Updated: Feb 28, 2019
The tragic Pittsburgh massacre has many contemplating national security and government’s competence.
By Meg Taylor, News Editor
Following the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history, people of all religions are disappointed in the government as well as shocked, grief-stricken and anxious that tragedy will strike in their community at any moment.
Robert D. Bowers opened fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue Oct. 27, leaving six people injured and 11 dead. The 46 year old stormed the Tree of Life Congregation Saturday morning, armed with an AR-15 and three handguns. Bowers fired his gun while expressing his hatred towards Jewish people, killing beloved pillars of the community. It is terrifying that a spiteful man can walk into at a sacred place of worship, where people typically feel the safest, and commit heinous crimes such as multiple homicides.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks the activities of extremists, found that, “in the 19 days before Bowers carried out his act of mass murder, he posted or reposted memes and comments at least 68 times.” Many of those reflected “anti semitic conspiracy theories that have long been in circulation among neo-Nazis and white nationalists,” the center found.
The most recent post shared by Bowers was a photo of three handguns that he captioned “glock family.” He continued on with the statements, “jews are the children of satan” and “HIAS [Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society] likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
According to their website, the SPLC is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seek justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. So why did they not catch this? This is a direct threat and declaration of an attack. This man had an extensive online presence, spewing hatred and anti-semitism. Was he not considered a true threat because he did not have a criminal record? Was he on some form of a “watch” list? The fact that this threat and attack could have been prevented is gut-wrenching.
This is yet another terrorist who slipped through the government’s grasp before executing their attack. Business Insider recently reported that the suspected package-bomber Cesar Sayoc Jr. sent more than 240 threats via Twitter to dozens of public officials; notable statements made towards the extremist’s targets are “Your Time is coming” and “Hug your loved ones real close every time you leave you [sic] home.”
The report stated, “While the FBI has made an effort to inform Sayoc’s targets of the threats, social media giants like Twitter and Facebook have been criticized for being slower to take proactive measures.”
It is mind-boggling that blame is being placed on social media companies and not the government. Companies like Twitter and Facebook monitor users feeds for inappropriate content and usage. While they do investigate reports of harassment and monitor user interactions, they can not be held accountable for catching terrorists; that is the government’s job.
Another valid argument to be made is that the government is catching these terrorists, but by the time they make the arrests, the damage has already been done; 13 mail-bombs delivered and 11 innocent people murdered. The government should be putting forth more effort to prevent the attacks rather than how to manage public opinion afterwards.
The bottom line is whether you are at a place of worship, at a grocery store or scrolling through Facebook, everyone deserves the same level of protection. The government needs to strengthen their protocol in catching terrorists and preventing radical events such as the Pittsburgh massacre.