People observe a minute of silence at the Trocadero in Paris Nov. 16. (CNS photo/Philippe Wojazer, Reuters)
the commentaries on the Paris massacres I’ve read, the one that seems most
perceptive is a piece by Judith Bergman for the Gatestone Institute titled “How Can Anyone Be Shocked?”
Indeed. The attacks had all the inevitability of a Greek tragedy: they were
entirely predictable. Nevertheless many reacted with “shock,” including Angela
Merkel, David Cameron, and the Vatican.
9/11 in the United States; the 2004 Madrid train bombings, which killed nearly
200 and wounded 2,000; and the 2005 attacks on London’s transit system, where
56 people were killed and 700 wounded, world leaders have no conceivable excuse
left to be shocked and surprised at mass terrorism occurring in the midst of
unlikely case anyone should have missed those incidents, there have been
several thousand other Islamic terror attackssome big and some smallsince
9/11. How, as Bergman asks, can anyone still be shocked?
answer, I think, is that the people who are shocked are still clinging to a
false narrative about Islam. The narrative says that Islam, like all other
religions, is a religion of peace and that terror is a perversion of Islam’s
true nature. This is part of a package of other connected narratives: that
human nature is essentially good, that all people share universal values, and
that with the passage of time we have all become far more enlightened than our
with other deeply held beliefs, facts that challenge the narrative tend to be
ignored. When they are acknowledged, they are perceived as
one-offsdisconnected events rather than threads in a pattern. The shocking
thing for many is not that awful acts are being committed, but that their
cherished narratives are being disconfirmedover and over. Yet they’re not
quite ready to rethink their assumptions.
it take to wake people up? It’s a question one often hears. The answer is that
they will wake up when they pay attention to facts rather than narratives.
Indeed, many have already come awake. These are usually people who aren’t
deeply invested in fashionable thought systems and are thus able to brush aside
the narratives pushed at them by opinion elites.
problem lies with the opinion elites themselves. Ideas do matter to
themsometimes, more than facts. And to acknowledge the pattern would be to
admit that they have been seriously mistaken. They will be the last to face
reality because it would mean giving up the unreality of their suppositions
about the world. So we can expect that they will continue for a long time to
treat each new atrocity as an out-of-the-blue event with no rhyme or reason to
it. For instance, as I write this I notice an AP report that starts off as follows:
“The public may never know what motivated a 24-year-old Chattanooga man to kill
four Marines and a sailor in an attack on Chattanooga’s US Naval and Marine
Center last July.” Could Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez’s motive have had
something to do with Islam? There is abundant evidence that it did. But the official
upholders of the narrative can’t bring themselves to admit it.
many Catholic leaders are invested in these same false narratives. The memes
that are popular with the opinion elites are popular with them as well: that
violence has nothing to do with Islam, that immigration is an unqualified good,
and that all cultures share the same values.
latest explanatory memeone that likely will soon be echoed by some Catholic
leadersis that the violence in Europe has nothing to do with mass immigration.
Thus, Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, has
instructed Germans that they should not link the terror attacks to the
immigrant influx. This despite the revelation that at least two of the Paris
killers are believed to have come into Europe posing as refugees.
course, the longer that people in power indulge themselves in the narratives,
the more carnage there will be. That’s because the actions that are necessary
to stop the terrorprofiling, monitoring of mosques, a halt to Muslim
immigration, exposure of the fault lines in Islamic ideologyare prohibited by
self-destructive policies that flow from the narrative will continue. European
leaders will continue to allow in unassimilable numbers of Muslim migrants in
the name of “humane European values.” And Catholic bishopssome of them at
leastwill continue to applaud.
the US Conference of Catholic Bishops called for the US to take in 100,000 Syrian refugees. That’s a large
number, and, as we can now see, it only takes a very small number of terrorists
to create mass casualties. Eight jihadists in Paris killed more than 120 and
wounded more than 350. In the 9/11 attack, 19 terrorists were responsible for
the deaths of 3,000 people. And even though ISIS representatives have declared
that they plan to take advantage of the refugee crisis by hiding among innocent
refugees, the head of Homeland Security has said that we don’t “know a whole
lot” about Syrian refugees seeking resettlement in the US.
United States bishops, along with other Western leaders, seem to be welcoming
in an almost inevitable disaster. For example, aside from the Paris attacks,
the influx of migrants and refugees into Europe has already created a host of
what seem to be insoluble problems: high rates of crime, disease, and violence,
animosity between natives and migrants, and an increasing probability of open
warfare in the streets. It takes a certain amount of hubris to keep calling for
more immigration in the face of these realities.
said earlier, the whole thing is playing out like a Greek tragedy. And Greek
tragedies, as we know, always begin with hubriswith
leaders who are overly sure of themselves and their judgement. Our current tragedy
seems to be moving inexorably toward its fated conclusion. Many of our leaders
are being blind and foolish. Their policies, which are based on dreams, will
almost certainly end in disaster. Yet no one seems able to change course. Like
the characters in Oedipus Rex or The Bacchae, all seem fated to play
their assigned roles up until the last bitter moment.