In the saturation coverage right after the events, the "expert" talking heads are compelled to offer theories about the causes and consequences. In the following days and weeks, newspapers and magazine will have their theories too. Looking back, we can see that all such efforts are futile. The shootings never mean anything. Forty years later, what did the Charles Whitman massacre "mean"? A decade later, do we "know" anything about Columbine? There is chaos and evil in life. Some people go crazy. In America, they do so with guns; in many countries, with knives; in Japan, sometimes poison.
We know the emptiness of these events in retrospect, though we suppress that knowledge when the violence erupts as it is doing now. The cable-news platoons tonight are offering all their theories and thought-drops. They've got to fill time. I wish they could stop. As the Vietnam-era saying went, Don't mean nothing.
No matter how badly the media try to spin it another way, or to ignore the religion ghost in this story, Hasan's religion was to all appearances a key factor in the mass murder he committed. You don't have a Muslim shouting "Allahu akbar!" as he executes people one by one, and conclude that religion is incidental to his crime. You have to be a moral idiot to draw that conclusion, a politically correct nitwit.
So: how should we regard the role of Hasan's religion in this infamy?
Ft. Hood’s commander, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, said today that there are unconfirmed reports that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shouted “God is great” in Arabic before opening fire yesterday at the Army base. Again: we will soon be able to hear Hasan’s motivations in his own words. Even if he shouted such a thing, it would no more reflect on his co-religionists than does the fanatic who murdered Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller and who happened to consider himself a devout Christian does on his co-religionists. It’s worth remembering that nearly all mass shootings in this country are committed by white men. Do we have a white-man problem on our hands?
This was jihad.
Enlightened Americans -- at least those who trace their patriotism to Thomas Jefferson, a man fascinated by and respectful of Islam whose library contained copies of the Koran -- should be unsettled by the rush to judgment regarding not just this one Muslim but all Muslims.
More will be revealed. From where I stand, much of this looks like religion-inspired terror. We need to know who his spiritual advisors are (one account is that his chaplain was the same guy who counseled Hasan Akbar, the Army sergeant who killed his fellow soldiers). Last, many soldiers I have spoken with are deeply concerned about the President's response. The President spoke for minutes about the Tribal Conference before addressing the tragedy on Fort Hood. What was THAT about?
According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 45 percent of Americans know a Muslim. Of those who have a high level of familiarity with Islam, 57 percent view Muslims favorably while 25 percent view them unfavorably. For those with a low level of familiarity, 21 percent have a favorable view, 35 percent have an unfavorable view, and 44 percent, a significant plurality, have no opinion. The Pew survey also found that 58 percent of Americans believe that Muslims face a high level of discrimination, while 64 percent believe the same is true for gays and lesbians. These numbers suggest that a large majority of Americans are open-minded about Muslims. And though there are pockets of distrust, far more Americans worry that Muslims face discrimination than hold negative views of Muslims. The danger is that Hasan's despicable crime will subtly and slowly change these perceptions for the worse.
[S]houldn't there be some standards governing what gets reported and what is held back? Particularly in a case like this -- which, for obvious reasons, has the potential to be quite inflammatory on a number of levels -- having the major media "report" completely false assertions as fact can be quite harmful. It's often the case that perceptions and judgments about stories like this solidify in the first few hours after one hears about it. The impact of subsequent corrections and clarifications pale in comparison to the impressions that are first formed. Despite that, one false and contradictory claim after the next was disseminated last night by the establishment media with regard to the core facts of the attack.
EXPLOSIVE: Ft. Hood suspect reportedly shouted Allahu Akbar’....On NPR I heard I can’t find the story on their website yet that he had given a presentation on the Koran at a professional conference where he claimed that unbelievers should be beheaded, burned, etc. to the discomfiture of the attendees.
[T]he above would seem to confirm what many on the wingnut right seemed to positively hope was the case last nightthat Hasan's rampage was an act of Islamist terrorism, as opposed to the result of a breakdown or mental illness or the garden-variety insane rage and alienation that has inspired what seems like a mass killing every other month. We all know what first came to mind when Hasan's name was released yesterday. But we suppose a handy guide for finding the line that divides the Glenn Becks of the world from the rest of us is whether you reacted with dread at the idea that it may have been related, however murkily, to Islamism, or if you were filled with smug delight.
I always thought Bush's response [to 9/11] was fine. It was also very different than Obama's [response to Fort Hood], at least as I understand it. Obama was briefed on the shooting before he went out. He opted to do the schmoozy stuff. Bush was presented with staggering news and kept his cool. Not that these readers disagree, but this example works in Bush's favor and against Obama. And it makes a lot of Bush's critics look even worse for politicizing that moment on 9/11.
Michelle Malkin, whose book In Defense of Internment advocated for the use of racial profiling against Arabs and Muslims, quickly recycled a 2003 column suggesting that there was something wrong with allowing Muslims to serve in the armed forces. "Political correctness is the handmaiden of terror," Malkin tweeted. Don't you see? If we had just listened to her, and treated those people as enemies to begin with, this would never have happened. There are thousands of Arab-Americans serving in the armed forces, and many have given their lives defending this country--Malkin would have us see all of them as potential traitors.
Frum passes along some pictures to keep in mind today.