Thursday, March 29, 2012

John Feffer's Moral Equivalence

A common complaint directed at the liberal left is that they try to impose "moral equivalence" on warring parties, most often by declaring "both sides are wrong." The complaint is that this is simply a cowardly way to avoid coming to hard conclusion and "picking a side,"  but at the same time there are cases when both sides are wrong. This problem has been brought back up with an article by Huffington Post blogger John Feffer, who we have encountered before, in which he tries to draw comparisons between three recent deaths: The beating to death of an Iraqi woman, the shooting of Trayvon Martin, and the killing spree in Toulouse France. We'll get to the other two in a moment but let's start by Mr. Feffer's mischaracterization of Mohammad Merah, the Toulouse shooter:
"The French-born Merah better fit the profile of a serial killer than a political extremist. But his Muslim victims are an important reminder that ordinary, everyday Muslims, even more so than Jews or Americans, figure as the most potent threats to the worldview promoted by al Qaeda and its ilk. The overwhelming majority of al Qaeda and Taliban victims are Muslims."
Have you got that? So not only was Merah not al Qaeda type, he is actually more likely to be a victim of the al Qaeda types than any Jewish person. In fact the New York Times opinion piece he uses to back up his "serial killer" claim says more or less the same thing, but they don't say that he "fits the profile of a serial killer." Because he doesn't.

The article says that he was a loner and a loser at the fringes of both French and Muslim society. Great. That's exactly where "The Looming Tower" said that most terrorist recruits come from. And Mr. Feffer apparently forgot that Merah "found in Al Qaeda a narrative of solitary heroism and a way, after months of watching videos on the Internet, to achieve short-term notoriety and find a place in the real world." That's from the NYT by the way. Why did Merah go to Pakistan and Afghanistan if the issue was that he simply received psychological gratification from killing (which is a requirement to become a serial killer). And finally, if he were simply a serial killer and not an Islamic terrorist, did so many people from his Muslim community come out in support of him and his actions? People don't do that and have never done that for actual serial killers. But rather than back up his claim, Mr. Feffer moves on to the others:
"These deaths are, on the face of it, quite different: a hate crime, a serial killing, and an act of vigilantism. But underlying these three tragedies is a notion of violated borders, of trespass. The message behind all three is this: you should not be here, you are not one of us, and your death shall serve as a warning."
The thing is: 2 out of 3 of these cases have not been closed yet and in 1 out of 3 that wasn't the reason. We don't know who killed Alawadi or why, because the police have not even made any arrests. It was probably a hate crime but we all know how bad assuming things are. And Trayvon Martin's death was not, in my understanding, an act of vigilantism, since Trayvon was not committing a crime at the time that his alleged killer got involved. Finally, whether Feffer is right or wrong about Mohammad Merah's motivations, neither of them fit his paradigm of "violated borders." If Feffer is right and Merah was a serial killer than he killed those six people because it fulfilled a need inside of him, not to send a message. If Feffer is wrong and he is an Islamic extremist, then he did it because he thinks that what God wants him to do and (again) not to send a message.

Mr. Feffer spends the rest of his article talking about how bad barriers in human minds are and why can't we all just get along, giving me the impression that the whole criminal aspect was just a jumping off point to make an unrelated political statement. The good news is that most of his readership weren't fooled by his rewriting of far too recent history.

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