I want to write about “the latest terrorist attack in England,” but of course by the time this blog post goes to press there may have been another one or two of them, so it’s probably necessary to be specific. After Saturday’s massacre at London Bridge, the Washington Post decided to address the real problem at hand:
In the early confusion of Saturday’s attack in London, as police urged people not to spread rumors, those world leaders who did speak out early were largely circumspect. Restrained. Sympathetic.
“My thoughts go out to the victims and their loved ones,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter. “Awful news,” wrote Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau the same evening, adding, “We’re monitoring the situation.”
And then there was President Trump.
Before London police or anyone else had announced that the attack was linked to terrorism — the president of the United States retweeted an unsourced blurb from Drudge.com: “Fears of new terror attack after van ‘mows down 20 people’ on London Bridge.”
London authorities at that point had confirmed only a few details. Shortly after the Drudge tweet, British police again warned against spreading unconfirmed information.
It is a deeply, almost profoundly rich irony that the Post—which has spent the last few months helping perpetrate several dozen industrial-sized fake news events—is now so suddenly, breathlessly concerned about “spreading rumors” and “unconfirmed information.” Gee, what’s different this time around? What is the distinction between an anonymously-sourced, wholly unconfirmed (and eventually on-the-record denied) story about James Comey’s resource request on the one hand, and yet another European truck / knife murder spree on the other? Can you spot the difference? Why would the Post run with the one yet exercise breathless forbearance with the other?
A couple of weeks ago I wrote that Western civilization frequently displays a queer kind of deference towards Islam, and in no area is this clearer than that of terrorism. Several days after the Manchester Islamist terrorist attack but a few days before the London Bridges Islamist terrorist attack, Medhi Hasan wrote that “white far-right terrorists” are in fact the more dangerous terrorists, at least in the United States, because, “Since September 12, 2001, the number of fatalities caused by domestic violent extremists has ranged from 1 to 49 in a given year. … Fatalities resulting from attacks by far-right wing violent extremists have exceeded those caused by radical Islamist violent extremists in 10 of the 15 years, and were the same in 3 of the years since September 12, 2001.” But, as Hasan concedes, Islamists have actually racked up a higher body count overall during the same time period—and if you move the data window back a single day, the Islamists are ahead by about 3,000 bodies, which strikes me as—I don’t know—a bit of a scale-tipper, call me crazy. (Most deferential arguments regarding Islamic terrorism tend to strategically clock their terrorism statistics starting at 12:01 AM on September 12th, 2001.)
You do not see the same rhetorical pathology arise in the cases of, say, American mass shootings: every time some lunatic shoots up a mall or a school or a disarmed Army base, there arises a fresh series of demands to scrap the Second Amendment, confiscate all American firearms Australia-style, and finally castrate the American citizenry of their sick fetish with guns. For good measure progressives will often throw in a strident “You’re-more-likely-to-be-killed-by-a-mass-shooter-than-a-Muslim-terrorist-excluding-Sepetember-Eleventh-of-course.” Leaving aside the fact that guns in America are a constitutional right and thus a bit of a difficult ban to wrangle, the comparison neglects the practical difference between guns and Islam: the one is an inert tool, while the other is a fungible ideology the demographic implications of which are much more concerning. Put another way: a Pew report a number of years ago found that, in France, well over a third of Muslims believe that “suicide bombing of civilian targets to defend Islam” can be justified at least some of the time. In other words, within the largest religious minority in France, over thirty percent have at least some genuine sympathy with terrorists. Might that not be cause for concern? By comparison, do you think you could scare up a third of all United States gun owners who believe that psychopathic mass shootings are ever justified? Hell, do you think you could scare up a tenth, or a twentieth, or a fiftieth?
The deep stupidity will continue: there will be another massacre, another bomb, another truck, another knife, another Allahu Akbar—and quickly thereafter we will see the same old bizarre and irrelevant excuses trotted out: you’re more likely to die from a homicidal rapist great white shark than you are a Muslim terrorist, the terrorists aren’t actually Muslim, all religions are crazy, the Crusades were bad, too. It is a weird experience to witness a civilization trip all over itself attempting to explain away the people who wish to destroy it. I am not sure what drives this impulse—though the impulses of the murderers at London Bridge two days ago are very clear indeed, and it is a wonder that we are so quick and so eager to deny it.