Our heartfelt condolences and prayers to the victims of the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Once again, a deranged person, filled with a demonic evil, has taken innocent lives. Here in Texas we sadly remember the shooting in Sutherland Springs, almost exactly a year ago, November 5, 2017. It was the deadliest Church shooting in U.S. history, where 26 were killed and 20 were wounded. Save for the heroism of one single man, Stephen Willeford, the carnage could have been even worse.
What is even more disturbing is that with each of these tragedies they are leveraged for political advantage. And therefore, we never seek out real solutions and solve these issues. One of the major contributors to the rancor that we have today has been the emergence of the 24/7 news cycle, and the need to “sensationalize” that which should be carefully, and factually, analyzed and assessed. There is nothing wrong with opinion-based news, but there is a very heavy responsibility with such a freedom – telling the objective truth.
Instead, what happens is that facts and the truth may be eschewed to make a certain political point, a score, for the respective corner in this ever-growing ideological divide in America. Fingers are pointed here and there, and often those pointing the fingers the most are the ones who are the greatest perpetrators of hypocrisy. The evil, the hate that struck the Synagogue in Pittsburgh was rooted in anti-Semitism. And what is very disconcerting is that the purveyors of such vile vitriol are given platforms by which they can spew their hatred. They can promulgate their divisive rhetoric on various mainstream and alternative media avenues, and it happens under the cloak of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. I truly believe that the high level of individual liberties we have in an open society such as America requires a higher level of individual responsibility.
We cannot shed tears and act shocked over what happened in Pittsburgh when we allow open and blatant anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel to proliferate. At some point we must make the adult, and correct, decision that there is a definitive delineation between freedom of speech and expression and hate speech. And this decision cannot be made based upon ideological agendas or political party affiliation.
Let me say what needs to be said: we have gone far too long allowing someone like a Louis Farrakhan free reign to spew his hatred. Far too many elected officials have given him homage and a platform and have not been held accountable. We have allowed the cancer of anti-Semitism to take root on our college and university campuses to the point where Jewish students are threatened. Anti-Semitism can take on a lethal form, such as in Pittsburgh, or a non-violent, but still lethal form in the way of actions, protests, and discrimination, all rooted in falsehoods, lies, and distortions – all of which sadly are conveyed in our media outlets.
Yes, these recent crimes, such as the Pittsburgh shooting and the pipe bomber from Florida are individual crimes. The immediate blame, responsibility, are upon these individuals who made the decision to act outside of our rule of law for a civil society. We must open an important dialogue about the common factor in these incidents, the mainstreaming of mental illness. Many of these mass shooting offenses, whether it be Jared Loughner, Adam Lanza, or Nicolas Cruz – and if you do not remember these names that is a result of the incessant drive by media cycle – all have a fundamental commonality: mental illness. However, too many rush to politicize these tragedies based upon their ideological agenda, a very irresponsible action. And in doing so, we never ask the real questions, and enact the hard solutions. We just continue to sensationalize via the 24/7 news cycle and spin folks up for the sake of ratings.
Now, I know there are folks who want to blame President Trump, and yes, his in your face New York persona is a little different. But let’s not forget Kathy Griffin holding a bloodied severed head, the declaration of Madonna that she wanted to blow up the White House, Johnny Dep ruminating about the last time an actor assassinated a president, the Central Park play depicting the Trump likeness being stabbed to death ala Julius Caesar. Barack Obama once asserted to his supporters to never bring a knife to a gunfight, for Republicans to move to the back of the bus and said to Latino voters to punish your enemies and reward friends. Hillary Clinton, as I wrote last week, redefined the meaning of civility.
So, let’s stop pointing fingers and trying to score political points. There has been plenty of ugly to go around.
The 24/7 news cycle needs to focus on reporting truth and realizing the incredible responsibility that a free press have. We as individual American citizens must base our political beliefs on objective truth, a truth that can be debated and rigorously discussed in civil forums. We must end the denigrating and disparaging, alluding to untruths of people dying and casting aside our rule of law and due process. We should believe those who deserve believing and hold utterly accountable those who are delivering the message of dissension.
The greatest responsibility in living in a free and open society, a constitutional republic, is to train our minds. If we are to maintain this great nation called America, we must all step up our game and not just become drones of an irresponsible 24/7 news cycle, but rather be intellectually astute and engaged citizens. The alternative is to become a mindless lemming, a useful idiot, a subject who will be led around.
There are objective truths, unlike what the post-modernism advocates would tell us. There is right, and there is wrong. Anti-Semitism is wrong, period, and it is time we stop picking and choosing when wrong is beneficial, the ultimate irresponsibility that undermines liberty.
Allen West is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. Mr. West is a Senior Fellow at the Media Research Center to support its mission to expose and neutralize liberal media bias and is author of the forthcoming book from Brown Books Publishing Group coming this fall, “Hold Texas, Hold the Nation: Victory or Death.”