Should We Allow Ourselves To Be Terrorised?

Andrew Sullivan argues that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – Boston bombing suspects – were motivated by religious terrorism:

We know full well that Tamerlan had become a total extremist in his religion. He was thrown out of his own mosque for being a bigot; his family complained about his obsessive religiosity; he berated others for not being sufficiently devout; he had archaic notions of women’s role in society; he gave up his beloved boxing because of Islam. His YouTube account is full of Islamist extremism. And he deployed terrorist violence because of it. That’s Jihad, Kevin. It’s religion in its most toxic form – as the AP finally acknowledged last night. It doesn’t need a foreign terror group for it to be Jihad; it’s obviously not Chechen nationalism – because that would mean attacking Russia, not the Boston Marathon, a symbol of co-ed multi-cultural secularism. I think some liberals who have never experienced religious faith find it hard to imagine how faith alone can spur someone to mass murder. They need to get out more.

There’s more than a whisper of racism about: irony seems lost on the latest edition of The Week, its cover portraying the – Caucasian – brothers as brown-skinned caricatures of the extremist the Islamists know and love well. It’s outrageously stupid and falls right into the net of the harpies capitalising on the moment to bang on about “Islamophobia”.

Running alongside this theme is one more troubling, though: we’re told that that the visceral portrait the media inevitably paints after these is itself a defeat. Long coverage, extended panic, flashes of photography flicking through our nightmares vindicate the terrorists whose aim was only ever to leave us feeling vulnerable and defenseless. None of this is justified given so low a death toll. Apparently. Peter Hitchens tell us:

In many cases they save us the trouble of killing them by doing it themselves. But if they survive, they deserve a fair trial and then a swift vertical journey through a trap door with a rope round their necks.

Yet instead, we do exactly what they hope we will do. We act as if they are important. We turn our countries upside down to take useless precautions against them. We give the police special powers. We make travel into a silly palaver of searches and checks of obviously harmless people. We destroy half our ancient liberties as we tramp and stamp about. Then, later on, we give in to the terrorists anyway.

None of these precautions works. They are as futile as the toy golf-ball detector which a cunning fraud successfully sold as an explosives scanner, and they work on the same principle. The client is so scared that he has stopped thinking, and will gullibly accept almost anything he is told.

The distinction between horror and hysteria is a pivotal one, since however slight the difference the repercussions are serious. The story that Hitchens outlines – of unwritten racial profiling, of written control orders, of treating every air passenger like a violent child – is the ultimate capitulation, making a suspect of everyone and a citizen of none. The same is true of those driven mad by the prospect of an Islamic community centre at Ground Zero as though all Muslims were agents of the Satan they saw in the smoke.

But not all horrors are hysterical; indeed it’s the rational nightmare that is the most truly terrifying. That, if nothing else, is what terrorists want us to abandon. Faces chilled by apathy are like broken instruments; because the terrorist want to stop the music, not just kill the musician. If we try to hide the disgust we feel towards murder then they win on both accounts. Consider the saying of the French when the Germans stripped them of Alsace and Lorraine in 1871: “Always think of it. Never speak of it.” Their rationale was impotence; and despair sealed their defeat. Western armies might never be able to stop lunatics grabbing bombs, but: religious terrorism assaults a culture to which arbitrary slaughter should forever be alien. In making that normative we sell off those very principles that they fear.

No one really knows who told us that good men who sit in silence allow for the prospering of evil. I suspect the reason is because it’s so obvious a dictum that attributing it to one person would be to sacrifice the integrity common to every decent person.


10 Comments on “Should We Allow Ourselves To Be Terrorised?”

  1. bullright says:

    Good article. A line worth repeating, “It doesn’t need a foreign terror group for it to be Jihad; “

  2. Americans don’t need terrorists to terrorize us, we have rampant gun violence, and trigger happy homicidal maniacs doing that on a daily basis. Ours is a culture of violence, whether it is perpetuated by religious or secular zealots. And as far as the US government, everything here changed after September 11. I am not sure that under the Patriot Act, any American retains the integrity or status of being a truly free citizen. So in my view, the terrorists may have achieved something of what they wanted. On some level we have already lost the battle and maybe even the war. Still, we can never be silent.

    • CrankyBuddha says:

      Americans may not need terrorists to terrorize us but we have reacted to any tragic event (mostly) in the same way; “something must be done!” Usually that means decreasing freedoms and increasing regulations.
      We as a people are unable to accept that bad things happen, you deal with them and move on (I believe this is some of what is written about in this post). We have a mind set that we can regulate and control our way into safety and security and that is not possible. Murphy and criminals, like those in Boston, will always find a way to create tragedy.
      To paraphrase, trading freedom for security means you will have neither.

      • Mark says:

        I do largely agree – only liberties which are entirely redundant and meaningless should be thrown away for the sake of security, but this in itself demands that we assess every case on its own merits.

      • CrankyBuddha says:

        I am uncomfortable with liberties that are “redundant or meaningless.” Who gets to decide what those are? When is that decided?
        Some would contend that the surviving brother’s rights to a fair trial, a lawyer, the right to remain silent are meaningless in light of what he did. Civil rights and liberties that are guaranteed by law should be respected. If those rights are redundant or meaningless repeal them via the appropriate process but not as a knee jerk reaction. That’s how we (the US) ended up with the Patriot Act.

    • Mark says:

      I do agree with you – I only wanted to point out that emotional reactions to these are, in some form another, always in some sense justifiable. But I also agree that the same should take place when it comes to all levels of violence (secular or religious).

      • Yes, my comment may not have been clear. It wasn’t countering your argument. I was merely stating that America is imploding from within by its violence, whether or not we have the added violence coming from people outside of the country or not. During the reporting of the Boston bombing, I was bothered by the fact that each and every article never failed to mention the alleged bombers’ Chechen ethnicity. Why isn’t Adam Lanza shooting 20 six and seven year olds, or the Aurora theater shooting, not called terrorism. I fail to see what it is that makes some acts terrorism and others not. In my mind, mass shooters are no different than terrorists, and mass shooters are a serious problem in America.

  3. CrankyBuddha says:

    While persecution of a religion or a race ased on the actions of few is wrong we need to be careful that we do not deny reality in a drive for political correctness.
    At some levels of government in this country (the US) over the last few years we have tried so hard to be politically correct towards certain groups that it leads to certain groups becoming a protected class. To warn of the threat of terrorism from certain groups is considered politically incorrect and those who do so are called out as racists and bigots. If you are more likely to be robbed by a young black male pointing that out is not being racist it is being honest. If terror attacks are more likely to be carried out by Islamic fundamentalists recognizing that and stating it is not bigoted it is reality.
    The issue is when these statements of fact are used to infringe on the rights and liberties of those groups or to encourage violence in return against the group as a whole.

  4. These guys killed 3 people with undersophisticated bombs using black gunpowder and cooking pots… they could have been from Texas and asking for hispanic supremacy or maybe fans from one of those TV shows they got in Discovery or History Channel where they make pink AR-15’s, protesting for weapon control laws… imagine they had been arabic… but Members of the NRA… or former war veterans supportig the republicans… then what would be different?.

    There’s 30k ppl killed in USA per year by fire arms. that’s almost the same amount than Syria in Civil War.

    There’s no bigger blind than that who does not want to see.

    And Americans will ignore or believe whatever is needed to keep them saying “Fire in the hole!!! ROCK’NROLL!!” … right before smelling some cordite.

    Damn kiddos and their toys.

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