The Past Isn’t Even The Past: Modern Fascism and Hatred of Muslims

Fascism did not die in 1945.

I sit here writing this less than a day after three people were brutally murdered. The slain, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, her husband of one month Deah Barakat, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were all under the age of 26. Barakat was studying at UNC to be a dentist, but he was also busy raising money to provide much-needed dental care for Syrian refugees. His wife Yusor was finishing her studies at NC State before joining him at UNC to become a dentist herself, and her sister Rezan was also studying at NCSU in the School of Design. If you are listening to the media, they were murdered in cold blood over a parking dispute. Nothing to see here, move along, this is just one of those things that happen. This is bullshit, a comforting lie draped over the shoulders of people who have perpetuated hatred against the Muslim community.

The murderer is a man by the name of Craig Stephens Hicks. A ‘militant’ atheist and libertarian, Hicks had a history of harassing his neighbors for their religion. According to the slain sisters’ father, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, Yusor said, “He hates us for what we are and how we look,” and that he had a history of picking on the newlyweds. He came to their door at least once clutching his rifle. Some might say that this isn’t enough to prove that he had an animus against these three people for their religion. This is an attempt to deflect guilt by those who have profited off of churning up hatred and contempt against Muslims since September 2001. The fact is that Hicks was able to murder these three people because he did not see them as human beings because of their faith.

Fascism did not die in 1945.

Power and Privilege: The missing element of our Charlie Hebdo debate.

The concept of privilege — whereby one gains certain benefits due to their membership in a sociological group that has a measure of power — is one that has been hard to talk about in recent years. Too often, the concept has been hijacked by those who use it to shut down discussion and tar people that they find disagreement with. Even when it is not being used to that effect, you can peruse sites like Identities.Mic and see the most base and childish discussions of power and privilege imaginable. Take this article by Derrick Clifton, which assumes that no one cares about the bombing of a NAACP office in Colorado because it is not wall-to-wall coverage….on the same day that a shooting kills twelve people at a newspaper office.

Given the aforementioned example of the simplemindedness that accompanies many online discussions of privilege and power, it is somewhat understandable that leftists have avoided a discussion on privilege when it comes to Charlie Hebdo and the shooting that killed 12 of its writing staff. Many of the debates have centered around issues of free speech, the possibly bigoted nature of some of its attempts at satire, and whether satire should be given wide berth to offend in the pursuit of making people think. These topics seem actionable to a degree, and offer a measure of possibility when it comes to political action. Because contemporary discussions of privilege are so badly broken and given to unsightly episodes of social justice performance, it seems that it would be for the better to just ignore the discussion altogether.

But without the consideration of privilege and power, any conversation about this situation will be incomplete.

Serially Wrong: Examining the ridiculous identitarian backlash to Serial.

(This has spoilers. Obviously. If you are nitpicky about that kind of thing, probably best not to read this just yet.)

MAJOR CONFESSION HERE: I like Serial. I think that it is, without question, one of the best podcasts I’ve listened to in recent memory.

I am not alone in that, and I think there’s two big reasons why that is: drama by the ton and great storytelling. Additionally, it has something for everybody: people who enjoy the hardcore sleuthing can find communities of people dedicated to sifting through the evidence and drawing conclusions on their own; casual listeners can let Sarah Koenig, the journalist relaying the story, do all the work and listen in while she ruminates, agonizes, and waffles over every piece of evidence that she and her team uncovers. Koenig is a key part of the story not simply because we are seeing all of this through her eyes, but because she does not allow herself to be edited into some perfect figure who is “just about the facts, ma’am”. There are moments where her naïveté gets completely blown up, and she just sits back and says, “damn, I really screwed up on that one”.

It is a complete story and podcast, even if it is not perfect. But what does perfection look like when you are revisiting a fifteen-year old murder where the individuals who are involved are still alive and actively dealing with those memories…and their consequences? How do you tell a perfect story about a murder when the victim’s family refuses to be a part of the production? And most importantly, how do you tell a perfect story about a judicial process that was far from that standard? The defense did not interview key alibis in addition to engaging in some of the most unhelpful cross-examination I have ever heard, and the prosecution and police force put together a case that relied on barely tenuous evidence and racial priming against this seventeen-year old kid from an immigrant community. Where can you make a perfect story out of all that?

And yet, Serial still manages to tell a very compelling story about teenagers who were caught up (justly or unjustly, depending on your view of Adnan Syed) in a horrific murder, in a city that is no stranger to that particular crime, be it real or fiction. But in a world where instant reaction to incomplete events and social media-driven journalism has become the rule rather than the exception, the backlash was bound to come eventually.

I just thought that it would be more….substantive.