The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at The Wall Street Journal written by the editor, James Taranto.
Trump Does Dalai Lama Impression—Now That Would Be News
“Dalai Lama Does Trump Impression”—headline, TheHill, Sept. 22
The Campaign to Normalize Terrorism
A bombing in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood wounded 29 people Saturday night. Another bomb was found nearby and defused. Earlier the same day, a bomb had gone off in New Jersey, causing no injuries. On Sunday more bombs were found and defused at a train station in the Garden State. Meanwhile in Minnesota, a terrorist with a knife wounded 10 people in a mall Saturday before being stopped by the proverbial good guy with a gun.
Because nobody was killed (save for the Minnesota terrorist) in any of these attacks, many commentators are at pains to minimize them. Politico’s Jack Shafer:
In a rational world, we would interpret the inept crimes of accused pipe bomber Ahmad Khan Rahami as evidence that 15 years after the big one, the terrorist threat in America is akin to a brush fire—the kind of thing that inevitably flares up and causes some damage before the experts put it out. Instead, thanks to the cable news channels and some in the Web and print space, we’ve turned it into a mighty conflagration.
Shafer has a peculiar idea of reason. His imaginary “rational world” is one in which men still set off bombs in cities. The only difference is that the Rationalians are largely indifferent to such violence. New York magazine reports that some New Yorkers have in fact taken that attitude, or at least that posture:
Following the Chelsea bombing that occurred over the weekend, there was lots of talk online about how many New Yorkers weren’t fazed or scared by the incident and the potential groups or motives behind it. To which, Twitter user @BobbyBigWheel (known in the real world as Robert Wheel) started a running list of the things one actually has to fear in New York. Ranked number one: getting pushed onto the subway tracks. No. 8: finding out your neighbor has bedbugs. No. 1,563: ISIS.
One thing residents of dense cities don’t have to fear is “a brush fire,” Shafer’s analogy of choice. It’s a terrible analogy. For one thing, brush fires in populated areas (e.g., hilly suburbs) can destroy many homes. The death toll is generally limited because such fires take some time to spread, making it possible for residents to be evacuated.
By contrast, a bomb goes off suddenly and does instant damage. The people in Chelsea got lucky with the bomb’s placement and timing—unlike at the Boston Marathon in 2013, which was attacked with a similar bomb.
Of course like everything else these days, this argument isn’t actually about terrorism; it’s about Donald Trump, whose name is the next two words in Shafer’s piece after the passage quoted above. Roll Call’s Walter Shapiro hopes the attack will cause the right kind of people to recoil from the Republican nominee:
In 2004, Trump’s fear-mongering almost certainly would have worked. And in Ohio today, it probably appeals to wavering blue-collar Democrats in places like Youngstown. But every time Trump goes into another anti-Muslim rant, it quite likely costs him votes among college-educated women in the Columbus and Cincinnati suburbs.
For all the predictable talk about a terrorism-related October surprise, maybe the true surprise of 2016 will be that we have matured as a nation.
Are you shocked and horrified when a terrorist bombs an American city? Stop being a baby and vote for Hillary Clinton.
But wait. Is it true, as Shapiro suggests, that college-educated suburban women are relatively blasé about terrorist violence in American cities? Not in our (admittedly anecdotal) experience. This columnist lives in New York, though not in Chelsea, and after the bombing, we heard from several friends, relatives and readers who wanted to make sure we were all right. As far as we are aware, all of them are college-educated suburban women.
In fact, Salon notes that liberal TV host Seth Meyers questioned Trump’s masculinity because of the GOP candidate’s purported overreaction to the attack:
“Just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York,” Donald Trump told the crowd at his Colorado Springs rally on Saturday. “And nobody knows exactly what’s going on.”
“You can’t say the words, ‘A bomb went off in New York,’ if the next thing you say is, ‘Nobody knows what’s going on,’ ” Meyers responded. “Are you a presidential candidate or the old lady who lives across the hall from me?”
Meyers conceded, however, that, “Despite jumping out ahead early without any facts, fair is fair. Trump did get it right this time.”
That happens with surprising frequency, doesn’t it?
If you really want a candidate who doesn’t make appeals to fear of terrorism, though, Mrs. Clinton is no more suitable than Trump. She makes such appeals too, just in perverse ways. As we noted Tuesday, she accused Trump of “giving aid and comfort to our adversaries” because, she claimed, his “rhetoric” has been “seized on by terrorists, particularly ISIS.” That argument would never fly in Shafer’s rational world. Rhetoric doesn’t fuel brush fires.
And consider this passage from Shapiro:
Please, don’t misunderstand.
I am not making light of the injuries in Chelsea over the weekend or of the earlier horrors in Orlando and San Bernardino. All I am arguing for is a sense of proportion so that we do not allow fear of terrorism to distort our lives and unjustified fear of all Muslims to poison our values.
Again, that’s a great argument against Mrs. Clinton. One of our values is freedom of speech, and she is using fear of Muslims to demand suppression, at least through self-censorship, of ideas and rhetoric she dislikes.
For more “Best of the Web” from The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto click here.