April 19, 2019

How Blame Replaced Fear In America

“Why aren’t we afraid anymore? The only emotion of which there has not been a public surfeit in a week that began with explosive devices addressed to Bill and Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democrats and ended with 11 people dead at a synagogue in Pittsburgh is fear.

One reason is that the bombing suspect does not seem to have been very good at what he was doing. His bombs were crude weapons, some of them perhaps incapable of detonating. If one of them had made it past the Secret Service or private security and actually blown up, goodness knows where we would be now.

I’d like to think that if one or more of his targets had been injured or killed, we would be having a different sort of national conversation. But the response to Saturday’s attacks at the Tree of Life synagogue — where the worst did happen — suggests the truth is much darker: that no matter what happened we would be where we are now, a few days into a deflating spectacle that has shown everyone from President Trump to various CNN anchors to right-wing commentators and hangers-on in the worst possible light.

The immediate reaction to the bomb plot from the media was unequivocal: This is President Trump’s fault. What petulant nonsense. (This is the same thing we heard a few months ago when a man in Annapolis, Maryland, shot at the offices of the Capital Gazette. It turned out that the shooter had brought a defamation suit against the paper years earlier.) By Friday, it had become clear that the suspect in these attempted bombings, while obsessed with the president, was also a lunatic who had threatened to blow up a local power plant after receiving a shut-off notice all the way back in 2002. He has been arrested for assault, larceny, drug possession, and many other crimes. He first registered to vote in 2016, when he was 54 years old. At the time of his arrest he was living in his van after being kicked out of his parents’ house. He is about as typical of the GOP activist base as Theodore John Kaczynski is of Harvard alumni.”

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