The Attack on the Colleyville Synagogue and the Battle of Narratives

January 21, 2022 | Dominic Green
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In the aftermath of high-profile, violent incidents in the U.S., there is virtually always a national attempt to blame one or the other major political party. Dominic Green, considering the recent hostage-taking at a Colleyville, Texas synagogue, notes that while political discussions of this type may not matter much to the victims of any given attack, they have an invidious effect on our politics. For Jewish parents worried about whether to send their kids to school, he suggests,

the question of whether the person who might shoot up the place is a deranged Islamist or a deranged white nationalist is secondary. Yet it’s of primary importance to the media and political parties. Terrorism, like everything else in this balkanized society, has become a team sport, for both its protagonists and their cheerleaders. Perception, the battle of images, has become more important than reality to our politicians.

The result is that Islamist and left-wing terrorism are closely associated with the Democrats, and white-nationalist terrorism closely associated with the Republicans. The representatives of both parties deny their complicity with the extremists who incite these actions. But extreme elements in both parties recognize these associations and exploit them, especially to convert rhetorical points into votes.

Green suggests that all this tends to stifle honest debate. It also distracts from “a reality that has implications for all Americans”:

Anti-Semitism is a barometer of a society’s health—or rather its sickness, because anti-Semitism, whether that of the white nationalist or the Islamist, is at heart a spiritual disease. The unprecedented and rising levels of incitement and violence against Jews in the U.S. are warning signs of social breakdown. Anti-Semites are the proven enemies of a free and decent society, yet elected representatives of both parties continue to play footsie with them.

Just as Republicans like Representative Paul Gosar need to cut loose from the white-nationalist subculture, so the Democratic leadership needs to disavow its fellow-traveling with Islamists. Speech isn’t violence, but it does have consequences.

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