Drexel University professor George Ciccariello-Maher made headlines again this week for a series of Oct 2. tweets regarding the Oct. 1 Las Vegas shooting. In the interest of leaving everything in context, they have been reproduced below, in the order they were published:
“It’s the white supremacist patriarchy stupid. But liberals will drown out all discourse with a deafening chorus screeching ‘gun control.’ To believe that someone who would shoot down 50 people wouldn’t circumvent any gun law you pass is the height of delusion. But liberal escapism means talking about easy questions and proposing easy non-solutions rather than talking about who kills and why. White people and men are told that they are entitled to everything. This is what happens when they don’t get what they want. The narrative of white victimization has been gradually built over the past 40 years. It is the spinal column of Trumpism, and [its] most extreme form is the white genocide myth. Yesterday was a morbid symptom of what happens when those who believe they deserve to own the world also think it is being stolen from them.”
Ciccariello-Maher makes some reasonable points. It is not beyond reason to suggest that gun control laws would have little impact on someone criminal enough to gun down more than 50 people.
The issue lies in his assertion that the shooter’s motivations were based in white supremacist ideology.
Let us be very clear. We do believe that white supremacy remains a pervasive problem in this country, as seen in recent events like the Charlottesville rallies. We do wholeheartedly condemn it. We have no sympathy for Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas mass murderer, nor are we interested in defending his character. In our eyes, his horrific act was nothing less than terrorism, and he himself nothing less than a terrorist. And, if any evidence arises that Paddock was a white supremacist, we will be glad to condemn him as one.
But without evidence, Ciccariello-Maher’s assertions are merely speculation. Paddock’s motivations are as yet unknown. Claiming something fact, when it is not supported as such, is one of the cardinal sins of academia. And it has consequences. If it turns out that Paddock’s motivations had nothing to do with white supremacy, Ciccariello-Maher will have effectively cried wolf. The next time he or someone else attempts to call an act of white supremacy, one that is actually confirmed as such, will people be as likely to listen? Or will they disregard it as another false speculation, because they have lost faith in those that make the claims?
Tweet by tweet, he is destroying his credibility, and perhaps even the credibility of those who support him. This concerns us greatly. As individuals who abhor white supremacy, we want people to listen and to be outraged when it does occur. If he continues to make assertions without backing them, those on the fence may be unwilling to hear his condemnations when they actually matter.
It is worth noting that when taking an evidence-based approach, Ciccariello-Maher often makes very well-formed and reasonable points, as he did in an interview with us only months ago. But we cannot condone this series of tweets. There is simply too much at stake to gamble on the truth.