The US president clearly thinks Muslims injured by a white Christian man are not worthy of attention because they do not serve his agenda
When something terrible happens in the world, we turn to those we respect to hear sage words of advice. To give us level-headed analyses. To blow away the fog of bias and provide a sense clarity. These individuals act as our moral, ethical and intellectual compasses.
And, just as we have those in our lives who show us the right direction, we have the inverse: those who, without fail, manage to show us the wrong direction. The trick, of course, is to be able to find out who these people are, recognize their ineptitude and bigotry for what it is … and then do the opposite.
Donald Trump didn’t send out a tweet after the terrorist attack in Finsbury Park in London that killed one and injured many more. His silence after this attack was markedly different from his immediate, fevered tweeting after numerous other terrorist attacks in Europe – and that matters.
For Trump, it’s clear that this wasn’t the right kind of attacker and these weren’t the right kind of victims.
Decades ago, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky coined the term “worthy and unworthy victims” to differentiate between those whose suffering benefits a particular ideological or political agenda, and those whose suffering does not.
In the case of Finsbury Park, Muslims injured by a white Christian man are not ‘worthy’ of attention because they do not serve Trump’s larger project of the demonization of Muslims, refugees and immigrants: an indistinguishable human mass in the eyes of the US president. Nor do they serve the interests of portraying white Christian Europe (and, by association, white Christian America) as the bastion of all that is decent and good.
An immediate tweet or public statement by Trump condemning the terrorism in London would have served an important purpose: it would have forced many in the United States (and beyond) to address the fact that the systemic use of violence in the service of a political or ideological aim is not confined to Muslims. It would also force many to consider what we mean, precisely, when we point at the ‘Other’ and talk about their ‘cultures of violence.’
If in doubt, ask the families of the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians killed in the aftermath of the 2003 US invasion if they have any doubt that US violence was systemic or political in nature, or that US indifference to their plight symbolized the embrace of violence.
Ask the citizens of Nicaragua, Colombia and El Salvador who suffered at the hands of death squads backed by the US. Ask anyone who lived in Britain in the 1970s and 80s when the IRA campaigns were in full swing. Ask Muslim women imprisoned in Serbian rape camps. Ask those who lived under the brutality of European colonialism. Ask Holocaust survivors. Ask African-Americans terrorized by the very white, very Christian and very organized KKK.
And, in case I am accused of whataboutism – deflecting criticism of X by talking about the crimes of Y – let us remind ourselves that pointing out double-standards in how we react to (and report on) similar crimes is not a justification for any of those crimes.
It’s about hypocrisy, stones and glass houses. It’s also an exercise in encouraging intellectual consistency: a supposed hallmark of the enlightened society about which many in Europe and the US regularly pontificate to the rest of the world.
So, rather than condemn Trump’s Twitter feed, let us embrace it for the ethical, intellectual and political barometer that it is. Let us welcome his Twitter rants and silences for making us confront what he could have said, and what we should say.