For a while I was the official comic relief for a peripatetic minstrel show of unreconstructed lefties. The “Spitfire Tour” went from campus to campus, offering music and activist boilerplate of the “Free Mumia!” variety. I appeared with everyone from Ralph Nader and the Indigo Girls to Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys and Art Alexakis of the band Everclear. I wanted to play John Philip Sousa marches using my armpits to make flatulent sounds to the beat. Alas, they asked me to talk about politics instead. Most of the kids wanted to hear about how racist and evil corporations, the U.S. Constitution, and pretty everything else come up with by the Pale Penis People are.
I keep thinking about one kid at one campus who represented many (if not most) of the kids at many of the campuses we visited. He said something to the effect of, “You talk about the responsibilities of citizens to work in their own communities and how free we are to do what we want… but how can we be free to do all of that if every aspect of our lives is controlled by multinational corporations….” This objection — offered in a tone which seemed to be on the verge of open weeping — received more than a smattering of applause and was generally seen as a “gotcha” moment for the forces of truth and light.
I don’t want to dwell on this anecdote, but of course this kid was very mixed up. Corporations control very little of what we do in our daily lives. They try to influence us, cajoling and hectoring us into buying this soda over that one. But corporations do not have police forces and they don’t actively care much one way or the other what you do. But that’s a different argument. The point is that this kid honestly, truly felt like IBM, Exxon, or Microsoft was actually keeping him down.
In other words, he’d been brainwashed.
That’s what I keep thinking about these suicide bombers, the most bizarre and evil propaganda tools of the last couple centuries. Constantly we are told that these young people do what they do because they “have no hope.” We — and more to the point, Yasser Arafat — cannot stop the suicide bombers, the Hanan Ashrawis declare, because you cannot stop hopeless people from committing suicide.
Well, first of all, they’re not committing suicide. They’re murdering lots of people in a manner that takes their own life too. Suicide as a political act is quite common in human history. The most recent effective instance seems to me to be that of the Buddhist monks in Vietnam. But today’s terrorists aren’t killing themselves to make a statement, they are killing other people to make a statement. Even Hamas concedes this. They’ve said over and over again that the suicide bombers are visiting terror on Jews because it is the Jews they want to terrorize.
But the more important point is that it is a myth that these people are killing themselves because of their “hopelessness,” at least in the way the propagandists frame it. They are hopeless because they’ve been told to believe they have no hope — much like that college kid was led to believe that corporations prevented him from speaking his mind or becoming a lawyer, doctor, whatever.
When you read the profiles of some of these human bombs, especially the female ones, it does not seem like their objective circumstances were hopeless. Some were students, some were engaged to be married. Some had jobs or good prospects.
Indeed, the rise of human bombs tracks pretty closely with the improvement of the Palestinians’ prospects. Ten years ago, such heinous acts were unheard of. And in those last ten years, Israel had moved more or less inexorably toward giving the Palestinians much of what they wanted: The Palestinian Authority was created in the last ten years. Indeed, in the last year and a half, the number of human-bomb attacks skyrocketed seemingly in response to the Palestinians’ improving prospects. Israel had offered the Palestinians enormous concessions, and for the first time in history the president of the United States called for the establishment of a Palestinian state. In response, young men — and now women — were strapped with explosives and told to kill men, women, and children.
The more hope, the more murder. Not the other way around. Why? The main reason isn’t what Israel did — but what Arafat did. He in effect issued an order for the younger generation to become radicalized. If hopelessness were the cause of suicide bombing we would have seen it a generation ago, when the plight of the Palestinians in the wake of the 1967 war was much, much more bleak.
But the most significant reason why the propaganda about “suicide bombers” is such a blatant lie, is that hopeless people do not have access to sophisticated belts of high explosives simply by virtue of their hopelessness. Depression over your nationalist aspirations does not magically conjure weapons of mass-murder. It takes hard work to sacrifice your body for mass murder — just look at the September 11 bombers. “I hate my life,” or even “I hate Jews”: These are not abracadabra words that pull these devices from an alternate dimension.
Someone needs to give you these devices. Someone needs to buy them, make them, and hide them. Someone needs to train — i.e., brainwash — you. Someone needs to lay out and plan a path to a weak spot in Israeli defenses. And, as we are now learning, someone — like Saddam Hussein — has to compensate your parents and family to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars to pay for your “martyrdom.”
I wonder, do you still get your 72 virgins if you blew yourself up on a fee-for-service basis?
Arafat’s mouthpieces can say, “We cannot stop the hopelessness this brutal occupation breeds in these young people and that forces them to kill themselves.” Well, they could actually do much to stop the hopelessness, in my opinion. But let’s take them at their word. They could still, it seems to me, stop the well-funded organizations — many of them answerable directly to Arafat — from providing these “hopeless” youths with these weapons.
They could, that is, if they wanted to.