Following Friday’s shooting at a Christchurch mosque in New Zealand, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez immediately took to Twitter to mock those sending thoughts and prayers. “At first I thought of saying, ‘Imagine being told your house of faith isn’t safe anymore.’ But I couldn’t say ‘imagine.’ Because of Charleston [church shooting]. Pittsburgh [synagogue shooting]. Sutherland Springs [church shooting],” she began. And then she concluded with the worst possible phrasing, asking; “What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?” Cortez knows her talking points, but apparently not what content to deploy them, as many of those shot dead in all the cases she referenced were killed while praying.
She clarified after facing some heat, “Thoughts and prayers is a reference to the NRA’s phrase used to deflect the conversation away from policy change during tragedies. Not directed to [New Zealand] PM Jacinda Ardern, who I greatly admire,” even though the NRA has no influence or real presence in New Zealand.
With comments like these, it’s no wonder that despite being a media darling (having received more press coverage than any freshmen Congressperson except Hillary Clinton), only 31% of people actually approve of AOC, compared to 39% for Trump, of whom 92% of media coverage is negative.
The following day, she responded to a tweet from Michael Skolnik that listed six terrorist attacks from white supremacists since 2014. For some content, there were ten Islamist terrorist attacks on January 1st, 2019 alone. “All of these are terrorist incidents,” Cortez correctly observed. “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.”
I was unaware that the federal government had funded programs designed to fight the spread of white supremacist groups, and after some research learned that the amount previously allocated to it amounted to less than what the government spends in a second. In their final days, the Obama administration awarded 31 grants through the Department of Homeland Security devoted towards fighting domestic extremism, totaling $10 million to 26 recipients. Most were devoted to fighting Islamic radicalism, but one grant for $400,000 was given to a group exclusively fighting white identity extremism, Life After Hate. According to the group’s mission, they aim to “help people leave hate groups, particularly white supremacy groups.” The group was founded by Christian Picciolini, a former white supremacist.
Reuters reported at the time that the White House was considering retooling the program to focus more on radical Islamic extremism than on white supremacist groups. Trump also proposed entirely eliminating the program in his 2018 budget request.
The DHS emphasized in a statement that “sixteen of the 26 recipients have applicability to all forms of violent extremism and as such will address the threat of domestic terrorism.” Seven new applicants also won funding, while seven of the existing recipients got a funding boost. Those getting the funding boost generally were law enforcement agencies or proposals backed by police.
Remember; Picciolini’s group wasn’t the only one that devoted resources towards fighting white extremism, it was the only group that exclusively focussed on that, and only received 4% of the grant money in the first place. Perhaps the reason Life After Hate got defunded is due to the lack of evidence that they’ve accomplished anything. There isn’t a single testimonial on the group’s website, and the only evidence of their efficacy is having “helped more than 150 people confront violent extremism; and thousands more deal with hate in their communities,” without any actual specifics of what that means. Organizing an anti-racist march would meet that criteria – but that’s not anything that would bring a white extremist to sanity.
Picciolini believes that his group was defunded due to his opposition to Donald Trump, and specifically mentioned his tweets against the President. While we’ll never know if that’s true, if it were, the progression of his tweets is amusing in hindsight. Perhaps threatening to use all your resources to fight against the President isn’t the best idea when you’re dependent on the government.
One day the NRA was responsible for the New Zealand terrorist – and the next day it was President Trump.
Maybe tomorrow AOC willl hold the shooter responsible!