Let’s Give The Platitudes Surrounding Terrorism A Rest

Let’s Give The Platitudes Surrounding Terrorism A Rest

It’s not the job of Western leaders to define what Islam is or isn’t. It's their job to talk honestly about what’s happening.

Following the terrorist attack in Manchester that left at least 22 people dead and dozens injured, most of them children, President Donald Trump referred to terrorists as “evil losers in life.” As expected, a number of liberal pundits mocked the president’s unrefined language. So jejune, you know?

Inadvertently or not, Trump landed on a plain-spoken, stinging moniker that happens to also be true. No matter how many girls the next Salman Abedi ends up killing, theocratic dead-enders are, in every societal, ideological, and historical sense, losers. Perhaps some blunt language will lead to some clearer thinking on the issue.

Now, it’s debatable whether it matters very much to would-be terrorists what unpleasant names Trump has in store for them. How we talk about terrorism, on the other hand, is important. Over the past eight years (at least) the topic has been obscured by clinical euphemisms and feel-good platitudes for the sake of winning hearts and minds. How’s that going, by the way?

If unkind words about Islam — Trump’s rhetoric on immigration, for instance — offers “aid and comfort” to ISIS or compels more Muslims to blow up pressure cookers filled with nails to kill infidel children, that acknowledges what might be a terrible truth about the state of Islam, not American society.

Leaders in Western nations have gone out of their way to craft rhetoric that circumvents Islam completely when speaking about terrorism. We’re hooked on platitudes, such as “man-caused disaster” and so on, treating terrorism as some kind of spontaneous criminal event, rather than a tactic used predominately by one ideology. At the same time, the Left has been transforming “tolerance” into a creed that means accepting illiberalism. Their overcompensation to imagined backlashes has given real-life excuses to ignore the pervasive violence, misogyny, homophobia, child abuse, tyranny, anti-Semitism, bigotry against Christians, etc. that exists in large parts of Islamic society. “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam” makes every critic a hater.

After every Manchester or Paris or Nice, we are immediately instructed to watch our language and tone. Because love is love. You might remember former Attorney General Loretta Lynch telling a LGBT group, on the heels of an Islamist mass killing at a gay club in Orlando, that the “most effective” weapon Americans had to fight terrorism was “love.”

“After the terror, the platitudes. And the hashtags. And the candlelit vigils,” Brendan O’Neill wrote in a powerful post-Manchester piece. “And they always have the same message: ‘Be unified. Feel love. Don’t give in to hate.’ The banalities roll off the national tongue. Vapidity abounds. A shallow fetishisation of ‘togetherness’ takes the place of any articulation of what we should be together for – and against.”

After every terror act, Europeans and Americans are asked not to change anything. Not to overreact. Not to fear immigration. Never to fear Islam. “There’s only one way Britain should respond to attacks such as Manchester,” read a headline in The Independent, “That is by carrying on exactly as before.” Seriously, exactly the same? Because on Tuesday, British authorities raised the country’s terror threat level to “critical,” which means “an attack is expected imminently.”

Morrissey had some stinging words for the cliché-driven reaction of British politicians who seem paralyzed by political correctness:

In modern Britain everyone seems petrified to officially say what we all say in private. Politicians tell us they are unafraid, but they are never the victims. How easy to be unafraid when one is protected from the line of fire. The people have no such protections.

Spin Magazine reported the comments by noting that “Morrissey Says Something Predictably Dumb About the Manchester Bombing.” That’s because the perfunctory reaction of left-leaning writers is to condemn the person pointing out the uncomfortable truth. Yet “Keep calm and carry on” was meant to raise morale among the British, not call for surrender

Of course, the chances of dying in a terrorist act are slim. Yet the randomness and wantonness of terrorism threatens everyday existence for millions. Western elites are starting to act as if this is a byproduct of modern life we’re just going to have to live with, like car accidents.

So as imperfect a messenger as President Trump is, and as clueless as he might be in other ways, it is refreshing to veer away from vacousness of the previous eight years. In his Saudi Arabian speech the president implored nations to “honestly” confront the problem of “Islamic extremism” rather than using the phrase “Islamist extremism.” CNN argued that this “subtle change — or slip, as the White House called it — could mean the difference between offending Middle Eastern allies” and not.

Now, I understand why we don’t want to offend the mullahs, theocratic sheiks, oligarchic princes, Arab strongmen, and future junta leaders of the Middle East and Asia. They often help fight terrorism. Nor do we want a president to gratuitously attack an entire religion. But Barack Obama supposedly avoided terms like “radical Islamic terrorism” in an attempt to deny ISIS religious authority — as if this were his bailiwick. It’s not up to Western leaders to define what Islam is or isn’t. It is up to them to stand for liberalization (which is the only way to change attitudes with Islamic world) and to talk about what’s happening honestly.

David Harsanyi is a Senior Editor at The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter.
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