Every time I write about Candace Owens, I feel manipulated.
I feel manipulated because Candace Owens, on her own, is not newsworthy. She’s not witty or particularly charismatic. She’s billed as a commentator and activist, but to describe her grasp on politics, history, gender, or race as shallow would be doing a great disservice to the word, because shallow still has depth. Activism implies, well, activity, or purpose. Activists tend to have a moral center—however questionable or controversial.
Owens’ only gift is grift, and she’s been exceptional at it in a way that says far more about conservative white people’s grievances than it says about her. Her currency is outrage, and her endgame is attention.
Owens is a troll. And she is a troll among many—many who hold considerably higher positions of power. (Lest you forget, America’s president is also a troll.)
But I’m writing about Owens because she’s the troll a mass shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand named in his alleged manifesto. The shooter, whose name has not been released by police as of Friday morning, opened fire on two mosques, killing at least 49 people in what can rightfully be described as a terrorist attack.
“The person that has influenced me above all was Candace Owens,” the suspect wrote. “Each time she spoke I was stunned by her insights and her own views helped push me further and further into the belief of violence over meekness. Though I will have to disavow some of her beliefs, the extreme actions she calls for are too much, even for my tastes.”
It reads as trolling.
Owens has disavowed any connection to the killing, according to several tweets, which I won’t link here. (Y’all know how to find Twitter—and her, if you want to.)
“The Left pretending I inspired a mosque massacre in...New Zealand because I believe black America can do it without government hand outs is the reachiest reach of all reaches!” she wrote.
It would be irresponsible—and undoubtedly incorrect—to say Owens singularly inspired a man to kill 41 people in an act of hate, because nothing about Owens is singular. She stands with a chorus of voices, with varying degrees of power, extolling the virtues of nationalism and fascism, from the U.S. to the Philippines to Brazil to the U.K. to New Zealand.
That chorus of voices affirms the fears of many white people: that the world has turned too brown, too black, too Muslim, too queer, too femme, too many names you can’t pronounce, too sensitive, too “P.C.” (which just means that you’re hearing the voices of people you’ve historically offended too damn much). They’re the choir that sings the songs racists and nationalists and aspiring terrorists want to hear, only to turn around and rake in speaking fees and TV time; only to cackle over the spikes of engagement and followers that trail every dumb provocation they’ve engineered—because that is the emotional currency that puts real coin in their pockets.
Fuck them. And fuck Candace Owens. Fuck them all.
We are in an attention economy—and there are names of far more value, far more worth, than hers. I would like us to pay attention to them.
The names of the Christchurch victims haven’t been released yet, but when they are, I plan to update to this piece and include them here. In the meantime, support your local mosque. Support your local Muslim community. Support the New Zealand Islamic Information Centre (NZIIC), which has set up a crowdfunding campaign for Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Masjid Mosque, the two mosques targeted in the terrorist attack. Support the New Zealand Council of Victim Support Groups, which has set up an official victim’s fund. Support the Al Manar charitable trust, a nonprofit Islamic Trust that serves New Zealand’s Muslim community through education, youth programs, and global relief projects.
If you know of a worthy organization or cause to donate to, share their information in the comments. Give your attention to the people and communities that need you today. Name them. Share them. Drown that damned choir out.