In KC, Not All Shootings Created Equal
© Jack Cashill
Kansas City, where I live, has received more than its share of attention these last few weeks and for all the wrong reasons.
On Sunday April 13, a vestigial neo-Nazi madman named either Frazier Glenn Cross or Glenn Miller (going forward: Cross) shot and killed three people.
Cross did his shooting at or near the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in suburban Kansas City, a very welcoming center to which I myself belonged for many years.
On Thursday, April 17, Attorney General Holder came to Kansas City for an interfaith service, which, by all accounts, was nicely executed.
Unremarked locally was the irony of Holder’s visit. A week earlier Holder spent the day sucking up to Al “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house” Sharpton, an instigator of the lethal 1991 Crown Heights pogrom.
Later on that same Thursday, April 17, the Kansas City police announced that they had apprehended a suspected highway terrorist who had shot at as many as 20 cars and wounded three drivers during the preceding month.
On Friday, April 18, the police shared the news that the man arrested was a seeming African-American named Mohammed Pedro Whitaker.
I say “seeming” because I know no more about Whitaker – his name, his ethnicity, his allegiances, his politics – than I did a week ago.
The same media that spent the previous week crawling all over southwest Missouri digging into the altogether conspicuous past of Cross remain stunningly incurious about Whitaker.
Although the highway shooting story dominated the news in these parts before Whitaker’s apprehension, the local media have contented themselves with reporting the mere facts of his arraignment.
The media do not challenge the authorities’ claim they “know of no motive for the shootings.” Nor do they address the question that runs through their “comment” sections – at least those not “disabled” – “What’s with the name ‘Mohammed’?”
The reason for the disparity in coverage between the two shooting stories is fairly obvious. One has what David Horowitz calls “usable political meaning,” and one does not.
For years various “watchdog” groups – the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) most notably – have been attempting to infuse meaning into cases like the JCC shooting that the facts do not bear.
The local go-to guy on the Cross case has been the president of an outfit called the “Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights” (IREHR), Leonard Zeskind.
Zeskind first surfaced here in 1973 as the Kansas City front man for The Sojourner Truth Organization (STO). STO’s primary role, according to its own literature, was to motivate the working classes “to make a revolution.”
This was more than just bong-inspired bravado. The STO unabashedly quoted role model Josef Stalin on the need for “iron discipline.” They played for keeps.
In 1978, Zeskind penned an article for the journal Urgent Tasks titled “Workplace Struggles in Kansas City.” In the article, Zeskind talked about the value of a grass-roots “school of communism,” one conceived “to destroy the marketplace, not sell at it.”
In 1981, the liberal editor of a local alternative publication described Zeskind as elusive, paranoid, “near hysterical.” As to Zeskind’s beloved STO, said the editor, “They surface on occasion to distract and intimidate non-violent groups working for social change.”
In his IREHR bio, however, the unrepentant Zeskind passes off his years in the Stalinist underground as his “community organizer” phase. Exactly.
Despite his affection for totalitarian governments, Zeskind has successfully presented himself to the media as a fearless champion of civil rights.
His strategy, like the SPLC’s, has been to create the illusion of an impending “white Christian nation” that somehow manages to accommodate both anti-statist Christians and pagan Nazi socialists.
Zeskind and his fellow travelers have made this oxymoron work in the mind of the media at least by routinely linking what he calls “the God, guts and guns crowd” with racists and fascists like Cross.
Cross, however, is not quite the right-wing poster boy Zeskind and pals hoped he would be. For one thing, despite targeting the JCC, the three people he killed were all practicing Christians.
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Cross apparently had little more use for Christians than he did Jews. As CNN acknowledged, Cross “is not, as many think, a Christian.” He claims, in fact, to be “an adherent of Odinism, a neo-pagan religion.”
Like many Ku Kluxers, Cross is also something of a Democrat. In 2006, he made a bid for Congress that elicited the rueful Daily Kos headline, “Racist felon running for the Dem nomination in MO-7.”
Like many Democrats too, Cross was no fan of Israel or what he called the “neo-con, war-mongering Republican establishment.”
Still, the work Zeskind and others had done over the years to link Republicans and conservatives to Nazis has borne some fruit.
In the days after the JCC shooting, for instance, the media paid too much attention to a group called “Grandmothers Against Gun Violence.”
I watched in dismay as one of the founding grandmothers told a local TV reporter she wasn’t against all gun ownership, just ownership by “conservatives” like Cross.
As to whether violent jihadists or black radicals should be subject to the same scrutiny, that is not something with which the grandmas, Zeskind, the SPLC and especially Eric Holder want us to concern ourselves.
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