In North Carolina, a middle-aged man named Craig Hicks murdered three young Muslim students who lived in his apartment complex. Hicks was known as an angry man who had frequent confrontations with his neighbors. Local police initially said that the murders appeared to have arisen out of a dispute about parking spaces at the complex. But inevitably, given that the victims were Muslims, the question was raised: was this a hate crime? CNN, for example, tweeted early yesterday morning:
The New York Times headlines rather cautiously, “In Chapel Hill Shooting of 3 Muslims, a Question of Motive,” while the Los Angeles Times headlines, “North Carolina triple slaying arouses fear of hate crimes against Muslims.” Must be that dreaded Islamophobia that is always threatening to break out.
Certainly various Islamic groups are lobbying for the murders to be labeled a hate crime:
Barakat’s sister, Suzanne Barakat, spoke Wednesday of “execution-style murders” and demanded that authorities “investigate these senseless and heinous murders as a hate crime.” National Muslim activist groups also called for a hate crime investigation as photos of the three victims — with the two women wearing head scarves — went viral worldwide on social media under the hashtag #muslimlivesmatter.
So far, the news media have been more cautious than might have been expected about labeling the murders an anti-Islamic hate crime. They have publicized the fact that Hicks is an aggressive atheist; the main theme of his Facebook page is a contempt for religion. There is little, however, that is specifically anti-Muslim. The overwhelming majority of his comments on religion, to the extent they identify a specific faith, are anti-Christian. If his victims had happened to be Christians, would the murders make national news, and would anyone be talking about hate crimes?
I suspect that the principal reason for the news media’s reticence with regard to the Hicks case is not that he is an equal opportunity atheist. Rather, I suspect they are concerned about the fact that Hicks is a liberal. This has not been widely reported, for obvious reasons. Instead, some news sources have quoted this Facebook statement: “Some call me a gun toting Liberal, others call me an open-minded Conservative.” In fact, however, apart from the fact that he likes guns, there is nothing conservative about Hicks. Here are some of his Facebook posts and “likes”:
You can see the liberal media’s problem. Craig Hicks is, politically, a member of their team–a garden variety, cookie cutter, Obama-voting, conservative-hating liberal. His Facebook page looks like most reporters’ would, if they didn’t have to worry about appearances. So, much as they might want to publicize a hate crime against Muslims–Islamophobia at last!–can they possibly admit that a dyed in the wool liberal like Hicks can be guilty of an anti-Muslim hate crime?
I think that would be too much cognitive dissonance. My guess is that the Chapel Hill murders will fade away as a local news story arising out of a dispute over a parking space.