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Islamist Terrorists v. Lone Gunmen



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From a reader:

Can you please explain to me what the rational distinction is between Loughner and any given mass-murderer who also happens to be Muslim?  It seems to me that all of you are quick to ascribe the latter’s acts to his religion or ethnic group as a whole (or at least to link the acts to inflamed rhetoric with no factual connection to them), but you are shocked, shocked that others would seek to do the same when the murderer is a co-religionist or co-ethnic.  I think we can all agree that every single one of these people is unhinged sufficiently to commit such acts, and probably none have what would be considered a fulsome, internally-consistent worldview.  So what’s the difference justifying the different reactions to them, besides the obvious one? 

Also, please declare a moratorium on comparing the current reaction to Bill Clinton’s speeches after the Oklahoma City bombing.  McVeigh actually did have ties to right-wing militias.  The correct analogy would be to the impromptu riots that spread through the Oklahoma City Arab community in the wake of the attack.  But perhaps that would not sufficiently support your sense of outrage.

Sure, I’ll give it a whack. The difference is that most of the relevant Muslim mass-murderers in recent years have in fact either taken orders or meaningful encouragement from actual Jihadist organizations and individuals. The Times Square bomber did. The Fort Hood shooter did. The DC sniper didn’t, but he seems more of an exception than the rule.

The “obvious” distinction is that there are a number of Islamist groups who are calling for violent attacks on America (which is why we are legally at war with them). Those that align with their cause are simply murderous traitors and terrorists. The Fort Hood shooter, we quickly learned, was in contact with Anwar al Awlaki. Loughner, we’ve quickly learned, was not in contact with Sarah Palin, had a grievance with Giffords that predates Palin’s prominence and the rise of the tea parties, and that he was simply out of his gourd.

Moreover, all of the idiotic “American Taliban” talk notwithstanding, there is no similar effort on the part of any remotely mainstream conservative constituency to encourage violence. The effort to assign blame to conservatives or tea partiers is unfair slanderous nonsense, driven by a desire to demonize fellow Americans and drive conservative views outside the bounds of legitimate discourse.

Indeed, even if  conservative rhetoric — or, sigh,  Facebook maps –  were misconstrued by a tiny fraction of a fraction of the roughly 40% of Americans who call themselves conservative to the point where they committed a violent act, it would still be outrageous to assign that intent to mainstream Republican or conservative figures or to the ideas they espouse.

When Muslim mass-murderers slaughter people, Islamist groups take credit and cheer. When people like Loughner murder people, all conservatives, just like pretty much all Americans, denounce it.

I could go on, but that seems like a meaningful distinction to me.



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