Why Not More Concern Over Islamic Terrorism and Aggression?

It seems clear that many Americans are less concerned than they should be about the threat of radical aggressive Islam…ranging from intimidation of cartoonists in the US and Europe to direct military aggression in the Middle East. This seems to be particularly true among the well-educated (or at least well-credentialed) and affluent.  I’ve commented on this situation in several previous posts, for example, The Perfect Enemy; today I’d like to throw out for discussion some of the factors that I think are largely driving this head-in-the-sand phenomenon. They range from fairly rational (but flawed, IMO) thought processes to ignorance to obvious logical errors to malevolence and outright crazy thinking.

1) Some people really don’t understand the full range of what’s going on.  Those of us who follow politics and international affairs pretty closely can easily lose sight of just what an information desert exists for those whose only info source is the mainstream media…it is very unlikely, for example, that the NBC and CNN-watcher is aware of the full range of anti-free-speech intimidation conducted under the banner of Islam, in the US as well as in Europe.

2) Some people do have an idea about what’s going on, but tend to repress thinking about the threat because while they on some level perceive its awfulness they do not think anything can really be done about it…probably often, this threat is lumped together with seemingly-unstoppable malign trends, such as an ever-worsening economy and a deteriorating culture.

In Arthur Koestler’s 1950 novel The Age of Longing, a young American woman living in France–who has belatedly come to understand the likelihood of an imminent Soviet invasion–corners a French security official and asks him why so many people are in denial about the forthcoming attack.  His response:

“No, Mademoiselle, don’t be misled by appearances. France and what else is left of Europe may look like a huge dormitory to you, but I assure you nobody in it is really asleep. Have you ever spent a night in a mental ward? During the Occupation, a doctor who belonged to our group got me into one when the police were after me. It was a ward of more or less hopeless cases, most of whom were marked down for drastic neurosurgical operations. When the male nurse made his round, I thought everybody was asleep. Later I found out that they were only pretending, and that everybody was busy, behind closed eyes, trying to cope after his own fashion with what was coming to him. Some were pursuing their delusions with a happy smile, like our famous Pontieux (a philosopher modelled on Sartre–ed). Others were working on their pathetic plans of escape, naively hoping that with a little dissimulation, or bribery, or self-abasement, they could get around the tough male nurses, the locked doors, the operating table. Others were busy explaining to themselves that it wouldn’t hurt, and that to have holes drilled into one’s skull and parts of one’s brain taken out was the nicest thing that could happen to one. And still, others, the quiet schizos who were the majority, almost succeede in making themselves believe that nothing would happen, that it was all a matter of exaggerated rumours, and that tomorrow would be like yesterday. These looked as if they were really asleep. Only an occasional nervous twitch of their lips or eyes betrayed the strain of disbelieving what they knew to be inevitable…No, Mademoiselle nobody was really asleep.”

But in our case, as noted above, there are quite a few people who really are asleep.

3) Some people believe that all religions are essentially equivalent…generally they will argue that all religions are basically equally awful and that Evangelical Christians (for example) are as dangerous as radical Muslims and that it is only a matter of time until their dangerous tendencies explode into widespread violence. But sometimes they will argue that religion is inherently good and that hence, acts of terrorism cannot be motivated by religious belief but must be driven by something else.

4) Some argue that terrorism, while deplorable and tragic, isn’t really that dangerous in the scale of things, and that your risk of being killed or crippled from slipping while getting out of the bathtub (for example) is greater than your chance of being killed or crippled in a terrorist attack.  This view is often coupled with the view that fear of terrorism is being stoked for political and/or bureaucratic reasons: for example, increased surveillance of citizens. There is great suspicion that the oil industry and the “military-industrial complex” are encouraging warfare for their own economic purposes.


5) Many are greatly concerned that Americans will blame *all* Muslims for terrorist actions, pointing out that this is no fairer than blaming *all* Christians for, say, actions taken by governments during WWI under cover of the Christian duty.

6) Related to the above, there is a considerable fear of the American public at large, which is viewed by many highly-educated people as a dangerous beast, ready to lynch innocent Muslims and left-leaning dissidents if given the least excuse or opportunity.

Shortly after 9/11, The Diplomad recalled something said by British statesman Edward Grey during WWI, and quoted by Churchill in 1941.  Grey said that the United States is “like a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.”

Fear of the American people leads some to want to punch holes in the boiler before it can get up a dangerous (in their view) level of steam pressure.

7) Some of this is influenced by oikophobia…the aversion to the familiar, or “the repudiation of inheritance and home.”  People who feel a dislike for the surroundings in which they grew up, and who have generalized that dislike toward American society in general, are likely to feel an attraction toward those who are defined as outsiders, especially exotic outsiders.

8) Regarding military threats in the Middle East and elsewhere, some argue that there is no way for the US to defend a country whose own citizens are unwilling to defend it…that “boots on the ground” is not enough, because the boots always leave, and what’s really needed is “butts on the ground,” people who have to stay there and are willing to fight…and, absent these, the only outcome of military action will be to get a lot of people killed.  This view is generally coupled with some level of isolationist thinking: if horrible things are happening in X region, it’s tragic, but need not affect the US in a major way.

9) There is the belief that many of the things we could do to fight terrorism and ISIS-style military aggression will end up making things worse..that drone and bombing attacks “create more terrorists” among those whose friends and relatives have been killed, and attempts to forcefully exercise and demonstrate the right to free speech (as with Charlie Hebdo and Pam Geller’s cartoon contest) merely drive increased numbers of potentially-moderate Muslims into the radical camp.

10) Finally, there are some people who believe that America..and western civilization in general…are so degenerate and outright evil as to not be worth defending.  I don’t think there are many people who would agree with this proposition at a conscious level, but a considerable number have probably been influenced by it subconsciously.

In the Koestler novel I mentioned above, the Communist Fedya is confronted by the protagonist Hydie, his former lover, who in addition to feeling sexually betrayed by him has now become aware of his activities with the Soviet Secret Police.  She has brought a gun and intends to shoot him.  Fedya says:

I am not handsome, but you have felt attracted to me because you know that we will win and are only at the beginning–and that you will lose because you are at the end…That is why I was not afraid of your little revolver, because you can’t have the courage to shoot. me.  To kill, one must believe in something.










26 thoughts on “Why Not More Concern Over Islamic Terrorism and Aggression?”

  1. The Europeans are insane to allow immigration into Europe from Africa or the Middle East. For the US immigration from Mexico and the rest of Latin America is a vastly greater threat than Islam. If we had any sense we would withdraw all US troops from abroad and put them on the US-Mexican border where they might actually provide some security for the US. Let the peoples of the Middle East butcher each other to their hearts content. We should never had gotten involved there.

  2. America is in denial. Most of that is the delusion that the good times of America will continue; that there is no price to be paid for negligence, incompetent diplomacy or Leftist propaganda.

    The economic and financial crisis of the next two decades will stress Americans worse than terrorism will. We will be attacked, but it’s just that the continuing bad economy, increasing price inflation, the quintupling of the price of foreign made goods, the effects of a humungous national debt and an increasingly despotic federal government will harm us worse. We will be whipsawed by events.

    Despite all the bad news, good trends are happening, too. The world is getting richer, safer and more healthy; more people are becoming prosperous at a faster rate than the population is increasing. See Matt Ridley.

    It’s anyone’s guess if the good or bad predominate. We will recover from those economic and financial problems, before the Caliphate in Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia begins to attack us. The Muslims must kill off 30% of their population to gain the means to confront us militarily. Terrorism is a tactic of the weak. Islam will not be weak forever. Europe will be crippled. The question is when the US becomes strong again.

  3. Well yes, the attitude you perceive is due to the combination of reasons you listed. I would guess that the most important reason is that the vast majority of the public doesn’t currently perceive any particular threat personally; it’s sort of an “out of sight, out of mind” issue. The U.S. hasn’t suffered a major attack in almost 14 years, something that seems to get overlooked in the yes/no debate over the Iraq War. I prefer the jihadist attacks to be over there.

    The big battle currently appears to be the Saudi/Sunni vs. Shia/Iran/Syria conflict. If the recent Belmont Club post is accurate, Iran/Syria is losing, and badly. So the Saudis may be able to fight off Iran but they still have an ISIS issue. If either Iran or ISIS/Jihad, Inc. get control of the Saudi oil fields, then a lot of people who don’t care too much about the Middle East will start caring a bit more. Lately, I’ve been more concerned about the Left’s assault on the rule of law, their increasingly despotic behavior, their serial dishonesty and incompetence and their voting base’s apparent indifference to all of that than I am about the jihadists.

  4. Owen…”more concerned about the Left’s assault on the rule of law, their increasingly despotic behavior…”

    There’s a connection, though. Many on the Left seek to use the threat of Islamist violence as an excuse for restrictions on free speech…which restrictions, of course, would be applied also to a whole range of other things.

  5. Like a lot of other people, I’d rather think of other things. Unlike some, I have a difficult time doing so. We lived in NYC before and after 9/11. I was not there for the first WTC bombing or the Kahane assassination but were well aware of both. My wife, however, lived there her entire life, growing up just blocks from Atlantic Avenues notorious row of mosques. She’d heard it all, her whole life. So, when the big one went down, she freaked out. To this day, she does not discuss the matter, and get’s very upset upon seeing images related to it. At the time of it happening, there were immediate shout’s that it was an “inside job”. Fourteen years on, I believe they were right, only it wasn’t the despised Cheney behind the deeds. (remember the low level Air Force One flyover, early on?) Hard to believe things have gotten to this stage, but I was warned, way back in ’72 or ’73…I just chose to ignore the warning all these years.

  6. I suspect it’s a combination of the vast swarms of the ignorant who believed the fevered bleatings of fools like George Bush who lyingly claimed islam was a religion of peace, the people too ignorant to understand anything, islamists residing in the US who would welcome terrorism- and the people who don’t believe the present US government will actually do anything about islamic terrorism at all, ever.

    I’m in that last category, and I have a difficult time worrying about something I cannot influence. Likewise, I don’t worry about an asteroid impact, another Carrington event, the New Madrid fault, or the Yellowstone caldera.

    Yes, all of those are possible catastrophes likely be devastating to the nation and potentially fatal to myriads including myself- but complaining to the present regime or expecting it to do anything to prepare is rather pointless.

    It will not. Too much of the national effort goes to maintaining the indigents who make up the political base of the ruling class, keeping them ignorant and unaware, and well supplied with the modern equivalent of bread and circuses, than to actually solve any problem.

    I remember being terribly surprised on the morning of 9/11, a date to which I know I need not append the year, because you-know. That was a mere two airplanes destroying two buildings, killing only a few thousand. Again, I was terribly surprised, at that small attack. I would not be so surprised today, I regret to note, at an attack using nuclear weapons that killed millions, assuming I survived it.

    That is how much faith I have in the US government to protect the United States- which is to say, none at all.

    So I live my life as best I can, prepare as best I can- but I expect the worst.

  7. I think your suggested reasons for the lack of concern are good ones. Perhaps another one is the strange fascination of leftist progressives with radical Islam. In the aftermath of the collapse of Communism only the most delusional of the lot still believe that civilization will yet be saved by the Great Proletarian Revolution. As a result, for those whose tastes run to radical nostrums for “saving mankind,” radical Islam is, for the time being at least, the only game in town. Most of them aren’t quite capable of the double back flip from the worker’s paradise to female genital mutilation, but the fascination is still there nonetheless. As the leftists cast longing glances at the Islamists, the latter have coopted “progressive” jargon, and their propaganda is full of references to colonialism, imperialism, capitalist oppression and exploitation, etc. In some sense it’s more a feature than a bug of radical Islam. The longer the Islamists keep the usual suspects distracted, the longer it will be before they start cobbling together yet another messianic secular cult for the redemption of a suffering humanity after the fashion of Communism to inflict on the rest of us.

  8. “De-Islamization is the Only Way to Fight ISIS” Posted by Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog
    Friday, May 22, 2015

    “The left loves root causes, but the root cause of ISIS isn’t poverty, unemployment or a lack of democracy.

    “It’s Islam.

    “The Islamic State isn’t unnatural. Its strength comes from being an organic part of the region, the religion and its culture.”

  9. ” Its strength comes from being an organic part of the region,”

    Islam is a political system and not a religion in the sense that western culture considers religion. It is more something that Romans would recognize.

  10. Mike K – The notion of “separation of church and state” is a very recent development even in the history of Western Europe. It is not Middle Easterners who are the “weird” people, it ia Western Europeans who are a very strange bunch and much of that has happened in the last few centuries.

  11. The Russians volunteer every day to enter the fight against ISIS. The Russians believe ISIS was built by the CIA by sending arms captured in Libya to “reliable anti-government muslims in Syria. These weapons also went to Al Qiada and to Hamas. The US embassy in Benghazi was sacked by muslims who wanted a greater share of the weapons. Which is why Hillary asked: “does it really matter?”

    The Russians say that the ISIS army etc are led by Sadam Hussein’s General Staff (those still alive and free). US policy is to muck things up.

    American citizens should avoid contact with muslims. If confronted, say “insha’Allah”.

    Putin could clean up ISIS in a coupe days, bring peace to north Africa in a month (ending the panic refugee departures) and restore Assad to power in a reunified Syria and Iraq. The Russian Federation has several moslem run republic members. Putin suggests that Russia is proof that Islam and Christianity can exist in the same Federation.

    However US policy is to keep the middle east in turmoil and hopefully a Savior will come forward. That has happened before.

  12. David Foster
    Did you did your homework with statistic for the lat 10 years in US what the percentage of crime or terror inside US the attacker/ criminals are from Muslim group?

    It nice to see the number hoe will support your claime?

  13. Most people believe in what they’re told to believe in. Easily lead. Those who think freely, critically, clearly, those people are Pariahs… troublemakers… radicals…

    Few people really believe in anything at all. It requires commitment and risk. .i.e, Faith.

    Difficult to be concerned about something you scarcely hear about on the LameStreamMedia.

    Here’s a radical, murdering, pedophile, lying sack of shit Muslim but that wouldn’t
    worry you, would it. I mean if you don’t see him, or more particularly,
    if you don’t hear about him. (Paraphrased from the movie; Unforgiven)

  14. Jhoover…it is a misuse of statistics to apply static probabilities to a dynamic process. If you were an epidemiologist in 1917 and concluded that flu was not much of a risk because so few people got it in life-threatening form, you would have been making a serious mistake. If you were a safety analyst for an auto company or the government, and you observed that the overall steering gear failure rate on a particular model was very low…BUT those failures that did occur were all clustered around the 105,000 mile mark..you would be very unwise to be dismissive of the situation.

    In any event, the kind of crimes we’re talking about here are not knocking over liquor stores or murders of passion: they are crimes with the specific intent of shutting down free speech in America. And yes, if you look at these, you will find that they are largely perpetrated by (1) radical Muslims acting in the name of Islam, and (2) leftists of various stripes, ranging from “animal rights activists” attacking research facilities and individual researchers down to campus punks stealing and destroying opposition newspapers.

  15. Thanks for this rundown, well worth the effort.

    “I’d like to throw out for discussion some of the factors that I think are largely driving this head-in-the-sand phenomenon.”

    You are assuming it is a head-in-the-sand phenomenon, rather than being a rational response – a view belayed by some of your own subsequent points.

    I happen to agree with #3, even while admitting that some religions may be worse than others. Except for a few like the Quakers (who also can make mistakes), virtually all religions are used as rationalizations for bad behavior.

    I agree completely with #4 and #5. I worry somewhat about #6 but believe there is enough tendency among Americans to resist (many of us are not “good Germans”) that it won’t become too widespread. But one never knows what people will do when the chips are down, as for example after a currency crash. The search for scapegoats could become relentless, prodded by the true guilty parties, the ruling class.

    Not sure the point you are trying to make with #8. Are you talking about defending Iraq, or the US?

    I completely agree with the first half of #9, and what’s more, that it is the aim of the US ruling class to create more terrorists, thus to justify their “protection” of us (look at the FBI’s many attempts to foster terrorism here). On the second half, I disagree, and even if it were so, one would still be obligated to speak one’s mind.

    Not being a collectivist, I’m not much impressed with #10. I don’t think in terms of “western civilization”. I don’t belong to such a collective. In fact you might add this to your list of points: 11) Some people are simply not collectivists, and it is alien to their characters to relate to others in a collectivist manner.

    But then maybe that is the same thing as #5.

    How about a #12?
    12) Islam is a philosophy for the middle ages, and will never be a true threat in a technological civilization. The more Islamic a country is, the more backward it is. For example, women have strong incentive to chuck it, when faced by any western alternative.

    How about a #13?
    13) What happens depends more on our own will, than with external factors such as what religion our neighbor happens to believe in. We have better control of our fears. (see the philosophy of Stoicism)

  16. ” The notion of “separation of church and state” is a very recent development even in the history of Western Europe.”

    I disagree. Religion began as a way to explain mysterious phenomena that were frightening. The gods were propitiated by various activities, some of which became sacrifices.

    The most extreme of these, speaking facetiously, was the crew of a sailboat in the Chicago-Macinac Race which, afflicted by a prolonged lack of wind, threw their entire dinner into the lake in hopes of propitiating the wind gods.

    More seriously, a temple of Moloch, the god of the Canaanites which was offered children as sacrifice, has been found.

    The Greeks had a rather dismissive view of gods which were seen as being petty and malicious and capable of rather childish actions.

    Socrates was put to death by Democrats in Athens for corrupting children with his teaching. It is widely believed, however, that he was murdered by the government because he ridiculed them.

    Christianity specifically told adherents to “Render to Caesar, that which is Caesar’s…”

    Islam was specifically charged to convert or kill and all activities were prescribed. The ancient Hebrews did some of this but were not aggressive toward others, at least in historical times.

    The kings of Europe adopted Christianity as it because powerful. There is a school of thought in Christianity that declares the the Church began a long decline when Constantine adopted Christianity and made it the state religion.

    There was association between the state and religion in barbarian cultures but Christianity rejected this specifically.

  17. “The ancient Hebrews … were not aggressive toward others” – There certainly not the Bible that I read. The ancient Hebrews seem to have been some pretty bad mother-fuckers.

  18. In the Old West (1800s) there were plenty of terrorist types wandering around shooting people, raping women, burning farms and other buildings, robbing travelers and banks. They were called outlaws. They were outside the protection of the law. Rewards, dead or alive, were offered for them. Some citizens hunted them down and claimed the reward; others wrote songs, poems and books about the outlaws. The outlaws were eliminated. This is how Americans used to deal with terrorists.

    Now they are back. We don’t need no FBI/DEA/NSA/CIA/DHS/DOJ/BATF/IRS/TSA/ETC. Old ways are the best ways for free men and free women.

  19. Paul, thanks for comprehensive set of comments.

    #3 “virtually all religions are used as rationalizations for bad behavior”…one could say this of *any* ideology or belief system. Marxism is an explicitly atheist ideology, and has been associated with a very large number of murders.

    Madame Roland, on the guillotine: “O Liberté, que de crimes on commet en ton nom! (Oh Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!”

    #4) As I pointed out in a comment above, you can’t safely apply static statistics in a dynamic process…and the social/political impact of willful terrorism is quite different from that of people slipping and breaking their necks in the bathroom.

    #5 and #6) There is great fear among American & European academics and journalists about “Islamaphobia,” however, in the real world, the people endangered are mostly not orthodox Muslims but rather those who offend said orthodox Muslims, whether those people be atheists, Christians, dissenting Muslims, or merely Muslims whose interpretation of Islam is different. There is very little likelihood that Pam Geller will stir up lynching of Muslims; what is much more likely is that radical Muslims will lynch Pam Geller!

    #8) Referring to Iraq, Afghanistan, and any other country where the US takes military action in a country which is not politically mature. I think the importance of generally-recognized nationhood for self-defense and military effectiveness is perhaps overrated. The Southern Confederacy was much less of an identity for people living there than were their individual states; nevertheless, they fought well. How many of the British troops who defeated Napoleon had more of a national identity than a regional identity? Also, with a strong leader, national identities can be created pretty quickly: for example, Germany and Bismarck.

  20. (continuing)

    #10 I’d argue that your ability to *not* live as a collectivist is quite dependent on the structure of western civilization, just as much as your breathing is dependent on an airplane pressurization system at 35,000 feet. WIthout the rule of law and the Constitution, you would/will be forced into an increasingly collectivized lifestyle.

    12) “Islam is a philosophy for the middle ages, and will never be a true threat in a technological civilization. The more Islamic a country is, the more backward it is. For example, women have strong incentive to chuck it, when faced by any western alternative.”

    Actually, I’ve been told that in the last days of the Shah, when Iran was a fairly westernized country, many women demonstrated wearing the burqua and demanding sharia law. And there have been many cases of British and American women, not all from a Muslim background, who have converted to some of the most restrictive forms of Islam.

    Also, a technological civilization has many vulnerabilities than can be exploited by barbarians who need not themselves be very technological. How many 9/11 attacks would it take to shut down the US air transportation system?

  21. Grey Bear – TV and movies have given most people a very exaggerated idea of violence in the Old West. In the movies a stagecoach can hardly get out of sight of town before coming under attack from Indians. In the entire history of the Old West there was exactly one attck on a stagecoach by Indians. The murder rate in present day Baltimore is higher than in it was in Tombstone when it was a booming mining town populated mostly by young single men.

  22. Mike K – Are you an idiot? For people who were dismissive of religion and the gods the Ancient Greeks built a hell of a lot of temples and shrines.

  23. Paul (re women and Islam)….also, women who have been brought up in Islam and who have critiqued the oppression of women in many of these societies (for example, Ayaan Hiris Ali) have been treated with contempt by American academics (viz, Brandeis)

  24. I don’t see that we are disagreeing about #3.

    On #4, “the social/political impact of willful terrorism is quite different from that of people slipping and breaking their necks in the bathroom.”

    Granted, but the solution is to fight that tendency of stampeding the herd, not to go along with it. Look at gun control. The Australians allowed themselves to be disarmed after the Port Arthur massacre; the English allowed the same after Hungerford and Dunblane. Yet American reactions to massacres are almost the opposite. It is not impossible for people to react rationally to events. Many Americans see terror attacks as blowback, and I agree with that. Calling Islam the cause of the attacks is like saying slavery caused the Civil War. Yes, slavery was certainly involved in the big picture, but it is simply wrong to call it the cause.

    On #5, “There is very little likelihood that Pam Geller will stir up lynching of Muslims; what is much more likely is that radical Muslims will lynch Pam Geller!”

    Either may happen. But it’s not that Pam would cause the lynching, but that her actions help enable it when the real cause (economic disaster) heaves into view. Anyway the solution to Muslims lynching Pam et. al. is already known: have lots of armed people around, and kill any bastards who show up.

    I’m just curious about something. If it turned out that Muslims started getting lynched, and not the other way around, would you guys bother to shelter a Muslim family from the mob?

    #10 “I’d argue that your ability to *not* live as a collectivist is quite dependent on the structure of western civilization”

    Perhaps. I suppose it depends on what one means by the phrase, “western civilization”. Was Galileo part of it, when he claimed that the Earth went around the Sun? Was the Pope part of it, when he persecuted Galileo for saying it? To me the essence of western civilization is the idea of leaving people the hell alone to do what they please; this leads to a great flowering of knowledge (along with some bad side effects as well). In other words, it is not any government action, but government restraint. It is tolerance. I don’t particularly think that my not living as a collectivist depends on some collective. It depends on beating the collective back.

    “Actually, I’ve been told that in the last days of the Shah, when Iran was a fairly westernized country, many women demonstrated wearing the burqua and demanding sharia law. And there have been many cases of British and American women, not all from a Muslim background, who have converted to some of the most restrictive forms of Islam.”

    Uh, of all the things we don’t have to worry about, this is surely one of the most obvious. Despite a few examples to the contrary, I don’t ever see American women converting in droves.

    “How many 9/11 attacks would it take to shut down the US air transportation system?”

    Muslims could NEVER shut down the air transportation system. It takes the US government to do that. All they have to do is to get out of the business of telling airlines what policies to have; then people could be armed in planes just as they are on the ground. The fault is with “our” own government, not with Muslims per se. Another thing the US government could do, is stop invading and occupying other countries, the proximate reason for the terror attacks.

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