The murder of a soldier at an Arkansas recruiting depot by a Muslim convert is unrelated to the killing of Wichita doctor George Tiller by a man described as an anti-abortion activist except in that both events show how a militant idea can take on human form. KARK 4 News news reports:
Just after 5:00 this evening, Little Rock Police say Abulhakin Muhammad, also known as Carlos Bledsoe, will be charged with capital murder and 15 counts of terroristic acts after a shooting at an Army/Navy recruitment center on Rodney Parham Road in Little Rock. … Little Rock Police Chief Stuart Thomas says Muhammad, originally of Memphis, targeted military personnel. 23-year-old Private William Long, of Conway, died as a result of his injuries. 18-year-old Private Quinton Ezeagwula, of Jacksonville, was also shot. Chief Thomas says he is in stable condition and will recover.
The Kansas City Star wrote in an editorial that Dr. George Tiller’s death was public policy advocacy “by bullet”. “This is a horrible notion, and must be rejected by all,” it wrote. Yet if one is justified in fingering anti-abortion activists as contributing to the climate which killed Dr. Tiller, what can be said of those who made the acts in Arkansas intellectually attractive to Abulhakin Muhammad, formerly Carlos Bledsoe? One of the dangers of political speech is that listeners might actually take words seriously. “Don’t tell me words don’t matter”, Barack Obama once said. He was right: they do. For that reason the murders of Tiller and Long won’t just be about a criminal tragedy, as if it were some drug-fueled, mindless crime. They will be about words and their consequences.
Words are potent stuff. They can turn on the men who speak them. Sometimes they can even possess them. Even an anarchist like Errico Malatesta could be wary of them. Those who live by the meme, die by the meme. Malatesta wrote:
“Violence (physical force) used to another’s hurt, which is the most brutal form of struggle between men can assume, is eminently corrupting. It tends, by its very nature, to suffocate the best sentiments of man, and to develop all the antisocial qualities, ferocity, hatred, revenge, the spirit of domination and tyranny, contempt of the weak, servility towards the strong. And this harmful tendency arises also when violence is used for a good end. … Anarchists who rebel against every sort of oppression and struggle for the integral liberty of each and who ought thus to shrink instinctively from all acts of violence which cease to be mere resistance to oppression and become oppressive in their turn are also liable to fall into the abyss of brutal force.”
“Cry havoc and let slip the nouns of war”.