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There’s a hot new meme blowing up on the conservative blogosphere: James Holmes, the alleged Aurora, Colo., theater shooter, has become a devout Muslim. But where did it come from?
The Washington Times wrote a short report, which was quickly picked up by Fox Nation, conservative blogs and, naturally, the trifecta of the Islamophobic blogosphere: Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs, Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch, and David Horowitz’ Front Page.
“There are enough Muslims engaging in mass killings. Having a non-Muslim mass killer convert is like shipping coals to Newcastle or murderers to Islam,” Front Page’s Daniel Greenfield quipped. “Actually, if Holmes’ conversion was initiated post-massacre, it does lend to the canard that violence in Islam is perpetrated only by the extreme, misguided,” Jihad Watch tweeted.
All of the posts are based on the Washington Times report, which is in turn based on a report from the Daily Mail, the irreverent and often erroneous British tabloid.
The Daily Mail’s sourcing? An even more disreputable outfit: One unnamed “prison source” quoted by the National Enquirer. The Enquirer hasn’t posted its story online, but here’s the Daily Mail writeup:
The source said Holmes has turned to Islam as a way of justifying his horrific murder spree… “He has brainwashed himself into believing he was on his own personal jihad and that his victims were infidels,” a prison source told the National Enquirer. He now prays five times a day, sticks to a strict Muslim diet and spends hours each day studying the Qur’an, the source said. But his new routine has upset Muslim inmates.
There’s also the new thick beard Holmes recently started sporting in court — “a symbol of his new-found faith,” according to the Daily Mail. (We didn’t realize one could brainwash themselves.)
Now, it’s entirely possible that Holmes has converted to Islam, and even that he brainwashed himself into ex-post-facto justifying his killing with Islam or anything else as Holmes is severely disturbed, by all accounts, and could delude himself into thinking anything.
But does that say anything about Islam? Of course not. It says something about mental illness. If Holmes suddenly became a devout Pentecostal or Hindu in prison, would these bloggers be connecting the religion to the shooting in the way they are doing now?
It’s also funny to see conservative blogs suddenly cite the National Enquire as a reputable source when the tabloid publishes something that conforms to a narrative they’re seeking to push. While the tabloid has broken news that the mainstream media missed in the past (thanks to their willingness to pay sources), and the Washington Times has been kind to them, the right bashed the rag for its series of scandalous Mitt Romney “scoops” during the election. Oh, and did we mention that it’s the National Enquirer?
It’s only a matter of time before Michele Bachmann or Louie Gohmert pick up the tabloid baton and cary it across the finish line on the House floor Congress and into the Congressional Record, where it will live forever.
Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.More Alex Seitz-Wald.