I am still working on a post about prison disenfranchisement. It’s a subject I find extraordinarily interesting considering the republic we celebrate. However, I received some interesting mail about my Ft. Hood post; the comments provided several areas to think about in addition to what was already published; and of the many blog posts and articles continuing the coverage, Christopher Hitchens and Robert Wright have a lively dance.
As always, I encourage reading Hitchens’ article and Robert Wright’s op-ed at The New York Times, well – not so much. Just kidding, read it – no, really. In a stunning race to oversimplify, Wright informs us that the left’s position is that the war on terror (oops, The War on Terror) is what made Major Hasan. Of course, Hitchens takes issue with this notion (me too, me too). Hitchens opens his Slate article like this:
It’s both amusing and educational to observe a consensus when it suddenly starts to give way at all points without yielding an inch. A couple of weeks ago, the consoling view was that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was a man more to be pitied than feared, a full-blown officer in the U.S. armed forces who was too shaken up by the stories of returned veterans to be able to function properly, and a physician too stressed-out to bear in mind that there was such a thing as a Hippocratic oath. Why, even the FBI had interpreted his e-mails to Anwar al-Awlaki as quite “consistent with research being conducted by Maj. Hasan in his position as a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Medical Center” (Slate 20091123:1337).
As he did last week, he does this week – Hitchens shreds these pretensions. Then he takes exception to Wright’s article. It’s worth providing a bit of Wright’s own words here to get a taste of his reasoning. It’s seductive in its emotional content, and the emotional appeal is often accepted by readers at the expense of their critical thinking skills. The unvarnished argument is that if you call Muslims names it’s sure to cause violence. Most grownups don’t respond with violence unless they’re attacked with violence. Here’s the varnished argument:
The more Americans denigrate Islam and view Muslims in the workplace with suspicion, the more likely the virus is to spread — and each appearance of the virus in turn tempts more people to denigrate Islam and view Muslims with suspicion. Whenever you have a positive feedback system like this, an isolated incident can put you on a slippery slope.
And the Fort Hood shooting wasn’t the only recent step along that slope. Six months ago a 24-year-old American named Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad — Carlos Bledsoe before his teenage conversion to Islam — fatally shot a soldier outside a recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark. ABC News reported, “It was not known what path Muhammad … had followed to radicalization.” Well, here’s a clue: After being arrested he started babbling to the police about the killing of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan (The New York Times 20091121).
Yes sir! You know how the liberal argument went down for the abortion doctor killer… why the more you denigrate those Christian fundamentalists the more slippery that slope becomes and… and, my goodness WE caused that evil little bastard to pull the trigger and shoot the doctor. Nope, didn’t quite go down that way – in fact, the prevailing opinion was that fundamentalist Christians calling for direct action against abortion clinics should be held accountable for their teachings. Anyone should be able to see that those teachings have consequences… hmmmm. Ok, enough of my mini-rant.
Hitchens takes aim in a somewhat different direction – who’s killing Muslims? After detailing a huge laundry list of Muslims killing Muslims, Hitchens reasonably questions Wright’s notion of the slippery slope, the “dubious” nature of foreign policy and more. Here’s his article’s finishing flourish:
Dubious? The only thing dubious here is his command of language. When did the U.S. Army ever do what the jihadists do every day: deliberately murder Muslim civilians and brag on video about the fact? For shame. The slippery slope—actually the slimy slope—is the one down which Wright is skidding.
It is he, who I am taking as representative of a larger mentality here, who uses equally inert lingo to suggest that Maj. Hasan was “pushed over the edge by his perception of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.” That’s a nice and shady use of the word “perception.” Might it not be equally true to say that Hasan was all-too-easily pulled over the edge, having already signaled his devout eagerness for the dive, by a cleric who makes a living by justifying murder of Muslims and non-Muslims alike?
In many recent reports of this controversy one has seen reporters from respectable papers referring not just to generic, uniform “Muslims” but even to the places where they live as “Muslim lands.” If you would object to seeing the absurd term “Christendom” in your newspaper as a description of Europe, let alone to reading about “Jewish land” on the West Bank, then please have the fortitude to complain next time violent theocracy is smuggled into the discourse under the increasingly feeble disguise of multicultural masochism (Slate 20091123:1337).
I’d say that pretty much wraps it up – except for a couple of articles at The Weekly Standard here and here that you may find of interest. They echo and expand on some of the elements presented here – including, wait for it… some evidence based journalism
Again, Happy Thanksgiving all!