It speaks volumes about the state of the world that neither the attack on the McDonald’s and the mall in Munich, nor the horrible car bombing in Kabul, surprised me. And I suspect that if people were honest, the fact that the attacks took place did not surprise all that many people, relatively speaking. The location in Munich might have, because unless someone is really following the news from Germany and Austria that closely, or relies on sources like Britebart-England and the Gatestone Institute, they’d miss what’s been going on over there. But the fact of another follower of Islam blowing up a truck bomb, and of a shooting spree (with a firearm not legally obtainable unless one is law enforcement or a member of certain shooting clubs and then is not permitted to carry) by a young Moslem male, do not surprise us anymore.
Upset? Certainly. Depress? Absolutely. Greatly concern? Yes, although not always for the same reasons. But not surprise. We’re a bit like people in 1890 as described in Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower.
You see, in the 1880s-1910s it was anarchists that people feared. “The propaganda of the deed” included blowing up cafes, murdering a czar (Russian-type) killing the Empress of Austria and a US president, and other attempts to upset things so much that people would rise up against their governments and eliminate all injustice and paradise! Granted, most anarchists, especially the anarcho-syndicalist [insert Monty Python quote here], did not want to blow up or murder people and preferred to be left alone free from all government or societal meddling. But that is not what the majority of residents of Europe and the US and Britain thought in 1898 when someone said “anarchist.” A headline about “Anarchist Bomb Kills 3!” surprised no one, because that’s what people had come to expect from anarchists.
In like fashion, today, another young Muslim man blowing up a vehicle or killing as many as possible before being shot by police or committing suicide surprises very few. And for those of us who follow European politics comparatively closely, the first urgent media attempts to connect Munich to the mass-murderer in Norway [I am not going to name him] and the “far right,” the police spokesman’s insistence that the gunman spoke “unaccented German” are not surprising. Depressing, but not surprising. Yes, the attack coincided with the 5th anniversary of the attack in Norway. It coincided with a lot of other dates as well.
But authorities in Germany and the European media are struggling harder and harder to find some way not to connect the motives for things like Paris November 2015, Brussels ’16, Nice ’16, Orlando, and San Bernardino, with Islam. It is becoming almost amusing in a warped, predictable way as they grasp at any other possible alternative that does not involve a certain monotheistic religious group. My response to the police news briefing was to snort and suggest to the screen that perhaps he’d been born or raised in Germany, and that if I tried, I could speak accentless German. In like manner, the first attempts to paint Nice as the work of a lone, insane man fell apart as the police and security forces began tracking his phone calls and interrogating his associates. Nope, he was a jihadi with associates also desiring to pursue jihad. The media insistence after Orlando that just because someone publically proclaims their support for ISIS doesn’t mean what they do is motivated by Islamist ideology and religion . . . I admit, I laughed when I heard the oh-so earnest news reader intone that. It was not a happy laugh.
Now the media theme (Saturday afternoon July 23) is that the Munich shooter was a victim of bullying because of his faith. And the bullying made him want revenge and made him interested in mass shooters, and that this is really “just” a mass shooting and they are careful not to mention his full name, which includes a very common Shi’ite name. Which does not explain the latest Kabul car bomber. Or the suicide bomber who blew up a wine bar (Sunday July 24), also in Bavaria, because security at an open-air music festival wouldn’t let him in there. Oh, and the police in Germany have arrested (7/24) a second young man, this time of Afghani descent, for assisting the Munich shooter by setting up the fake Facebook account used to lure people to the McD’s.
The next attacks will not surprise me. The next media and governmental denial that someone yelling “Allahu Akbar” and having ISIS or Al Qaeda flags or material or social-media links is a real Muslim won’t surprise me either.
All of which is depressing in the extreme. To deny that someone means what they say is dangerous. To claim that followers of a religion and/or ideology don’t understand their belief system as well as an outside policy analyst or religion expert does is insulting as well as dangerous. I do not like being patted on the head, literally or metaphorically, and told that I just don’t “get” my religion or my academic specialty. No one else does, either. And each time the media and government figures do something similar, it makes the public less and less willing to listen when something really important is said or asked.
And it also means that the people who are nominally Muslim but who disagree with the Islamists are going to be treated the same way that people treated all anarchists in the late 1800s. It was safer to assume that they intended to blow up or shoot you, because other anarchists had, and to act accordingly. And that won’t surprise me, either.