By way of an assault on the John Birch Society, the Southern Poverty Law Center has taken a shot at yours truly. Upon reading Don Terry’s, “Bringing Back Birch,” it became painfully obvious that the Center’s reputation for lousy marksmanship is richly deserved.
Equally obvious is that it is the ease with which it smears those who reject its far left ideology that accounts for why, despite its name, it has done nothing to help the poor. After all, before the SPLC can hope to ameliorate the poverty of others, it must first address its own intellectual and moral poverty.
Regardless of what Don Terry suggests, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the John Birch Society. Not unlike that of Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and others, my work appears in the JBS publication, The New American, when it coincides with the magazine’s conservative and libertarian thrusts. Had Terry done his due diligence, he would have discovered that I write for various publications.
This, though, is neither here nor there. What matters most is Terry’s treatment of my article, “‘Root Causes’ and Mass Murderer Adam Lanza,” a piece that appeared in The New American (and elsewhere) in the days following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.
According to Terry, in this essay I “bemoaned the fact that the absence of meaningful gun control was widely discussed in the aftermath of the mass shootings [sic?]” while “the ‘root causes’ of too many abortions and too few executions in the United States” wasn’t discussed at all. This is bad enough, Terry thinks, but just when it didn’t seem that things could get any worse, “Kerwick turned to Lanza’s race and gender.”
Terry quotes the following lines from my article: “From ‘affirmative action’ to massive Third World immigration, from media depictions of white men as either ignoramuses or crazed ‘racists’ to the incessant barrage of giddy proclamations of an ever-diminishing white America, the assault on white men is comprehensive.”
He continues quoting me: “Is it impossible to believe that a young white man such as Lanza, who has been exposed to this systematic abuse his entire life, may not have been consumed with both self-hatred and rage? For that matter, may not his cultural animus toward whites have figured in Lanza’s choice to leave a trail (judging from news photos) of mostly white bodies?”
Terry contends that if the JBS continues to publish pieces like mine, it will once “again be nudged towards the basement”—i.e. irrelevancy. And even though he admits that near the end the article “Kerwick swears he’s being facetious,” he dismisses this as “a lame attempt” on my part “that sounds painfully like the old John Birch Society.”
There’s pain here alright, but it stems from the spectacle of Terry’s cognitive and ethical limitations conspiring to render insurmountable to him the task of following a simple train of thought ranging over a meager 800 words or so.
For starters, anyone who looks at just the headline of my article for more than ten seconds should suspect that I am not really interested in identifying “the root causes” of Lanza’s killing spree (or anything else for that matter). Not only do I place “root causes” in quotation marks. By referring to Lanza as a “mass murderer,” I call him out for the agent of evil that he was. And these specifics of the title set the tone for what follows.
The application of the concept of “root causes” to any moral phenomenon arises from a confusion of categories. Causes act upon matter—inert, mindless matter. Scientists study causes. Moral agents, in contrast, act on reasons. There are no causes when life is considered under the aspect of morality. Because a mass shooting is a morally significant act, it is wholly inappropriate, and offensive, really, to analyze it in terms of “root causes.” To exploit for it political gain by linking it to a “root cause”—like the alleged lack of “gun control”—that isn’t remotely connected with it is unconscionable.
I never “bemoaned” the fact that the “root cause” of the “absence of meaningful gun control was widely discussed” while “the root causes” of “too many abortions and too few executions” were not, as Terry says. If I can be said to have bemoaned anything, it is that there was talk—incessant talk—in the aftermath of Sandy Hook about “root causes” at all.
Yet it is true that I also wanted to expose the sheer hypocrisy of the left.
By now it should be a foregone conclusion to anyone who knows the leftist that on any given issue, his search for “root causes” always ends up exactly where he begins: the only “root causes” that exist are those determined by his ideological prejudices. It is only for the sake of establishing this point that I mentioned “the root causes” of “too many abortions,” “too few executions,” and the race and gender oppression that I mockingly insinuated accounts for Adam Lanza’s murderous rampage.
Not to give Terry more credit than he deserves, but it is hard to believe that he doesn’t know that I really was being facetious. That it is more dishonesty than density of the intellect of which he is guilty is born out by Terry’s omission of a paragraph in my piece in which I identify Lanza’s Italian ethnicity as a possible “root cause” of his actions. I write:
“Then there is the matter of Lanza’s ethnicity. ‘Lanza’ is an Italian surname, and Italians and Italian-Americans are routinely portrayed as Mafioso and other violent thugs in the popular media.
“Maybe Lanza incorporated this image into his own self-understanding. Maybe this is why he chose to go on a shooting spree.”
No one—including Don Terry—believes that an Italian-American brought up reading Mario Puzo novels and watching Martin Scorcese gangster films is going to be prompted to shoot down a bunch of young innocent kids. This stuff happens neither in real life nor in the gangster genre.
Incidentally, I mention the rise of atheism as a potential “root cause.” I suppose it is because this doesn’t fit in too nicely with Terry’s spin that he omits this as well.
In any event, most distressing about reading the SPLC’s hit piece is being reminded that the vices of which it is guilty transcend political differences.
Terry quotes a former editor of The New American who was fired from his post back in 2006. According to Terry, William Grigg “became so angry that Kerwick’s commentary appeared” in his old magazine. Grigg is reported to have said: “It is incomprehensible to me…that JBS would run such a specimen of ethnic grievance-mongering anytime—let alone in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity at Sandy Hook Elementary.”
This has been my point: far from engaging in “ethnic grievance-mongering,” in ridiculing “root causes,” including and especially the “root cause” of race, I sought to undermine it.
Let me close here with the final paragraphs from the essay that has Terry and Grigg waxing indignant. There is a reason that it wasn’t included in the SPLC’s brief against the Birchers: had Terry quoted it his case against me would’ve collapsed.
“Now for the punchline: I don’t for a moment believe that any of the foregoing ‘root causes’ are in the least relevant to Adam Lanza’s decision to gun down 20 little kids and six adults. Yet they have at least as much to do with it as does the lack of ‘gun control’ on which scores of leftists rushed to hang this abomination.
“Lanza was an evil man responsible for perpetrating an evil deed. As long as there are evil people in the world, evil will be with us.
“Maybe it is to the ‘root causes’ of why our generation fails to come to terms with this timeless fact to which we need to turn our attention.”
And maybe Terry, Grigg, and everyone else at the Southern Poverty Law Center should delve into the root causes of why they can’t seem to grasp any of this.