How do we stop the madness? Harvard professors weigh in—ineffectually

Today’s CNN gave some depressing news: CIA director John Brennan reports that despite all the anti-terrorist actions of the US and other nations, and a serious loss of its territory in Syria and Iraq, ISIS’s capacity to produce terrorists acts hasn’t diminished a bit:

We judge that ISIL is training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks. ISIL has a large cadre of Western fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the West. And the group is probably exploring a variety of means for infiltrating operatives into the West, including refugee flows, smuggling routes, and legitimate methods of travel,” CIA Director John Brennan will tell the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning.

Brennan also says despite all the efforts by the U.S. against ISIS, it has not stopped the group.

“Unfortunately, despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach,” Brennan will say.

“The resources needed for terrorism are very modest, and the group would have to suffer even heavier losses of territory, manpower and money for its terrorist capacity to decline significantly,” Brennan will say. “In fact, as the pressure mounts on ISIL, we judge that it will intensify its global terror campaign to maintain its dominance of the global terrorism agenda.”

It is a time of frustration for all of us, for we know there are no easy solutions. What is ineffectual, though, are loud assertions that Islam is no more violent than other faiths, as seen in Julia Ioffe’s misguided piece in Tuesday’s Foreign Policy.  That is Ostrich Leftism, and tries to circumvent the problem by signalling one’s virtue.

Other acts that signal virtue but don’t do anything to help can be seen on the religion pages of PuffHo, in which it’s claimed ad nauseum that the effusion of love and solidarity after the Orlando shootings (granted, extremely heartwarming and affirming) is what we really need to defeat the “hate” of Islamic terrorism. One also sees the claim that many Muslims are not terrorists. Of course they’re not, but terrorism is rooted in Islamic ideology, which is invariably cited by the terrorists themselves.  (Two HuffPo examples below; click screenshots to see the apologetics).

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 8.22.09 AM

The entire world? See the link below to an anonymous piece, and you’ll learn otherwise.

Another:Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 8.23.11 AM

What should we do? Well, Harvard professors should know, right? After all, they’re supposed to be smart and savvy. To this end, the Harvard Gazette canvassed six Harvard faculty, asking them “How can we best halt this drumbeat of mass violence?” (Note: religion isn’t mentioned in the question, so it’s apparently directed at all shootings in the U.S., though the headline does mention Orlando.) The answers are given in the piece, “How to curb the madness“. Sadly, even most Harvard professors can’t say anything meaningful, and for three reasons. First, the problem is a hard one; second, its causes extend beyond the U.S. borders; and third, the professors studiously avoid mentioning Islam.

The usual causes are floated: bigotry, homophobia, and the easy availability of weapons; and indeed, I think gun control is something tangible we can do to “halt the drumbeat of violence.” Sadly, with a Republican Congress that isn’t likely. I have a solution, which I’ll mention at the end, but first look how the Harvard professors tiptoe around Islam:

Timothy McCarthy, adjunct lecturer on public policy and program director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy:

Then I think we need to look at the ways in which we institutionally, ideologically, individually allow ourselves to be governed by prejudice. We have to again, I think, take a cold, hard look in the mirror about our religious institutions, all of our religious institutions, whether they are churches or temples or mosques, that preach hate from the pulpit … I am sure there are people in mosques and temples and other religious institutions all across the country and across the world who are taught to hate in the places where they go to fortify their faith. That too has to be examined deeply and diligently.

After offering the Ioffe-ian “all religions are the same” trope, he proffers the “love each other” trope:

I think, perhaps ironically, that the nation can actually look to queer communities, communities of color, those of us who are most marginalized and vulnerable, to lead the way, because all we want is to love and all we want is to exist, all we want is to be treated equally and fairly in a country that talks about those things all the time. All we want is to be free, and we have something to say about that because we have spent our lives struggling for that, and we know how to do that work, and we know how to show the way to healing.

No, it is Muslims who must lead the way, at least as far as Islamist violence is concerned. What we have above is simply virtue signaling without any substantive solutions.

Ronald Schouten, director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Law and Psychiatry Service and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who studies the psychology of terrorism:

In terms of “it,” this was an act of extremist violence. Labeling it as “right wing” or “Islamic extremist” makes us feel better because we have attached a label and it allows for blame to be laid on a specific group. But it does not point the way to prevention, except for those who think most simplistically and favor exclusion of broad categories of people based on their religion and ethnicity and/or jettisoning the Constitution. Both are wrong-headed and destructive, but the fear mongering makes for what some consider good politics. In fact, such simplistic solutions are exactly what extremists want because it would tear at the heart of our society.

Umm. . . while Schouten says this, echoing the sentiments of Obama and all apologists, our own government is busy concentrating on Muslims and Muslim enclaves, for in our hearts we know that it is those groups we must focus on.

The only person who says something halfway substantive is Steve Pinker, but he, too avoids mentioning Islam, though he alludes to it obliquely in his last paragraph:

Steven Pinker, the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, is a cognitive scientist and experimental psychologist and the author of the 2011 book “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,” which examines a long-term trend away from violence across human history:

The honest answer is that we can’t stop them. Despite the round-the-clock media coverage, mass shootings are in fact rare compared to the more than 35 homicides that show up on police blotters every day. And rare events are inherently difficult to predict and control. In a country of 315 million people and almost as many weapons (which won’t evaporate any time soon), nothing can prevent .0001 percent of those people from wreaking revenge or gaining notoriety by the only guaranteed recipe for becoming famous: killing a lot of innocent people.

The best we can do is try to lower the odds. Two measures are common sense: outlawing or restricting bloodbath weapons, and increasing the reach of mental health services. (Most mass shooters have a history of disturbance.) Another is trickier: keeping media coverage and officials’ responses in perspective — currently they are massively out of line with the actual level of harm — so as not to provide a perverse incentive for angry losers to “make a difference” in the only way available, even if they only get to enjoy their fame in the anticipation of it.

The same is true for terrorism, which almost by definition is a tactic to exploit the media. And for terrorist attacks, anything that can hasten the waning of the prestige of the cause would help. We don’t see anarchists or Marxists bombing cafes anymore because they no longer feel they are part of a glorious historical movement.

Steve mentions Marxists and anarchists, and I can’t help but think that he means “Islamists”, that is, we must “hasten the waning of the prestige of Islamism.” (I’m just guessing here.)

And indeed, I think that’s the only solution—if  you conceive of the problem as deaths not just in the U.S., but throughout the world. For the evils of terrorism, or religiously inspired violence, are far greater overseas than in the U.S. Why should an American life, or fifty American lives, be mourned more than the lives of fifty gays in the Middle East, or of fifty Yazidi women? That’s not to diminish the horror of the Orlando shootings, but to say two things. First, the problem is most serious outside the U.S. Second, even if we have more leverage to solve the problem in our own country than elsewhere, it will continue, as the CIA director noted, so long as the megaphones of Islamism broadcast from overseas.

As a counter to the “peace and love” message of PuffHo, have a look at the infinitely depressing article by an anonymous author on the Arab Humanists site, “As an Arab, the Middle East reaction to Orlando left me speechless. . . ” A bit of it:

As a bilingual Arabic and English speaker from the Middle East, I took the liberty of browsing through Arabic news pages on Facebook earlier today; namely Al Jazeera, Al-Arabiya, BBC Arabic and a number of Egyptian news outlets to gauge how the Arab world was responding to the Orlando shooting. The results were disappointing, alarming, and depressing to say the least. Each page’s comment section was inundated with posts showing sympathy towards the attacker, praising him for his actions and wishing death upon members of the international LGBT community. Comments ranged from jokes about the incident and how “the gays had it coming,” to long du’as (religious supplications), wishing death upon gays and lesbians, as well as asking God to grant the killer “the highest place in paradise.” I considered collecting screenshots of these comments to raise awareness about the amount of hatred towards the gay community in the Middle East, but it soon dawned on me that such a task would be impossible.

There were simply too many hateful comments, with thousands celebrating the attack, from Tunisia to Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. It was only through deep digging that a single person who expressed so much as a shred of sympathy to the victims and their families, or even condemned the blatant massacre that took place could be found. If you don’t speak Arabic, visit Al Jazeera Arabic’s Facebook page and scroll down until you see a post about the Orlando attack and note what the top three “reactions” (newly added Facebook feature) are.

Most of those Muslims would not engage in terrorism itself, of course. But by celebrating its effects, and refusing to condemn radicalism, they are enabling it. Those are the people whose attitudes must change if we’re to curb the violence.

So yes, let’s get rid of guns, and let’s have an open discussion with American Muslims about what Enlightenment values have to say about their faith. That, at least, will help keep their children from growing up radical, or of being susceptible to the blandishments of radical Islam. And let’s crack down on guns as well; screw the NRA if it says otherwise.

But the problem of both American and foreign terrorism will not end until Islam itself undergoes a profound reform. Not just ISIS and other terrorist organizations, but Muslims as a whole, who, by and large, hold views incompatible with democracy, equality, and Enlightenment values.

In the end, the solution is what ex-Muslims and liberal Muslims have been telling us all along: the reform of Islam must come from within. That is the message of Maajid Nawaz (see here), of Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her latest book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Nowand of Asra Nomani in her new Washington Post piece, “Repeal Islam’s scarlet-letter sex laws.

The problem, of course, is that such reform will be slow, taking decades or even centuries. In the meantime, religiously-inspired terrorism will continue, albeit at a declining rate. We can hold it down by banning guns, and we can try to expand mental health services, as well as using the usual government security procedures. And we need to start naming the problem for what it is: mass murder based on a religious ideology. Yes, all of this will help, but these are bandaids for a problem needing major surgery. The surgeons must be the believing Muslims of the world—not just in the U.S.

As the author adds:

Members of the left who claim such terrorism has nothing to do with Islam need to become aware of the issue at hand that is Islamism, and understand the ramifications of evading discussions on it. The Arab world’s moral collapse is the result of decades of fundamentalist Wahhabi indoctrination across the Muslim world which has culminated in the recent rise of Islamic terrorism. Reform must come from within Muslim communities – I can’t stress this enough. An open and frank discussion on the current understanding and interpretation of Islam is much needed. Yes, it’s great to see Muslims in the west condemning the attack and voicing solidarity with the victims and their families, but there still remains a long way to go. The Muslim world, particularly the Middle East and North Africa, has become rife with followers of either Arab nationalist anti-west ideologies, or Islamism and Wahhabism, both of which are cesspools for hate.

h/t: Bryan, Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar, Orli


  1. Cindy
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink


  2. Posted June 16, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Why must the solution involve the perpetuation of Islam? Doesn’t it make more sense that the solution is dependent on the abandonment of Islam — and, of course, the abandonment of other forms of superstition?

    Especially considering how the moderates give intellectual cover and encouragement to the radicals, I don’t see a path from here to there.

    What I do see is Muslims following in the footsteps of Maryam Namazie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali and outright rejecting the foundational bases for Islam altogether. Once you realize that Allah is no more real than Jupiter or Brahman or YHWH or Quetzalcoatl, you’re left with the Q’ran as just one more ancient text amongst countless thousands, with no more inherent worth than the Odyssey or Beowulf. Enlightened Humanism doesn’t automatically fall out at that point, but it’s pretty much the only game left in town.

    Now, is it realistic to think that Muslims will come to their senses en masse? I suppose not. But is it not the soft bigotry of low expectations to presume otherwise?

    Besides which: never forget the power of the Overton Window. You’ll win far more “converts” to moderatism by preaching rationalism than by preaching moderatism, and you’ll actually win some all the way to rationalism. If you yourself stop at moderatism, what makes you think that those you’re attempting to persuade will, in significant numbers, go even beyond what you’re arguing for?



    • Posted June 16, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      “Now, is it realistic to think that Muslims will come to their senses en masse? I suppose not.”

      It’s certainly not reasonable, or even possible if we can’t get our own population to come to it’s senses first.

      • Posted June 16, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        It’s certainly not reasonable, or even possible if we can’t get our own population to come to it’s senses first.

        True, but our own population is coming to its senses. “Nones” are the fastest-growing demographic and already outnumber Catholics (who’re the largest single Christian denomination). And Europe is more secularized than we are, with some parts being overwhelmingly secular.

        So, again. If that’s the direction we ourselves are marching towards as fast as reasonably possible, why should we be pointing Muslims in the opposite direction?



        • Posted June 16, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

          “True, but our own population is coming to its senses. “Nones” are the fastest-growing demographic”

          But what percentage of those nones are anti-theists who think religion is a net negative, and think we should be trying to get the religious to come to their senses. I doubt even the most secular countries in the world have significant numbers who feel that way. The idea that religion causes terrorism is a hard sell everywhere.

          • Posted June 16, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

            But what percentage of those nones are anti-theists who think religion is a net negative, and think we should be trying to get the religious to come to their senses.

            How is that even hypothetically relevant? The nones aren’t the ones citing divine authority to justify sociopathy, and they aren’t remotely persuaded by calls to sociopathy justified by divine authority.

            Besides, even “Christian…I guess…right?” Brits find Gospel passages like Luke 19 and Matthew 10 alien and incomprehensible and couldn’t fathom how anybody could take them seriously. They might not frame it in terms of religion as a net negative and that believers should come to their senses, but that’s what their position boils down to.




            • darrelle
              Posted June 16, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

              I am not quite understanding your argument. You are asking why encouraging Islam to become more moderate is even being considered a possible solution but as counter – argument to criticism of that you are describing liberal Christians / cultural Christians / people that are vaguely Christian in some way but don’t want to belong to any particular church or hold to any particular doctrine? I think that is exactly the condition hoped for with the “encourage an Islamic enlightenment” tactic. Did I read through things to quickly and miss something?

              • Posted June 16, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

                I of course prefer liberalized wishy-washy Christians to the thumping fundamentalists. But, as we were discussing the other day, liberal Christians give cover and comfort to the fundamentalists, and the straight-up conclusion from taking the sacred texts seriously is literalism. (If the gods were responsible for the texts and the gods are all they’re cracked up to be, the gods would have, somehow, made sure that their official biographies were accurate and accessible to even the simple-minded.)

                So I’m emphatically not going to encourage people to merely rinse their hands rather than wash properly with soap, even if I’d rather they rinsed than did nothing. Instead, I’m going to attempt to convince people to the same conclusions as I’ve come to using the same evidence and reasoning as I found convincing.

                Anything else is the “little people” argument, which is ultimately self-defeating on a great many levels.




              • darrelle
                Posted June 16, 2016 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

                I don’t disagree with your position, and the reasons for it, at all. I’d go so far as to say that it would be unethical for me, or any atheist, to try and convince someone else to “merely rinse their hands rather than wash properly with soap.”

                Rather, I was confused by your argument. It didn’t seem to support your position but to contradict it.

              • Michael Waterhouse
                Posted June 16, 2016 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

                Ben, I agree. I have argued similarly for a long time.
                The moderates and others of varying degree of faith make up the base and substance of a pyramid, the pointy end being worst terrorist loons.

                That pointy bit has no existence without the rest.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted June 16, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

                Ah, again the reference to the ‘little people argument’ so that every opposing position is tarred with it, and is miraculously smacked down!
                I’m afraid Ben’s grandstanding on the moral and secular high ground strikes me as no less magical thinking than that of most believers.

            • Posted June 16, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

              “How is that even hypothetically relevant?”

              Perhaps I can make my point clearer by responding to another comment you made.

              “I of course prefer liberalized wishy-washy Christians to the thumping fundamentalists. But, as we were discussing the other day, liberal Christians give cover and comfort to the fundamentalists”

              I would argue that the nones, for the most part are giving cover to the wishy-washy Christians with their laissez faire attitude. Maybe we should start by convincing them that “liberal Christians give cover and comfort to the fundamentalists”, and that they should be getting liberal Christians to come to their senses as well.

              • Posted June 16, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

                I would argue that the nones, for the most part are giving cover to the wishy-washy Christians with their laissez faire attitude.

                You can, of course, argue anything you like…but I fail to see the merits of this argument.

                Liberal Christians still claim that Jesus is divine and the Bible is holy. They’re completely in agreement with the radicals on the basics, and only disagree in matters of interpretation and implementation.

                “Nones” disagree with claims of divinity and holiness, so everything afterwards falls apart.




              • Posted June 16, 2016 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

                You continue to miss my point, I guess I’ll just drop it.

              • Michael Waterhouse
                Posted June 16, 2016 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

                The nones may be giving cover to the moderates in an ancillary way, perhaps by being tolerant, but it is a qualitatively different thing.

                The nones are not giving cover by their actual superstitious beliefs.

                The moderates actual beliefs give actual support to actual extreme versions of those beliefs.

                Those that do not have those beliefs do not.

              • Posted June 16, 2016 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

                “The nones may be giving cover to the moderates in an ancillary way, perhaps by being tolerant, but it is a qualitatively different thing.”
                Sure it’s not the same type of cover. Iff we could recruit more of the nones into the anti-theist camp we’d have more people voices opposing the moderates, and be more successful in bringing them to their senses. I was able to deconvert both my mother, and my wife. If the 20% of nones did likewise religion would be virtually extinct in my lifetime. My point is that in the long run we’d be more successful if we spent more time convincing nones, who have already shown themselves to be somewhat reasonable, into the anti-theist camp.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted June 16, 2016 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

            The idea that religion causes terrorism is a hard sell everywhere.

            OTOH, the idea that SOMEONE ELSE’s religion causes terrorism has always been an easy sell. The problem has always been getting people to go that last step to recognise the essential similarity of all religions.

        • chris moffatt
          Posted June 16, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

          But we find that in the midst of all that secularism, in Belgium and France for instance, terrorism breeds not among the older generations of immigrants but among the young who were born into those secular societies.

          Terrorism has historically been the weapon of the weak not of the strong. The more Da’esh loses on the battlefield the more it is likely to resort to terrorism. We can look forward to more of it. Perhaps we should be dealing with the sponsors of terrorism – Saudi Arabia for instance and the Gulf states who have been exporting terrorists and supporting them abroad for a few decades now. And the USA could perhaps develop smarter foreign policies that are less to do with regime change and more to do with rationality. It’s actually been some time since the US was dependent on gulf oil but nothing seems to have changed in the thinking of DOD and State. But then those geniuses have seen fit to revive the whole cold war era…….go figure

          • Posted June 16, 2016 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

            But we find that in the midst of all that secularism, in Belgium and France for instance, terrorism breeds not among the older generations of immigrants but among the young who were born into those secular societies.

            Again, true but irrelevant…because the terrorists are retreating from secularism straight back to the primitive superstition of religion.

            You don’t find children of secular immigrants becoming hyper-secularized terrorists, after all.




            • chris moffatt
              Posted June 16, 2016 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

              sorry Ben reading comprehension fail – try again.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Yep, same as accepting the lack of evidence that J Haploid ever existed really streamlines things.

      Better to have voices calling for all religions to disappear than to call for selected ones to temper their lunacy.

      Baby with the bathwater? Maybe, but as long as you accept the existence of a Skydaddy, there’ll be people claiming to speak for Skydaddy.

      On, and then there was this, in the US House 2 wks ago, that just came across my FB feed.

    • ToddP
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink


      Totally agree with Ben’s view here. Well said!

    • Posted June 21, 2016 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      + 1

  3. jay
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Jumping on the gun thing is itself somewhat had waving. There are lots of restrictions in EU, but terrorists have no problems. In the Orlando case, the perpetrator was EXACTLY THE SORT of person the left is willing to trust with guns, former prison guard, licensed armed guard employed by one of Homeland Security’s biggest contractors.

    We may need to realize that these events cannot be totally stopped, but the measures that Obama, Hillary and Trump propose stand to cripple what ever freedoms we have left, but will NOT prevent these future attacks.

    • Jeff Lewis
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      ” In the Orlando case, the perpetrator was EXACTLY THE SORT of person the left is willing to trust with guns…”

      Well, not exactly:

      • Cindy
        Posted June 16, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        Yeah but, if a Muslim beats his wife that’s just cultural diversity in action!

        A couple of weeks ago regressives were arguing *for* gender segregated pools as if this was a shining example of diversity (whilst simultaneously arguing for unisex toilets, showers and change rooms because sex is a social construct).

        I don’t know how they do it. I can’t do the mental gymnastics, my mind is just not nimble enough.

  4. Jeff Lewis
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I posted this link in another thread on the Orlando shooting, but here it is again. It’s stats on mass shootings and terrorism broken down by either Muslim or non-Muslim attackers:

    As far as mass shootings go, the primary problem is not Islam. Even including this most recent shooting, the fatalities and injuries caused by Muslims is a small percentage of the total fatalities and injuries caused by mass shootings in the U.S. It may be disproportionate to the population, but even if you could somehow magically stop all of the mass shootings committed by Muslims, the total number of victims wouldn’t change by a large percentage.

    Now, when it comes to terrorism, the story’s a little different. Muslims attackers account for around 1/3 of the victims of terrorism. But terrorism is a separate problem from mass shootings. And by number of victims, it’s actually a far smaller problem.

    I’m not trying to say that nothing should be done about the issue of violence in Islam or the terrorism it inspires. But the Harvard article seems to be discussing mass shootings and violence in general, not terrorism in particular.

    • jay
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      It’s true that these must be treated somewhat differently, though they can overlap. Mass shootings typically are a single deranged individual, and have little ideological bent. By its nature, terrorism is a calculated psychological game.

      The vast number of other gun deaths are suicide (a very good sized chunk, which should not be counted in other categories) and street criminals. The majority of murders are in our inner cities (in some cities more than 80% of the victims themselves have a major criminal record). Outside the toxic environment of our cities, the murder rate is not particularly high.

      The problem is, even if you get rid of 90% of the guns, it won’t make much difference in the killing rate.

      [As a side point, I’d suggest that any politician who wants to make a credible case for giving up guns should start by disarming his/her bodyguards. Lead by example.]

      • tomh
        Posted June 16, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        “The problem is, even if you get rid of 90% of the guns, it won’t make much difference in the killing rate.”

        What possible evidence do you have for this rather sweeping statement?

    • Tim Harris
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 4:07 am | Permalink

      Another perspective:

      ‘The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation told the former wife of the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen, Sitora Yusufiy, not to speak of his homosexuality or the fact that she, his family and others believed he was gay, Yusufiy’s current fiance, Marco Dias, told a Brazilian TV channel in an interview.
      Dias told the Brazilian television station SBT Brazil Tuesday that Yusufiy believed Mateen was gay and that his father called him gay several times in front of her. However, “the FBI asked her not to tell this to the American media.”

      ‘Similar attacks by troubled white men in the U.S. against minorities are rarely referred to as terror attacks by either law enforcement agencies or the media, which points to a troubling trend that links the label terror to non-white Muslim attackers only.’

  5. Posted June 16, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    The biggest problem with terrorism, or mass shootings IMO is the unreasonable reaction to it. Being killed in a mass shooting is slightly above my concern over being struck by lightening, and slightly below my concern, here in Alabama, of being killed by a tornado. Each time I climb in a car I’m far more likely to be killed in an accident than I ever am to be killed in a mass shooting. This overreaction to mass shootings is the real madness. We need to stop allowing it to dominate our nations attention, and use up resources that could be better spent on things like preventing the 400 accidental deaths that happen daily.

    • Historian
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      “This overreaction to mass shootings is the real madness.”

      This observation needs to be emphasized. The purpose of terror is to create irrational fear in the populace. Very few people need to be killed to send the population into mass hysteria. Of course, the media abets this situation with its unending coverage of terrorist events. In reaction to terrorism, politicians call for greater restrictions on individual freedom. Just look at Donald Trump. Terrorism’s main threat to this country is its existence as a free and democratic society. And it only takes a handful of extremists (often of the religious kind) to create this threat.

      However, I should add that the threat to the nation by terrorism would be of a much greater magnitude if the terrorists should acquire weapons of mass destruction. More than anywhere, preventing this is where the resources of security agencies should be devoted. I hope that’s the case.

      • Posted June 16, 2016 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        “However, I should add that the threat to the nation by terrorism would be of a much greater magnitude if the terrorists should acquire weapons of mass destruction. More than anywhere, preventing this is where the resources of security agencies should be devoted. I hope that’s the case.”

        I agree, and the best way to formulate an effective policy is not to allow it to be driven by fear, and political pandering.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      With these so called accidents there is usually an element of control by the persons involved.

      Not air crashes I suppose.

      As well as the element of actual control there is the impression of control.

      You can vary the risk outcomes of getting into your car to a significant degree.
      You can observe proper ladder safety measures.
      You can hire an electrician instead of trying it yourself.

      This is all different than intentional malevolence.

      • Posted June 16, 2016 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

        “This is all different than intentional malevolence.”

        Of course, but if saving lives is our goal. 80 people die every day from falls in the US alone. How much money is spent on awareness, and education about that? 1000 times less than terrorism? 10,000 times less? Any reasonable policy with a goal of saving lives would be spending more.

        • Posted June 16, 2016 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

          I wanted to add that because of the baby boom falls are the fastest growing cause of accidental death, from 10,000 in 1992 to 32,000 in 2014, but we rarely hear anything about it.

          • somer
            Posted June 17, 2016 at 5:42 am | Permalink

            I get your point but this is not a worrying mortality as such – just means we are living long enough to have weakened muscles and ready bone fractures whereas in earlier times we died prior to this stage

            • Posted June 17, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

              “I get your point but this is not a worrying mortality as such”

              Not worrying in the sense that it’s a particularly unexpected increase, but I use that example because it’s very preventable at a low cost. My wife who works in elder care is convinced that simple public service announcements. and education could save thousands of lives annually. The other benefit of bringing more attention to the causes of death that individuals can do something about is it brings into perspective the comparative minimal risk of being killed by a terrorist. I saw an interview with a woman on CNN the other night who says she’s afraid to go to places with large numbers of people (like grocerie stores). This woman, who appeared to be in her 60’s, probably doesn’t think twice when she steps into her bathtub, or on her drive to Walmart, where she’s orders of magnitude more at risk.

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

          Yes a lot less.

          And if that was not being spent on anti terrorism work the numbers could be much greater.

          With the falls thing, if you are talking about people teetering at the end of their life I think it is an unfair statistic. They are going out anyway.

          And, there is money and effort spent on addressing theses various safety issues as they arise. At least there is where I live.

          And, there is still an element of personal control and responsibility in ‘accidents’.

        • Posted June 17, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

          A similar statistic for preventable deaths in America are automobile deaths. While we’ve been steadily improving, we’re still dying at a per capita rate 3-5 times that of Europe. This is eerily similar to the ratios of our homicide rates. I think there is a common thread between the two as well–we are a lot less apt to fund infrastructure improvements, invest in driver training and build more mass transit, all paths to demonstrably safer travel.

          While we don’t have people yelling, “Cars don’t kill people, people kill people!” our attitude is effectively just that. Yes, automobile deaths are mostly accidental, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve the environment to reduce them. This too mirrors our stance on gun safety. Anyhow, several trillion dollars into the war on terror and it’s clear we could’ve spent a fraction of that money and saved tens of thousands of lives. 100 people die in a mass shooting and it’s worldwide news. 100 people die in random acts of violence and accidents daily. Another 100 people die on the roads; it’s hardly noticed. Yet we can stop the latter two causes of death (which happen with orders of magnitude more frequency) for less money than we can stop the former. This is the height irrationality when it comes to allocating finite resources.

          • Michael Waterhouse
            Posted June 17, 2016 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

            You can choose not to die in an automobile incident.
            You can make an informed decision that you are prepared to take a risk in doing something, such as driving.
            This auto accident argument is nothing new. People have accepted certain risks as part of the freedom an auto provides.
            Or a motorbike.
            It is completely different to having people around who want to kill you.
            There is a difference between intentionally killing some one and accidently killing someone.
            It is not simply about lives saved and especially not about contrived hopes that more lives could be saved.
            We could restrict everything people do so they don’t hurt themselves. Keep the old and infirm in bed maybe.
            But I don’t want that level of restriction.
            But I do want strong restriction on people who intentionally want to kill and maim.

            • Posted June 17, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

              We could restrict everything people do so they don’t hurt themselves. Keep the old and infirm in bed maybe.

              Do that, and the lack of exercise will be fatal.

              Life is dangerous. We are only here because of the low entropy of the Big Bang. The fact that entropy is higher today than it was yesterday is essential to our very existence. But an equivalent statement is that entropy will be even higher tomorrow — and that fact constitutes our death warrant.

              This is cause for celebration, not despair! As Richard Dawkins so eloquently observed, we are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones — for the fact that we will die means that it is also true that we live, and, while we live, we may, if we so choose, drink most deeply and heartily and eagerly from the cup of life. We might wish for even more, but that we even get a sip in the first place is sufficient cause to rejoice.




            • Posted June 17, 2016 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

              “But I do want strong restriction on people who intentionally want to kill and maim.”

              The cost, and restrictions we allow to be placed on ourselves in the name of that, at least where terrorism is concerned, are not worth the benefits. 6 trillion dollars ultimately for the Iraq war? We need to stop allowing fear to control us. The idea of restricting people “who intentionally want to kill and maim” us is what motivates many Trump supporters.

            • Posted June 17, 2016 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

              I don’t follow what “restrictions” are being placed on people by reducing the inherent (and as you pointed out accepted) risk to traveling. Is it restrictive to add more roundabouts, wider lanes, eliminate clover leaf exits, and add mass transit options so that people will be less inclined to drive while intoxicated? In what way is having the choice between a personal vehicle driven over well engineered and maintained roadways, a bus, a train, or a cab restrictive? No one I know driving on the roads where I live that were designed in the 1930s enjoys the higher rates of accidents and wear and tear on their vehicles. Is all the progress we have made in the last several decades also somehow restrictive?

              And to your point about intentionality of death, I disagree. There is no difference to the dead person how they died. I am not suggesting the use of force to make anyone do anything, but it is well proven that creating the environment the makes it easier not to make mistakes or stupid choices reduces risk and when it comes to the choice of ineffectively spending money on this versus trillions of dollars that are poorly allocated to wars that do nothing to stop jihadist, I’ll take the former. And of course, as Ben points out, confining the elderly to bed will also kill them. This is nothing like increasing safety measures while people are still free to travel as they please. It’s also worth pointing out that many elderly take precautions against the inherent risks of aging with safety rails, life lines to 911 in case of a fall, etc.

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    As mentioned already here in the comments, the first problem is to define what it is we are doing or going to do something about. Is it ISIS terrorism? Is it guns in America? Or something else like reform of Islam? These are all great things to talk about but they are all very different and require different solutions. You cannot mix them all together.

    I see fixing the problem of Islamic terrorism as a whole, as very long term and requiring lots of work within the religion. We in America and mostly outside the religion cannot do very much about this.

    However, our more urgent problem that cannot wait for this religious change to take place must focus on ISIS (the Islamic terror group) as the enemy and what we should concentrate on eliminating. This must be done the same way you create strategy to defeat any specific enemy. Your mission is to destroy the enemies will to fight. Determine the center of gravity and push your resources on that. As usual you must have help from other countries on this but as always, the U.S. must lead. Other so-called friendly Muslim countries must help pay for this. Just as ISIS must have lots of money to continue, we must have lots of money to destroy it. And we must be willing to pay the price in people and money to do it. If the people do not have the will to do this, then forget it.

    Eliminating the gun problem is the same kind of story. The people are not willing to do what is necessary to solve the gun problem so it cannot be done. We can talk about it until we are sick to death of talking and I think we are there. Remove hand guns from our free, gun loving society or forget it.

  7. Kevin
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    The bricks of the house of Islam must be replaced with protestantism and then humanism. They are centuries behind Christians and this, in my opinion, gives the moderate Christian even more incentive to stay ‘a little bit’ fundamentalist in order not to feel less faithful.

    What a strange reality it must be to be in the middle of the faith of Islam. So far from the wonder and discovery of science and critical thought.

    Until the bricks are replace the house of Islam remains the best place to dodge reality.

  8. DrBrydon
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Assuming for a moment that there is a logic to our having the Second Amendment, gun control doesn’t seem like an answer. First of all, while gun control might help with spontaneous actions or accidental deaths, these terror attacks are premeditated. Would-be perpetrators will find other weapons to use if they need to. Second, they don’t need to find other weapons, because gun control only controls legal weapons. (Yes I know that the Orlando killer bought his guns legally, but if he’d been determined, he could have gotten them illegally.) If we couldn’t get rid of illegal drugs (or alcohol), we won’t be able to get rid of guns.

    What we need to address is how this man passed two screenings, one by the FBI and one by his employer. If, fifteen years later, when someone “sees something and says something,” we are still messing this up, there is a fundamental problem.

    • chris moffatt
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      One might also ask what is the purpose of all the warrantless interception of email, twitter, phone calls, file transfers etc by NSA, FBI, CIA, the “five eyes”, the BND and all the others who seem never to have apprehended any terrorists by these means?

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 16, 2016 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

        Google Bruce Schneir (Schiner … damn, forgotten how to spel his name) and “security theatre”. The purpose of these interceptions is not to preent terrorism, because sensible terrorists either don’t use interceptable communications, or if they do, use impenetrable codes. Note : that’s codes, not encryption.
        “Bruce Schneier”, that’s the guy’s name. not a particularly novel idea, but it’s one he’s been particularly associated with for the last decade or so. Pointing out the thinness of this particular suit of Emperor’s clothes has made him rather unpopular with the budget-spending agencies.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted June 16, 2016 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

          Schneier. And he is right. Immediately after 9/11. and continuing into the present, here in Japan, one suddenly started noticing security guards everywhere – outside buildings,standing at station ticket-barriers pretending to observe commuters – and notices started being flashed every so often (and still are) on railway trains telling us that, for example, Japan Railways East is on a ‘high security alert’, and if passengers see some unattended luggage or some suspicious-looking person, they should inform railway staff, etc.

          Jobs for the boys – security guards look either thick as a brick or like retired policemen (or both) or perhaps semi-sane as the Orlando shooter (who was also a security guard) was – and lots of money for the security guard companies who have been able to persuade fools at the top of companies that they’ve really got to show that they are making people feel safe.

          And here’s where I disagree with Schneier – because it seems to me that, far from making people feel safer, the emphasis on security and on constantly advertising what we are doing to make everyone feel secure in fact makes people feel less secure – for if all this care has to be taken for our security when it never was before, then things must be really dangerous, and perhaps we should have even more security… It fosters a general hysteria that far from making us safe diminishes public trust and allows also the diminution of our freedoms and greater authoritarianism. One hears much about the ‘regressive left’ on ‘Why Evolution is True’, and rather too little about the swing towards right-wing authoritarianism in East Asia and Europe.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:17 am | Permalink

            because it seems to me that, far from making people feel safer

            … and that is why he calls it “security theatre.”

            and if passengers see some unattended luggage or some suspicious-looking person, they should inform railway staff, etc.

            I still find it hard to comprehend the mindset of people who didn’t grow up with terrorism on the streets of their home countries. We could more or less forget it for the 1990s, but – hey-ho, it’s back again.
            I’m still surprised to see rubbish bins on the streets, and to not have my bags searched on entering large public buildings.

  9. Alpha Neil
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I think this bit from Salman Rushdie is relevant.

  10. Posted June 16, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    THe solution according to our enlightened President, is to bring in thousands of conservative Sunni Muslims from Syria’s Sunni heartland into US, with a faint Progressive bleeding heart hope that they arent radicalized.

    Btw, the term “radical” Islam is a bullshit term. Non-radical, supposedly “moderate” or “mainstream” Islam outlaws gays and punishes them with death.

    There are 13 Muslim majority countries where being gay is illegal and punishable by death. This isnt “radical” Islam. Its just Islam.

    • Cindy
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      If colonialism is to blame – ” Muslims have a legitimate grievance against the West ” – then why is it that other peoples who have suffered the effects of brutal colonization have not also engaged in persistent, violent terrorism?

      Where are all of the Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh and Jain terrorist attacks?* The indigenous people of North America are still treated terribly to this day – so why aren’t they blowing themselves up?

      Why oh why is it only Muslims? And why do Muslims predominantly kill other Muslims simply for being the wrong kind of Muslim. Even though the Western world has *undoubtedly* done horrible things to the Islamic world, it is ridiculous to shift all of the blame from Islamism onto westerners. Gays are thrown off rooftops, women who don’t wear hijab are stoned, and Sunni murder Shia for reason that have *nothing* to do with colonialism.

      *Yes, there are militant Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh sects etc, but they are not the norm, as violence within Islam is.

      • Victoria
        Posted June 16, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink


      • Tim Harris
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 3:49 am | Permalink

        There’s no oil in India, or very little of it.

      • Simon
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        The “terrible things” done to the Islamic world by the West are nothing compared to the terrible things done to Africans, Asians and even Europe by Islam. Europe was terrorised into the stone age by Jihad, Africans were systematically enslaved and slaughtered and Hindus subjected to probably the greatest genocide in history (80 million Hindu victims).

        The thing is, this was all by design. The Quran is largely a manual for how to convert or kill non-muslims. Asking a Muslim to acknowledge and condemn all of this is to ask them to reject their religion. There are of course many decent Muslims who have managed to rationalise it all or prevaricate about the nasty stuff. There is a tendency to regard the prevaricators as hiding their true instincts, but I think it is often a case of them not being very comfortable with the hateful bits of their faith but unable to rationalise them away.

        • Cindy
          Posted June 17, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

          But one cannot get around what Jefferson heard when he went with John Adams to wait upon Tripoli’s ambassador to London in March 1785. When they inquired by what right the Barbary states preyed upon American shipping, enslaving both crews and passengers, America’s two foremost envoys were informed that “it was written in the Koran, that all Nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon whoever they could find and to make Slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.” (It is worth noting that the United States played no part in the Crusades, or in the Catholic reconquista of Andalusia.)

    • charlize
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      Yes, “Islamism” is one of the most corrosive weasel words currently being mainlined into the bloodstream of the mainstream media -especially vigorously by Maajid Nawaz- to provide cover for what just simply is nothing other than plain old Islam.

      It attempts to set up a fake, non-existent category of Islam – the bad kind to distinguish it from Islam proper – the good kind.

      • somer
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 6:14 am | Permalink

        Islam overall is intolerant but its 1.6 billion people. Just my feeling but I think Maajid really is trying to get fellow Muslims to change. They are not going to become atheists – or not maport ny – but religions can evolve if they have to and it is really not in the Muslim interest to carry on as they are. If they want to do well in the West they have to moderate – but the state also has to have policies like not tolerating heavily muslim public schools, not allowing public employees to wear niqab etc., explaining to the public the difference between picking on say hijab/niqab wearers and being racist versus actual dangerous victimology pandering, being able to deport troublesome visiting sheikhs, or applicants who haven’t got permanent residence but are plainly troublesome “community leaders”. Only Britains ties with the US enabled it to stop Abu Hamza plotting and inciting in Britain

      • Pali
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 7:04 am | Permalink

        Since Nawaz is a Muslim, it would be a bit odd for him to issue a blanket condemnation of his own religion. Even so, my recollection is that he uses the term Islamism to distinguish aggressive, violent Islamic groups from more peaceful ones, oppressive or not. This alone is a valid, useful distinction to make.

    • somer
      Posted June 17, 2016 at 5:52 am | Permalink

      The 100,000 or so the US is taking is not big numbers for a country the size of US – dont think will make any cultural difference. Terrorism is a relatively tiny threat – its seed bed is a critical mass of population percentage and intransigence – if its a small proportion of the pop u can manage it and can manage the cultural and economic fall out. Major ongoing regular intake is from migrants screened to have the language by primary applicant and economically usable skills for the economy going into – that sort of migration not a problem unless gets heavily skewed to muslims which is unlikely. I feel can always take some refugees – its a question of having an absolute right to balance and sustainability as a nation in economic, cultural and security terms.

      Its a problem when there’s a denial that countries should be able to choose when and how many they take at a time, or be bludgeoned that they take very large numbers – often with minimal preparation for their training, housing and absorption into the economy – and continue to take them. There are numerous Muslim countries there are and this will be coming from and its been going on now since the mid 1990s and will do for decades to come. Sectarianism is the problem.

      • Posted June 21, 2016 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

        “It’s a problem when there’s a denial that countries should be able to choose when and how many they take at a time…”

        To me, it’s not “a” problem, it’s THE problem.

    • Posted June 21, 2016 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      + 1

  11. p. puk
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Read in the papers today that there is Arabic propaganda extolling would be martyrs if only they’d arm themselves and attack gay-pride marches this summer.

    So, it seems that dozens more people will be killed in Muslim-fuelled anti-LGBT violence for the regressive left to realise that these people are raging fucking mad.

    And behind every martyr stands hundreds of millions of sympathisers. And behind every act of violence lies not Western colonialism/imperialism/Palestine but the twisted, rotten ideology of Islam and of the people brainwashed by the worst religion in the world

  12. Posted June 16, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  13. Posted June 16, 2016 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Of course we hear only ineffectual answers. Everyone except the NRA knows that if we really want to reduce these mass killings the first and best step is to stringently prohibit ownership of high-capacity weapons like the Sig Sauer MCX and AR-15 style rifles. We don’t, so we trade ineffectual ideas instead.

    • somer
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      I think maybe the absence in many states – of any restrictions on the size of magazines that can be purchased for these guns is at least as much a problem

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      If shootings is the issue, including mass killings and this is what we want to take on, then fixating on the assault rifle only does not get the job done. It may be easier for the NRA/Congress to digest but it will have minimal results based on overall guns and killing in America. The hand gun is still the choice weapon for killing and all the stats say this is true. It works better in a crowded room with the victims close up and in large numbers and can be carried much easier. It is far better for suicides.

      Clinton and others will talk about the AR-15 and such weapons but you hardly hear any talk about the number 1 killer, the hand gun.

      • Posted June 16, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        I was talking specifically about mass killings. It would be hard to kill 49 people with a hand gun.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted June 16, 2016 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

          What kind of weapon do you suppose the guy at Virginia Tech used? Even most mass murderers who took various types of long guns also had semi-automatic hand guns. And easily purchased 30 round clips for them. Half the people killed with guns in the U.S. are suicides. How many do you suppose were assault rifles. What was the guy down in Tucson Arizona using – the weapon of choice – 9 mil Glock and 30 round clips.

          I am not interested in a few killings being reduced which is all you get with an assault weapons band and being happy with that. As I said, we either give up the hand guns or we really have not accomplished much.

          • Posted June 16, 2016 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

            You want to make the perfect the enemy of the good. If a ban on assault eeapons is possible now but a ban on handguns is not (I remind you there is the second amendment to deal with) then lets do it. That does not pre-empt broader ranging gun control when it is politically feasible.

            • Posted June 16, 2016 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

              We shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but first one has to demonstrate that the law that one is proposing is a net good in the first place. Law enforcement resources are finite. The time and money devoted to enforcing a nearly (even if not entirely) ineffectual law could very well make the law a net negative, if those law enforcement resources could have been spent more efficiently solving other problems, or solving the same problem in a different way.

              Now, I don’t know enough about this issue to know whether that would actually be the case with regard to an assault weapon ban, and I’m open to being persuaded in either direction. I just think it’s worth keeping in mind that any proposed solution to a problem has to be evaluated in cost/benefit terms.

              This is why the common reasoning of “if the law saves even just one life, it was worth it” is fallacious. Because, no, that doesn’t necessarily make the law worth it, not if a greater number of lives could have been saved by using the same resources in other ways. (This, by the way, is why the efficacy of a gun law can’t necessarily be determined solely on the basis of whether or not it reduces gun deaths specifically; pragmatically, all that matters is the overall impact on public health generally.)

              (And I should probably repeat one more time that I’m not claiming to know that an assault weapon ban would be ineffectual, and that I am very open to being persuaded that it’s worthwhile. I’m just skeptical of arguments that don’t present the issue in cost/benefit terms.)

          • tomh
            Posted June 16, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

            So, if you can’t do the biggest thing, it’s no use doing anything?

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted June 16, 2016 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

              Thanks for that. I did not mean to say that I was against other, less useful attempts to do something. I just believe, without eliminating hand guns in private hands, we simply cannot get the effect we want.

              I do not mean to confuse people on this so what has to happen is no more manufacture of hand guns for public sale. Only law enforcement. The law should also require the guns to the police to be smart guns. So if someone else gets one, it will not work. All current guns must be turned in and destroyed – I believe they did this in Australia? Finally, anyone caught in possession of a hand gun goes to jail for at least a year, maybe more. Anyone using a gun in a robbery or other crime, 10 years.

              I don’t care what they do with the 2nd amendment. If they interpreted it properly instead of the nonsense we have now I think they can regulate all they want. Remember, the guy on the court that caused this is dead.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted June 16, 2016 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

                I should also say – far as I know, people like Sam Harris are with me on this Hand gun issue.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted June 16, 2016 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

        The handgun issue is the key.

        People who quote Australia’s alleged success in reducing gun deaths may not realize that it has always been very difficult to get a handgun here.
        And never for personal protection.

      • somer
        Posted June 16, 2016 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

        assault rifles are military weapons and are illegal in the US both the AR15 and the weapon used by the killer are assault weapons – a fairly ill defined class but they are semiautomatic – meaning the load the next bullet ready for the next trigger pull – but unlike full automatics can’t spray bullets as the trigger is held down.

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

          Handguns are semi automatic too.

    • somer
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

      Yes there should be legislation to at least put more restrictions on these weapons. There are (according to wikipedia) already 2 to 3 millions (at least of AR15) in circulation in the US. Any ban should be accompanied by strong pressure on states to change their laws to restrict the size of available magazines/make access to larger ones harder as currently in many states these can be obtained far too easily. That would really upset the NRA. I got this reference from Brujo Feo- who commented on “Islam and Homophobia” thread

  14. somer
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    +1 one of the triggers for the enlightenment in Europe was a reaction against the blind oppositional faith that had propelled sects to slaughter each other throughout the 17thC. There were other triggers – exceptionally good versions of works of the ancients coming out of Constantinople when it fell (in original Greek, not translated several times). The printing press, the rejection of old style Aristotelianism with insistence that mathematics be fused with and not kept separate from physics and biology etc. I think the existing pressures and example of technological globalisation and non muslim superpowers might add as an added incentive for the Islamic world to change fairly quickly. Lets hope — it would be so much better for them apart from anything else beats flying at each others throats all the time.

  15. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I applaud greatly what the prof said about the queer community and think that needs to be heard but it is still a non statter and insubstantial solution to terrorism.

  16. Eddy Nahmias
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Two things we can do to help stop the madness (beyond the gun control and media self-control measures):
    1. Spend 100s of times more on efforts to educate Muslim women around the world.

    2. Stop Donald Trump from becoming President (which requires voting for Hilary Clinton whether you are excited about doing so or not). His winning would be “an existential threat” to our (already) great nation.

  17. Dermot C
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    I am slightly, although only slightly, more optimistic than Jerry’s opening 6 paragraphs. It may not appear so in what follows.

    What is clear is that whichever jihadist organization in the 21st century appears to be the most successful at propaganda of the deed, that group will inspire or organize atrocities in the west. First it was al-Qaeda, now it’s ISIS (which was actually bankrolling AQ by as early as 2006). I see no sign of that diminishing. We live in an age when AQ condemns ISIS atrocities: I can foresee in a few years’ time the Hazimis within ISIS (who have attempted to ‘excommunicate’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for theological moderation and many of whom have been put to death by the ISIS leadership) becoming the new inspiration among world-wide Sunnis.

    What is positive is that western intelligence knows and understands a lot more about ISIS and AQ administration, compared to 2002. We know that AQ and ISIS use strikingly similar administrative structures. We know where ISIS gets its money from and therefore how to conduct a smart war to break up its financial lifeline. Obama, to his credit, has done that much, attacking oil installations, roads which transport oil, the trucks. He has also killed large sections of the leadership regularly over the last few months. It’s clear that he has pretty good intelligence about the movement of the ISIS leadership: which can only sow distrust, suspicion and division within ISIS.

    The problem is that ISIS can propagandize among the tribes of Iraq and Syria that the Iraqi government is overtly sectarian in favour of the Shi’a: and it’s true. But more than that, ISIS can claim that US foreign policy is pro-Shi’a and there is a lot of evidence to back it up. Obama knows that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is overseeing human rights violations in the current Battle for Fallujah, because his Middle East advisors are telling him that. ISIS can easily tell the story that US planes are being called in when the battle reaches stalemate and that the US is intervening in favour of the Shi’a Iraqi government.

    Obama’s advisors know that the solution in Iraq is a secular government and that the people who put it in place could only be Sunnis and Shi’as. Yet, the battle for Fallujah is being experienced as a sectarian war: it will not solve a political problem.

    Every crime against humanity committed by the IRGC and the Iraqi vigilante Sunnis in Fallujah feeds the ISIS Sunni ‘narrative’, as we say nowadays. ISIS therefore could still appear heroic and an inspiration, even if it is defeated by the IRGC in Iraq.

    Yet, that defeat, if it occurs, would enormously strengthen Iran in the region – be honest, do you see any behavioural difference between Sunni and Shi’a Islam? – and perhaps result in the rise of the Hazimi tendency of ISIS, who are even more ‘fundamentalist’ than al-Baghdadi (I don’t think English has a word to describe their relationship). And who knows? They could become the next inspiration for an atrocity that my poor brain doesn’t have the creativity to imagine.

    • Dermot C
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      Damn, 6th para. should read ‘Iraqi Shi’a vigilantes…’ instead of ‘Iraqi Sunni vigilantes…’

      Sometimes you just can’t differentiate between Sunni and Shi’a.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

      From Reuters –

      ‘Muslim-Americans have repeatedly informed authorities of fellow Muslims they fear might be turning to extremism, law enforcement officials say, contrary to a claim by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump this week…

      ‘American Muslims are in fact more culturally integrated than European Muslims and say they identify more strongly with their American identity than their religious identity, according to a study from the Council on Foreign Relations…’

  18. eric
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    I think gun control is something tangible we can do to “halt the drumbeat of violence.” Sadly, with a Republican Congress that isn’t likely.

    You never know. Four bills hit the Senate floor on Monday, and we’re pretty close to an election with a horrible gun-related tragedy on everyone’s minds. Voting against it could create a lot of really bad PR for congresscritters seeking reelection.

    Ultimately I think your estimation of ‘not likely’ is correct. But I would say that the combination of election and Orlando tragedy has changed those odds from (and here is my complete WAG) 1% to maybe 30%.

  19. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    When did we ever see anarchist or Marxist cafe bombings in any substantial way.

    The way Pinker frames it it sounds like it was a regular occurrence, like Islamic terrorism is now.

    I don’t think that is true but I can be corrected.

    If Pinker is using this line as a tactic to infer Islamic terrorism, he could do better.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted June 16, 2016 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      We saw – or rather others saw for us – quite a number of acts of anarchist terrorism in the closing years of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Joseph Conrad’s novel, ‘The Secret Agent’, is about anarchist terrorism.

      • Posted June 17, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        I seem to remember that attributing non-state violence (including terrorism) to “anarchists” was popular in the SU for a while, too.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        There was some anarchist terrorism. Usually against political targets.

        But were Marxists and anarchist blowing up cafes and innocent people in any regular way?

  20. Tim Harris
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    One useful start might be to find ways of stopping Saudi Arabia’s export of Wahabi clerics to, among other places, Bosnia & Kosovo, and to really start making noises about the unholy alliance between the Saudi rulers and the Wahabi clerics, whereby the latter, it seems, are the true power in the kingdom – for without their support the House of Saud would fall, and naturally both sides know this…

    • Posted June 21, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      From one of my favorite blogs:

      “How secular Iran had become in the 1920-1930s… An American Christian minister… approached Reza Shah the Great’s court minister, Teymourtash, seeking his consent for sending missionaries to Iran and setting up schools there. Teymourtash’s reply was: “Iran is trying to get rid of religion in its own schools” and further asks “How would you like it, if we bundled up a crowd of moth-eaten mullahs and sent them to America to open up schools there?””

  21. Tim Harris
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    There’s an interesting article about Islamic extremists in the June 2nd edition of the London Review of Books.

  22. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted June 16, 2016 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    and a serious loss of its territory in Syria and Iraq, ISIS’s capacity to produce terrorists acts hasn’t diminished a bit:

    Welcome to “Whack-a-Mole”.
    All the efforts in the world to suppress ISIS in Syria and Iraq will do essentially nothing to halt their spread in Tunisia, Libya and Mali – at least. Factional infighting with the established Boko Haram in the Nigeria are will probably slow them more in that direction … so I’d anticipate that they’re getting their grubby little claws into Morocco and Senegal already.
    Which I’m sure the security analysts actually know, but is probably one step too far for the politicians to think about.
    It’s going to be a generational thing. Your descendants will be fighting this battle in their old age. And indoctrination of the young is one of the most effective tools of keeping such battles going. As we well know.

  23. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    Good news from the terrorism “crisis”.
    Smith & Wesson shares are up.

  24. keith cook + / -
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    Islam is telling 21st century citizens why any religion as a doctrine of fairytales masquerading as divine and a guiding light into the future is not a very good idea.
    I like to think of Islam today as a volcano, hopefully it will go dormant and extinguish itself. Of coarse it is more than that but just a failure of human endeavour no less and when we learn more about ourselves than we ever did, whenever that is for clearly we don’t know enough or how to use what we do know or it’s left to work itself out We might be able to aid or do something about it, we might not some time in the future.

  25. Cindy
    Posted June 17, 2016 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Douglas Murray says ‘brand them (violent Islamists) as heretics’

    And therein lies the problem. Mohammed was the most perfect man who ever lived and all of Daesh’ actions are supported by the Koran.

    Change can only come about, imo, when Saudi Arabia stops funding the salafi/wahabist imams around the world who preach death and destruction in the name of Allah.

  26. Posted June 17, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    One solution I failed to see mentioned is taking out the training camps before the new recruits are sent out to wreak havoc. I fail to understand how we see constant media reports and pictures from within ISIL training grounds, yet don’t have the ability to strategically take these camps out. Reporters can get in there but we can’t get the military in?

    Secondly (I would assume this must already be happening to some extent), I’d say we should infiltrate their operations with spies. Get people in on the dark Web and send them in for information gathering. Merely reducing their territory isn’t enough. We need targeted operations on specific strong points, not unlike the way we took bin Laden out.

  27. Sharafuddin Malik
    Posted June 18, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Please, let us stop beating round the bush on this issue.The Us &its allies in the Middle East are directly responsible for the development of Islamic terrorism in the entire world.Islam will not change cause it belongs to a presumably a change-hating god.The rational forces in this world must change 1st and stop claiming to be supernatural powers over the powerless and the meek.”Allah” doesn’t like that.

  28. Posted June 19, 2016 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    I like it how everyone just falls back onto their regular talking points regardless of the facts. Right wingers focus on terrorism, lefties talk about white culture and/or gun culture!

    I notice a new talking point too: Muslims need to modernize and radically change their lifestyle.

    From the professors quoted, I tend to agree with Dr.Pinker, and I don’t understand why his very to the point opinion is summarily dismissed just because he didn’t use the word “Islam”.

    The brand of terrorism seen in Orlando was reminiscent of lunatics such as Baader-Meinhoff. The comparison with crazy romantic Marxists is completely warranted. In fact, all “Islamists” have done is to take ultra-left ideas about the end of the world and advent of socialist utopia and replace all references to Communism with their Islamic equivalents.

    And yes. Islam was responsible. But it was responsible to the degree that this guy’s upbringing was poisoned by religious edicts. Backward and contradictory nature of Islamic teachings probably led to cognitive dissonance in him since he had homosexual tendencies. As Christopher Hitchens says: “Religion poisons everything”. Isn’t this crime enough? Doesn’t it give enough for us to fight against? Do we really need to collectively judge and punish people for the thing one person has done?

    And what is this Islamic culture everyone talking about anyway?

    And finally, talking about bringing Islam to the fold is easy in the West. People such as Nawaaz and Hirsi Ali are respectable. But we can’t expect them to make a meaningful change in their respective societies while they are living in the West. I remember when I was a student in Iran, government affiliated thugs set up Gallows in the university Dr.Abdolkarim Soroosh (an Iranian thinker promoting tolerant interpretations of Islam) was supposed to give a talk in. He is now living in Britain and can’t go back anytime soon.

    What the West needs to do is to help create an open tolerant society in many 3rd world countries not reform Islam! It is a huge political challenge. But it is way easier than artificially reforming a whole religion!

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