Musician and performance artist Alex Cameron wrote in his song “Politics of Love,” “There ain’t no politics in love.” While Cameron may be right on an individual basis, in the grand scheme of things, politics and love are very much intertwined. This has been evident in recent years in the varying responses of our leaders here in the U.S. to growing divisions between classes, races and political parties. But now that white supremacy has afflicted New Zealand with tragedy, we can compare the responses of the country’s citizens and leaders to those of our own.
No one should attempt to deny the tragedy of the deaths of 50 people. Some have tried, and there has been adequate lambasting of these characters. The effort by some to use this attack on a religious group to further ostracize its members is being met with resistance all over. New Zealand is trying to strengthen its gun laws to prevent such a tragic occurrence from happening again. Its last shooting was in 1997, so these measures would not require the Herculean strength they would require to be effective in our country.
This is where our countries begin to differ. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister responded with an outright condemnation of white supremacy and embrace of the Muslim community. New Zealand’s legislature immediately began to enact gun laws with the aim of preventing tragedy. President Trump continues his streak of denying his own administration’s statistics of the growing internal threat that white supremacist terrorism poses. Trump’s travel ban, which targets mostly nationals of a handful of predominantly Muslim countries, still stands, and many in the GOP refuse to change the status quo on gun laws.
But the most insidious threat to our nation is not new, concrete or ideologically driven. It is by its very nature silent, voiceless. It is the desire to stay in the past. It is the want to retreat from any debate deemed too divisive. It is the belief that things today are as they always were and that the only way to combat hate is to ignore it and a complete disregard of the fact that this attitude is what allowed it to grow in the first place.
The shooter’s ideology came from the internet. He was fueled by “alt-lite” and “alt-right” YouTubers and speakers. I am not blaming these figures for the atrocity, but I want to illustrate that they are responsible for what they say and how they say it. All it took to propel the shooter to terrorism was memes. He became entrenched in the white nationalist ideas of “white replacement” that are continually propped up by the majority of far-right internet communities.
No one but the shooter is to blame for the shooting, but these communities are allowed to spread their vitriol and hate and disguise them as harmless dog whistles, although, in reality they are the tools they use to reach out to others and indoctrinate them.
Until social media companies are actually held accountable, this will continue. Until we begin to see that remaining on the sidelines of our culture does not resolve us of responsibility, this will continue. The status quo being the status quo does not mean it is right. It does not mean it cannot change. But if we do not force ourselves to become involved in our lives, none of this will change.
Logan Scott is a freshman film production major from Madison.