Selective Lone-Nuttery

August 31st, 2010at 07:48am Posted by Eli

Stanley Fish had a nice column in yesterday’s NYT pointing out the cynical inconsistency of right-wing reaction to terrorist attacks, depending on the perpetrator:

In the brief period between the bombing and the emergence of McVeigh, speculation had centered on Arab terrorists and the culture of violence that was said to be woven into the fabric of the religion of Islam.

But when it turned out that a white guy (with the help of a few of his friends) had done it, talk of “culture” suddenly ceased and was replaced by the vocabulary and mantras of individualism: each of us is a single, free agent; blaming something called “culture” was just a way of off-loading responsibility for the deeds we commit; in America, individuals, not groups, act; and individuals, not groups, should be held accountable. McVeigh may have looked like a whole lot of other guys who dressed up in camouflage and carried guns and marched in the woods, but, we were told by the same people who had been mouthing off about Islam earlier, he was just a lone nut, a kook, and generalizations about some “militia” culture alive and flourishing in the heartland were entirely unwarranted.

(…)

It is wrong, we hear, to regard the proposed mosque or community center as an ordinary exercise of free enterprise and freedom of religion by the private owners of a piece of property. It is, rather, a thumb in the eye or a slap in the face of the 9/11 victims and their families, a potential clearinghouse for international terrorist activities, a “victory mosque” memorializing a great triumph of jihad and a monument to the religion in whose name and by whose adherents the dreadful deed was done.

But according to the same folks who oppose the mosque because of what it stands for, Michael Enright’s act doesn’t stand for anything and is certainly not the product of what Time magazine calls a growing “American strain of Islamophobia.” Instead, The New York Post declares, the stabbing is “the act of a disturbed individual who is now in custody,” and across the fold of the page columnist Jonah Goldberg says that “one assault doesn’t a national trend make” and insists that “we shouldn’t let anyone suggest that this criminal reflects anybody but himself.”

The formula is simple and foolproof (although those who deploy it so facilely seem to think we are all fools): If the bad act is committed by a member of a group you wish to demonize, attribute it to a community or a religion and not to the individual. But if the bad act is committed by someone whose profile, interests and agendas are uncomfortably close to your own, detach the malefactor from everything that is going on or is in the air (he came from nowhere) and characterize him as a one-off, non-generalizable, sui generis phenomenon.

How many violent homicidal right-wing crazies do we have to see before we see some conservatives start to admit that maybe, just maybe, that DHS report was right about the dangers of right-wing extremism, not to mention all the provocative teabagger rhetoric about 2nd Amendment remedies and watering the tree of liberty?  Or are murder and incitement okay as long as you pretend that they’re motivated by patriotism?

Entry Filed under: Racism,Religion,Republicans,Terrorism,Wankers


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