The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at WSJ written by the editor, James Taranto.
Out on a Limb
“Palin: I Doubt I’ll Get Picked for VP Again”—headline, TheHill .com, Nov. 17
Hypothesis and Proof
Why the Bicyclists?
The day after ISIS attacked Paris, a correspondent from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz conducted some disheartening homme de la rue interviews there:
A group of friends was standing near the candles that had been lit at the foot of the monument at the square, trying to find out if the waiter that had served them at La Belle Equipe, one of the restaurants attacked in the 11th arrondissement, had been killed. . . .
But they aren’t angry, at least not at the perpetrators. “They’re stupid, but they aren’t evil,” their friend Sabrina, an administrative worker in one of the theaters in the 11th arrondissement, said. “They are victims of a system that excluded them from society, that’s why they felt this doesn’t belong to them and they could attack. There are those who live here in alienation, and we are all to blame for this alienation.”
Ten months after the previous wave of terror in Paris that hit the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo and the Hypercacher kosher supermarket, one might assume that residents would feel a sense of continuity, but that didn’t seem to be the case. “Then they harmed journalists and Jews, those were defined targets,” said one of the young people who had come to the square. “Now it was an attack with no objective, anyone could have been hurt.”
Here, via PJMedia, is another quote expressing the same sentiment: “There’s something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that. There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of—not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, OK, they’re really angry because of this and that. This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate. It wasn’t to aggrieve one particular sense of wrong. It was to terrorize people.”
Those words were spoken yesterday by Secretary of State John Kerry. The reference to “legitimacy” calls to mind the remark that ended the political career of Todd Akin. But although Kerry’s statement was every bit as stupid as Akin’s, it was far more evil. Not only does he rationalize the mass murder of journalists; that rationalization is a fallback from his initial, impulsive though impolitic position that those murders had “legitimacy.”
The attack on Charlie Hebdo, no less than the attacks last week, were intended “to terrorize people.” But the Charlie Hebdo attacks were also intended to terrorize people into silence. It was an attack on free speech as well as on freedom and Western civilization more generally. Kerry’s rationalizing of it is arguably the most un-American thing he has ever said in public—and that’s saying a lot, given that he made a name for himself slandering American military servicemen.
Kerry’s insouciance about the Charlie Hebdo assassinations also runs counter to one of the administration’s central talking points. We are given to understand that the source of the terrorists’ grievance against Charlie Hebdo was its practice of caricaturing Muhammad, the prophet of Islam; such representations are contrary to Shariah, or Islamic law. But Kerry himself went on to say “it has nothing to do with Islam.” So why would terrorists murder people over Shariah violations? What are they, compassionate progressives trying to create safe spaces?
Haaretz’s unidentified young French person also shrugged off the January attack on a kosher supermarket, in which two of the Charlie Hebdo gunmen murdered four hostages. That attack too was directed against “defined targets,” namely Jews. Kerry did not mention the Hypercacher killings, but he did draw an implicit contrast when he went on to say this:
What’s the platform? What’s the grievance? That we’re not who they are? They kill people because of who they are and they kill people because of what they believe. And it’s indiscriminate. They kill Shia. They kill Yezidis. They kill Christians. They kill Druze. They kill Ismaili. They kill anybody who isn’t them and doesn’t pledge to be that.
Kerry notably omits Jews from his list of people “they kill.” Again his implication is that discrimination is a mitigating factor, but again it is normally understood to be an aggravating one. Singling out victims because they belong to a disfavored group is called a “hate crime.”
The Hannah Arendt Center describes a mordant joke “told during the Holocaust, especially amongst Jews in concentration camps”:
“The Jews caused the Great War,” an anti-Semite tells his friend.
“Yes, the Jews and the bicyclists,” says the friend.
“Why the bicyclists?” asks the anti-Semite.
To which the friend replies: “Why the Jews?”
At this point John Kerry no doubt would launch into a passionate and grandiloquent defense of bicyclists.
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