Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Car accidents vs. Islamic terrorism: Constructing a counter-argument
Jihad Watch reports a Western mainstream report (WKSU radio station out of Kent State University in Ohio -- according to its website serving "more than 20 Ohio counties and parts of Western Pennsylvania") presenting the conclusion of an argument that "You’re far more likely to die in a traffic accident than in a terrorist attack in Ohio" and that, therefore, concern for the latter from "recent polls" irrationally far outweighs concern for the former.
I call attention to this because it's a common ploy by those who would minimize the legitimacy of the Counter-Jihad (let alone the Anti-Islam Movement it ought to become). They may not use "car accidents" to counter-balance (and then counter) the concern over terrorism; they may also use the danger of bathtub accidents. For example, The Atlantic magazine reports:
Obama frequently reminds his staff that terrorism takes far fewer lives in America than handguns, car accidents, and falls in bathtubs do.
Or they may warn us about the danger of "air conditioners" -- I did you not! John Kerry, Obama's Secretary of State, did just that back in July: Kerry: "Air Conditioners as big a threat as ISIS".
Or they may alert us to the danger of "being fatally crushed by furniture"! I kid you not! The Washington Post earlier this year actually proposed that danger as being "more likely... than [being] killed by a terrorist".
Only one commenter (one "Ciudadano") in the comments field attached to the Jihad Watch report actually tackled this ostensibly specious argument. His argument has at least five parts:
1) "...car accidents are preventable and people have some control. People can take safety measures and precautions to avoid that kind of accident."
Problem: terror attacks are also preventable and people have some control. It's not a difference in kind here, but a difference in degree. One could argue that the difference in degree (along with other factors) makes it reasonable to have higher concern for terror attacks, but one would need to beef up the counter-argument still.
2) "Terrorist attacks are unpredictable and usually cause many casualties."
Problem: car accidents are also unpredictable and may cause many casualties.
2b) "Terrorist methods are unpredictable: planes, shootings, lorries, bombs, etc."
Now we're getting warm. 2b is an element unique to terror attacks, compared with any other type of accident. Take the "furniture-crushing" accidents which the Washington Post educated us about. They will always only happen with relation to furniture and with activities related to making such "crushing" more likely -- example: moving a large, unwieldy cabinet down a flight of stairs. One has no reason to worry about furniture suddenly crushing one when one is, for example, on vacation relaxing at the beach.
Nor, for example, while mingling on foot amongst a large crowd of hundreds walking and standing around with no vehicles driving anywhere in the vicinity on a nice sunny day on a promenade reserved for foot traffic during a large public gathering to watch a fireworks display celebrating Bastille Day on the coast of Nice, France, does one expect a vehicular accident to occur in the midst of that pedestrian event that would kill 86 people and injure 303. More pointedly in this regard, one should not expect a terror attack to occur when one is just enjoying oneself at a public event like a Bastille Day celebration or, a Boston Marathon, or a rock concert at the Bataclan auditorium in Paris, or enjoying a fishwich and fries at a McDonald's in a Berlin shopping mall...); but after countless have happened over the years, one reasonably does -- even though it should not be tolerated. Accidents from inanimate objects -- like cars, planes, bathtubs, slipping grand pianos, etc. -- however, one does expect to happen as part of the unavoidable statistics of imperfection in large, highly populated, complex societies. Feelings of alarm and intolerance would be inappropriate (if not mentally unhinged) in reaction to the statistical incidence of such inanimate accidents; but such responses are appropriate when the mayhem ensues from human beings who have intent to kill and terrorize.
We must, nevertheless, proceed with the moving parts & building blocks of our counter-argument, to lend added weight to our counter-argument.
2c) "You don’t know if the next attack will kill 2 people or 3 thousand."
This is an important part of #2, and it reflects the human element (if one can call the fanatical motivation and intent to inflict mayhem & terror on crowds of men, women and children "human"). I.e., it reflects the fact that there are innumerable individuals, organized into cells all over the world in various nations (including more and more within the West) which we haven't adequately understood -- cells which may have more collective, systemic networking and coordination than we fully surmise -- intent upon devising and executing terror attacks of many different orders of magnitude, from random stabbings to spectacular mass-murders.
(Incidentally, this feature of organization and international networking, with a plan & blueprint that is grand and broadly destructive, also distinguishes Islamic terrorism from crime statistics -- another meme the PC MC mainstream likes to whip out by which to allay our alarm at Islam. Although crime statistics are not inanimate and do also involve the human element, they don't have the added elements of networking and organization, and an ultimate plan for our destruction; and thus to some extent they represent a kind of statistic of Bad Stuff that all societies learn to "live with" even while they do their best to minimize it (and the modern West has dramatically minimized crime stats in general). Indeed, there is more than enough evidence to show that Islamic terror is far more alarmingly organized even than Organized Crime. When was the last time the Mafia or Serbian crime gangs mass-murdered civilians...?).
All told, #2 in its three parts indicates that the rational fear of terrorism is not solely a concern the next time we go out to a ball game, or shop at the mall, or attend a rock concert, or ride a plane, or participate in a conference -- but also the concern that these attacks are phenomena on a trajectory that is systemic (networked and planned) and metastasizing (getting worse), with a zealously pursued goal ending in an attempt to destroy our societies.
Accidents -- whether vehicular, furnituristic, or bathtubular -- have none of these added dimensions; and so we don't worry about a seriously worsening future (except when Muslims seek to use motor vehicles to mass-murder people, as in Nice, France, and as ISIS has directed Muslims to do). We just make adjustments to make them safer to the best of our ability. And because there is no malevolent intent involved with cars, grand pianos, or bathtubs (indeed, no intent at all), we know that all we can do is try to tweak the problem technically to minimize the dangers. With fanatical humans deploying terrorism, however, we can do more than merely technical tweaks. We can 1) kill the perpetrators; 2) quarantine them; 3) remove them through deportation; 4) or, idealistically, try to change their minds. Any one of these, or some cocktail from among them actually makes the problem less difficult to radically reduce (if, that is, we ever get around to doing them) than technological accidents that will always happen at some statistical incidence, especially with vast, sprawling, complex, hyper-technological societies of the modern world.
Let us continue:
3) "Terrorist attacks are intentional and try too inflict the greatest damage."
Yep. See my discussion above under #2.
4) "Terrorist attacks in other countries concerns people all over the world.
Yep. And they do so because of the factors I outlined in my discussion above under #2 above -- in a nutshell, because the source, motivation and logistical deployment of Islamic terrorism is 1) systemic, 2) metastasizing, and 3) has an ultimate goal of our destruction and/or submission to Islam.
5) "This guy isn’t even considering foiled terrorist attacks. Almost every day there is a new terrorist attack foiled by the police. And those are the ones we know. Who knows how many more are stopped without any publicity. Those foiled terror attacks also make people to be concerned."
Very good point. I explore this, and the general problem of the magnitude and metastasis of Islamic terrorism, in detail in my recent essay -- Taliban, Taliban, tally me banana: Jihad come and me want to go home -- and in the further several essays of mine which I link inside that colorfully & cheekily titled essay.
Beyond the initial stab at a counter-argument for which we thank "Ciudadano", there may be more that needs to be done to tighten up the nuts & bolts of it. For now, I would note one telling angle of the overall problem: The entire Western Mainstream is talking out of both sides of its mouth -- trying to assure us the problem is relatively minimal and manageable; yet behaving as though it is a gargantuan and alarmingly unpredictable problem. For example,just to adduce one example out of thousands one could pluck from a beret: cancelling the largest flea market in the world in Lille, France -- an unprecedented cancellation with one exception: during Nazi occupation in the 1940s -- out of fear of a possible Islamic attack. Or another example, cruelly ironic: the remembrance march for the victims of the Bastille Day attack in Nice, slated to be held a couple of weeks after the attack, was cancelled out of fear of more Islamic attacks.
More broadly, if we have been paying attention to this problem, we notice such headlines as this recent one from the mainstream UK paper the Daily Express:
"Terror in France: Nearly 300 potential terrorists thwarted in the last nine months alone."
Why doesn't the Daily Express have alarming headlines about car accidents, or bathtub accidents, or out-of-control, careening boudoirs? (That was a bitterly rhetorical question, of course.)
On a smaller scale, yet no less significant, is a final example I would bring up: The famous magic/comedy due, Penn & Teller, who make millions with their Las Vegas show, tour around the world, and have appeared on David Letterman and Jay Leno among many other shows, a few years ago gave an interview -- that is, Gillette Penn gave the interview, since he's the only one of the two who ever talks to the public. In that interview, Penn noted that among their many acts, they have a regularly staged show where they insult, mock and castigate religion in general, and particularly Christianity, Christians, God, Jesus, the Bible, etc. Penn went on to stress that the Christians who come to see the show are the "nicest people in the world": they watch the show, applaud, even come backstage to compliment him and sometimes give him complimentary Bibles. The interviewer then happened to ask about Islam. Why not include Islam in your show in which you rake religion over the coals? Penn's devastatingly revealing reply: "We have families." Think about this response and my essay today. And keep in mind that Gillette Penn is a very bright and intelligent atheist and skeptic, as is his partner Raymond Teller. Even though car accidents, plane accidents, and bathtub accidents far outweigh in incidence Islamic terrorism, Gillette Penn continues to ride in and drive cars, continues to fly in planes (and as a successfully millionaire performer, he has to fly far more often than the average citizen), and continues to take baths -- but he refrains from even mentioning Islam at all in a regular show he puts on in which he deeply and at great length castigates religion in general and Christianity in particular. Penn's rational behavior -- based on a rational fear of Muslims -- gives the lie to the Car Accident Meme. And Penn & Teller aren't the only ones: see this horrifyingly long -- yet still incomplete -- list from my posting Islam and Free Speech. And note the ghastly irony when in that posting I wrote the following:
"French newspaper (after being firebombed for printing a cartoon of Muhammad, the next day the paper prints that cartoon again, and more! Bravo!)"
I posted that in 2011, when that "French newspaper" -- Charlie Hebdo -- was still bravely ignoring Islamic threats. We all know what happened less than four years later, in early January of 2015, when a commando team of Muslim fanatics made good on their long-standing threats and killed 12 people in all, and caused three days of terror, panic and alarm (not to mention a million or more dollars/francs in expenditure of police, intelligence, and medical aid personnel).
The BBC headline from that link above read:
"Charlie Hebdo attack: Three days of terror".
Why doesn't the BBC have alarming headlines about car accidents, or bathtub accidents, or out-of-control, careening chests of drawers? (That was a bitterly rhetorical question, of course.)
Indeed, that attack was seen by the French people and nation as "France's 911" -- and this happened before the far worse attacks in Paris and then in Nice.
As I pointed out earlier, the entire mainstream West behaves as Gillette Penn does, in its various measures it has taken over the past 15 years to ramp up security as a response to the global revival of Islamic jihad, to the collective tune of billions of dollars -- for airline flights, business and political conventions, major music concerts and sports events, book publishing concerns (deciding not to publish Mohammed cartoons or novels in which Muhammad is put in a bad light); etc. etc., ad Islamonauseam.