In the absence of real news and hard facts about James von Brunn, the cable news networks are making a great deal of the fact that this man was “born in 1920, making him 89 years old, so an elderly gentleman,” as one talking-head just now described him. Longevity is no antidote for racism and antisemitism (shown here in an undated photo from his website, used without permission).
This sort of analysis does nothing to explain this man’s actions and place them in the broader context of antisemitism, white supremacy and systemic racism in the U.S. The fact that Von Brunn, long known as a white supremacist and a convicted felon, would take this sort of action should not be surprising. White supremacy in the U.S., rather than being an atavism, is a consistent feature of the political landscape.
While the news networks are going to prattle on about how it’s possible that an octogenarian could carry out such a shooting, what (I predict) they’ll miss is the ways that this shooting is connected to the one last week of Dr. Tiller. As I wrote about then, killing, abortion, antisemitism and racism are inextricably linked in the white supremacist imagination. I’m hoping that some of the more thoughtful mainstream news people will connect these dots.
The Associated Press just added this:
Von Brunn has a racist, anti-Semitic Web site and wrote a book titled “Kill the Best Gentile.” In 1983, he was convicted of attempting to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board. He was arrested two years earlier outside the room where the board was meeting, carrying a revolver, knife and sawed-off shotgun. At the time, police said Von Brunn wanted to take the members hostage because of high interest rates and the nation’s economic difficulties.
The museum houses exhibits and records relating to the Holocaust more than a half century ago in which more than six million Jews were killed by the Nazis. It is located across the street from the National Mall, and within sight of the Washington Monument. The museum, which draws about 1.7 million visitors each year, was closed for the day after the shooting, and nearby streets were cordoned off by police. Surrounding roads were closed at least temporarily and blocked off with yellow tape. Police cars and officers on horses surrounded the area.