Jonah Goldberg’s syndicated column references then-Senator Patrick Moynihan 1993 essay, titled “Defining Deviancy Down“, which Goldberg describes as “one of the most influential articles of the last decade”:
Moynihan argued that deviancy – crime, mental illness, out-of-wedlock births, etc. — had become so rampant, had so thoroughly soaked into the culture, that we simply had to redefine the abnormal as normal to cope. By setting the bar lower, we comforted ourselves with the notion that the percentage of abnormal behavior was still manageable.
Moynihan’s most famous example was the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. That event was a major turning point in American history, credited with helping to convince Americans to abandon prohibition. It warranted two entries in the World Book Encyclopedia. The actual details? Four gangsters murdered seven gangsters.
In the early 1990s, Moynihan noted, Los Angeles suffered from the equivalent of one St. Valentine’s Day Massacre every weekend.
And, of course, we can say much the same about suicide bombings in Israel. Perhaps it’s an admirable inclination to want to depict something like Wednesday’s “Passover Massacre” as an aberration. But the fact is, suicide bombings and other violent acts are part of everyday life for Israelis and Palestinians. The aberrations are cease-fires and truces.
Both essays are well worth reading.