The horrific mass shooting that occurred in Pittsburgh at Tree of Life synagogue was not just a case of random anti-Semitism. The terrorist Robert Bowers was directly influenced by Republican politician and right-wing media fearmongering about the “migrant caravan” of Central American asylum seekers. This “migrant caravan” has been constantly characterized by right-wing media and Republican politicians, including Marsha Blackburn, Mike Braun, John Cornyn, and Ted Cruz, as an “invasion” or “invading force” or “armada”, and baseless conspiracy theories pushed by President Trump himself have said that Middle Eastern terrorists have infiltrated the “caravan”. In addition, these same conspiracy theories have stated that the “migrant caravan” was being financed by “globalists”, a word which has become white nationalist code for Jews, like George Soros. Robert Bowers believed all of this fearmongering conspiracy talk coming from the highest levels of the Republican party that connected Jews to an “invasion” of dangerous illegal immigrants and criminals. Robert Bowers then acted on it, attacked a synagogue, and killed 11 innocent people.
Robert Bowers, the Pennsylvania man accused of a fatal shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday morning, posted prolifically online about conspiracy theories and made repeated threats to Jews.
Bowers frequently wrote on the social network Gab, where he made a specific threat against Jews hours before allegedly conducting Saturday’s attack.
In the post, Bowers said that the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a humanitarian aid nonprofit group that provides assistance to refugees, brought immigrants to the United States to do violence against others.
“Screw your optics, I’m going in,” he wrote.
Bowers frequently posted about the “migrant caravan,” a group of several thousand refugees walking to the U.S.-Mexico border from Honduras to seek asylum. Preventing refugees in the caravan from entering the U.S. has been a major talking point among both right-wing commentators and President Donald Trump, who has spoken about it in recent pre-midterm election stump speeches.
Bowers’ anti-Semitic posts and his apparent disdain for the caravan are tied to a viral image that appears to show refugees hopping onto the bed of a truck that had a Star of David visible on the side. The image has been widely shared on far-right forums like 4chan and the Russian propaganda operation USA Really. He reposted a screenshot of a video of the caravan that that aired on Fox News, as well as other networks, that does not mention the symbol.
“I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered,” Bowers wrote before he began shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, as he singled out the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), a group which helps Jewish refugees enter the United States.
“HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” Bowers wrote on Saturday morning. “Screw your optics, I’m going in
HIAS is a nonprofit group that helps refugees around the world find safety and freedom. The organization says it is guided by Jewish values and history.
Back on October 10, Bowers also posted about HIAS, including a screen shot from the group’s website: “You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us?” he wrote.
Yet, even after this horrible act took place, and after it came to light what motivated the shooter to act, the President of the United States is not only failing to call for an end to this dangerous rhetoric, he is actually personally continuing to push the same fearmongering that helped instigate such a horrible tragedy in the first place.
The Caravans are made up of some very tough fighters and people. Fought back hard and viciously against Mexico at Northern Border before breaking through. Mexican soldiers hurt, were unable, or unwilling to stop Caravan. Should stop them before they reach our Border, but won’t!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2018
Our military is being mobilized at the Southern Border. Many more troops coming. We will NOT let these Caravans, which are also made up of some very bad thugs and gang members, into the U.S. Our Border is sacred, must come in legally. TURN AROUND!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2018
Trump characterizes the caravan as an "invasion of our country" — a description he could use to justify using deadly force against people traveling with it. pic.twitter.com/Ksksjpq3c2
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 30, 2018
REPORTER: Do think somebody is funding the caravan?
TRUMP: "I wouldn't be surprised, yeah. I wouldn't be surprised."
R: George Soros?
T: "I don't know who, but I wouldn't be surprised. A lot of people say yes." pic.twitter.com/U1w9EYHcw6
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 31, 2018
In doing this, Trump is not only overlooking the fact that this same kind of rhetoric has already had horrifying consequences, he is also lying while he does it, ignoring the fact that his own intelligence services dispute his fearmongering about the caravan.
The U.S. intelligence community assessed that the “most likely course of action” was a dwindling of migrants as it reached the U.S. southern border, with limited transcontinental criminal organizations exploiting the group and “no terrorist infiltration,” an assessment that runs counter to past statements made by the president.
Donald Trump is taking part in baseless fearmongering, of which has already helped influence the killing of 11 innocent people, all because he thinks it will help his party win some midterm elections. This is one of the most irresponsible things an American President has ever done.