Thursday, July 12, 2007


[posted by Callimachus]

I know the left is more intelligent, and more capable than I am of parsing the human experience into its essential qualities. I know this because repeatedly they tell me so. Yet still I read things like this.

Having reviewed some of the recent ruminations of Michelle Malkin and The Drudge Report, I am bemused by the level and intensity of their fear of terrorism, and the narrowness of its focus, as if no other dangers existed if only this one could be eliminated or controlled.


What about the risk of dying of avian flu or in some other nasty epidemic? Or even of something commonplace, such as ordinary flu? What about having someone plough into the side of your car? What about slipping in the bathtub or being struck by lightning? What about dying in a hurricane when a tree comes through the roof or when your car overheats as you're trying to evacuate (as might well have occurred during Hurricane Rita, but thankfully did not)? What about dying of a heretofore unsuspected allergy to peanuts, bee venom, shellfish?

What about it. Terrorism ... peanuts. About the same thing, right?

But isn't there a difference between you being allergic to peanuts and accidentally eating some and keeling over dead, and someone knowing of your allergy stuffing the peanuts down your throat as you struggle to live and have one more day with your family? If not, then why bother to prosecute some shoddy, shady food-product marketer for omitting to mention peanut in the ingredients on the label?

It's called "intent." And it matters a great deal.

This is a common theme among the smarter-than-you left. And I suspect they know it's a fallacy. Why, for instance, did the above post choose an example based on Hurricane Rita, rather than the much-better-known Hurricane Katrina? Because the intent and choices of the Bush Administration before and during that calamity are the key part of that narrative on the left (and elsewhere), so to invoke Katrina would bollix up the "stuff happens" shrug.

So I wonder why they trot it out so tirelessly. Glenn Greenwald once wrote:

The total number of Americans killed by Islamic terrorists in the last 5 years ? or 10 years ? or 20 years ? or ever ? is roughly 3,500, the same number of deaths by suicide which occur in this country every month.

The number of college students killed by National Guards at Kent State was less than the number that died that year from alcohol overdoses. More blacks in the South in the 1920s died from poor hospital care than from lynching.

Yes and let's also remember that all those Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals incinerated at Auschwitz would be dead by now of old age anyhow.

So these things weren't real problems, right? Just the hyperventilations of "bedwetters," or exaggerations trumped up for some sinister political purpose.

Hell, in the end, everyone gets dead. It's just a matter of luck of the draw whether you go from terrorism or peanuts, right?

Because human beings have the power of intention, and peanuts do not, there is a difference. And unless you're a Buddhist saint or a pure Pyrrhonist philosopher, you will feel that difference in your bowels: Terrorism is an indignity.

To the terrorist, you are frankly irrelevant. He wants nothing from you but your life. Not your surrender, not your money, not your good behavior. Terrorism has a perverse quality of art; it embraces many elements of theater, and the essential players are artist, audience, and medium. The essential connection is between the terrorist and the audience who will be psychologically traumatized. The dead? You are mere props.

Terrorism's victims are taken to death with full human deliberation and will and craft. But they are essentially taken at random (unless, as sometimes, their very innocence is what dooms them). They are living corpses waiting to be arranged for the camera in the most dramatic poses. It is the ultimate dehumanization, the complete objectification of human life.

Yet people who claim to be liberals persist in comparing the number of humans slain by terrorist hands to, say, the number of victims of lightning strikes. Liberals? What would Voltaire call them?