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OpinionColumnistsLeonard Levitt

Spitfire agitators make for a dangerous web

There are a lot of crazies out there ready to believe or misinterpret.

Well-wishers light 49 candles as they pay respects

Well-wishers light 49 candles as they pay respects to victims outside the hospital in Christchurch on Saturday. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images/ANTHONY WALLACE

Remember Candace Owens? She’s the young, black pro-Trump Fox News commentator who made headlines earlier this month when she tweeted, “America is not a racist country,” although a decade ago as a high school student in Connecticut she accepted a $37,500 city settlement after she accused a group of teens of leaving her threatening racist messages.

Minor figure that she is, she, nonetheless, turned out to be on the radar of Brenton Tarrant, the alleged killer of more than 50 people at two New Zealand mosques.

In a rambling manifesto, he cited as an inspiration Anders Breivik, the Norwegian white supremacist who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011; and praised President Donald Trump as a “symbol of white identity.” Then, asked which person had influenced him the most, he answered, of all people, “Candace Owens.”

“Each time she spoke,” he wrote in his manifesto, according to the online publication International Business Times, “I was stunned by her insights and her own views helped push me further and further into the belief of violence over meekness.” In an addendum, he added: “Though I will have to disavow some of her beliefs, the extreme actions she calls for me are too much, even for my tastes.”

So was Tarrant for real? Or was playing to the internet to give his ideas a worldwide audience?

Although something of a spitfire, espousing black support for Trump and bashing Democrats as the party of governmental handouts to black Americans, Owens doesn’t appear to have written anything that could be construed as encouraging anyone to gun down unarmed people — Muslims or anyone else — inside their place of worship.

About the closest she came was when she tweeted last year: “If France wants to build an army to defend itself against anything, it ought to be the declining birth rate of its people. All signs indicate that it will be a majority Muslim country in just 40 years.”

Owens appeared to blow off the Tarrant manifesto. She tweeted: “The Left pretending I inspired a mosque massacre . . . in New Zealand because I believe black America can do it without government handouts is the reachiest reach of all reaches!! LOL.”

So what’s the lesson, if any, in all this? Perhaps it is that with the Web’s reach, words that people speak or write matter more than they ever did because there are a lot of crazies out there ready to believe or misinterpret. As much as President Donald Trump, that’s true of a minor figure like Owens.

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