Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Dangerous Balancing Act

Every cloud has a silver lining, so it's only natural that Georgie Anne Geyer would find an agreeable "cautionary lesson" in the massacre at Ft. Hood. The lesson -- which, like most middlebrow peddlers of conventional wisdom, she portrays as a daring heresy -- is that the Muselmen tend to be violent fanatics.

Geyer's not a fanatic of any sort, so she's careful to point out that even though she always knew a Muslim would do something like this, it doesn't mean that all Muslims are inherently bad.

TV rightly brought out some of the most handsome, polished and well-spoken military Muslims one could imagine to illustrate how valiantly many serve the American nation. I know and cherish many of them.
In my experience, every bigot who praises some well-mannered member of a minority group will start his or her next sentence with the word "but." And Geyer's no exception:
But there was also something troublesome about the introduction to the man they are holding in Fort Hood, as though we were trying NOT to face the fact that Muslims could easily -- some would argue, should easily -- have problems fighting other Muslims for America or responding [sic] to al-Qaida's siren call.
As hard as it is to face this fact, it seems to be even harder to acknowledge that white and Christian Americans have gone on far more shooting sprees than American Muslims (and even outgunned them in Killeen, TX). It's much easier to be wary of all Muslims who aren't fortunate enough to be known and cherished by Georgie Anne Geyer, and to ignore or relativize every act of lunatic savagery -- from domestic violence to war -- that doesn't confirm her pet biases.

Still, just to prove that "we" aren't bad people, let's concede that most Muslims probably aren't any more dangerous than you or me or the man in the next street:
[T]here is no question in my mind that the vast majority of American Muslims are fine citizens, who have never answered the radical calls from the Middle East and Central Asia....
But let's also remember that a small subset of this "vast majority" comprises violent criminals.
We have a dangerous balancing act here. We do not want prejudice or (God forbid!) violent acts committed against American Muslims, any more than we want them against Jews or African-Americans or Germans or Chinese...But at the same time, like it or not [!], we are involved in a conflict against an international radical Islam, an ideology that has and will naturally have an attraction to many men and women, especially those who are lonely or deracinated.
We mustn't indulge ourselves in crude prejudice and stereotyping; we must simply keep an eternally watchful eye on the enemy within...especially if they happen to look lonely or deracinated. (Or are dressed funny.)
[W]hat we want and need is a realistic analysis of the situation and of the players. As last week's events so tragically illustrated, our lives depend upon it.
I'm sure we need realism; whether we want it is another question entirely. Going strictly by statistics, I'm more likely to be gunned down in a mass shooting by a stereotypical angry white guy than a stereotypical angry Muslim (and I'm more likely to be struck by lightning than to suffer either fate). But mass shootings committed by "normal" Americans always come as a terrible surprise, no matter how many times they happen, while massacres committed by Muslims are more or less what we've always expected.

Like a lot of people in her line of work, Geyer fails to realize that pathological fantasies aren't any less pathological just because they occasionally come true. Geyer's tunnel-vision focus on Muslim violence isn't validated by Nidal Malik Hasan's killing spree, any more than Henry Ford's opinion of Jews would be validated if he met one who conformed to his idea of "the Jewish character," or Rush Limbaugh's opinion of blacks would be validated if he happened, God forbid, to be mugged by a black man.

Apropos of the 1991 massacre in Killeen, one noteworthy thing about the perpetrator was his hatred of women. It's noteworthy not least because it's so common. Almost all shooting sprees are committed by men, and misogyny has been the stated or implicit motivation for a fair number of them. But for all Geyer's fretting about the media's "political correctness" (even as she uses her longstanding bully pulpit to encourage paranoia about American Muslims), the media have been far more reticent about the role of misogyny in mass shootings. Maybe that "balancing act" is a bit too dangerous to attempt.

(Photo by Dorothea Lange, Oakland, CA 1942.)


Jay Schiavone said...

The SOLD and I AM AN AMERICAN signs appear to have been applied to the photo image after the picture was taken. Or am I dull and that's part of the message? By the by, were aware that Ft Hood is Obama's 9/11? Where's our new Giuliani?

Jazzbumpa said...

Am I dull, or is Jay's humor gong over my head?

Anyway, I think the VA Tech massacre validates old cold war fears of the Yellow Menace.

The one I can't explain is Oklahoma City. Maybe it's because that one didn't involve guns.

JzB the fanatic trombonist

Phila said...

The SOLD and I AM AN AMERICAN signs appear to have been applied to the photo image after the picture was taken.

Not as far as I's a fairly famous photo.

Where's our new Giuliani?

We don't have one, which is why we're DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED.

Phila said...

Anyway, I think the VA Tech massacre validates old cold war fears of the Yellow Menace.

Where's our new Nayland Smith?

The Kenosha Kid said...

OT: possible Friday Hope Blogging -

Maria Bartiromo loses her BusinessWeek column

Lanny Davis quits Moonie Times

journalism in America just improved ever so slightly