If The Washington Post made a New Year’s resolution to cut down on the political hackery, get back to a sensible regimen of responsible sourcing, and maybe lose a few pounds of pomposity, it’s already been broken in spectacular fashion.
A January 7 piece from Sarah Pulliam Bailey involves Donald Trump Jr., social media, religion, and firearms -- what could go wrong?
“Donald Trump Jr. posted a photo on Instagram on Monday of him holding an AR-15-style rifle featuring an image of the kind of cross used during the Crusades, a series of medieval religious wars between Muslims and Christians,” Bailey writes. Also, “The magazine of the rifle is adorned with an illustration of former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton behind bars.”
For regular Post readers, Bailey helpfully explained, “The cross is Christianity’s most prominent symbol, appearing in Christian artwork and Western culture to commemorate the biblical account of Jesus’ crucifixion.” Good to know -- just the kind of esoteric anthropological information we expect to learn from the Post. “The image of four crosses surrounding a larger one, shown in Trump Jr.’s post, is known as the Jerusalem cross and was used during the Crusades.”
A Trump Jr. spokesman said the post was “strictly about” using the Hillary jail “meme to mock Hillary Clinton, as he and many others have done on numerous occasions and will surely do again in the future, so long as it continues triggering humorless liberals.” (Mission accomplished!)
Bailey wasn’t so sure, so she flipped through her rolodex to find a scholar reliably horrified by the image. Notre Dame theology prof Robin M. Jensen was game, telling Bailey, “This is not what you put on a gun unless you’re saying Christians have a right to kill people who aren’t one of us.”
Yep. You also don’t put “Behead the Unbelievers” on a bed sheet or, ya know, chant “Death to America,” but the Post seems more inclined to give some people the benefit of the doubt.
And lest there be any doubt at all the Post hasn’t turned over a new leaf, Bailey went back to that most poisoned well of disgraced, malignant sourcing, the good ol’ SPLC:
A spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center said that Crusader imagery is frequently used by far-right extremists to invoke the notion that America and its citizens should retake land through violence and expel Muslim “invaders,” particularly in the United States and Middle East.
SPLC said so? Anyone else? Well, “Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations” -- the nationa’s leading apologist for jihadi terror -- “said the rifle Trump Jr. is shown holding doesn’t appear to directly include an anti-Muslim message. 'A cross doesn’t offend me. It’s the context. It’s on a weapon,' Hooper said. 'It’s a weapon that is similar to ones used in mass killings. The whole package sends the wrong message.'”
Furthermore, the firearms experts at the Post have reason to worry Trump Jr. was not handling the rifle responsibly:
In the Instagram photo, Trump Jr. poses with the rifle with the safety off and the selector switch on fire. Firearm safety norms discourage taking the safety off unless a weapon is pointed down range at a target and ready to be fired, which he is not doing in the photo. The bolt is pulled to the rear in one photo, and it is unclear whether there is any ammunition in the magazine, though it is probably empty. Trump Jr.’s finger is off the trigger.
Well, we can quibble over whether or not the weapon was loaded, but what is not in doubt: Trump Jr. hates cute animals. He’s “an avid hunter,” Bailey informs us. “Last year, he shot endangered sheep in Mongolia before he had approval from the government there.”