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According to Vox, we should “Stop asking Muslims to condemn terrorism. It’s bigoted and Islamophobic.”
There’s a certain ritual that each and every one of the world’s billion–plus Muslims, especially those living in Western countries, is expected to go through immediately following any incident of violence involving a Muslim perpetrator. … Here is what Muslims and Muslim organizations are expected to say: “As a Muslim, I condemn this attack and terrorism in any form.” This expectation we place on Muslims, to be absolutely clear, is Islamophobic and bigoted. The denunciation is a form of apology: an apology for Islam and for Muslims. The implication is that every Muslim is under suspicion of being sympathetic to terrorism unless he or she explicitly says otherwise. … This sort of thinking — blaming an entire group for the actions of a few individuals, assuming the worst about a person just because of their identity — is the very definition of bigotry. … we should treat the assumptions that compel this ritual — that Muslims bear collective responsibility … as flatly bigoted ideas with no place in our society. There is no legitimate reason for Muslim groups to need to condemn the monsters who attacked Charlie Hebdo….
A Muslimah at the Peace and Collaborative Development Network, in an article titled I’m Sorry I Won’t Internalize Collective Responsibility, concurs:
While politicians and Islamophobes alike continue to pressure the Muslim community into nonsensical apologies based on a homogenized identity, many Muslims have, unfortunately, internalized the narrative of collective responsibility, leading them to issue condemnations of acts of violence and terrorism based only on the fact that we share one piece of our identity. Coupled with the ever present voice of those calling for Muslims to speak out against Muslim terrorists, those who have stepped up to this plate, have not presented a counter–narrative as they purport, but rather an internalization of the dominant narrative where Muslims are guilty until proven innocent.
Nevermind if polling frequently finds legitimate reason for concern—nevermind if 2007 Pew research finds that amongst American Muslims under the age of 30, 26% believe that suicide bombings can be justified, while 27% “decline to express an opinion” when asked how they view al–Qaeda (with an additional 5% viewing them somewhat, or very, favorably). Nevermind if in the UK, 78% of Muslims think anyone who publishes cartoons of Muhammad should be prosecuted and 62% explicitly oppose the very principle of freedom of speech.
In the most recent Pew research of worldwide Muslim support for suicide bombings, Jay Michaelson writes that: “There are approximately 1,083,021,825 Muslims in the 21 countries they polled—68% of the global total. Based on the country–by–country percentages in the Pew report, that means about 133 million support the suicide bombing or other forms of violence against civilians. Extrapolating the data—which is probably inaccurate since American and European Muslims probably support violence significantly less, while Iranian Muslims may support it more—that means about 195 million Muslims worldwide support suicide bombing and other acts of violence against civilians.”
Despite every bit of this, the default position of the left is that to even expect mainstream Muslims to denounce violence is bigotry. A tolerated and respected position along that spectrum is that it caves in to that bigotry even for well–meaning Muslims to denounce violence with sincere intentions, and this should stop. Most leftists would say that a far more pressing concern when it comes to our response to acts of terrorism committed by Muslims should be to see to it that acts or even mere attitudes of retaliation do not form against other innocent Muslims in response.
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I’m not trying to raise alarmist panic about Islam; but here’s the point: if we replace al–Qaeda with Stormfront, and we replace Muslims with white people, what above represents the “anti–racist” orthodoxy becomes something we would not expect to read anywhere outside of white supremacy circles. What we’re morally required to say about violent Muslim is what we’re morally prohibited from saying about violent whites, and what we’re morally required to say about violent whites is what we’re morally prohibited from saying about Muslims.
Imagine how the results would be reported if a full 26% of young white Americans polled believed that knowingly killing innocent black civilians in the process of responding to black criminal violence could sometimes be justified—say, by police deliberately bombing an entire housing project to take out a black killer instead of doing their best to apprehend the perpetrator alone—could sometimes be justified. Imagine how the results would be reported if a full 27% “declined to express an opinion” about major neo–Nazi groups, with a further 5% having somewhat or very favorable views. Would the media be praising the tolerance of white Americans in contrast to, say, white South Africans if it was found that 81% of white Americans said that attacks on innocent civilians in defense of Christianity were never justified—whereas nearly 1 in 5 failed, for one reason or another, to agree with this—in contrast to only 72% of white South Africans?
If you were to see someone making the following statement, who would you peg them to be? What would you assume to be the ideological position they were arguing from?: “Many white people have, unfortunately, internalized the narrative of white America’s collective responsibility for acts like those committed by Dylann Roof, leading them to issue condemnations of acts of violence and terrorism based only on the fact that we share one piece of our identity. There’s a certain ritual of apology that white people are expected to go through immediately following any incident of racist violence against black victims involving a white perpetrator. … This expectation we place on white people, to be absolutely clear, is anti–white bigotry. The denunciation is a form of apology: an apology for being white. The implication is that every white person is under suspicion of being sympathetic to racist violence unless he or she explicitly says otherwise.” Where would you expect to see comments like these supported and condoned? Stormfront? American Rennaisance? Rush Limbaugh, at the very least?
But even the conservatives at Breitbart.com had no difficulty calling Dylann Roof “pure evil.”
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Yet, in contrast to all this, a simple search for the words “white responsibility Dylann Roof” gives me as a top result the following article from Psychology Today: “To admit that I’m white like Roof is to feel guilty …. But guilt is not enough. Nor are apologies. … Perhaps most painfully, it means doing the hard work of taking responsibility for Dylann Roof’s whiteness because he is white like me.” An article posted at Salon and Alternet sends a similar message—the opening words of the article’s title: White America is Complicit. The article begins: “In so many ways, the story of Dylann Roof, the shooting suspect who allegedly killed nine people in an historic South Carolina black church, is a parallel to the story of America itself.”
What would we call it if someone said, “The story of [pick any Muslim terrorist] is a parallel to the violent story of how Muhammad founded the religion of Islam itself?” Oh, right—that would be Islamophobia. Much less if that same writer continued—as the author of the Alternet piece does—to say: “But [the Islamic terrorist] is more honest than those—and there are so many—whose complicity lies in looking the other way, in denying [the history of Islam], in pretending that each new [Islamic act of violence] is an isolated anomaly.” That would be Islamophobia to the extreme.
With a nod to Aurelius Pundit, this image captures the hypocrisy rather succinctly:
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That Alternet article addresses a prevalent sentiment when it complains that “the cops were careful to take him alive, which even the most innocent of black folks cannot count on.” Not only that—but they even gave him a bulletproof vest.
And the claims generated on the witch hunt to find “white privilege” keep getting worse: this photo made the rounds on Twitter, with the caption: “white privilege is murdering 9 people and then having the police give you a bullet proof vest but not handcuffs.”
Nevermind the fact that it’s clearly the left arm of the man behind Dylann in the top–left photo hanging free, not Dylann’s, apparently giving anyone the impression that his hands were free. Nevermind that in the thirty seconds it takes to load Google and type in Dylann’s name, any photo that gives you a view of his side, back, or legs would show clearly that he was both handcuffed and cuffed around the ankles:
History lesson: in October of 2002, 42–year old convicted murderer and Nation of Islam member John Allen Muhammad and his 17–year–old partner Lee Boyd Malvo planned to kill six white people per day “to terrorize the nation”, including plans to bomb school buses and children’s hospitals: “He wanted to kill a policeman, then set off a bomb at his funeral.” Over the course of three weeks, ten people were killed and three more were critically injured.
Guess what it looked like when Lee Boyd Malvo was captured by police:
No heads are cracking and no guns are being pointed at anyone in this picture.
That white thing? Yeah, that’s a bulletproof vest.
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One of the more pernicious myths—pernicious because it tries to discredit a really serious issue through its dishonesty in trying to make the issue all about race—is that we only talk about mental illness when a killer is white. This article from Alternet, for example, was titled: “It’s Not About Mental Illness: The Big Lie That Always Follows Mass Shootings By White Males.” Always—nevermind that the article doesn’t quote a single person who claimed Dylann Roof was mentally ill so we can judge what they actually said for ourselves. For my part, I can’t actually remember hearing this claim happen once until I heard sources like Mr. Chu here raving about how we “always” do it. And after asking around, I can’t find anyone else I know, even amongst my many politically oriented friends, who heard anyone dismiss Roof as “mentally ill” either. Let’s just push that to the side—I’m sure somebody said it. (Right? Sure. Whatever.)
Alright, … well, it’s time for a few more history lessons.
In 1993, Nathan Dunlap gunned down 5 people in a Chuck E. Cheese’s in Colorado to “get even” after he was fired for declining to work extra hours. The Colorado Observer tells us that “In their clemency petition, they contend that Dunlap … had undiagnosed bipolar disorder and was experiencing his first mania episode the night of Dec. 14, 1993 … ” when he opened fire. A CBS News article on “Mass Shootings and Mental Illness” discusses “Colin Ferguson [who, in 1993] killed six commuters on a New York Train.” In 2009, Maurice Clemmons murdered four police officers and continued to evade capture for two further days—“the largest number of law enforcement officers killed by one man in a single incident in U.S. history”. The Huffington Post published an article titled: “Maurice Clemmons: Mental Illness Does Cause Violence”.
At The Washington Post, we see that “Muhammad’s [the DC sniper’s] attorneys had argued that the sniper is mentally ill and that he should have been granted a competency hearing before his trial, at which he represented himself briefly.” And The Associated Press published the following headline about his accomplice: “Psychologist: Malvo Has Mental Disease.” In fact, Malvo was spared the death penalty for his part in the racist rampage because of that presumed mental disease (dissociative disorder from brainwashing). Lest I sound wholly unsympathetic to that judgment, I note that even after conviction, Malvo continued expressing what appeared to be genuine remorse for the impact that Muhammad had had on him, making genuine calls to and letters for his past victims—so it appears this may well have been the right call.
Most telling of all, the argument here is really that white racists only want to talk about mental illness when a killer is white—as a disingenuous way of humanizing them, simply because of sympathy due to the fact that they’re white—so take a look at what the white conservatives at The American Thinker did here. Guess what? When a black guy published a manifesto and went out killing, they talked about the impacts of mental illness and the consequences of psychotropic drugs! So much for that racial double standard. Even the white conservative troglodytes you’d expect to be its worst offenders aren’t guilty of it.
You may remember the rampage that began in February of 2013 when a black ex–cop, Christopher Dorner, declared “unconventional and asymmetric warfare” on the LAPD in response to his firing from the department. As one of his first actions, he shot Monica Quan and her fiancé Keith Lawrence in the parking garage of their condominium simply because Monica was the daughter of Randal Quan, who had represented him at the hearing where he reported Theresa Evans for an alleged case of excessive force—even though Randal had opposed his firing. Large numbers of leftists found this “kind of exciting,” as did the Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Columbia University, Marc Lamont Hill, when he said “he’s been like a real–life superhero to many people. … many people aren’t rooting for him to kill innocent people; they’re rooting for someone who was wronged to get a kind of revenge against the system. It’s almost like watching ‘Django Unchained’ in real life.”
Nevermind that Dorner’s ex–girlfriend described him as “twisted” and “super paranoid” in a posting at “DontDateHimGirl.com,” to which Dorner unsuccessfully tried to file a restraining order against her, or that the female officer Dorner claimed had used excessive force had submitted a performance review stating he needed improvement the literal day before he made the charge of excessive force, or that none of the three hotel employees who witnessed most of the event saw Evans kick the suspect in question, as Dorner had claimed—the evidence here was, at the very least, ambiguous.
It’s not as if Hill was alone in his sentiment. A number of much larger pages were shut down on Facebook in February 2013—for example, see the broken link in the third paragraph of this 2013 article—but one of the largest ones still has over 17,000 fans. The I Support Christopher Dorner page, with more than 14,000 fans, was started by someone who, according to The Huffington Post, wanted to steer the conversation away from Dorner’s mental health: “I knew that the media was going to turn this into just another ‘He’s a psycho ex–cop ex–military that went insane’ story… There is a huge underlying story of police corruption and the plight of a man that tried his best to do good and was relentlessly punished for it.”
So, talking about mental illness is a despicable way to humanize white killers, and only white killers, by making us sympathize with their plight and personal struggles, and we only do this for white killers because we’re racists who only humanize whites—except when we do it for non–white killers, in which case we’re simply dismissing non–white killers’ valid grievances … because we are, once again, racists no matter what.
Incidentally, the word “terrorism” wasn’t applied to Dorner’s spree until it had gone a full ten days in. Similarly, when Muslim U.S. Army psychiatrist Nidal Hassan, who opposed our involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, killed 13 people and injured 30 more after extended contact with Anwar al–Awlaki, the U.S. government classified this not as “terrorism” but instead as an act of “workplace violence.” Perhaps there are reasons other than race that explain why some acts of violence are called “terrorism” and not others?
In 2010, a 43–year–old Asian man named James Lee entered the Discovery Channel building and proceeded to take hostages, carrying a handgun and wearing what he wanted observers to believe was an explosive device. His motives were revealed in a manifesto originally posted at SaveThePlanetProtest.com: “The Discovery Channel and it’s affiliate channels MUST have daily television programs at prime time slots … on how people can live WITHOUT giving birth to more filthy human children since those new additions continue pollution and are pollution. … Broadcast this message until the pollution in the planet is reversed and the human population goes down! This is your obligation. If you think it isn’t, then get hell off the planet! Breathe Oil! … Find solutions so that people stop breeding as well as stopping using Oil in order to REVERSE Global warming and the destruction of the planet! … Saving the Planet means saving what’s left of the non-human Wildlife by decreasing the Human population. … For every human born, ACRES of wildlife forests must be turned into farmland in order to feed that new addition over the course of 60 to 100 YEARS of that new human’s lifespan! THIS IS AT THE EXPENSE OF THE FOREST CREATURES!!!! All human procreation and farming must cease!”
Despite the obvious ideology of Lee’s manifesto, it’s safe to say no one should hold their breath waiting on the mainstream media, or Alternet or Salon, to pin even any partial blame for Lee’s action on people like Al Gore, or extreme predictions like his 2007 statement that the polar icecaps would be completely melted by 2013, a prediction which “if anything … is already too conservative.” (In fact, that prediction that was “proven to be off… by 920,000 square miles”; 2013 blew away the record for icecap growth). Suddenly, the same people raving that talking about mental illness is just a disingenuous “way to avoid saying other terms like ‘toxic masculinity’” will realize that it’s perfectly sensible to think Lee might have been both mentally unstable and influenced by environmentalist rhetoric to go to this extreme because he was hearing and interpreting all of it through a mental state that was imbalanced to begin with.
Sane people, they may perfectly well suddenly see the sensibility of telling us, don’t think holding hostages in a Discovery Channel office is a proper way to deal with global warming, pollution, and wildlife extinction, even if everything Lee said about them was correct. Suddenly, someone taking extreme actions in part due to mental illness, and latching on to a political ideology at the same time, don’t seem so mutually exclusive. The vast majority of people who care about wildlife extinction or consider pollution a serious issue still don’t go holding hostages at news stations. The vast majority of people who believe the trial against George Zimmerman was a politically motivated farce or believe double standards are expressed when the media spends months on end searching and distorting every possible aspect of this case for racism that turned out to be nonexistent (see below) while downplaying or ignoring countless more cases of black–on–white violence over the same period of time still don’t think trying to initiate an all–out “race war” is a good idea. What makes the people who do these things, in either case, different? Mental illness is one perfectly reasonable possibility.
On February 10, 2015, a white man in Chapel Hill, North Carolina walked into the home of three Syrian– and Jordanian–Americans, killing them execution–style. A few early reports claimed in haste that the man, Craig Stephen Hicks, was a “Christian terrorist.” In fact, Hicks turned out to be not only an atheist whose Facebook profile photo was the LGBT–themed “Atheists for Equality” and whose Facebook cover photo pronounced in bold letters his “ANTI–THEISM,” but a long–standing fan of progressive causes ranging from “HuffPost Black Voices” to “Forward Progressives” to “The Atheist Empathy Campaign,” to Rachel Maddow and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
How did the writers at Alternet respond? By stating that, that while many have “portrayed Hicks as a liberal, by reporting his Facebook likes included Rachel Maddow, gay marriage groups, Neil deGrasse Tyson and others … that relabeling is absurd on many levels, because Hicks appears to fit the psychological profile of violent extremists—regardless of their ideological stripes….” Once again: suddenly the fact that violent extremists might fit a certain psychological profile regardless of their ideological stripes isn’t so foreign to progressives.
Meanwhile, searching Google for the words “Craig Stephen Hicks mental illness” returns a mere fourteen pages of results, most of which note that Hicks’ ex–wife believed he had a mental illness (video) and add that his current wife’s divorce attorney observed that it’s obviously “not within the range of normal behavior for someone to shoot three people over parking issues,” and the rest of which either pick the terms up across unrelated articles or catch comments like one Sheikh Muhammad Arslan’s at Buzzfeed: “This douche–bag can’t get away with it because he has a “’mental illness”’ and “’issues in his oh-so-difficult life” etc.” Where in God’s name is this epidemic of white people justifying white violence by excusing it as mental illness?!
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As happens so often, the author of the Salon piece’s interest in race isn’t merely misguided, it becomes so narrowly overemphasized that it overshadows the truth about other, highly important questions. The author writes: ““The real issue is mental illness” is a goddamn cop–out. I almost never hear it from actual mental health professionals, or advocates working in the mental health sphere, or anyone who actually has any kind of informed opinion on mental health….”
If Arthur Chu thinks mental illness is “a goddamn cop–out,” then Arthur Chu doesn’t know what he’s goddamn talking about. He worries that “the stigma of people who suffer from mental illness as scary, dangerous potential murderers hurts people every single day….” When most of us worry about mental illness in an event like this, we aren’t worrying about a diagnosis of dysthymia or social anxiety; we’re worried about extreme cases of things like psychosis and schizophrenia. And do you know who else hurts people every single day? Psychotics and schizophrenics.
A 2009 meta–analysis, “Psychosis as a risk factor for violence to others”, found that “compared with individuals with no mental disorders, people with psychosis seem to be at a substantially elevated risk for violence … [Psychosis is] significantly associated with a 49%–68% increase in the odds of violence.” A 2007 study, “Major Mental Disorders and Violence”, states that “recent longitudinal investigations reported … community violence related to [major medical disorders] … reaching 15% to 20%.” A 2010 study in Sweden, “Bipolar disorder and violent crime”, found that among 3700 individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder, 8.4% had committed at least one act of violence, compared to 3.5% of the general population. A 2009 study in the same area, “Schizophrenia, substance abuse, and violent crime”, found that the number for schizophrenics was 13.2% (although concurrent use of drugs accounted for some of this increase).
But a 2011 study, “Mental disorder and violence: is there a relationship beyond substance use?”, confirmed that “those with [serious mental illnesses], irrespective of substance abuse status, were significantly more likely to be violent than those with no mental or substance use disorders.” A British study published in 1998, “A ten-year follow-up of criminality in Stockholm mental patients”, found that 40% of people discharged from mental hospitals had a criminal record, compared to 10% of the general population. At the same time in Finland, “Schizophrenia, alcohol abuse, and violent behavior: a 26-year follow-up study of an unselected birth cohort” was published, finding that of over 11,000 men with schizophrenia followed for 26 years, those without alcoholism were 3.6 times more likely to commit a violent crime than a member of the general population, whereas schizophrenic alcoholics were a whopping 25.2 times more likely.
“The relationship of mental illness to homicide” found that 10% of all homicides that occurred in Contra Costa County in California between 1978–1980 had a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Another study, “Violence by people discharged from acute psychiatric inpatient facilities and by others in the same neighborhoods”, found that 17.4% of patients were violent in the 10 weeks prior to treatment, compared to 8.9% for the following 50 weeks after treatment. Do I still need to keep going? Are you wondering who these people are with “informed opinions on mental health” Arthur Chu apparently has so many conversations with yet?
Mental illness is a serious issue, and it does have a relationship with violence. Regardless whether it even bears any relevance to Roof’s particular case (and again, I haven’t seen even a single person seriously suggest that it did to begin with), that’s worth being aware of, and it’s worth keeping in mind, and it’s worth looking for evidence for. The “real problems” Chu thinks it distracts us away from are, of course, rooted in Chu’s own blinkered, partisan worldview which spins cosmological narratives out of the actions of Eliot Rodgers and Dylann Roof while conveniently forgetting about those of people like James Lee, Floyd Corkins, Karl Pierson, or the DC snipers—or even 44–year–old female Professor Amy Bishop who shot and killed six colleagues execution–style after she was denied tenure at the University of Alabama for erratic behavior and inadequate research (it later turned out that an incident previously ruled to have been an accident wasn’t: it turned out she had killed her 18–year–old brother with a shotgun when she was 21). Again, as Alternet itself knows, killers tend to fall into a particular “psychological profile … regardless of their ideological stripes … .”
Even Hugo Schwyzer, writing incorrectly about “Why Most Serial Killers Are Privileged White Men” (as I discuss later, in fact they are not), complains that “After Seung–Hui Cho killed 32 people in Blacksburg [at Virginia Tech], media attention focused on the likelihood that a Korean culture unwilling to acknowledge mental illness helped drive the young man to commit the worst mass murder in U.S. history.” Once again, when we do wonder about how mental illness impacted non–white killers, that’s because we’re racists who want to put them down, just like when we wonder about how mental illness impacted white killers, it’s because we’re racists who want to raise them up. Nevermind that the source Hugo references in the hyperlink in that sentence quotes … who’s that, again? “Dong Woo Seo, a physician at Han Byul Mental Hospital in Seoul”. Surely Hugo’s intention was to try to say something about white racial blindness, and not about what Korean physicians who treat mental illness think about how Korean culture treats mental illness?!
As the authors at The American Thinker wrote while discussing the rampage of the renegade black cop Christopher Dorner, “I’ve found that once you’ve restored your patients’ brains to healthy and normal functioning by following the diagnostic and treatment method outlined above, your patients will be doing very well without the psychobabble. People with healthy brains almost invariably find they no longer need to discuss their “issues.” It’s called the indomitable human spirit, and it’s present in every human I’ve ever treated whose brain function has been restored to normalcy….” Chu complains that “When you call someone “mentally ill” in this culture it’s a way to admonish people not to listen to them, to ignore what they say about their own actions and motivations …,” but isn’t that exactly what we should do if someone shoots up a government building and says they did it because the CIA has been following them and listening in through their microwave? Should we necessarily do that any less just because the conspiracy someone latches onto is (as in Chu’s example of John Nash) “International Jewry” instead of the CIA?
More troubling than the association between mental illness and violence is the association between mass shootings and specific psychopharmaceutical drugs—mostly the SSRIs prescribed to handle depression. As this article explains, “Moore and his collaborators extracted all serious events reports from the FDA’s database from 2004 through September 2009, and then identified 484 drugs that had triggered at least 200 case reports of serious adverse events (of any type) during that 69–month period. They then investigated to see if any of these 484 drugs had a “disproportionate” association with violence. They identified 31 such drugs, out of the 484, that met this criteria … [including] 11 antidepressants, 6 hypnotic/sedatives, and 3 drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Antidepressants were responsible for 572 case reports of violence toward others; the three ADHD drugs for 108; and the hypnotic/sedatives for 97.” The fact that some antidepressants, and not others, are associated with these adverse effects even while all produce relapse from depression renders highly implausible that the correlation happens just because people with violent intentions become more capable of acting them out once the drugs restore them to a higher level of functioning: the correlation is not between relapse from depression and violence, but between violence and particular drugs, regardless of how frequently they produce relapse from depression.
Of course, both mental illness and the adverse effects of pharmaceuticals may very well be irrelevant in the case of Dylann Roof. Maybe they aren’t: he was found with suboxone, and while links between suboxone and violent behavior haven’t (to my knowledge) even been studied, a number of anecdotal reports do suggest the possibility. More importantly, even if it is irrelevant in this particular case, granting that holding concern is a racist cop–out will blind us to one very real approach that really could actually save lives in other cases. If mental illness isn’t relevant to this particular case, then say it isn’t relevant to this particular case—but if you endorse the idiotic rule that even considering it is racist, then the next time mental illness actually is entirely relevant, we won’t notice, and we’ll fail to do something about it when it actually just might have saved a few damn lives, because we’ll be too busy censoring the supposed bigotry that it would represent had we kept an eye out for it.