Not "Chilling". Just Aggravating.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

An off-duty soldier has been brutally murdered in London by a small group of men wielding meat cleavers. Consider for a moment the degree of attention such an act ordinarily merits: a brief report of the crime and a trial and punishment for the offenders. The only concern we would have for the motive of the perpetrators would be to establish such things as exactly what type of crime was committed and whether others might have been involved. In this case, the men made their motive clear: They were religiously motivated. (This indicates not just a crime, but an act of terrorism, and thus probably also an act of war. Beyond that, what these people say they want is irrelevant.)

The last thing any civilized person would concern himself with is attempting to please such a person, and yet this is the whole basis for committing acts of terrorism. This is what the chief butcher had to say:

He added, in the video obtained by ITV News: "Remove your governments - they don't care about you. You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start bursting our guns? You think politicians are going to die?

"No, it's going to be the average guy, like you, and your children. So get rid of them - tell them to bring our troops back so we can... so you can all live in peace."
Notice the semi-correction/Freudian slip there at the end. This is the only thing I have ever heard from a jihadist that is remotely in the neighborhood of an honest description of the merits of paying any attention to them: They will live in what they think of as "peace" -- at least until they find another excuse to kill someone. We won't, because peace with someone who arbitrarily kills other people is impossible.

I hardly know where to begin with how mindless this latest Islam-motivated atrocity was. These jihadists saw someone wearing a "Help for Heroes" shirt. Not that his being a soldier would have given them the right to do what they did, but for all they knew, this was an al Qaeda operative in disguise. So they see a man in a shirt. They run him down with a car and murder him with meat cleavers. They try -- but fail -- to behead him, as if that will be more "persuasive". They demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that they cannot be trusted -- and then start speaking to us as if they have the moral high ground.

And this is supposed to achieve what? Not just our allowing them to go about their daily business, but starting to do what they tell us to. One second's thought will reveal that the practical application of acting on this will have the same result as ignoring it: Islamic fanatics will find some random excuse to kill some random person again.

The British paper's use of words like, "chilling" to describe this savage's utterances is as ludicrous as calling the roar of a lion "chilling" after its rampage is over. The proper term here is not an emotional one, but a legal one: "aggravating". A thing acts in accordance with what it is. Wild animals -- or brutes -- that capriciously take or endanger human lives are, in the long run, only as dangerous as we let them be. Cages, guns, and governments have legitimate uses. (To be clear, I favor the use of government against terrorism outlined here to be a major part of the proper response.) The sooner the West remembers this, the sooner we will see that terrorists are only as powerful or "chilling" as we allow them to be.

-- CAV

PS: This episode incidentally causes me to realize just how ridiculous Pascal's Wager is. An all-powerful being demands that beings he created -- without a means of detecting his existence -- believe in him, or he will destroy them or worse if they don't.

So we should believe he exists? As if a being that "warned" us we'd go to hell if we didn't believe in him in such a circumstance would take the trouble to keep a promise...


Today: Improved the wording of several sentences.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Gus,

I hadn't thought about it but Pascal's Wager, at least as it is wielded by religious folks, is an argument from intimidation. Giving it a temporal context, as these muslims do, doesn't change that but the muslims certainly highlight that that aspect still holds, even if the executioner is a purportedly eternal creator.

I was at at debate where Gary Habermas casually tossed off the line that "Pascal's Wager is an important insight that even Game Theorists acknowledge." Of course, his evangelical audience ate that up. But Pascal's Wager only has any value if the choice is binary and several other precondiitions apply. I was obnoxious enough to ask him which of the many Christian sects fell on which side of the wager. Baptists? Methodists? Mormons? Unitarians? He was eventually pushed into anwering (because of his ecumenicalism) that all of the above fell on the positive side of the wager because they preached the divinity of Christ. This did NOT please his evangelical audience. I forebore bringing up the iffy question of Unitiarians and Christ's divinity and instead raised the question of Buddhists. From which point on he ignored me.

What I was trying to point out is that he wasn't being intellectually honest to raise Pascal in a context where a binary decision was not even remotely a posssibility. At least with the muslims and with the Inquisition Catholics, it is a binary decision; convert or die. But this gets them no closer to the truth and exposes their argument as a naked ad baculum.

c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...


This all reminds me of my first days of rejecting religion, before I encountered Ayn Rand. I was agnostic, absent her explanation of why atheism is a tenable position.

I had become repulsed by the very idea that, on top of how ludicrous such arguments are, I was being asked to worship a tyrant like this. I concluded that a being that would do something like this to his own creation was not worthy of worship.