Point counterpoint: who’s to blame for the Pittsburgh shooting?


Photo credit to Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv

President Trump on his visit to Jerusalem in 2017. Many have accused the president of inspiring radical conservatives to carry out acts of terror.

Point – Julia Hananel

Anti-Semitic acts in the United States have surged since 2016, and it’s no coincidence: our president, time and time again, does practically nothing to discourage racism and anti-Semitism. In the two years President Trump has been in office, his words have powered a hateful environment that promotes acts of violence, such as the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and the mailing of pipe bombs to prominent Democrats.

The president of the United States is the face of the nation. The words used by the president matter because the entire nation is listening. It’s a slap in the face when the president calls himself a “nationalist,” a term associated with white supremacy. Trump calls out “globalists,” a word used by anti-Semitic groups who claim Jews want to control the world. Anti-Semites and racists love to hear these buzzwords, especially from someone as powerful as the president. When Trump uses these phrases, they eat them up.

Trump stated that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville protests, when a neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd of people protesting a white supremacy rally.  A comment like this sends a green light to racists.

Shortly after Trump called white supremacists “fine people,” The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist publication, praised him: “Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us,” the blog wrote.

In many cases, Trump rarely denounces racism unless he is shamed into doing so. And when he does, it’s with extreme reluctance. Hate groups such as the KKK are aware of Trump’s lenient attitude toward white supremacy, which encourages the groups’ support for Trump. David Duke, a former KKK leader, tweeted his gratitude in response to Trump’s Charlottesville comments.

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM [Black Lives Matter]/Antifa,” Duke said.

One thing is clear: the reason Trump won’t condemn white nationalism is because he would disappoint the many racists who support him. This goes to show that Trump doesn’t care who he gains support from — whether it be Neo-nazis, the KKK or any other heinous groups.

This rhetoric even seeped into the recent midterm elections, when there was a dramatic increase in campaign ads containing anti-Semitic themes. Several Republican attack ads depicted their Jewish opponents holding up wads of cash, including Democrats such as Chuck Schumer, Kim Schrier, and Josh Lowenthal. These ads played into an age-old stereotype of Jews as greedy people who are obsessed with money.

It’s incredulous that any president would say nothing about anti-Semitism, especially coming from their own party. The fact that Trump has remained silent on this front speaks volumes.

That being said, in a country where the atmosphere increasingly fuels hatred, is it any wonder that the deadliest crime against Jews in American history happened on Donald Trump’s watch?

His efforts to appear pro-Israel seem calculated to win over Jewish supporters in America. However, having pro-Israel foreign policy shouldn’t be enough for Jews to forgive Trump’s courting of groups that are blatantly anti-Semitic. It certainly doesn’t absolve him from blame for the Pittsburgh shooting. If anything, the fact that Trump seeks out support from both Jews and anti-Semites should be a red flag, deeming him even more untrustworthy.

As the nation begins to heal from the wounds of the Pittsburgh tragedy, we must reflect not only on the lives lost, but also consider the driving forces that gave rise to this violence. 


Counterpoint – Ian Rees 

From the early days of President Trump’s campaign to this week’s mid-terms, fiery rhetoric at rallies and on Twitter has been of standard operating procedure to the president. Many on the left have claimed Trump has “blood on his hands” and should be held responsible for the recent Tree of Life massacre and the pipe bombs that were sent to a multitude of prominent Democrats: the latest spike in American domestic terrorism.

To begin, stating that Trump directly has “blood on his hands” and should be blamed for these acts of terror is absurd and plainly a false perception. The president has never called for violence and is not directly responsible for the actions of these domestic terrorists. Though Trump cannot be directly blamed, he certainly plays a role in motivating radicals to carry out attacks. Trump’s not the only politician to play a role in motivating these radicals.

I believe the fervent distaste each side of the political aisle has for each other has fostered a level of discourse so low, that psychopath radicals feel as though they legitimately aren’t nutjobs; resulting in the uptick of domestic terrorism we’ve seen the past couple years. These psychos hail from the radical ideologies that are harvested in the deep abyss of political accounts on social media; where carrying out violence against the opposition is applauded and noble.

How did the discourse get to this low of a level? President Trump’s aggressive rhetoric has certainly played a role in this shift in discourse. The President has labeled the mainstream media the enemy of the people, dramatically claims the caravan of migrants heading towards the border are a threat to national security, name-calls those who oppose him politically and even failed to initially condemn the white supremacists rallying in Charlottesville in 2017.

This talk unquestionably emboldens right-wing radicals; but is it the only factor that goes into the reasoning and motives behind this recent slew of domestic acts of terror? I don’t believe so. Contrary to the belief of most Democrats, they too play a role in the shift in discourse. Democrats typically respond to the President’s explosive statements with their own explosive statements. Prominent Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters has spewed Trump-caliber rhetoric for years, while Hillary Clinton repeatedly called Trump supporters “deplorable”  and “backwards.”

General fear-mongering tactics including the “sky is falling” and “Trump is a fascist” were broken out by the left when Trump won in 2016. Just as President Trump has riled up the far-right, prominent Democrats have riled up the far-left. Just as the right has shifted further right, the left has shifted even further left. The Democrats’ base wants to nominate avowed socialists to take on the conservatives they view as the enemy. President Trump may endlessly add fuel to the far-right’s fire, but Democrats responding with similar fuel puts them at the same level as the President. The far-right and far-left feed off each other’s anger and as their anger for each other grows, they both become stronger.

It takes faults from both sides to maintain this radical ecosystem that works symbiotically; it’s not a coincidence that as white supremacy has grown, the presence and violence of ANTIFA has too. Just as the far-right white supremacists have become stronger in force, the far-left ANTIFA have done the same. President Trump certainly needs to be held to a level of accountability for his words, and frankly recognize the disastrous consequences his rhetoric can result in. Democrats and the left as a whole need to also recognize the disastrous consequences that come from their words and political endorsements.