Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told Margaret Brennan on Face the Nation Sunday morning that President Trump “is no more to blame for what happened in New Zealand than Mark Zuckerberg is for inventing Facebook.”
Mulvaney used this analogy presumably because the perpetrator of the mosque massacre in New Zealand used a camera to live-stream the shooting on Facebook. It is a poor analogy, though Brennnan did not take the time to explain why. The answer, however, does not lie in the killer using Facebook’s video technology to exploit his rampage.
Brennan had asked Mulvaney to defend Trump against charges that his presidency has led to a rise in support for white supremacy. She pointed to statistics and comments from both the Southern Poverty Law Center and Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen, who recently wrote an op-ed in The New York Times calling white supremacy and far-right extremism “among the greatest domestic-security threats facing the United States.”
Mulvaney pushed back, saying that he thinks time would be better spent figuring out how to stop such massacres rather than who to blame for them happening. What he did not say, and Brennan did not press him, is that journalists and experts on radicalization and white supremacy have long identified two causes of the massacres: President Trump’s demonization of the migration of Muslims and dark-skinned migrants to majority-white countries, and the misinformation about them that people such as the New Zealand shooter pick up on social media platforms like Facebook.
On the latter point, Facebook provides an easy and incredibly fast way to spread propaganda for radical right-wing extremists, which is why the shooter live-streamed his video there. (Facebook has since announced it took down 1.5 million copies of the attacker’s video in the first 24 hours after it appeared on Friday.) How much might the shooter himself have picked up from the site, helping him along the path towards his own radicalization? We cannot know for sure, but Facebook has been repeatedly criticized for not doing very much to keep such misinformation off its platform.
In short, we very much can blame Mark Zuckerberg’s invention for contributing to the shooting. To say nothing of Donald Trump and his campaign of demonizing Muslims from the most powerful office in the world.
Brennan also asked Mulvaney why, after Trump and much of the Republican Party spent years criticizing President Obama for refusing to say the words “radical Islamic terror” on the grounds that one must “name a threat in order to fight it,” the current president is so anxious to not directly address the white supremacy and Islamophobia that led to this massacre and other attacks. Mulvaney dodged the question, saying the president has stood up for religious minorities around the world and concluding that “I don’t think anybody can say the president is anti-Muslim.”
That is surely news to anyone who remembers Trump’s attempts to block Muslims from entering America, or the famous moment during the 2016 campaign when he called “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.” No anti-Muslim sentiment there!
Watch Mulvaney and Brennan spar in the video above, via CBS News.