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Hate-fueled attacks continue to be accelerated by online platforms

Man carrying peace pole
A peace pole is carried into an interfaith prayer and candlelight vigil at Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church after yesterday's attack. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Two appalling attacks, four days apart: The first in Northern California, and yesterday's in my native Southern California — less than 500 miles apart. One mowed down Muslims. One aimed at Jews on the last day of Passover.

Context: It was only six months ago that 11 Jewish worshipers were killed in the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. And of course, it's not just America: It was just six weeks ago that 50 Muslim worshipers in New Zealand were killed in terrorist attacks on two mosques.

  • This morning, Sri Lanka's Catholics celebrated mass in their homes via TV, as churches across the island nation closed down over fears of militant attacks, a week after Easter suicide bombings killed over 250 people, per AP.

Yesterday, worshipers in Poway, California, just north of San Diego, "were nearing the end of Passover, a sacred Jewish celebration steeped in ancient freedom, when a modern terror walked in the door," the San Diego Union-Tribune reports:

  • "A 60-year-old woman was killed when she jumped in front of the rabbi, whose hands were pierced by gunfire. An 8-year-old girl was hit with shrapnel in the face and leg," according to the L.A. Times.
  • The suspected gunman, 19, was arrested "after fleeing the synagogue amid a hail of bullets from a security guard," per the Union-Tribune.
  • "An anti-Semitic manifesto attributed to him was posted online claiming responsibility for the attack."

On Tuesday, in Sunnyvale, California, in Silicon Valley, a 34-year-old Army veteran of the war in Iraq intentionally careened his car through a crowded intersection, injuring eight pedestrians, per the San Francisco Chronicle.

  • The former sharpshooter "targeted the victims because he thought some of them were Muslim, police officials said."
  • The FBI has opened a federal hate crimes investigation.

The debate ahead ... The N.Y. Times' Charlie Warzel writes that online messages "from suspects in shootings at a California synagogue and a New Zealand mosque were similar":

"[I]t’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore how online hatred and message board screeds are bleeding into the physical world — and how social platforms can act as an accelerant for terroristic behavior.
The internet, it seems, has imprinted itself on modern hate crimes, giving its most unstable residents a theater for unspeakable acts — and an amplification system for an ideology of white supremacy that only recently was relegated to the shadows."

The latest from Poway.