Tenons Avec De Nice

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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123 Responses

  1. Francis says:

    My heart is broken.

    (My mother emigrated from France in the 50s. I still have a great deal of family there, although not in Nice.)Report

  2. Oscar Gordon says:

    I truly feel for the French. I fear that they are in for a rough time, as is the rest of Europe.Report

  3. LeeEsq says:

    We all cry for France. They are our Republican siblings even though our relationship could be strained at times, there would be no United States without France.Report

  4. Roland Dodds says:

    Long live France and death to its enemies.

    May the greatest enlightenment idea live on: Liberté, égalité, fraternité Report

  5. North says:

    Sympathy for France, may they have the fortitude to keep calm and carry on.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to North says:

      I see what you did there, you crafty Anglophile.Report

      • North in reply to Burt Likko says:

        But also it’s good advice. Terrorism is political jujitsu, it is in the reaction (or overreaction) of the terrorized that the terrorists reap their benefit. Keep calm and carry on is fundamentally poison to terrorist goals; there’s nothing they would desire less.Report

        • Joe Sal in reply to North says:

          That may depend heavily on what the long term goals are.Report

          • North in reply to Joe Sal says:

            Do elaborate.Report

            • Joe Sal in reply to North says:

              July 14, 2016 task to complete:kill infidels
              July 15, 2016 task to complete:kill infidels
              July 16, 2016 task to complete:kill infidels
              July 14, 3016 task to complete:kill infidels
              July 15, 3016 task to complete:kill infidels
              July 16, 3016 task completedReport

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Joe Sal says:

                Seems a lot like the Gay Agenda:

                Monday- Pilates; Lunch with Gary;
                Tuesday- Dentist apt; laundry;
                Wednesday- Destruction of Western Judeo-Christian moralityReport

              • notme in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Except that people aren’t killed.Report

              • North in reply to notme says:

                Except all the innocent storm/earthquake/flaming cats falling from the skies victims when God punished America for it’s godlessness.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Shit! That’s Wednesday? Are you sure? I hope Home Depot isn’t out of torches…Report

              • North in reply to Joe Sal says:

                Nope, still not working. Since terrorist attacks these days usually off the perpetrator not much point to having plans beyond the first day. And since provoking terror and overreaction in the host nation is the goal calm and little reaction remains poisonous to terrorists goals.

                Now in the Nice case it appears that the perp was not a genuine terrorist but more in line with the Pulse shooter, a deranged nutbag who adopted some Muslim terror branding because that’s what deranged nutbags do these days (a century or so ago he’d be a committed anarchist). This moves him from a extremely difficult to prevent category to a probably not preventable category. In that case keeping calm and carrying on is even more advisable.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to North says:

                It will probably take a few days to find out more about what he was, or we may not learn anymore.

                My schedule invoked terrorism more as a social construct than a individual one.

                More so, it was to show there is a problem with the keep calm and carry on, when the long term goal is to keep subtracting calm ongoers.

                (subtraction as an ethos)Report

        • Slade the Leveller in reply to North says:

          No kidding. Here’s the evidence that America is terrorized already:


        • Jaybird in reply to North says:

          The New York Times Headline:

          Truck Attack in Nice, France: What We Know, and What We Don’t

          The NYT is doing what it can to ensure that we don’t lose our heads.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to North says:

          Especially since there is a vast interconnected network of opportunists eager to manipulate our grief and fear and rage for their own ends.

          Notice how much larger attacks in Istanbul and Iraq were shrugged off, while Europeans and the cable networks have whipped up the dramatic tension with martial music and nonstop war fever coverage of impending doom.

          Thus implied nativist message that “We” are at war with “Them” is conveyed, even when the words spoken are equivocal and hedged with appropriate nods to diversity and tolerance.Report

          • North in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            Our jingoists, neocons and similar such idiots and opportunists, like the poor, shall always be with us. They are us.Report

          • Francis in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            Despite liberals’ best efforts, people are still intensely tribal. To me, Turkey is a distant land that I would like to visit someday. (“Istanbul, not Constantinople” is about as far as I go re Turkey.)

            France is my second home. The Eiffel Tower is instantly recognizable to millions of Americans. The Statue of Liberty stands in New York harbor. French is still taught in high school much more than Turkish (I’d bet). Many Americans (more since Hamilton) know that the French played a key role in our fight for independence.

            Shrugged off? Maybe. Or maybe newspaper and TV publishers have the same set of biases as I do.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Francis says:

              Yes, its not overt, its that “we” have a deep cultural affinity for France, to a degree “we” don’t for Syria or Iraq.

              And by “we” I mean the dominant white European American culture.

              But of course that is changing.

              And the people for whom Allepo and Baghdad are their second home notice what lives are mourned for, and which ones aren’t, who is part of “we” and who is not.

              This is the problem that Europe is struggling with.Report

          • notme in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            Especially since there is a vast interconnected network of opportunists eager to manipulate our grief and fear and rage for their own ends

            Like how liberals call for gun control right after a shooting?Report

            • greginak in reply to notme says:

              People for gun control are always for gun control. They don’t suddenly become more so after a shooting. To them the shooting is further evidence of why GC is a good idea. You may not agree , and i don’t agree with a lot of what they want either, but it isn’t just some opportunism about exploiting a shooting. It’s what they always believe should happen.Report

              • North in reply to greginak says:

                Actually the parallels are pretty strong:
                -Pulse shooting happens
                -Gun Control Advocates call for specific gun control related policies, for example no purchasing guns while on the no fly list after the Pulse shooting.
                -Outsiders point out that this policy would not have prevented Pulse shooting.
                -Gun control advocates shrug, say it would still be a good idea, advocate doing it anyhow.

                It mirrors the stuff in France:
                -Truck attack by deranged loon with loose Muslim ties.
                -Nativist normal suspects call for banning Muslim Immigration.
                -Outsiders note that since attacker was a French National said ban would have had no impact on the deranged loons attack.
                -Nativist usual suspects shrug, say it would still be a good idea, advocate doing it anyhow.Report

              • notme in reply to North says:

                Except there isn’t any evidence this guy was a deranged loon. Folks may try to compare this to Aurora but it’s not.Report

              • North in reply to notme says:

                There’s no evidence he was plotting his attack with ISIS either. At most it looks like he watched some of their online snuff flicks and propaganda. Then went off and shot a bunch of people while gibbering assorted nonsense. Sounds like a terrorist inspired loon to me. Certainly not a terrorist since so far there’s no proof at all that he planned his attacks with anyone but the voices in his head (but maybe he called those voices Allah?).Report

              • notme in reply to North says:

                Sure, just like orlando. No ISIS ID card so clearly not terrorism. Never mind ISIS has been calling on folks to commit lone wolf attacks.Report

              • North in reply to notme says:

                ID card? Isis doesn’t have ID cards. The only evidence there is have that he is affiliated with ISIS is that ISIS has called for lone wolf attacks and he was a lone wolf attack. By that logic Sandy Hook was an ISIS attack too. Honestly, you’d think conservatives were on the ISIS payroll the way they cheerlead them.Report

              • notme in reply to greginak says:

                They use the tragedy to rush gun control through the legislative process.Report

  6. Burt Likko says:

    So it seems the driver was a French citizen, naturalized from Tunisia, Muslim but irreligious, married but separated, very much a loner. As of yet no motive is apparent and no terrorist group like Daesh has claimed responsibility or even retroactive affiliation with the guy.

    If these things hold up over time, I’m wondering if it’s appropriate to call this a “terrorist” event at all, rather than something more akin to the Isla Vista or Aurora shootings here in the States: the violent act of a mentally unstable person done for some sort of personal, non-political reason.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

      There is a thesis that some guys are drawn to extreme ideologies as an excuse to commit acts of violence rather than the ideology causing them to commit violence.Report

      • Joe Sal in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        “McVeigh’s first encounter with a bully came on the Little League baseball field.”

        “Adam would come home with bruises all over his body,” the relative told the Daily News. “His mom would ask him what was wrong, and he wouldn’t say anything. He would just sit there.”

        I have some thoughts about how some far right violence evolves out of anger ‘directed at’ impersonal institutions. My wife had a long chat with me last month. She pointed out something interesting in how right wing agency is very sensitive to individuality, and the rare departure is when the individuality is completely overtaken by rage directed at a impersonal institution. All those individuals blur into a impersonal edifice.

        I think far left wing agents need to be in a ’cause for something’ to commit the violence. It appears they need to be part of a bigger social movement.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Joe Sal says:

          How much of this is really political or just people filled with rage finding fringe politics and then using it as an excuse to fuel their violence.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            The political informs the motivation & target of the rage.Report

          • Joe Sal in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            On the right I would say it’s personal. Most of them disconnect, and are even anti-social. Politics isn’t much of their world.

            On the left politics and the social environment probably matter a great deal. A expression of ‘collective ugramm’ manifesting from an individual.

            That’s spit balling it from the arm chair though.Report

            • North in reply to Joe Sal says:

              Interesting, who would you flag as the most recent violent left wing attacker?Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to North says:

                If the Orlando shooter was sincere about pledging to ISIS, and wants america to stop bombing his country. I think that was leftist.

                The Dallas shooter is a tough one. I mean he has a lot of the hallmarks of a ‘for a cause’ type, but some other stuff looked personal. I am somewhat curious as to whether he was bullied when young, and whether he acted ‘for a greater cause’ or against a ‘impersonal institution’. That one is not clear to me.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Joe Sal says:

                ISIS does not map to the left or the right in any conventional sense.

                I think you are projecting very strongly.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                ISIS is something the Orlando shooter pledged to, not a projection of something I attributed. That need to be in a social context is inherent to the far left (extreme ideology as you mentioned). Probably not something you would recognize in the immediate area you would call left. I think you and Lee operate much closer to center where social context is more a hat tip than a hard point.Report

              • David Parsons in reply to Joe Sal says:

                If the Orlando shooter was sincere about pledging to ISIS, and wants america to stop bombing his country. I think that was leftist.

                What bombings are you talking about? It’s been decades since MOVE or the Branch Davidians, and if there’s an epidemic of (US) domestic bombings going the government is being /really/ good at surpressing news about them.

                (Omar Mateen was born on Long Island. The USA was his country.)Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to David Parsons says:

                It may be were he was born, but he probably wanted to be a cultural justice warrior of another nation. In action and word.Report

              • David Parsons in reply to Joe Sal says:

                Nonsense. If there’s one thing that the United States has a lot of it’s spree killers, and there’s nothing extraordinary about Mr. Mateen’s rampage, up to and including tossing out a catchphrase so that people will remember him.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to David Parsons says:

                If that’s what makes it copacetic for you, I was just going off what the guy actually said according to witnesses. He could have just as easily said he was confused and pissed off and needed to destroy a segment of society. That wasn’t what he did.Report

  7. Aaron David says:

    I would prefer to think of French youngsters dancing, kissing, skating and having fun, than this shit.

  8. Jaybird says:

    Turns out, ISIS is claiming responsibility.

    Of course, it might be completely unrelated to ISIS. Anybody can claim responsibility after a terrorist attack, after all.

    And it’s not like they have evidence of the driver pledging allegiance.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

      From TFA:

      It remains unclear whether the militant group directed the attack, was taking responsibility for an assault it inspired or was simply seeking publicity from an event in which it had no direct hand.

      I’ma wait for evidence before saying that Daesh had fish all to do with this. The Daesh claim of responsibility related in TFA is pretty tenuous and so are the claims that the guy became “suddenly radicalized.” Some evidence of communication with Daesh’ some sort of control or direction Daesh exercised rather than something post facto.Report

      • Charles Manson was inspired by Daesh too, it just took him a few decades to realize it.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

        It’s a great opportunity for someone like Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to just throw stuff out there.

        But the Pulse shooting had a lot of little details come out in the days that followed that… complicated… easy narratives (including the easy narrative of closeted homosexual releases tension pent up by toxic masculinity).

        Perhaps this narrative is as easy as saying that this Tunisian guy just sort of snapped. One hopes that it’s not part of a pattern of attacks that will only be seen in retrospect.Report

      • notme in reply to Burt Likko says:

        So the French are making it up?Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to notme says:

          I doubt that. I note that this remark comes two full days after my prior caution.

          But let’s credit the notion fully. Assume this guy did get radicalized and assume further that he pledged himself to Daesh before driving that truck through the Bastille Day celebration. That still doesn’t mean I think a “Daesh-inspired” attack is the same thing as a “Daesh-directed” attack.

          One of those phrases refers to an actual projection of power.

          The other of those phrases refers to a collection of shitheads who didn’t do anything but claim responsibility for something a madman probably would have done on his own anyway.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

            This is an exceptionally reasonable response to it happening once.

            Perhaps it’s reasonable if it happens twice.

            Perhaps it’s even reasonable if it happens seventy times seven times.

            There is a point at which it will seem reasonable to be unreasonable about this sort of thing.

            Which is probably a number much smaller than seventy times seven.Report

            • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

              There is a point at which it will seem reasonable to be unreasonable about this sort of thing.

              I get what you’re saying but I think the substance got lost in the wit: one is either reasonable or one is unreasonable. That which used to be unreasonable might today become reasonable if things change.

              Anyway, when is the threshold at which point we stop distinguishing between something directed and something inspired? You argue that it’s probably more than 2x, and probably less than 490x. Okay, but that doesn’t tell us much about calling for decentralized violent chaos as much more than decentralized violent chaos.

              Power is the ability to impose one’s will upon another. Daesh doesn’t have it. Even successfully calling for decentralized violent chaos isn’t going to give it the ability to impose its will upon us.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Even successfully calling for decentralized violent chaos isn’t going to give it the ability to impose its will upon us.

                How many hocs would it take for a post to turn into a propter?Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

                No fair. I asked you for a more precise quantification first. And it doesn’t address my point: Daesh can make us westerners mourn our dead, maybe a lot of our dead. But they haven’t demonstrated the ability to compel us do the things they want us to do.

                Sadly, there are many among us who would choose to do that which Daesh wants to see us do. Daesh requires infidel Crusaders against which it can rally the faithful under the flag of dar al-Islam. Al-Baghdadi needs us to be his catspaw in order to make real his claim to be Caliph. We must deny him that glory.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Isn’t the problem the journey, even if (esp if) the destination is unreachable?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Anyway, when is the threshold at which point we stop distinguishing between something directed and something inspired?

                I would say that an easy guideline is this:
                If you hear about mass violence happening in Europe, if your first thought is “please don’t be Muslim, please don’t be Muslim”, we’ve reached an important threshold.

                If, after it comes out that maybe the person in question was, if your first thought is “please don’t have radical ties, please don’t have radical ties”, we’ve reached another.

                There are several little thresholds that can be crossed and, indeed, not all of them always will be.

                Personally, I hope that we do *NOT* have another incident this summer.

                If we do, though, and you find yourself thinking that, I’d say that an important threshold will have been crossed.

                And then, again, for the ones involving whether ISIS claims responsibility or whether, God Forbid, the guy pledges allegiance to ISIS immediately prior to something awful.

                So, no, I cannot pinpoint the exact moment at which a clean-shaven face can be said to have a beard on it.

                But there’s a point at which a lot of people will say “THAT’S A BEARD” even if perfectly reasonable people would still say “that’s still stubble”.Report

              • greginak in reply to Burt Likko says:

                What Burt is saying has been said many many time. Terrorism is a strategy of the weak. They would much rather be sending aircraft carrier battle groups or hundreds of bombers or tanks to attack the people they want to defeat. But they don’t have that. Never really have and no way to see them getting any of that any time in the foreseeable future.

                One lesson of war is that the bad guys can always choose to die ( we can certainly help them with that) and we can’t protect everybody everywhere all the time. They can always choose to suicide at us and spill blood while they are doing it. DAESH is been slowly pushed back in the ME which is good but they are sure as hell going to lash out in every way possible as terrible as that is. But they can’t defeat us. Terror and guerrilla war might be able to push invaders out of a groups home country but they can’t take over ours.Report

              • notme in reply to greginak says:

                So you give us the French answer, just live with it and eat some cheese?Report

              • greginak in reply to notme says:

                Well your reading comprehension and knowledge of history leaves just a wee bit to be desired. But i do like some cheese.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to greginak says:

                The other way to cope is to put things into perspective, and not let the enemy dictate our actions.

                If the best that Daesh can manage is a couple dozen people in Europe and America every few years, then I am going to continue to worry more about toddlers with guns, gap toothed gun nuts with guns, sociopaths with guns, and sharks. With fricken laser beams.Report

  9. Damon says:

    Hopefully the French won’t suppress all the facts this time around like they did with the Bataclan attached. All that torture, mutilation, and evisceration ain’t politically correct.


  10. notme says:

    Now it’s a Afghan migrant in Germany. Better they imported him than us.


      • Kazzy in reply to notme says:

        Tough nuts, ISIS. I claimed reaponsibility first. However, I also claimed responsibility for the moon landing, the invention of the wheel, and I’ve pre-claimed responsibility for ending world hunger.Report

        • notme in reply to Kazzy says:

          You really think this is funny?Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to notme says:

            The claim that ISIS has agents everywhere is as ridiculous as the claim that Saddam had nukes and biological weapons, and the ease with which the Right can be made to wet their beds is hilarious at first glance, but it ceases to be funny when you see where that led. last time.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to notme says:

                But did he ever try to buy uranium from Niger or cyclotron parts from Walmart?Report

              • notme in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Not that has been reported but there are two folks in critical condition and many others less severely wounded. Is this stubble, beard or just an existential threat?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to notme says:

                Roof had real Confederate flags. Who’s responsible for that now?

                The fact that they are homemade is a strike against ISIS responsibility. They couldn’t even mail him a flag… But they planned his attack?Report

              • notme in reply to Kazzy says:

                You really are desperate to ignore or deny there is a problem, how sad.

                Here is another attack for you. A mother-and-three-daughters-stabbed-in-french-resort-for-being-scantily-dressed


              • Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy says:

                But… But… “Radical Islam!” Say the words, they’re a magic incantation that will validate my prejudices make us stronger somehow! SAY THE WORDS!Report

              • notme in reply to Burt Likko says:

                I know it is hard, but first you have to acknowledge that there is a problem.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to notme says:

                Admit a problem, to what end?

                So the police can do what? Shut off the internet? If you have people who were trained by Daesh, and then specifically sent to a foreign land to cause terror, then sure, you have a problem and you should leverage resources to handle that.

                But people who have no prior affiliation with Daesh, who never traveled to the lands they ‘control’, whose only contact is via internet propaganda, what are you supposed to do about them? I mean, governments have already admitted that Daesh propaganda is an issue, but there isn’t much you can do about that except to target the Daesh ability to produce such material, which is what is already happening. Even if such a person was talking to someone from Daesh, what can you do?

                So at best, what you have is a guy who was encouraged by Daesh to cause terror. Great, we have another data point that Daesh is bad and we should go do something about them. But how does admitted this stop further attacks? Does it work like this:

                1) Admit Daesh is a problem.
                2) ????
                3) National Peace & Harmony!

                Here’s a better plan:

                1) Admit you have a large population of Muslims/Refugees that are marginalized and not allowed to fully participate in French society.
                2) Alter your social constructs to permit greater assimilation into French society.
                3) Have less people going off their rocker and killing others.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                1) Admit you have a large population of Muslims/Refugees that are marginalized and not allowed to fully participate in French society… to the point where a non-representative and small number have started engaging in mass murder.
                2) ????
                3) Alter your social constructs to permit greater assimilation into French society!Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:

                Yeah, that step 2 probably has a lot of subparts as well.Report

              • notme in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Yeah, that step 2 probably has a lot of subparts as well.

                That’s an understatement.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I’m not sure the claim is that “admitting Islamic extremism is a problem” actually solves the problem so much as making an effort to pretend that it’s not is… well… just kind of strange behavior. There seems to be a lot of smirking pushback against connecting these attacks to religious extremism and I simply don’t get why.

                The fact that ISIS doesn’t actually direct the logistics of the attack but rather spreads a toxic ideology that appeals to enough people to be a problem seems to be kind of an uninteresting point to make. There seems to be a fairly widespread and interesting phenomenon of people taking up arms in the name of a fanatical religious ideology. I just don’t get where people are coming up with the belief that these are just crazy people who would have done this stuff anyway.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                To me, the strong desire of some to link radical religious ideology to a population subset is just cover to treat that subset more harshly.

                Which, of course, tends to further marginalize said subset and open more members up to radicalization. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I think it’s important that we treat these two points as separate though:

                1) Claim X is true.
                2) If we state claim X publicly, it could lead to political problems that make not worth making claim X.

                Both can be true. But if you accept (2) as true, you’re often stuck in the position of pretending that claim X is self-evidently false, which is not a great position to be in.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                What I’m saying is, “Sure, claim X is true. Now, how does that help us?” If some group is demanding I publicly state that claim X is true, I get to demand of them to explain why it’s important.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I’ll fall somewhere in the middle here: I don’t think it’s important that people stand up and say “X is true” apropos of nothing, but if X is true and they say or strongly imply that X is false, I’m going to come down on the side of people calling them out for it.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                Oh no, if X is true, then X is true. Obfuscating helps nothing.

                But there is a difference between saying, “The guy in Nice was motivated by Daesh propaganda.” & “The guy in Nice was MOTIVATED by DAESH propaganda.”

                One is stating facts, the other is building a foundation for a narrative.Report

              • I just don’t get where people are coming up with the belief that these are just crazy people who would have done this stuff anyway.

                I can’t speak for anyone else, but my belief that there is substance to this claim comes from things like these.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Burt Likko says:

                I’m not clear on the claim here. Is it that because there are a wide variety of motivations for mass killings that everybody who engages in them is just crazy? I don’t think I’m overly sensitive to notice a deviation from a pattern:

                *) Mass shooter kills a bunch of people because he’s bullied and ostracized in school. We talk a lot about how bullying and social pressures can drive teens to do extreme things.

                *) Mass shooter shoots up an abortion clinic. We talk about religion and the pro life movement’s rhetoric.

                *) A guy murders a bunch of cops, claiming to be infuriated by the way the police treat black people. Lots of discussion about law enforcement’s relationship with minorities and the current tense political situation regarding police use of force.

                *) White supremacist shoots a black church congregation. We talk about the groups stoking racial hatred and white supremacy in general.

                *) Lots of people claiming to be inspired by ISIS and engaging in jihad kill a bunch of people. Happens repeatedly to the point where we can guess what the next spree killer will claim was his motivation fairly accurately before the news even reports it. Meh. They’re just crazy and they would have done it anyway.

                Yes, there may be an undercurrent of mental health issues running through the whole thing (although I think that argument pushes way too far in most cases because it’s easy and comforting), but why is it in this one case we just pretend that motivations and beliefs don’t matter and just chalk it up to “crazy”? Do people genuinely believe this, or is it more what @oscar-gordon suggests above–an attempt to calm the situation down by obfuscating potentially inflammatory and upsetting facts?Report

              • I don’t find the proposition that mental health is at or near the root of large-scale killings to be in the least bit comforting, calming, or re-assuring. The idea that the world is really, truly divisible into good and evil camps, and we good folks need to exert control over those other evil folks, strikes me as a much more comforting notion than the way I see the world. A Manichean world view like that suggests a Manichean solution. Such a “solution” is an illusion.

                The truth is, violence dwells within each of us, everywhere, all the time, and has done so for the entirety of human history. There is something within an individual that keeps that violence in abeyance. Call that thing “socialization,” “mental health,” “hope,” “emotional stability,” or “morality,” as you wish. Perhaps it is more than one of those things acting in concert.

                Sometimes, this part of us erodes and fails. That is a fact of the human condition, one which transcends religion, political ideology, racial groupings, and economics.

                Is that obfuscating a potentially inflammatory and upsetting fact? No, it is an inflammatory and upsetting fact. I bet you’re upset reading it, and are, right now, mentally and emotionally engaged in a reflexive refusal to admit that you, yes you, have the potential to become a murderer within you. Right now, as you read these words on whatever electronic device you’re using. Whether you identify as Christian, Muslim, atheist, or otherwise; as conservative or liberal or otherwise; regardless of how much melanin is in your skin or how much money is in your pocket.

                Religion provides one way among many that this potential within you might be unleashed. That potential would be there even if religion did not exist. This is not cause for optimism: it is cause for despair.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Well, compare these two somewhat similar things.

                1) A guy in Florida burns a Koran or someone somewhere else draws a picture of Mohammed. Riots happen and people die in these riots.

                2) A guy in ISIS calls for a terrorist attack against soft targets after a public pledge to ISIS. A guy in Florida makes a public pledge to ISIS and then engages in a terrorist attack against soft targets.

                In which of these are we willing to say that we know what the motivations of the killers are? In which are we willing to say “Oh, the killer was totally inspired by this!” and in which are we willing to say “oh, these people would have done that crazy shit anyway”?

                It’s a Rorschach test, no?Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

                Or, 3) you and I are arguing about religion in a bar, and at some point I say “Fish you, @jaybird ,” and append a slur appropriate to whatever group you identify with. So you slug me.

                You’re obviously morally (and legally) responsible for slugging me. What’s my culpability, though? A bar fight is a low level restatement of the issue. Maybe at the grand level you have things like the Crusades or a jihad. In between are things like the Koran-burning riot. The difference between these hypos is one of scale, not of qualitative relationships. Religious provocation by A, violence by B. Did A cause B?

                The Rorschach test, as you call it, reveals the degree to which one is willing to impute causation in the absence of other evidence. Which is what this discussion has been about all along: causation. Did Daesh cause this guy in Nice to go on his murderous rampage?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

                The wacky thing is that we here, we happy few, *HAVE* argued over the burning of the Koran.

                In living memory. I can find links.

                Do you want me to find links?

                I can show you the comment threads and show you the people who argued that the people who burn a koran are responsible for the deaths they cause countries and countries away.

                Indeed, I can show you the threads talking about the Orlando Pulse shooting.

                These are things that actually happened. I’m not coming up with hypotheticals.Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

                Sure. I recall entertaining such ideas myself with respect to the Koran riots.

                I don’t want to put words in your mouth. What’s your argument?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

                We seem to have no problem finding reasonable arguments for why someone drawing a picture of Mohammed can cause death thousands of miles away.

                Why is it so unthinkable for this to be equally reasonable for someone calling for deaths in the name of Allah to be equally inspirational?Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                Be sure to include my analogy to the guy who verbally starts a fight at a bar and then walks away while other people beat the crap out of each other.Report

              • I notice that earlier, we were talking before about the difference between a Daesh-inspired attack and a Daesh-directed attack in terms of whether the difference between the two matters with respect to Daesh’s power as an enemy. This is a question of political significance. But now, we appear to be discussing assignment of moral blame and the significance of, inter alia, other causes of violent behavior such as mental health.

                I thought we had the debate narrowed down nicely several rounds ago when we reached the issue of causation. Did Daesh somehow cause the violence in Nice? If it directed the attack in advance, this is a projection of its political power. If it merely claimed credit for it afterwards, it’s hard for me to assign Daesh’s claim of political credit all that much significance, any more than I would assign political significance to the myriad other acts of apolitical violence referenced before.

                For some reason, I’ve been asked to confront an older question regarding whether a cleric in Florida caused violence in Afghanistan by making a spectacle of himself burning a Koran. I’ve not looked up the earlier argument, but that’s what it really came down to. IIRC, I took the position then that primary moral blame rested with the rioters themselves, but the American cleric who did something he believed would incite violence and intended to incite that very violence, was in fact morally blameworthy when the thing he intended to happen did happen. @jaybird or some other archivist can look it up and advise if that’s an incorrect restatement of my position on that event.

                So maybe the argument here is that Daesh deserves moral blame for Nice. That isn’t the discussion I thought we were having about Nice. I don’t think I assigned political significance to the Florida cleric’s burning of a Koran; he did not attempt to project his political will to Afghanistan by his act. (I’m pretty sure I did not advocate any kind of criminal activity; the burning of a Koran in the United States, just like the burning of a Bible or the flag, would almost certainly by protected by the First Amendment.)

                But as relevant to the discussion here, the American cleric wasn’t trying to change the Afghan government or influence something the Afghan government. Rather, he wanted to see if he could get Muslims to riot somewhere by making a spectacle of himself burning a Koran. He arrogated to himself the ability to set in motion a chain of events that he suspected and intended would lead to the loss of human life based on offending the religious sensibilities of people he gave every impression of despising. Politically, I can’t see that he any particular objective, certainly not one that mattered to Afghans. Morally, he did something calculated to cause violence and intended to cause violence, and violence actually happened, apparently as direct result. I remember arguing then that was blameworthy, and it certainly seems blameworthy now.

                The issue, then, has become twofold. First, I’m asked whether I see a causal connection between Daesh’s call for violence, and what happened in Nice. Second, I’m asked to assign some kind of significance to that connection — and now I am uncertain whether that significance is moral or political.

                I’m still far from certain that the causation is particularly strong in this case, given the man’s significant personal history of violence before anyone claims he became “radicalized,” and continuing hints about a complex history of mental illness, particularly depression, atop a milieu of little economic opportunity and social isolation.

                Interestingly, the article in that second link suggests that a mostly irreligious life followed by a sudden burst of intense religiosity before committing a violent act while invoking that religion is a recurring pattern for people who do their violence in the name of something religious. The fervor of the recently-converted, I suppose, but this was not something I’d known and frankly it scares me all the more given my earlier remarks that peoples’ mental states are subject to significant change without notice.

                Now, if there is evidence that Daesh somehow pre-directed this fellow to attack Nice, then that’s a political act by Daesh. That’s Daesh exercising political power, and it gets political significance as well as moral opprobrium. I really don’t see evidence of this at all — and I don’t think that’s the claim under debate here. The claim as I understand it is that inspiring him to do this is somehow equivalent to directing him to do it. And now I see that equivalence is supposed to be a moral equivalence, based on the reference to a different issue in the moral realm.

                So if, as seems most likely right now, this is a guy who was already violent anyway, and who decided right before he went out, “Hey, look at Daesh, they’re awesome! I’m going to do something violent in their name,” then I’m still unimpressed with this as a purported reflection of Daesh’s political power. In such a circumstance, you could persuade me to say, “Daesh gets moral blame for inspiring him.” Frankly, Daesh’s moral scorecard is so abysmally bad at this point, it hardly seems to make a difference.

                I’m even less willing to link Daesh to this act if, as seems still within the realm of possibility, the guy was merely “Daesh-curious.” In that case, I’d say Daesh are bad guys, and this guy was a bad guy, but there really wasn’t any connection of significance between them.

                But, to quote then-Secretary Hillary Clinton, “What difference does it really make?” Are we going to hate Daesh more than we did before? Are they going to hate us back more than they did before? Are we going to try to destroy them more than we’re doing now? Allow me to posit that we hate them already and they hate us already and we’re already trying to destroy them. Are we going to fear them more than we do now? What good does that do? Or is the whole point of this simply that every one of us should all experience a greater sense of fear than we currently do?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Moral blame? Pssh (waves hand). If there is an Allah who is somewhere around what ISIS believes Allah to be, they’re in the right.

                The moral judgment isn’t interesting.

                The ability of us to say whether an attack has something to do with Islam or not seems to hinge on whether a guy burns a Koran or whether he calls for people to kill in the name of Allah.

                I’m not interested in them.

                I’m interested in *US*.Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

                So it’s political blame after all. Do we allocate the violence in Nice to an exercise of political power by Daesh?


                Not without evidence that Daesh directed this attack in advance. Inspiring him isn’t an exercise of Daesh’s political will.

                The cleric from Florida’s got nothing to do with it.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Not blame. Agency.Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

                These seem, at least in this context, synonymous:

                Do we allocate the violence in Nice to an exercise of political power by Daesh?

                Perhaps I’m not understanding the distinction you’re drawing between “political blame” and “political agency.” Or maybe I’m wrong to put the word “political” in front of “agency,” but then we’re back to distinguishing political significance from moral significance.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

                I’d be more inclined to use the word “cultural”.

                And, again, I’m not interested in who actually has it, but in who we automatically assume would have it and who we automatically don’t. From there, I’m seeing what happens when you assume more parties have agency.

                Who gets blamed seems to follow who is assumed to have agency.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                Or, more precisely, those assumed to be without agency avoid blame.

                So, I’m noticing the sheer number of things pointing out how little power this or that or whatever group actually has. “This is evidence of how weak they are!” and so on.

                So, now, what I’m keeping my eyes open for is the acknowledgement (at some point) that, okay, maybe they’re capable of action. Not necessarily from you… more of a tipping point involving a lot of folks.Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

                Oh, I think I see the concept you’re driving at a bit better, with the clarifying remark above.

                Is Daesh capable of action, specifically in the cultural sphere. Yes. Obviously. It can take political and military action within and near the territory it control, and there may be some ability to project an actor like a suicide to strike at a desired target in the West. That wasn’t what happened in Nice.

                And I agree that Daesh has demonstrated some savvy about making cultural statements. That’s going to have a nebulous impact but there is some significance there.

                That doesn’t mean I fear it, nor that you should fear it, either. Much. If we lived in Syria or Iraq, that’d be a different story.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

                I hope that there won’t be any more incidents this summer.
                I fear there will be.

                I fear that we will eventually decide that they do have agency. They must. Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to do what they’re doing. Consistently.

                And not you, necessarily. Us. As a society.Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m not sure that “cultural agency” is a meaningful concept here. Help me out — how do we define this, how do we limit its application to some sort of useful level? Do we go all the way back to Mohammed versus the Byzantines?Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Religion provides one way among many that this potential within you might be unleashed. That potential would be there even if religion did not exist.

                The implication I’m getting here is that because violence is part of the human condition, what people believe about the world around them is irrelevant. That’s probably not what you meant, but it’s the gist of a lot of things I read when these sorts of things happen: violence is just something in us that sometimes comes out, and if it didn’t come out for one reason, the same person would be doing roughly the same thing–triggered by whatever the first thing that came along was. Or at least, if we do away with one apparent “cause” the total level of violence will remain constant as we shift to other causes.

                I find no reason in the data to believe that’s true, and I think a lot of people tell themselves that (or at least imply it) to support the comforting belief that everybody’s beliefs are equally valid and anybody who wants to examine those beliefs is being unfair or bigoted or racist or whatever. The claim I’m defending here is not something along the lines of, “Without religion, there would be no violence.” It’s simply acknowledging what seems to be an obvious fact: to the extent that people’s religious beliefs are real at all, the specifics of those beliefs affect their actions in real ways.

                It would be absolutely astounding if every belief system had exactly the same set of effects on human behavior. But in these discussions, we pretend that they do and move on to wide ranging pronouncements, “The potential for violence is in all of us.” Of course it is. I might become violent for any number of reasons. If voices in my head were telling me to kill my neighbor, I might do it. If I believed that the creator of the universe commanded me to kill my neighbor and would punish me if I didn’t, I might do it. But I don’t believe those things, so that checks a couple of possible reasons for me to kill my neighbor off of the list.

                Acknowledging that we could all be violent is important. Did Hitler manage to find a million mentally ill people to populate the SS? No. Most of them were regular people and were probably perfectly sane, kind and fair-minded people in their private lives. Did he make them “mentally ill” somehow? Maybe, but I’m not sure how we draw a line between mental illness and sincerely held beliefs. Ultimately, I think it’s a testament to the fact that what people believe matters, and we should be concerned about any rise in the popularity of ideas that lead people to go on killing sprees.Report

              • There’s a billion Muslims in the world. How many of them are (willingly) following Daesh? Their army is somewhere between 20,000 to 30,000. Let’s go with the high figure, although we don’t know how many of those are mercenaries who would melt away if they stop getting paid. Also, according to some on these pages, they’ve inspired a handful of lone wolves to do terrible things to vulnerable targets in the West who, apparently, would have been perfectly peaceful people without Daesh — a claim which I find strains credulity. But going with the high figure gives us about .0003% of all Muslims are Daesh.

                The other 99.9997% are reading the same Koran as Daesh and they aren’t doing the things we’re scared of, or even if they are, they’re doing them orthagonally to Daesh. If you’re going to insist that the problem is “radical Islam,” then let the focus be on the word “radical” rather than “Islam.”

                I might prefer the term “fanatic” and others might prefer the term “fundamentalist.” Downthread, the word “extremist” has been used. All of those phrases appear to be reaching about the same thing. There is such a thing as a radical Christian. There is such a thing as a radical Jew. You invoke the Nazis: there is such a thing as a radical socialist, a radical fascist, a radical communist.

                If you care to argue that there is something inherently radical and extremist about Islam, the way there was something inherently radical and extremist about fascism, go right ahead. The existence of very large numbers of Muslims who don’t commit or even condone acts of mass murder suggests that the problem is not in the religion.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Burt Likko says:

                If you’re going to insist that the problem is “radical Islam,” then let the focus be on the word “radical” rather than “Islam.”

                That’s perfectly fine. As long as we’re not insisting that the problem is “mental health” or something along those lines. When somebody starts pushing the, “All Muslims are violent extremists” line, I’ll be over there arguing against them because that’s wrong too.

                The existence of very large numbers of Muslims who don’t commit or even condone acts of mass murder suggests that the problem is not in the religion.

                What is “the” religion? Like any religion, there are a zillion sects and schools of thought with a zillion sets of beliefs and priorities. The fact that the people with the most problematic beliefs are a small subset of the larger umbrella doesn’t mean that those beliefs are not causing very real problems.

                My problem isn’t with the notion that most people in any religion are peaceful. My problem is with the strange tendency to look for and push any alternate explanation for their actions other than the one they openly state. We reach for terms like “mental illness” when in reality, the behavior is perfectly rational given the set of beliefs that small population holds to. If I believed what an Islamic extremist believes, I’d probably be doing exactly what they’re doing. Most of these people aren’t mentally ill any more than SS members or members of the Inquisition were mentally ill (at least, as long as we’re granting that any sufficiently popular delusion is not mental illness).

                When mental illness genuinely is the cause of violence, we don’t say, “Most mentally ill people aren’t violent” even though it’s true. We don’t say, “The fact that most mentally ill people aren’t violent means that the cause of this killing spree wasn’t mental illness.” If there were politicians and activists who showed up to say those things whenever a mentally ill person went on a killing spree, they would be wrong even if their reason for saying it was to keep us from picking on the mentally ill.

                I’m not even suggesting any policy or searching for greater meaning here. I’m just very uncomfortable with how a lot of my political bedfellows spin this sort of thing. When Howard Dean says that terrorist are “…about as Muslim as I am,” I wince because it’s simply not true. They’re a ton more Muslim than Howard Dean is. They just disagree with him on key parts of the theology.Report

              • notme in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                Claiming these Islamic terrorists are merely crazy people that would have done these killings anyway is a sad denial mechanism. Look at Burt’s statement earlier in this thread, “If these things hold up over time, I’m wondering if it’s appropriate to call this a “terrorist” event at all, rather than something more akin to the Isla Vista or Aurora shootings here in the States: the violent act of a mentally unstable person done for some sort of personal, non-political reason.”Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to notme says:

                So do you think Burt’s description is implausible on its face, or do you have some reasons to regard it as absurd?Report

              • notme in reply to Don Zeko says:

                Implausible to the extent that it is absurd.Report

  11. notme says:

    Fears for Rio Olympics terror attack as Brazilian extremists become first group in South America to pledge allegiance to ISIS


    Don’t worry they are only crazy folks that would have attacked anyway.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to notme says:

      Haven’t they already had a headless body on a topless beach?Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to notme says:

      By all means worry, in proportion to the credibility of the threat this group offers. Given that this is Brazil, which of late has been making Italy look like a well-oiled setpiece of civic clockwork, perhaps a substantial amount of worry is appropriate.

      But let’s say Daesh never existed but these Brazilian extremists did. They couldn’t have pledged their loyalty to Daesh in that event, because in that world, Daesh doesn’t exist. Are you seriously contending that they’d have stayed home? That without Daesh’s inspiration, it would have never occurred to them to try and attack the Olympics?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

        How do you wage war against an *IDEA*?

        I’m asking because I suspect that this question is laughable on it’s face right around today but, over the next decade or so, will be asked in the hopes that an answer can be found.Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

          Dude. I’m not the one suggesting we wage war against an idea. Much less against a massively-followed and culturally-diverse religious idea like Islam (and especially when the advocates of such a war omit even so much as restricting the scope of the contest to “radical Islam,” however that adjective “radical” is defined). Maybe @notme can address that better than I can, although I’m not sure what exact political policy @notme is actually affirmatively advocating here, beyond “Burt Likko is a fool.”

          I do think it’s possible to morally discredit an idea on a very broad and enduring scale. Slavery and fascism have been largely discredited thus — n.b., neither are extinct, although they are much rarer than they used to be.Report

  12. Jaybird says:

    And I’m remembering something that Brother @Kolohe said a while back. Something to the effect of how he was a believer in the weak version of the “End of History” hypothesis.

    I might have agreed with him at some point.

    I don’t think I do anymore.Report