Information is coming to light which suggests that the San Bernardino shooting is far more nuanced that we were led to believe.
This does not appear to be a simple case of a couple of Muslims randomly deciding to be radical, nor does it in any way excuse the carnage that ensued. However, one of the victims was a Rush Limbaugh devotee who was not at all shy about sharing his views.
Nicholas Thalasinos described himself on his Facebook page as a graduate of the Limbaugh Institute of Conservatism, which is just Rush Limbaugh's way of branding his daily hate show.
Here are a few examples of postings on Thalasinos' Facebook page from 2013:
A Jewish man who was slain in the San Bernardino massacre had a heated argument with the gunman about Islam being a violent religion just two weeks before the shooting that killed 14 and wounded 21.
Nicholas Thalasinos, a devout Zionist, became furious with Syed Rizwan Farook, a fellow restaurant inspector, during work, declaring that the Muslim man “doesn’t agree that Islam is not a peaceful religion.”
As for initial reports that Farook argued with an unidentfied co-worker at an office holiday party moments before returning with his wife and weapons, Jennifer said that worker could well have been her husband.
“I’m sure everybody has seen his Facebook page. He’s very outspoken about Islamic terrorism and how he feels about politics in the state of the country,” Jennifer explained. “So I’m sure he probably had plenty to say to him.”
The year 2013 was a turning point for both Farook and Thalasinos. That year, Farook went on a hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia that is required of all Muslims.
That same year, the widow said, Nicholas became a “born again” Messianic Jew, devoting himself to Jesus.
“He wanted to serve the Lord and bring more people to the Lord,” Jennifer said.
Nicholas’ posts from that year are filled with anti-Islamic vitriol.
A post from October 2013 also included a photo of a man falling to his death from the trade center. Above it, Nicholas posted the quote and attribution: “ ‘The sweetest sound I know is the Muslim call to prayer’ — Barack Hussein Obama.”
References to Israel and “turbanheads” began to fill Nicholas’ pages. Under “Education,” he listed on Facebook, “Studied Conservatism at Limbaugh Institute of Advanced Conservative Studies.”
Words matter, whether it's the use of social media to recruit ISIS volunteers or the use of social media to demonize people for their religion.
We hear a lot about how people are gravitating toward Donald Trump's fascistic speeches because they feel their way of life is threatened.
If you're an American-born Muslim who has been subjected to the kind of hate people like Rush Limbaugh and Pamela Geller spew on a daily basis, might you also fear that your way of life is threatened?
Only one of the two acted on his impulse to kill, and it wasn't Thalasinos. Only one of the two took Thalasinos and 13 others out at a holiday party with weapons of mass human destruction. Weapons, I might add, that Rush Limbaugh defends on a daily basis as something Americans have a right to own. Syed Farook was an American citizen, born on American soil.
Farook and Malik own their destruction. There's no excuse for it. But might it have been mitigated if we were just a little more careful about how we speak of others' religions?
Does what Rush Limbaugh says daily about other Americans who aren't white Christians have an impact?
I think we can argue that it does.