Writing under the title of “If the El Paso shooter had been Muslim”, Moustafa Bayoumi stated the obvious.
“If the El Paso shooter had been a Muslim,” Bayoumi wrote in the British Guardian newspaper on August 6, US President Donald Trump “would be lobbing accusations such as ‘Islam hates us’ in the direction of Muslims and not lecturing the public about video games.”
Bayoumi was referring to the double standards that define much of western official and media discourses regarding violence. When the alleged perpetrator of violence is a Muslim, then the case becomes a matter of national security and is categorically dealt with as an act of terrorism. When the perpetrator is a white male, however, it is a whole different story.
On August 3, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius carried out a mass shooting in a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 innocent people.
Neither US authorities nor media used the term “terrorism” in describing the heinous act. Instead, the Justice Department is “seriously considering” bringing federal hate crime charges against the killer, CNN reported.
On the other hand, Trump reasoned that “mental illness and hatred pull the trigger, not the gun,” in another attempt at whitewashing violent crimes by white individuals.
The “mental illness” explanation, in particular, has served as the convenient rationale for all similar violence.
For example, when 28-year-old Ilan Long opened fire on college students in Thousand Oaks, California, in November 2018, killing 12 people, Trump offered this logic. “He was a very, very mentally ill person,” he said, referring to Long. “He’s a very sick — well, it’s a mental health problem. He is a very sick puppy. He was a very, very sick guy.”
The mental illness argument was infused repeatedly, including last March, when Brenton Tarrant opened fire on Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people.
“I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems,” Trump said of Tarrant’s anti-Muslim terrorist attack.
Compare this to Trump’s response to the killing of 14 people in San Bernardino, California, which was blamed on two Muslims. Trump immediately assigned the word “terrorism” to the violent act, while calling for a “total and complete shutdown” of the entry of Muslims to the United States, “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on”.
But we do, in fact, know “what is going on”, a truth that goes beyond the typical western double standards. Crusius, Tarrant and many such white terrorists are connected through a deep bond that exceeds the supposed claim of mental illness into something truly sinister.
These individuals are all part of a larger phenomenon, an amalgamation of various ultra-nationalist governments, political movements and groups all around the world, all united by their hate for immigrants, refugees and Muslims.