. Erdogan will not, as the saying goes, allow a crisis to go to waste. Differences between Erdogan's culture and our own can be readily seen. Any American politician who repeatedly screened videos of the 9-11 or other terrorist attacks and accompanied those screenings with threats to send Muslims home "in caskets" would be roundly condemned by his own milieu.

Two new congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, have attracted criticism for anti-Semitic and off color comments. Omar accused Jews of "hypnotizing the world" and Tlaib referred to the US president as a "mother- - - - - -." Both have deflected criticism by playing the victim card. Both claim to be victims of "Islamophobia." Tlaib, a vigorous, strident women, resorted to tears. At a meeting that was meant to be dedicated to Jewish lawmakers making clear why anti-Semitism is a problem, Tlaib "started to cry as she spoke of her grandmother's suffering in the West Bank at the hands of Israelis," reports the Washington Post. Any serious discussion of the damage anti-Semitism causes was derailed by tears.

Too often people who consider themselves "practical" and "hardheaded" dismiss such an old-fashioned activity as storytelling. They ridicule and demean English majors. "Study engineering! Get a real job!" they insist. Atheists, too, are very good at mocking  others' stories. They insist that the Judeo-Christian God may as well be a Flying Spaghetti Monster, and that all religious stories are equally absurd. These scoffers could not be more wrong. We build our lives around the stories we believe. Boys in ancient Sparta were told stories that molded behaviors like theft, suicide, and murder. Today American universities struggle with how to handle the fact that students from Confucian-influenced East Asia outperform all other groups on standardized tests. Social commentators cite Confucian values as prodding this demographic to shine. East Asian students' success is deeply rooted. For centuries it was inculcated by a collection of folktales, The Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety. Around the world, throughout history, what "engineers" human behavior is not just the gears and levers of metabolism and hormones, but also words and plots.

For a long time the West cherished its stories. Children were taught about Horatio Alger and George Washington and the cherry tree. They learned to work hard, delay gratification, and respect the law. In a time of increasing secularization and rejection of the past, the stories we tell ourselves are in flux. Events like the 1948 McCollum v Board of Education case and trends like the unchurching of society have weakened the hold of Judeo-Christian narratives on Americans' minds. During this time of change, we must pay attention to the new stories we choose to tell.

Danusha Goska is the author of God through Binoculars

Friday, March 1, 2019

Fake Hate Crimes' Real Victims

Genesis Rincon 

Fake Hate Crimes' Real Victims.

You Know the Name "Jussie Smollett." Learn the Names "Genesis" and "Andrzej."

January-February, 2019. Three Notorious Hate Crimes Rock America.

On December 30, 2018, at seven a.m., near Houston, Texas, Jazmine Barnes was riding in a car with her mother and her three sisters when she was shot to death by a stranger. LaPorsha Washington, Jazmine's mother, was on a morning coffee run. She too had been shot, but she survived. Washington gave an interview from her hospital bed, describing the unique and precious life that was taken that day. Jazmine was "so much fun," a seven-year-old who would "boss everyone around" "The teachers loved her … She brought so much joy and happiness to everybody around her. When she walks into a room, Jazmine is gonna kiss and hug everybody, even if she didn't know you." Chris Cevilla, Jazmine's father, mourned that the "precious moments a father is supposed to experience with his daughter have been stolen from me … I'm not going to be able to see her graduate. Prom. None of that."

Jazmine's sister, Alxis Dilbert, and their mother described the shooter to police as a blue-eyed white man, driving a red pick-up truck. The face in the police sketch could be the poster model for any nightmare vision of an Aryan Nations boogeyman. His skin is pale. His clear, blue eyes are cold and merciless. His long, straight nose is thin; his nostrils delicate. His pale cheeks are hollow. The red pickup truck is the very vehicle the stereotype would require for a Southern, white supremacist. The only missing accoutrements are a Confederate flag and a MAGA hat.

A "Justice for Jazmine" Go-Fund-Me page, begun by her father the day Jazmine was shot, raised $87,284. NFL wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins donated his $29,000 playoff check to the family. Shaquille O'Neal and a police officer chipped in to pay for Jazmine's funeral. Celebrities Jayda Pinkett Smith and Gabrielle Union tweeted that the "evil monster" who killed Jazmine must be found. Hundreds rallied in Jazmine's name. She was, to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, "everyone's child. The nation's child. Seen around the world … We are not going to be the do-nothing crowd. We are going to be the 'see-something-say-something' crowd … We need a national task force. Let the killer know that the heat is on and the heat is up." Nation of Islam activist Deric Muhammad had insisted that a "white supremacist" murdered Jazmine. At a "Justice for Jazmine" rally, Muhammad asked, "Whose child?" In reply, the crowd chanted "Our child," multiple times. Rapper and activist A. J. McQueen demanded, "Let's talk about race! Imagine a baby girl. What if her first words were 'Please don't shoot'? Let's talk about race!"

Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King joined in. King is controversial. He claims to be biracial, but the parents listed on his birth certificate are white – thus his nickname "Talcum X." King has faced numerous other controversies. King tweeted a photograph of Jazmine's coffin with the caption, "A tiny little casket. My God." On January 4, 2019, on twitter, King named a man, Robert Cantrell, whom he believed to be Jazmine's killer. Cantrell did indeed look just like the man in the police sketch. "We've had 20 people call or email us and say he is a racist, violent asshole and always has been. Just tell me everything you know," King tweeted.

Cantrell received death threats. "They want to hurt anything you love, especially your kids and mother. I heard someone is gonna rape, torture, and murder the women and children in your family," read one threat. King pushed the white killer narrative even after receiving information that indicated that Jazmine's killer was no white supremacist at all, but rather a black man.

When Jazmine Barnes was the victim of a white man, she was front page news. After January 6, 2019, when a black man was charged with Jazmine's murder, her name disappeared from the national conversation. Malcolmxxx5, a man posting on Shaun King's twitter feed, wrote, "When some blk folk thought it was a white person they were tweeting their butts off, 1000's of tweets. Now that they know its blk thugs behind it, tweets dam near got cold. Thats sad in itself." Malcolmxxx5's post generated no comments or retweets.

A Nexis Uni search of periodicals shows over fourteen hundred hits for "Jazmine Barnes" during the time period when the narrative insisted that Jazmine's killer was white. The international press covered her. After the arraignment of two black men in her death, her name appears in only one hundred thirty five articles. These articles are no longer the impassioned, frontpage condemnations of "hate" that had appeared before, but rather brief, pro forma accounts of court proceedings, buried deep inside newspapers.

A Google search turns up 81 hits for Jazmine Barnes at taxpayer-funded National Public Radio before her killer was identified. I listen to a Manhattan NPR affiliate throughout the day and I remember Jazmine Barnes' name repeated in just about every news update and in much commentary. After Jazmine's killer was identified as black, Jazmine Barnes disappeared from NPR coverage. No new stories mention her.

Once Jazmine became the victim of a black shooter, there were no more rallies. The speakers, balloons, and podiums evaporated. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee's "See-something-say-something" national task force has reverted to "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Snitches get stitches and wind up in ditches." Deric Muhammad, who had chanted "Whose child? Our child!" with such insistence, has, if Google is any indication, gone silent about Jazmine Barnes. A Google search of the names Jazmine Barnes and Deric Muhammad turns up no connection between the two since January 10, 2019, except for a CYA piece by Muhammad arguing that he was not wrong to suspect that her murder was committed by a white supremacist. "Nobody has to exaggerate the evils of White America done to Black people [sic]. The truth about it is bad enough. How many times has a Black man or woman been falsely accused, beaten, lynched, jailed and even killed for crimes committed by White men in this country? We have 464 years of content to draw from and we don’t have to fabricate one thing."

One might think that the social media moral panic devoted to Jazmine Barnes as the victim of a rampaging white supremacist would have taught panic participants a lesson. One would think wrong. A mere two weeks after Jazmine Barnes dropped down the memory hole, the ever-ready outrage machine kicked into gear again. Anyone on Facebook the weekend of January 19 remembers his or her page metaphorically bursting into flames. Schoolboys from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, the new panic alleged, had surrounded Nathan Phillips, a peaceful Native American Vietnam War veteran, mocked him, and chanted "Build the Wall."

Even after video emerged that completely exculpated the accused schoolboys of any wrongdoing, even after threats against the schoolboys became so serious that they required protection, even after Nathan Phillips was exposed as a lying con artist, leftists were still insisting that the boys were evil and needed to be punished in the worst way possible. As late as February 4, 2019, The Guardian (UK) published an article praising Phillips, the man whose lies lit the spark that endangered innocent schoolboys' lives.

Those who actually believed the utterly false and also quite stupid Covington narrative did not have to come to terms with their own folly, because, of course, a new social media moral panic provided these outrage addicts with the new jolt of a new fix. On January 29, 2019, Jussie Smollett, an otherwise obscure actor, became the center of the latest panic. One version of Smollett's tale: two men, masked but wearing MAGA hats, physically attacked Smollett at two a.m. in Chicago, calling Smollett by offensive terms referencing his homosexuality and his African American identity. The attackers poured bleach on Smollett, and placed a noose around his neck.

Liberal Facebook friend Mark was jubilant after the Smollett story broke. Mark had invested in the phony Covington narrative. This new outrage was proof, he crowed, that Trump supporters are violent, racist, homophobic, intolerant, bigoted thugs. On February 21, the Chicago Police Department held a press conference where they demonstrated that Jussie Smollett's improbable tale was as false as it had always seemed to rational people. Again, one might think that leftists would learn, and, again, one would think wrong. There was no need to apologize, to admit error, to regret the insult to Trump supporters or the waste of Chicago law enforcement resources. Rather, one must focus on the new outrage. (There is always a new outrage.) The new outrage is that those evil folk on the right might exploit the Smollett hoax to discount the real problem of American white supremacy.

Social Media Moral Panics as Ritual Behaviors

These three social media moral panics, occurring back-to-back, are edifying. They demonstrate that such panics are not grounded in objective reality. There was no blue-eyed, white-supremacist shooter in a red pickup truck, no anti-Native-American schoolboys, no Trump supporters on the streets of a sub-zero Chicago at two a.m., managing to keep their bleach liquid when the polar vortex air was well below bleach's freezing point.

Those who participated in these social media moral panics were participating in myth. By "myth" I do not mean a false narrative, but, rather, a narrative that is sacred to a sect, that provides a sect's raison d'etre, and that informs its ritual.

Leftists reject conventional religion and Western Civilization's Judeo-Christian foundation as hopelessly corrupt and uncool. No "thou shalt nots" for the "if-it-feels-good-do-it" crowd. But even atheists require religion, and a new religion was built around race. White racism was the only sin. In this religion, racism is a valued commodity. Monopoly possession of racism enriches and empowers its possessor, both black and white. If a black person can claim that he is a victim of racism, if a white person melodramatically condemns racism, they win valuable status and power. Outrage porn is the holy Eucharist of this religion. Outrage porn is the drug fix for leftist communicants. It provides a jolt that holds them over till the next social media moral panic. Symbolically destroying white American men is the new ritual. Imaginary white men, in the Barnes' shooting and the Smollett hoax, serve. The moral bankruptcy of these pagan rituals is revealed in leftists' willingness to sacrifice innocent schoolboys, for no other reason than that they represent the hated other: white, Christian, Southern, Trump-supporting males. Participants in the ritual recommended that these schoolboys be destroyed using methods that reek of ancient human sacrifice: they should be fed into woodchippers; a Disney producer circulated an image of the boys' blood spurting luxuriously from just such a machine. They should be ritually humiliated, especially through blows to the face – Trevor Noah, Reza Aslan, and a Saturday Night Live writer all invoked facial blows as apt punishment. They should be burned alive.

Many of those expressing the most rabid hatred are themselves white. Mark, the previously mentioned liberal author on Facebook who mocks the boys as the "Holy Martyrs of Covington," has phosphorescent white skin. I suspect that he gets a sunburn if he stands less than three feet from a sixty-watt bulb. He lives in a town, and a state, with an African American population of 4 percent. Why would a white man from a white town feel it so necessary to attack other white males? It's a purification ritual, designed to distance the participant from any association with hated whiteness and maleness, to clearly state, "I am of the elect, not the polluted and the damned." Repeating the ritual over and over communicates: There are two classes of white males. I am the superior kind. I prove it by dehumanizing the inferior kind. The MAGA hats marked the kids as damned."

The high priestess of this religion is perhaps the diminutive lesbian actress Ellen Page. On Stephen Colbert's February 1 talk show, Page began sermonizing at an eleven on the humorless self-righteousness meter and cranked it up from there. Her hands in a white knuckle clench, her shoulders in a world-weary stoop, Page raged about homophobia, misogyny, "binary" heteronormative Hollywood movies, Climate Change and the environmental racism of placing garbage dumps near "First Nations" people. Then Page jumped into lambasting anyone who questioned whether or not Jussie Smollett's story was true. Page fingered Vice President Mike Pence as the culprit. "He has hurt LGBTQ people so badly!" Pence "is in a position of power and you hate people and you want to cause suffering to them. You spent your career trying to cause suffering." Page burst into tears and the audience rose in a standing O. Page never said a single positive or loving thing about anyone. It was all attack, culminating on the arch enemy, Mike Pence, prototypical straight, white, Christian, American man, whose symbolic destruction entertained the crowd.

Participants in leftist social media panics announce their purpose as love. They love Jazmine Barnes, Nathan Phillips, and Jussie Smollett. They want the world to be a better place for oppressed people of color. The stories that ritual participants ignore gives the lie to their own stated purpose.

On Thursday, February 7, 2019, 24-year-old Nashville musician Kyle Yorlets was murdered by five children, three girls and two boys. Yorlets was white. His murderers, ages 12-16, are black. At a recent hearing, Yorlets' confessed killers laughed so much in court, behaving "as if they were on a playground," that the judge ordered them to leave. Yorlets' murder has received virtually no media attention. Security cameras in New York City have been recording several assaults on Jews. In October, 2018, during daylight hours, in Crown Heights, a young black man beat a Jewish man over the head with a stick. In January, 2019, also in Crown Heights, a group of young black males approached a Jewish teenager and assaulted him. Though Jews constitute about two percent of the US population, "FBI data shows Jewish people and institutions were most frequently targeted [of religious-based hate crimes], accounting for 58.1 percent of religious-based hate crime incidents." Assaults on Jews in Crown Heights gain virtually no media attention. One would think that they might, given that in 1991, a pogrom took place there. African Americans chanted "Kill the Jews." Yankel Rosenbaum, 29-years-old, was stabbed to death by 16-year-old Lemrick Nelson.

If social media moral panics had anything to do with love, participants would care about battered and endangered Jews; they would care about white victims like Kyle Yorlets. They don't. There's more people they don't care about; more on that, below.

The Real Victims of Fake Hate Crimes  

As long as Jazmine Barnes had been murdered by a white man, she was valuable. Once she was murdered by a black man, she wasn't even worth anything as a statistic. The pertinent statistics are daunting. "Guns kill about 10 times more black children than they do white children each year," reported TIME magazine in 2017. TIME summarized a Centers for Disease Control study. "Black children faced the highest rates of gun-related homicides … In many cases, researchers noted, gun-related deaths occur 'in multi-victim events and involved intimate partner or family conflict.'" Roughly ninety percent of black murder victims are killed by other blacks. LaPorsha Washington, Jazmine Barnes' mother, might very well have contributed to that statistic. Washington has a decade of felony convictions, including theft, drugs, and hiding a felon. "When she was just 19, in a police probable cause document, a female victim robbed by Washington said the then-teen had a gun and threatened to shoot her," reports

In 2014 6,000 African Americans were murdered. Though they make up only 13% of the US population, there were more blacks murdered than whites and Hispanics combined. In the first six and a half months of 2016, 2,300 people were shot in Chicago alone. "That's a shooting an hour during some weekends," says researcher Heather MacDonald.

"Say his name: Trayvon!" Black Lives Matter protesters like to shout. Here's a name for them to shout: Genesis Rincon. Genesis was a 12-year-old girl who, while she was playing outside on a warm summer night in 2014, was shot to death on the streets of Paterson, NJ, a mile from my home. Genesis's killer was 19-year-old Jhymiere Moore. Moore had also killed another black boy, Ragee Clark, age 15. Moore, now in prison, is the father of a son, another African American boy who will grow up without a father. Illegitimacy rates among African Americans hover around seventy percent. A 2018 review reports that "The more opportunities a child has to interact with his or her biological father, the less likely he or she is to commit a crime or have contact with the juvenile justice system …Youths who never had a father living with them have the highest incarceration rates … children who come from father-absent homes are at a greater risk for using illicit substances at a younger age…A high percentage of gang members come from father-absent homes." Where is the "see-something-say-something" national task force when it comes to the facts of blacks killing other blacks, and black children growing up without fathers? That national task force's potential members, white and black, are, like addicts, sniffing around for their next fix of outrage porn followed by the ritualistic destruction of another white male.

Black Lives Matter activists do not chant Genesis's name. Genesis's killer was black and leftists gain zero profit from addressing black-on-black crime. The only reason Black Lives Matter repeats Trayvon Martin's name is because they have been able to pretend that George Zimmerman, who shot Martin in self-defense, was a white man. In fact Zimmerman's facial features announce his own significant Afro-Peruvian ancestry. Chanting Trayvon's name is about hating alleged white man George Zimmerman, not about loving Trayvon.

There are other victims of faked hate crimes, and in all the verbiage around the Smollett hoax, I have heard not a whisper of these victims. One of them has been weighing heavily on my mind and heart throughout this entire diabolical farce. I've lived with his story for years, the way you live with the low-throbbing pain of an arthritic joint. I've always thought I would take it to my grave. I'm telling it now, for the first time. I'll disguise his name. Let's call him "Andrzej," and also "Andy."

Andrzej (pronounced ON jay), was a child of Polish immigrants. His father was a coal miner before he moved to Newark, NJ, in hopes of a better life above ground. His mother worked in a factory. Andrzej's family was poor, but always clean, and church-going. I wish I could report that they were also always law-abiding but there was the occasional night in the klink for the occasional fist fight or public drinking – these activities are not unknown among Poles. Andrzej was that son that immigrant parents pray for but also fear. He was a genius. On the basis of his standardized tests results, teachers were in awe of him. They insisted that he must do something with this miraculous gift. Other kids didn't much like him. He grew up in Newark, not the easiest place to be in the 1950s. He got beat up a lot. Though he lived in the same cold-water walk-up flat as the black kids, they showed him no mercy.

Andrzej could walk right past you and not say "Hello," even if you said hello to him. When he did speak to you, his words came out as spurts of non-sequiturs – eager, maybe even sweet, but you never knew quite how to respond, except to smile and nod and laugh about him later with other, normal people. Everyone realized what was going on. Andrzej existed in his own world of ideas. He also faced the culture shock of being Polish at home, speaking one language, and being American, being "Andy," in the wider world. Good-hearted people just tolerated Andy's difference.  

Andy got a great job at a university. The demographics of the university were complex. The faculty, for the most part, were WASP graduates of Ivy League schools. The students were an ethnic mix, as is so often the case in New Jersey. Andrzej noticed that the Ivy League professors, the more elite they were, were obsequious to the black students. They forced smiles. They tried to talk in hip slang. They wanted to be "down" with the "brothers." They wrote scholarship recommendations for students that bore no relation to neutral standards of academic performance. These same liberal, Ivy League professors showed no such deference to the white kids. Poor, white ethnic kids, children of working class, immigrant parents, a bit lost on a college campus, these the Ivy League professors mocked as "trailer trash." This class bigotry, this skin color triage, disgusted Andrzej. But he didn't get involved. He was there to do science.

A black woman didn't like the way Andy looked at her. She felt slighted. Here was this privileged white man, not going out of his way to communicate approval to her. She registered a complaint with a dean, who took the complaint to a committee.

None of us who knew him ever heard Andrzej use racial slurs. He treated everyone the same – awkwardly. Andrzej was only at home in books and hovering over a microscope, a scholarly article, or a test tube.

Just as he had been bullied as a kid because he was different, he was victimized as an adult by people who refused to understand him. The committee said that he hadn't smiled at his accuser. His lack of smiles offended and hurt her and made her feel excluded. This aspect of Andrzej's show trial fills me with rage every time I think about it. Polish people of Andrej's parents' World-War-II generation, and their first generation kids, don't smile casually. Smiles are intimate, sincere, and never forced. If these liberals, with their insistence on their own multicultural tolerance, had factored into their assessment Andrzej's culture, they would realize what intolerant bigots they were. The committee said, further, that Andrzej needed training in understanding and accepting African American culture. Andrzej's accusers were, again, privileged whites. Andrzej had grown up in Newark. Who was going to train whom? A professor who had a Harvard degree told Andrzej that he needed to understand his, Andrzej's own "privilege" as a "straight, white male." Andrzej needed to understand his accuser's history of slavery and racism. Andrzej's parents were Slavs. The people who gave the world the word "slave" because of their own long history of enslavement, including by African Muslims. Andrzej had a distant cousin who had been enslaved by Nazis during WW II. Andrzej's straight, white male privilege? He was a nerd and bait for bullies. A professor who descended from Mayflower passengers was lecturing Andrzej about privilege and slavery. Andrzej didn't like it. He didn't like any of it. Andrzej was fired.

After a bit of a retreat to lick his wounds and hide his shame, Andrzej found less rewarding, less remunerative, less cutting-edge science work on other, less prestigious, campuses. But the wound never healed. Andrzej had hit a glass ceiling. That bang on the top of his head left an impression he never forgot.

The Chicago Police Department devoted hundreds of man hours and princely sums to uncover the truth in the Smollett case. Internet sleuths spent hours watching video to expose the truth in the Covington Catholic case. Eventually Jazmine's real killer confessed.

Andrzej was just one man, with few natural allies on a college campus with cliques of Ivy League WASP professors, and cliques of black activists, but no cliques of first-generation geniuses with coal miner fathers. When his version of Jussie Smollett, a black woman with an ax to grind, falsely accused him of racism, there was no one to rescue Andrzej. And he was sacrificed.

How many Andrzejs are there out there? How many folks who are just getting by, living paycheck to paycheck, already dealing with all the annoyances of everyday life, suddenly falsely accused of racism? Facing, rather than honest efforts to get to the truth, mobs of virtue signaling outrage addicts eager to exploit the falsely accused as scapegoats in their own mythic, ritualized human sacrifice? My guess? There are many such people. Neither Andrzej nor his accuser were famous. She got away with it, and he lived with the wound.

Danusha Goska is the author of God through Binoculars

This piece first appeared in Front Page Magazine here