The fact that Von Brunn was a 9/11 "truther" who railed against capitalism, neocons and the Bush administration didn't matter. Nor did the glaring lack of evidence that Rove et al. ever showed antipathy for the museum. It was simply obvious that Von Brunn was the offspring of the "right-wing extremism (that) is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment," wrote columnist Paul Krugman.
If only Hasan were a fan of Glenn Beck!
President Obama was right when he said, in the hours after the shooting, that people shouldn't "jump to conclusions" (a lesson he might have learned when he jumped to the wrong conclusion about a white cop who arrested Henry Louis Gates, a black Harvard professor). But just as we should not jump to conclusions, we shouldn't jump away from them.
Despite reports that Hasan had shouted "Allahu Akbar" as he opened fire, MSNBC's Chris Matthews insisted that "we may never know if religion was a factor at Fort Hood." Thursday night, NBC and CBS declined to mention that Hasan is a Muslim. Meanwhile, ABC's Martha Raddatz's reporting on the subject reflected a yearning for denial: "As for the suspect, Nadal Hasan, as one officer's wife told me, 'I wish his name was Smith.'"
We have a real problem when much of the political and journalistic establishment is eager to jump to the conclusion that peaceful political opponents are in league with violent extremists, but is terrified to consider the possibility that violent extremists really are violent extremists if doing so means calling attention to the fact that they are Muslims.
I am more sympathetic toward this reluctance to state the truth of the matter than are some of my colleagues on the right. There is a powerful case to be made that Islamic extremism is not some fringe phenomenon but part of the mainstream of Islamic life around the world. And yet, to work from that assumption might make the assumption all the more self-fulfilling. If we act as if "Islam is the problem," as some say, we will guarantee that Islam will become the problem. But outright denial, like we are seeing today, is surely not the beginning of wisdom either.
I have no remedy for the challenge we face. But I do take some solace in George Orwell's observation that "to see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."
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