Ed Driscoll


In The Prehistory of The Far Side, a 1989 anthology of Gary Larson’s classic cartoons, there’s a panel he drew in 1986 featuring a nighttime metropolitan setting with buildings alternately on fire or knocked over, and smashed and overturned cars everywhere. In the foreground of all the devastation, a police detective in a raincoat and fedora and a uniformed patrolman stare at a giant handkerchief with the monogram “K.K.” on it. The detective barks, “Take this handkerchief back to the lab, Stevens. I want some answers on which monster did this — Godzilla! Gargantua! Who?”

As Larson wrote while reminiscing about drawing the cartoon, “the only name I could think of for the handkerchief was King Kong. There aren’t too many famous monsters running around with first and last names.”*

The cluelessness of the police in Larson’s cartoon reminds me of the left’s self-imposed blinders on not wanting to come to grips with the Tsarnaev brothers. Could their motives be, as Jonathan S. Tobin of Commentary spots Melissa Harris-Perry asking on MSNBC…classical music?

Michael Dyson: We fill in the blanks with what makes us feel most comfortable that this is an exceptional, extraordinary case that happened because they are this. 

So you take one part of the element, that he’s Muslim. But he also might have listened to classical music. He might have had some Lil Wayne. He might have also gone to and listened to a lecturer

Harris Perry: I keep wondering is it possible that there would ever be a discussion like, ‘This is because of Ben Affleck and the connection between Boston and movies about violence?’ And of course, the answer is no.

Of course no one will even think this is about those things. But at the same time there’s something, I appreciate the way that you framed that as the one drop. Like, because given that they’re Chechen, given that they are literally Caucasian, our very sense of connection to them is this framed-up notion of, like, Islam making them something that is non-normal. It is not us. The point is that it’s important to say, ‘That’s not us, you know, this is not American. This is not who we are.’ Because we couldn’t potentially do what they did. But if they’re more like us, the point you were making earlier, if they’re just like us, they grew up in the same neighborhoods, they listened to the same kind of music, they talk to the same kind of people.

It is easy to dismiss this sort of talk as just the public mutterings of the radical left, but it would be foolish to ignore it. The efforts of groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to muscle the federal government into excising a discussion of militant Islamism from our approach to combating threats is part of a campaign to prevent Americans from connecting the dots between terrorists and the belief systems that motivate them. The effort to make us pretend that the Tsarnaevs’ approach to their faith is as irrelevant to the atrocities they committed as the songs on their iPods is not absurd; it’s dangerous.

Of course, if groups of organized classical music lovers had been carrying out terrorist attacks in the name of their beliefs Harris-Perry’s brand of moral relativism might make sense. But in the real world in which the rest of us live, the source of the terror threat of the last generation has been Islamist.

Or perhaps it was a very different genre of music that set the Brothers Tsarnaev off, as another MSNBC guest posited?

MADDOW: A lot of people are trying to figure out if these men, uh, were terrorists who were radicalized overseas, if they were terrorists who were radicalized here, if this was totally unrelated to terrorist and, to terrorist causes. Do you think there will be a definitive answer with regard to their Chechen heritage in terms of whether that’s relevant and explanatory here?

KING: Well, I think it’s relevant to a degree. That is to say that, these guys grew up in a particular kind of community with a particular kind of history. They had a certain kind of background, but at the end of the day if we’re looking for motivation for this particular act, I think it’s going to lie in the way that they were radicalized in the United States, on the Internet, visiting chat rooms, putting their own kind of lives into some kind of narrative about this nihilistic, millenarian, sort of anti-Western, anti-modern, uh, jihadist ideology that you find in lots of different kinds of communities around the world.

MADDOW (quickly jumping to accused jihadists’ defense): If they, if they did.

KING: If they did. We still don’t know.

MADDOW: We have some evidence of a YouTube page that we think may connect to the older brother that posted some radicalized YouTube clips. The younger brother, there’s very thin evidence of anything.

KING: Well, and keep in mind that on his, on the elder brother’s, Tamerlan’s YouTube channel, there are an equal number of rap videos.

MADDOW (her spirit briefly lifted): Yeah.

KING: So, you know, I don’t know why we tend to focus on this one particular aspect because these guys frankly have a lot of consonants in their names and we’re kind of worried about that somehow (what this “we’re” stuff, paleface?). But in lots of other contexts of mass killing, we go to other kinds of motivations and I think we really ought to look at those in this case as well.

Perhaps an overexposure to the Boston area’s ugly modernist architecture triggered their attack:

 U. Mass Dartmouth, which started life as the Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute, dates from the same period and is a strange mix of technocratic rationalism and architectural megalomania. A vast parade ground posing as a campus green runs between lines of identical buildings. Hoisted on hefty concrete piers, highway-scaled beams span vast distances, holding up horizontal trays of academic space that jut pugnaciously into the green.

* * * * * *

Amazingly, Rudolph’s design has been barely altered and rarely added to. The newest dormitory has been built in a budget-minded medium-security-prison style that makes the Rudolph buildings look humanist.

* * * * * *

As I sat stewing under the lock-down order, my thoughts returned to the U Mass campus, which swarmed with students who looked much like Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the bombing suspect. Although it’s too early to know whether he was motivated to violence by political or religious fervor, that’s looking unlikely as I write this. He was a student at the Dartmouth U Mass campus, it turns out. He seems to have had many friends, but I wondered about the effect of such a deeply impersonal place. It’s isolated at the suburban edge and unintentionally expressive of the assembly-line education that’s become the cost-driven norm. Does such a place aid the alienation — or, at least, impede the forming of deep personal bonds — of even a smart, sociable kid?

It sounds much too glib an explanation — as the numerous other theories we are now hearing are likely to be — but I can’t help thinking it.

Please do. Considering the socialist and “Progressive” origins of modern architecture, and its disastrous impact on public housing, run with that explanation for the Tsarnaevs’ radicalism, leftists. Run with it hard.

Perhaps it’s simply “radicalism” in general, as another MSNBC host claims:

Scarborough can’t shed the PC shackles enough to take the extra, logical step of pointing to the leading cause of terror attacks in the world today. He uses the watered down “radicalism” as a catch-all to encompass all radical ideas under one umbrella, as if “radicalism” is the biggest threat in our society. He just can’t bring himself to point out the significant fact that the terrorists were hugely influenced by radical Islamism.  “Don’t blame society for that. Blame radicalism, blame evil, blame them (the Tsaraev brothers.)”

So if we go with “radicalism” as an explanation, then pretty much everyone who works in front of the cameras at NBC News is to blame, considering that:

If anybody can make sense of it all, it’s Victor Davis Hanson, as we’ll explore on the next page.

Last night at the gym,  I listened to the Ricochet podcast recorded this past Friday featuring Mona Charen and Jay Nordlinger of NRO interviewing Victor Davis Hanson. (Wait, isn’t this the sort of thing that everyone listens to while they’re on the treadmill?) In contrast to all of the self-imposed cluelessness on the left, at one point, VDH posited a fascinating hypothesis on the push-pull nature of Muslim immigrants who are attracted to America because of its freedoms and liberal nature (the old school definition, not necessarily liberal=leftist), and then become repulsed by that very freedom and liberality and retreat by returning to Islam and becoming radicalized:

VDH: We’ve seen 40 or 50 of these foiled plots and isolated, lone-wolf killers. And 75 percent seem to be angry losers, usually male, usually  between, I don’t know, 18 and 30, and usually returning to Islam, or adapting Islam. I’m thinking of the guy in Seattle that shot up the shopping center. I’m thinking of the Iranian guy at North Carolina campus. The person who attacked the Jewish Center in Seattle. John Muhammad, that was executed, the sniper.

They’re not coordinated with Al-Qaeda. I think I wrote a couple of articles for NRO titled “Al-Qaedistic” or “Al-Qaedist.”  Al-Qeada resonates to them in a spontaneous fashion.

CHAREN: Yes. Isn’t it fair to say that none of them was married, so they felt unsuccessful in their romantic lives. They were unsuccessful in their professional lives in some way or other. Although in the case of [US Army Maj.] Hasan, it’s a little bit of a two-way street. That is, his accelerating craziness on the subject of religion impeded his professional advancement somewhat, though he still had a pretty cushy position in the US military.

VDH: And they generally tend to interpret liberality or kindness by the society at large as a sign of decadence or weakness. They resent the hand that feeds them. They feel that, “you people don’t have any standards. You don’t have any hierarchies, you don’t have any traditions. Therefore, I love to come to your country, compared to the misery that I left. However, once I got here, I’m finding myself becoming like you, and therefore, I’ve got to go back to Islam.”

But it never makes sense. When I heard that one of the terrorists that was killed was going back to Chechnya, I thought, well, wait a minute: we offered him asylum, on the premise that it was too dangerous for him to live openly there. So he had to flee to the United States. And he gets here – and then we gave him a visa to go back there. Why would he go back if he was endangered there in the first place?

That’s obviously – not obviously, but likely where he got his training to do this stuff that  he did.

CHAREN:  We have to be a little cautious, because all of this is very new, and truth is the first casualty, and all of that. A lot of this is very preliminary information. But based on what I have seen today, the older brother tweeted some of the exact things that you’re talking about, Victor. He tweeted that he has no American friends, he doesn’t understand them, people have no standards anymore.  And he doesn’t drink and he doesn’t smoke [because] Islam forbids this.

And I thought, what kind of a twisted imagination – and it isn’t just this individual, it afflicts, alas, millions of people. What kind of a twisted moral system allows you to conclude that you are the moral superior of people who are sexually loose? Who allow dancing between men and women; allow a lot of things that many of us probably disapprove of. But nevertheless, approve of blowing up eight year olds and innocent at a marathon. It’s just mindboggling.

VDH: Especially [GARBLED DUE TO CROSSTALK]  that the culture that welcomed here. I mean, there is this old, ancient idea of ingratitude.  I mean, he could have easily stayed in Chechnya if it was so wonderful, and dealt with the Russians, but his family chose not to. So they came out to an embracing, affable society that allowed them a second chance in a way that millions would have only dreamed of. And then his reaction is to do that to the society that nourished him.

And it’s disgusting, but it’s almost as if, the more that he sees this popular culture that we’ve been talking about. And then he sees the official reaction: “man-caused disasters,” “overseas contingency operations”;  can’t use the word “terrorist”; can’t use the word “Islamist”; gotta create an idea of “workplace violence” for Maj. Hasan. He gets the other message that we’re sort of so easy-going that nothing really gets us upset. And instead of having respect for that liberality, he grows contemptuous of it.

As Tobin concludes his post at Commentary:

The desire to deny that Islamism is the driving force behind homegrown terrorists and their crimes is rooted in the myth of a post 9/11 backlash against Muslims. That entirely fictional idea that Muslims were subjected to widespread discrimination has no basis in fact, but it is an article of faith in certain sectors of the left and in the mainstream liberal media. It is one thing to try and delegitimize pro-active vigilance against Islamism by falsely alleging bias in the actions of the government or even the general population. It is quite another to deny, as even leftist comedian Bill Maher pointed out last week, that “There’s only one faith that kills you or wants to kill you if you renounce the faith.”

If even Bill Maher can figure it out, why can’t the rest of the left?

Some thoughts on why can be found here.

Related: Tim Blair asks, “How confident was the Sydney Morning Herald that the Boston bombers were associated with the Tea Party? So confident that last Friday it ran this teapot terror image.”

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage based on a modified Shutterstock.com image.)