Michael Brendan Dougherty:
Imagine if Saturday’s three London Bridge killers had been British Nationalist party thugs, ramming their car through a Pakistani neighborhood. Would a single decent person have heard the news and immediately said, “Well, this number of dead people is statistically insignificant compared to those that die in car accidents. These punks can’t threaten our society!” Would anyone have asked, “Why are we talking about the killer’s politics? There are thousands of gun murders in America every year and those killers don’t have their politics talked about.” Would they have felt like singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” the next morning to conjure up a vision of a day when people of all political creeds can get along?
We all know the answer.
And yet, even before the victims on London Bridge had stopped bleeding, this was the reaction among society’s best, brightest and most morally self-assured members on social media. The pattern is by now familiar. Even as an Islamic terrorist killer’s proclamations about Allah’s will are still ringing in victims’ ears, these individuals are already declaring that the true danger from the attack is an Islamophobic backlash, and that you’re more likely to die by drowning in your own swimming pool than from a terrorist attack.
Do they know how callous that sounds? Do they not realize that sensible human beings react differently to a car accident than to a murder plot? Or that states and car manufacturers are constantly working to decrease the lethality of driving, while terrorists are constantly trying to improve the lethality of their enterprise?
Terrorist acts have now become “the kind of thing that inevitably flares up and causes some damage before the experts put it out,” according to one media wit. Or consider Vox’s Will Wilkinson, who wrote that “If it is truly the case that the risk of death by Islamic terrorism can be reduced to approximately zero through official anti-terror zeal, that suggests the threat is manageable — indeed, that it is being managed.”
In his article, Wilkinson noted Germany’s population of 4.8 million Muslims, and wrote that even if 25 percent of them supported Sharia law, that would translate to only 1.45 percent of the total German population. “What can that tiny sliver of the population possibly do to undermine the institutions of one of Europe’s strongest states, and a national culture deeply committed to liberal ideals?” he asked.
Of course, there are many awful things that a dedicated minority can inflict on a society short of the entire nation-state’s being destroyed and the majority population abandoning its civilizational code. For one, they can change the kind of things police have to worry about. Just a few days before Wilkinson proclaimed German institutions impregnable, those same institutions were scrambling for speakers of Afghan to help them in their investigation of a murder in a Bavarian supermarket, in which an Afghan asylum seeker stabbed another Afghan woman to death in front of her two children because she had converted to Christianity. I’m sure some statistician can explain that this woman was more likely to die from the heat death of the universe, but there it is.