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Is Extremism Caused by Current Events?

The Opinion Clash is a tournament-style debate in which two Lariat staff members are asked to write about a current controversial topic within 200 words.

January 10, 2019

Do current events play a role in hate crimes committed in the United States?

There is a Correlation Between Current Issues and Extremism

Not every hate crime is caused by current events, but unfortunately, visibility does play a part in hate crimes being committed.

We always remember the bad guys. These people go down in history, films are made about them, people are (unfortunately) inspired by them. The Washington Post reports that 219,000 students have experienced gun violence at schools since Columbine. The point is, when extremists see another extremist on the news, “achieving” what they want to do, it gives them the courage to commit hate crimes.

In addition, as the visibility of LGBTQ people increases, it actually increases hate crimes.  According to the New York Times and NBC News, the first gay couple to be married at West Point Military Academy were attacked by a man shouting homophobic slurs at the couple, and who actually punched one of the couple in the face. Their marriage was photographed by the New York Times and reported on by the Associated Press.

It should be noted that extreme racism and homophobia are the products of the individual and not the fault of anyone targeted by extremists, but extremists thrive on visibility in current media. There is certainly a correlation between extremism and current events.

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Current Events Do Not Effect Terrorist Acts

The question is not whether current events influence extremism, the question asks do current events cause extremism–that question requiring a much more complex and developed answer. The foundational element of extremism–the origin point from which it originates–is unhealthy pride.

Pride comes in two forms: personal and external. Personal pride is more recognizable; the town baker is proud that he baked the most delicious cake. External pride is found in achievements that we had no part in; pride in ancestry or nationality, for instance. What happens is fundamentalists view whatever they’ve attached themselves to as superior to other backgrounds. If you view your position as superior and ‘their’ position as inferior, how far of a jump would it be to ensure your team wins by any means necessary?

If current events were the sole cause of terrorism then terrorists wouldn’t populate history books. From Barbarians to Hitler and Bin Laden, current events are not their link. Reasons for extremism shift, but the cause of hatred remains concrete. Bigots and fear mongers will continue to produce pain and suffering regardless of the week’s headlines. Terrorism persists because the ideologies of supremacy persist.


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