Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn

I’m blogging through the Dark Knight massacre story as updates arrive and commentators react here.

But my 8:50 update is one that shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle. Here it is with an additional point.

Update 8:50: David Sirota at Salon has decided to use this tragedy to begin a debate about whether we should use the word “terrorism” to describe acts such as this:

For all the legitimate questions that will be asked in the coming days (Why are there so many mass shootings in America? Why is it so easy to buy weapons-grade tear gas canisters? How much is this related to the availability of guns?); for all the insulting media coverage that will try to ramrod the dead Fargo-style into the woodchipper of the presidential campaign (New York Times headline: “In Wake of Colorado Shooting, a Concern Over the Proriety of Campaigining”); and for all the demagogues who will use this tragedy for their own gain (pro-gun GOP Rep. Loui Gohmert is today blaming the shooting victims for not being armed) – there is only one harrowing conclusion we can come to for certain immediately after such a heinous act: terrorism has no specific nationality, geography, race or creed.

Not surprisingly, police and reporters have been quick to tell us the opposite — that the suspected shooter was likely just a “lone wolf” and that “this act does not appear to be linked to radical terrorism or anything related to Islamic terrorism,” as ABC News put it. This newspeak is supposed to reassure us that this is anything but terrorism — that terrorism is something that happens only in far away places or huge cosmopolitan cities, not in an Anytown, USA in the American heartland; that terrorism never comes at the hands of a “24-year-old white American male” named “James Holmes,” it only comes at the hands of dark-skinned “evildoers” with hard-to-pronounce names. In this, we are expected to be sedated by such reassurances, and to ignore the ever-growing list of such “lone wolves”, and to reject a much wider definition of terrorism, no matter how much the reality of shooting after shooting after shooting screams at us to accept it.

But with bodies strewn across an Aurora movie theater, we must ask: what is terrorism, if it is not a man in a riot mask and bullet-proof vest, armed with tear gas canisters and weapons, meticulously executing a military-style assault on a crowded movie theater?

Just because something is “terrifying” it does not mean it’s an act of “terrorism.” The term “terrorism” refers to violent acts inflicted in order to intimidate a population into submitting to political or cultural revolution. Here’s the dictionary definition:


[ter-uh-riz-uhm]  Show IPA



the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.


the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.


a terroristic method of governing or of resisting agovernment.

A mass murder who wants to “watch the world burn” is not a terrorist like Al Qaeda is and Bill Ayers was.

I wrote about the denial of evil when reviewing Dennis Prager’s new book Still the Best Hope here. One of the images from the article: