Vo­cab­u­lary is all Paul Green­berg

In the fight against ter­ror­ism

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Paul Green­berg is the Pulitzer Prize-win­ning ed­i­to­rial writer and colum­nist for the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette.

Gen­tle Reader who has been fol­low­ing the con­tin­u­ing con­fronta­tion be­tween the forces of sci­ence, rea­son, and faith needn’t re­quire the ser­vices of Arkansas’ News­pa­per to de­cide whom to root for in what Sa­muel Hunt­ing­ton once called a clash of civ­i­liza­tions. It’s re­ally a choice be­tween civ­i­liza­tion and the lat­est bar­barism to threaten it. And the key to this de­ci­sive bat­tle, the Lit­tle Round Top of this ide­o­log­i­cal strug­gle, is words, words, words. Not only how they are used but how they are reg­u­larly abused. So that straight talk and plain deal­ing come not only as a re­lief but may pro­vide the key to vic­tory.

Ac­cord­ing to the 35th-an­niver­sary is­sue of

The New Cri­te­rion, a jour­nal that brings not only its wit but well-founded schol­ar­ship to this fight for the soul of civ­i­liza­tion, it is fine to ex­press anger at the lat­est bar­bar­ity com­mit­ted by those ded­i­cated to the West’s de­struc­tion. Which is what Bruce Bawer did in a piece for the City Jour­nal web­site which he be­gan with a curse: “Damn these ji­hadist mur­der­ers of chil­dren. And damn the politi­cians who have, in many cases, helped make these mur­ders pos­si­ble but who are quick, this time and ev­ery time, to serve up empty dec­la­ra­tions of ‘sol­i­dar­ity’ even as the bod­ies of in­no­cents are still be­ing counted.” There, feel bet­ter now? But such ex­pres­sions of out­rage do lit­tle to bring the vic­tory of light over dark­ness any closer in this ages-old strug­gle.

Mr. Bawer could have been writ­ing about any of the mas­sacres planned and com­mit­ted by these fa­nat­ics over the years. They bring to mind the tra­di­tional def­i­ni­tion of fa­natic— some­one who won’t change his mind or change the sub­ject. and whose fa­vorite sub­ject, in­deed ob­ses­sion, is mur­der most foul, its plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion. And ex­e­cu­tion meant lit­er­ally.

The bloody roll of dis­honor these mur­der­ers have com­piled is long, ex­ten­sive and surely will con­tinue. It al­ready in­cludes low points like the may­hem that fol­lowed fast af­ter the pub­li­ca­tion of the Dan­ish car­toons that dared to use Al­lah’s name in vain and other slaugh­ters around the globe from Paris to Or­lando to San Ber­nadino and points well be­yond.

Yet the best the world’s well-in­ten­tioned but sorely mis­guided peaceniks may be able to do in re­sponse is to call for “to­geth­er­ness” or is­sue solemn re­quests that the world “meet hate with love.” Who knows how many other out­rages will have been com­mit­ted by the time the news­pa­per you’re now read­ing will have gone to press, or in this age have been dis­trib­uted by iPhone or what­ever your own pre­ferred app might be.

As a com­men­ta­tor named Bren­dan O’Neill put it all too well: “It is be­com­ing clear that the top-down pro­mo­tion of a hol­low ‘to­geth­er­ness’ in re­sponse to ter­ror­ism is about cul­ti­vat­ing pas­siv­ity … . Where’s the rage? If the mas­sacre of chil­dren and their par­ents on a fun night out doesn’t make you feel rage, noth­ing will. The ter­ror­ist has de­feated you. You are dead al­ready.”

It was our cur­rent pres­i­dent and tweeter-in chief, Don­ald J. Trump of all peo­ple, who hit the ji­hadist threat smack in the head when he de­scribed the ter­ror­ists as “evil losers.” It wasn’t so much the rit­ual de­nun­ci­a­tion of evil that must have stung the en­emy as Don­ald Trump’s de­scrip­tion of them; that must have re­ally hurt. As the con­cise car­toon­ist Scott Adams noted: “If you call them mon­sters, they like it. If you call them ISIS or ISIL they put it on a flag and wave it around. If you call them non-Mus­lim it just rolls off their backs be­cause they have Ko­rans and stuff. Al­most any other ‘brand’ you can imag­ine is either in­ert or ben­e­fi­cial to Loser re­cruit­ment … . Loser is dif­fer­ent. No one joins the Loser move­ment.” Cer­tainly not when it’s clearly la­beled as such.

Words count most in this epic con­fronta­tion. And when those words are coun­ter­feits, the qual­ity of thought they re­flect is soon enough de­val­ued un­til it reaches noth­ing or goes into the mi­nus num­bers. And when that thought be­comes ridicu­lous, it is less dan­ger­ous than just laugh­able. Few things de­flate a bloody wanna-be dic­ta­tor than the sounds of laugh­ter fol­low­ing in his ev­ery foot­step.

Re­mem­ber how a tal­ented satirist named Alan Sokal de­flated a whole, bo­gus “phi­los­o­phy of sci­ence” by writ­ing a sup­pos­edly se­ri­ous, schol­arly piece in the lat­est in­tel­lec­tual text for a jour­nal still called So­cial Text? The ar­ti­cle went by the high-fa­lutin’ ti­tle of “Trans­gress­ing the Boundaries: To­ward a Trans­for­ma­tive Hermeneu­tics of Quan­tum Grav­ity,” a piece that had no grav­i­tas about it what­so­ever, but was taken se­ri­ously by those who, well, take such non­sense se­ri­ously. What a de­li­cious spec­ta­cle. When the hoax was re­vealed, there was some brief con­ster­na­tion but no sign of gen­uine re­morse, let alone re­form. This ide­o­log­i­cally blind con­fed­er­acy of dunces just went on its blither­ing way, and still does.


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