“What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?”
A massacre of 49 people at two New Zealand mosques on Friday was instantly politicized by American culture warriors, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez taking the lead.
The freshman New York Democrat reacted to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s condemnation of the terrorist attack as “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.” Speaking on behalf of all New Zealanders in a TV press conference, Ardern said her “thoughts” were with those affected by the shootings.
Ocasio-Cortez was apparently reminded of calls for “thoughts and prayers” by the National Rifle Association and others following previous mass shootings. The phrase has become anathema to gun-control advocates.
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“At 1st I thought of saying, ‘Imagine being told your house of faith isn’t safe anymore. But I couldn’t say ‘imagine,'” she wrote, listing other recent mass shootings as houses of worship. “What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?”
At 1st I thought of saying, “Imagine being told your house of faith isn’t safe anymore.”
But I couldn’t say “imagine.”
Because of Charleston.
What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?pic.twitter.com/2mSw0azDN8
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 15, 2019
Ocasio-Cortez later said she was not criticizing Ardern – whom she said “I greatly admire” – but rather “the NRA’s phrase used to deflect conversation away from policy change during tragedies.”
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Many Twitter users were appalled by what they saw as the superstar liberal congresswoman’s dismissal of religious faith in the immediate aftermath of an attack on Muslim worshippers. Conservatives were especially fed up with her anti-conservative rhetoric.
Commentator Stephen Miller called the tweet “the single dumbest fucking nuclear take I’ve ever seen on this website. Ever.”
Saying thoughts and prayers do nothing in the immediate aftermath of people murdered while **praying** in their house of worship is the single dumbest fucking nuclear take I’ve ever seen on this website. Ever.
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) March 15, 2019
John Gabriel, the editor-in-chief of the conservative website Ricochet, simply replied: “Prayer is the reason for houses of worship.”
Prayer is the reason for places of worship.
— jon gabriel (@exjon) March 15, 2019
Washington Examiner reporter Jerry Dunleavy said people of all faiths were praying for “our Muslim brothers & sisters.”
Lots of people — Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims — are lifting our Muslim brothers & sisters up in prayer tonight.
We’re praying for the victims & their families and are praying for the strength to make a better world.
Prayer is good. https://t.co/IDQJClc5AG
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) March 15, 2019
Influencer Caleb Hull called Ocasio-Cortez “disgusting” and “human garbage” in a round of angry tweets.
AOC is garbage. Human garbage. There is no excuse for this tweet.
— Caleb Hull (@CalebJHull) March 15, 2019
Others rejected the congresswoman’s apparent attempt to link the shootings to gun control, which may have been inspired by New Zealand’s relaxed gun laws.
Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez on mosque shootings: ‘Prayers’ worthless, gun control needed – https://t.co/WM8eFh03XP – @washtimes Socialists and leftists like Ocasio-Cortez like to pretend they can regulate away violence by cracking down on gun ownership. But it’s all a lie.
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) March 15, 2019
In the morning U.S. time, Ocasio-Cortez joined Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, in tying President Donald Trump to the shootings and previous white supremacist attacks.
All of these are terrorist incidents.
We have a responsibility to understand how white supremacy + online radicalization works, because it is impacting our entire society.
President Trump defunded Federal programs designed to fight the spread of white supremacist hate groups. https://t.co/7WgC65f5Fp
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 15, 2019
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A suspected perpetrator of the massacre seemed well-versed in U.S., internet politics, and intent on inflaming them. In a gruesome Facebook livestream of one of the shootings, which has since been removed, the gunman urged viewers: “Subscribe to PewDiePie” – the alias of Felix Kjellberg, a popular and provocative YouTuber.
Before the shooting, someone appearing to be the gunman posted links to a white-nationalist manifesto on Twitter and 8chan, an online forum known for far-right-wing discussions. In the 87-page document, which is steeped in sarcasm and irony, he said he had chosen to carry out the attack with firearms to further divide Americans over guns.
He also listed his white nationalist heroes and said: “The person who has influenced me above all was Candace Owens,” a right-wing pundit.
American partisans predictably picked-up on the references, with some liberals trying to make hay out of them, and conservatives objecting.
PewDiePie tweeted that he was “sickened” to have been mentioned by the gunman and said his “heart and thoughts go out to the victims.” Owens lashed out at her left-wing critics in a series of tweets, saying: “Racist white liberals are on the hunt trying to lynch another black conservative tonight.”
Her response, and use of a laughing emoji, were criticized even by some of her defenders.
Which is not to say that LOL and laughing emojis is the correct response on her part.
— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) March 15, 2019
Parkland shooting survivor and gun rights supporter Kyle Kashuv rejected attempts to blame PewDiePie along with conservative pundit Ben Shapiro for the shootings, telling one activist: “Shut the hell up.”
Shut the hell up. Tens of innocent people were just murdered and your primary concern is dragging Ben and Felix. You spineless coward. Disgusting. https://t.co/1Af4IcCQb0
— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) March 15, 2019
Conservative activist Michael Knowles was among a number of commentators to suggest that anyone trying to tar Owens with the shootings was playing into the gunman’s hands.
If you are currently attacking Candace Owens for having been mentioned in the shooter's manifesto, you almost certainly did not read the manifesto and are doing precisely what the shooter hoped and predicted you would do.
— Michael "Pedro" Knowles (@michaeljknowles) March 15, 2019
Meanwhile, New Zealand police said that four people – three men and one woman – had been taken into custody over the shootings. Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia said that one of them was Australian.
A man in his late 20s had been charged with murder and would appear in Christchurch court on Saturday morning, according to New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush.
Arden said Friday was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and called the shootings a “terrorist attack.” She raised the national security threat to the second-highest level.
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