News broke late last night of a potentially big story, with horrifying implications - there had been a shooting in the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. News tickers jumped into life. Rolling news steamed down to the scene.
But then... something changed. It's very much business as usual again today. The shooting has disappeared from the TV broadcasts and hasn't merited much of a mention online - though here is the BBC's article. Why might that be...?
American media reports say the man is a white supremacist who has served time in prison for violent offences.
It's not always instructive to go for a compare and contrast, but there was a massive explosion of interest in a story of terror suspects arrested a few weeks ago, even though
A federal law enforcement official described the plot as “aspirational” — meaning that the suspects wanted to do something but had no weapons or explosives — and described the operation as a sting with a cooperator within the group.
So there were 'terrorists' arrested without any weapons or explosives, who had an aspiration to attack Jewish targets. Leave aside speculation into what encouragement that their handlers had given them in selection. These are men who didn't kill anyone. But:
Law enforcement officials identified the four men arrested as James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh. One is of Haitian descent, according to law enforcement officials, and at least three were United States citizens. They are all Muslim, a law enforcement official said.
David Neiwert pointed out at the time:
And that word, "aspirational" -- where have we heard that before? Oh yeah.
That was the word U.S. Attorney Troy Eid of Colorado used when he announced his decision not to pursue the case of the white-supremacist tweakers who were caught trying to kill Barack Obama in Denver. He called their plot "more aspirational than operational".
You'll remember that these weren't the only guys who'd attempted to attack Obama. There were also the guys who had planned to murder the President while dressed in white suits with white top hats - essentially like Cab Callaway. Yet for all these racist wingnut 'aspirational' plots, it's the one which involves the big bad bearded bogeyman that received the most attention.
And yet... when a white wingnut - someone with a long history of racist views - actually goes beyond 'aspiration' and commits murder in a Holocaust Museum, then that's deemed a story not worthy of more than a few paragraphs. It was a similar story with the case of a Florida man with fierce anti-immigrant views, who went beyond 'aspiration' and slaughtered two Chilean students, wounding three others.
You have to wonder whether this is just a case of what makes a story a story - in other words, while a white supremacist nut attacking Jews is fairly routine, it's disembodied from a narrative which involves a Muslim conspiracy which is a war against the West - a far bigger story with foreign policy implications. Whereas it's easy to dismiss white terrorists, like the far-right freakshow caught with ricin last week, as being tragic loners, there's always a tendency to imply that Muslim extremists - often probably just as much fantasists, loners and 'aspirational' terrorists - are somehow connected to a spectral network whose tentacles emanate from the places where our soldiers are busily fighting wars.
Compare that with the wild amount of coverage being given to a woman accused of child sex crimes in Plymouth, whereas men are much more regularly accused and convicted of similar shocking offences. It's "man bites dog" in one sense. A white racist with a gun shooting at Jews is just a nutcase; a brown racist with a gun shooting at Jews could be part of a much bigger plot. Whether they really are or not is one question - and whether we should discriminate against people committing hate crimes in our coverage of them is another.