The day after 50 people were murdered by a white supremacist at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, a U.S. political publication called City Journal ran a piece that edged right up to justifying the shooting. City Journal isn’t a fringe outlet—it’s a mainstream magazine, widely respected in the world of urban policy. The publication is a product of The Manhattan Institute, a right-wing think tank backed by rich hedge fund executives and conservatives including the Mercers.
The piece in question’s author, Bruce Bawer, is an American who lives in Norway and who has spent years spreading his belief in the inherent evil of Islam.
Bawer begins his piece, titled “Don’t Exploit Christchurch,” by making reference to the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, who the Christchurch shooter explicitly referenced as inspiration.
Though Bawer says he doesn’t agree with Breivik’s actions, he certainly seems to agree with the mass murderer’s interpretation of Islam. He accuses Muslims of “[refusing] to assimilate,” “[exploiting] welfare systems,” and raising children who “commit violent crimes against non-Muslims including gay bashing, the tormenting of Jews, and the mass rape of children.”
But before we get carried away, there’s one very important thing to note here: Breivik himself said in his manifesto that he was inspired by Bawer’s writings when he killed 77 people in 2011.
From a 2011 piece by Bawer in the Wall Street Journal:
But I was stunned to discover on Saturday that Breivik was a reader of my own work, including my book “While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within.” In comments posted in 2009 on a Norwegian blog, document.no, Breivik expressed admiration for my writings, but criticized me for not being a cultural conservative (although he was pleased that I was not a Marxist, either).
Oh, you were stunned, were you?
In his Christchurch piece, Bawer writes that in the aftermath of Breivik’s massacre “...even the most honest, cogent, and levelheaded critics of Islam—people who had never in their lives advocated violence—were accused of having inspired Breivik’s massacre, and were even, in some quarters, equated with him.”
Whomever could he be referring to?!
Bawer then moves on from hand-wringing about his disciple Breivik to sympathizing with the Christchurch shooter. After repeating the claim made by white nationalist Rep. Steve King on Tuesday that the shooter was more inspired by communist China than the far-right, Bawer really digs in to his defense of hating Muslims.
[The shooter] has been repeatedly called a “white supremacist,” but his manifesto (reliable or not) isn’t a declaration of racial supremacy or superiority. It is, at least in part, an expression of rage about the steady repopulation of Europe by believers in an alien ideology and practitioners of a radically foreign culture—a legitimate concern, though by no means a legitimate excuse for Tarrant’s actions.
Again, Bawer is essentially in agreement with the shooter here. Sure, he may have taken the whole thing too far, but his heart was in the right place!
It shouldn’t need to be explained that the shooter was a white supremacist. He wrote the names of other white supremacist murderers on the guns he used to commit his atrocity. His manifesto was littered with references to these heroes of his, including Breivik. And, like all white supremacists, it’s wasn’t just Muslims he hated—he also referenced the Tree of Life synagogue shooter as an inspiration. The only way you could fail to describe him as a white supremacist is if you had a deep interest in distancing his murderous actions from an ideology with which you agree.
Bawer ends his piece—which, don’t forget, was published the day after the attack, before families knew if their relatives were dead or alive—with a stern warning: instead of obsessing over white supremacy, we must continue to criticize Islam.
Note, too, that while routine acts of mass jihadist butchery never seem to inspire Western officials or journalists to look squarely at the scriptures that inspire the perpetrators, the reprehensible events in Christchurch will doubtless—like those at Oslo and Utøya eight years ago—provide many people of influence with a rationale for seeking to stifle frank discussion of those scriptures, and of their sobering implications for the future of the West.
What is disturbing about this piece is not just the horrific content, but where it appears: in a publication that has been called “one of America’s most successful journals of urban affairs” by The Atlantic and as “a beacon of civilization” by the National Review.
The Manhattan Institute, the think tank that backs City Journal, also has immense institutional power in New York, as described in a post by the news site Eyes on the Ties, published by the corporate watchdog group the Public Accountability Initiative:
The think tank’s central position in New York politics is perhaps best illustrated by the presence of Partnership for New York City President Kathryn S. Wylde on its board of trustees. The Partnership for New York City is the most powerful business group in New York City, an elite chamber of commerce representing major multinational corporations such as JPMorgan Chase, Pfizer, and IBM, as well as a growing number of private equity firms and hedge funds. As president of the Partnership, Wylde is essentially the voice of big corporations in New York City. Her continued role on the Manhattan Institute’s board suggests that the corporate members of the Partnership broadly approve of the think tank’s advocacy, including its publication of City Journal.
Clearly, it’s not worth taking Bawer seriously—his hateful ideology is already debunked in plenty of other places. But it is important to draw attention to entities like the Manhattan Institute who give people like Bawer a platform and, in doing so, tacitly support his message.
We can only hope that Bawer is right, that people like him will soon run out of places to publish their hatred. At the very least, supposedly reasonable publications like City Journal could stop paying him to spit on the still-warm bodies of mass murder victims.
Update, 3/21/19, 7:15 p.m.:
Partnership for New York City responded to the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) with a statement:
The Manhattan Institute Board does not review or endorse opinion pieces published in City Journal, so Galbraith’s suggestion otherwise is just wrong. Kathryn Wylde has been associated with MI for two decades and seen no evidence of racism or Islamophobia, or she would have resigned. Free speech and diversity of opinion are valued in New York City, but we know where the line is drawn.
Of course, Bawer has written for City Journal before, and shared similar opinions.
Robert Galbraith, a Senior Research Analyst at PAI, responded in an email to Splinter:
Remarkably, the Partnership for New City is arguing that Bawer’s screeds are not Islamophobic or racist.
Never mind that Bawer espouses the same Great Replacement conspiracies as the Christchurch murderer, consistently dehumanizes Muslims as “alien,” refers to immigrants as a “shadow” that is “slowly darkening the rest of Norway,” and has for years been granted a platform by the Manhattan Institute to say these things – Wylde has “seen no evidence of racism or Islamophobia, or she would have resigned.” They know where the line is, they tell us, and nothing the Manhattan Institute has done over the years has crossed it, not even this piece. Where, then, is the line?
They could have distanced themselves from Bawer’s hateful rhetoric. Instead, they doubled down and insisted that there was nothing wrong.
Galbraith also noted that PAI has never claimed that the Manhattan Institute Board oversaw or approved of City Journal pieces. He added, “it is interesting that now that Wylde has had the opportunity to reflect on the piece, she does not take issue with a writer seeking to legitimize the racist ideology that motivated an act of heinous violence.”