Chris Craig: An Unusual Litmus Test For Sympathy Or Terror
September 21, 2016 (Fault Lines) — The article at Fox News about a bomb threat at a Utah elementary school had a pretty vanilla headline:
Man arrested after making bomb threat at Utah elementary school
It’s accurate, short, and to the point. And it sums up exactly what happened:
Students and faculty at a Utah school suffered a real scare Monday after a man entered the building with a mask and told an employee to “evacuate the kids and no one will get hurt.”
Christopher Craig, 35, was arrested after allegedly making the threat against Eagle Mountain elementary school, Utah County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
Craig claimed there were explosives in his car, made threats, and said he had some sort of message, which the article doesn’t describe. It does mention, however, that he was arrested for threat of terrorism, among other charges. It also explains he had mental health issues.
A different article chooses to give a little more background about Craig in the title:
Former college coach arrested after bomb threat forces evacuation of Eagle Valley Elementary
That too appears to be accurate:
Craig, who police say gave himself up after three hours of negotiations, is the former head basketball coach at then-College of Eastern Utah. He also was previously an assistant coach at Northern Colorado University, the head coach at Midland College in Texas, and a college basketball player at multiple schools.
Not only was Craig a coach and a college basketball player, but he was a decorated one. Yet another article goes a step further, touting his success in the headline:
Former Phoenix Horizon star Chris Craig arrested after bomb threat at Utah school
Again, it’s true. The article discusses his impressive career:
Craig was a point guard at Horizon in the late 1990s and widely regarded as one of the more-popular players and harder workers on the team. He went on to find success at Arizona Western and UTEP before becoming college basketball’s youngest head coach when he was hired by Utah State University Eastern in 2007.
That sort of reporting makes Craig seem like a bit of a tragic character. He’s immensely talented, obviously. He was quickly rising to the top of his career. It was all cut short by mental illness. Identified as schizophrenic by his family, he had previous contact with law enforcement that involved strange behavior. Craig looked like he was living the dream, but his mind betrayed him. Instead of becoming a coach at a major college basketball program, he was reduced to threatening to blow up an elementary school.
His reasons for doing it reveal the extent of his mental illness:
Shortly before the incident began, the El Paso Times and other media received an email from Craig stating that he “will call 911 with a threat of an explosive and drive onto my 9yr olds elementary school, Eagle Valley Elementary, with a True Explosive.”
Capitalizing “True Explosive” is a good hint the guy is nuts. It only gets worse, though:
In the email, Craig said he “was born into this world under the slave name of Christopher Craig. Currently, I am known as The Radical Islamic Jihadist Muhammad Allah Al-Khidr.”
“My reason for writing Today is because of my pending arrest and hunger strike which begins when I press send on this Discourse of Truth. In 2 hours, call Eagle Mountain PD in Eagle Mountain, UT if you think I am bluffing. Ask them,” he added.
We may not know that much about the guy, but judging from what we do know, it’s hard to believe his real name was a slave name. I’d also be quite curious to find out what exactly being known as “The Radical Islamic Jihadist Muhammad Allah Al-Khidr” entails. Perhaps that he called himself that just then and figured it would stick? Or maybe his buddies have a weird sense of humor and have been calling him that for a while? Again, the capitalized “Radical Islamic Jihadist” is a decent giveaway that he’s out of his mind.
It’s unlikely there’s any real point to his ramblings at all, something that keep becoming clearer the more he writes:
The email goes on to make a number of rambling statements that include racist comments, references to religious scripture and criticism of sports stars and political figures.
At one point he wrote, “Racism is the reason for my hunger strike, to take this conversation deeper, to The Truth, Core, and roots.”
The email is posted on Craig’s blog with the title “In Honor of Skylar Dore,” the white police chief of Jonesville, La., who was asked to resign as chief of a town with an African-American majority after a controversial, profane Facebook post against President Barack Obama regarding the killing of police officers.
So he makes racist comments but is hunger striking because of racism? He’s going to quit eating until everybody wakes up and becomes a super duper racist just like him? And then there he goes again with the capitalization, just not with “roots.” Your guess why is as good as mine.
Craig is delusional. He’s tormented. It’s tragic. Another story, however, takes the low route, the fear-mongering path to more clicks with a headline totally different from the others:
Self-Styled ‘Jihadist’ Arrested After Standoff At Utah Elementary School
It takes some scrolling to get to information about Craig’s background, but the content of that story isn’t totally different the other stories. The very beginning paints a different kind of portrait, however:
An elementary school in Eagle Valley, Utah, was the site of tense negotiations Monday after a man wearing a black mask who referred to himself as a jihadist threatened the school.
Before mentioning the mad bomber was an insane white former basketball player and coach named Chris Craig, it does its best to further the terrorism angle:
Kimberly Bird, assistant to the superintendent of the Alpine School District, said a man wearing a mask entered the school and told authorities, “Evacuate the kids and no one will get hurt.”
The man, wearing “turban-style” headwear, claimed to have a “large amount of explosives” in a car outside Eagle Valley Elementary School. It was unclear if the car contained explosives.
The story has everything; the mask, the threat against kids, the turban, and the explosives. It’s frightening. The only thing that makes us more scared than crimes against children is an Islamic terrorist committing crimes against our children. Craig makes as good a terrorist villain as he does a tragic victim of debilitating mental illness.
The problem is that Craig is both. He didn’t kill a bunch of kids, but he scared the crap out of a lot of people. He’s a terrorist. We may never know if he was so crazy he couldn’t actually follow through with hurting anyone or if he may have really posed a horrible threat to those kids. If he had done something awful, though, it wouldn’t have made him any less crazy. The most awful mental illness of all may be the type where you’re just competent enough to unleash the worst manifestations of your disease on others.
There are lots of interesting things about Craig’s situation. Everything from the fact that he wasn’t killed by authorities to the huge variation in his treatment by news outlets suggests he’s getting a different sort of press because of his race, his background, and his obvious mental illness. Unfortunately, white former basketball stars aren’t the only terrorists with back-stories.
Many other terrorists, even those who succeed with horrible acts of violence, might be just as nuts. They might have interesting back-stories too, but they’re rarely reported. Given his obvious demons, Craig isn’t lucky by any stretch of the imagination, but at least he isn’t a cartoon character. People may hate him, but at least there’s another side.
As you read about Craig and decide whether you’re scared of what he claimed he was going to do or sad about what became of his once-bright future, it might be worth asking why you’ve never done the same with others accused of terrorism.