Six Degrees of Separation

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Sean Stoker Opinions Editor @theroyalthey


In the days following the tragic events in Charleston, I was amazed to see how well the community managed the aftermath: no riots, no looting, no retaliations. It is perhaps the most graceful handling of such an emotionally charged event I have seen in a long time.

However, to my tremendous chagrin, certain corners of the media have taken it upon themselves to use the event as a means to take pot shots at their political rivals.

Case in point, The Guardian put out an article on June 22 to alert the world that someone who Dylann Roof looked up to was—gasp!—a Republican who donated money to a handful of G.O.P. candidates running in the 2016 Presidential election.

Right away, The Telegraph picked up the same story and published their own take, along with the most unflattering pictures they could find of Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and Rand Paul.  Cruz’s face in particular almost looks like the picture was snapped just as he tried to swat a bee away, while sneezing.

The benefactor in question is one Earl Holt, president of the Council of Conservative Citizens . Roof has credited Holt as having inspired his radical views. The CofCC is essentially a far-far-right activist group that cherry-picks and catalogs instances of black-on-white crime and anything else that doesn’t hold up to their extreme conservative views.

I should point out here that I am not anti-conservative. Neither am I anti-liberal. I’m about as centrist as a person can be. What I am opposed to is extremists and radicals of all kinds.

All disclaimers aside, it’s probably a fair assessment that Holt and his followers are a little insane. But of what importance is it that he contributed money, even thousands of dollars, to Cruz, Santorum and  Paul? A presidential campaign these days can cost literally billions of dollars. Are we now expecting for the candidates to do background checks on every Tom, Dick and Harry that hands them a few shekels?

The way these articles are presented, you would think that Holt was backing their entire campaigns. A few thousand dollars is a drop in the bucket once these numbers reach the millions and billions. Not to mention that all three candidates have publicly stated that they intend to return the money. Cruz and Paul even went so far as to pass the money along to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund to help the victims of the shooting.

This media fiasco screams of a need to somehow draw a dubious connection from the terrorist to these candidates. You can find loose connections between almost any two people on earth. The “six degrees of separation” theory claims that any two people can be connected using six or fewer steps. For instance, I know a guy, who knows a guy, whose cousin shared an elevator with Elvis Presley’s nephew. You would be insane to assume from that statement that I know the secret location where the King has been hiding since “faking his death” in 1977, and that I’ve kept it secret for years to protect his privacy.

It’s also insane to think that unknowingly receiving a relatively small amount of money from someone Roof admires makes these candidates somehow racists in their own right. Hopefully by the time the actual campaign season begins, we can learn to judge a candidate by their policies and ability to follow through on promises, rather than connecting dots that aren’t there, in order to tangentially associate the candidates with the latest national tragedy.