Nice (the city)

I saw the report of the Nice truck massacre on the news last night, and every time I went to the online news for the rest of the evening, the death toll kept mounting. Now, as the New York Times reports, it’s up to 84 dead and many more wounded—18 critically. This is the third major attack in France in the last year and a half, and the police are calling it a “terrorist” attack. I suspect it is, but we don’t know for sure.

Meanwhile, for the time being can we avoid the recriminations, the finger-pointing, the speculation, and the worries that this will initiate a wave of “Islamophobia”? The first thought should always be for the victims. For if we don’t perceive the depth of the sorrow, what good is our concern?

When things like this happen, I always think of some of the people in my life who have died. I have been devastated at those losses, which mostly involve friends and acquaintances. But, aside from my parents, I haven’t lost any close relatives or partners. All of those 84 people had loved ones, so multiply a single murdered individual by 84, and then by the average number of close friends, relatives, and partners of that person. That’s the toll of sorrow.

There will be time for discussion later.  As nonbelievers, our “thoughts” for the victims and their relatives and friends mean very little, and our prayers are nonexistent. All we can do is think of ways to keep this from happening again, even though we know that it will—many times. And that certainty is awful.


  1. Posted July 15, 2016 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Excellent thoughts on this, thank you.

  2. leonkrier
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    My wife and I spent 7 days in Nice last September and during our stay we spent one day with Francois, a Global Network Greeter. I wrote an email to him this morning. He is deeply saddened but safe, and none of his friends were killed or injured. We cherish the time we spent there and the people we met and grieve with them.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Very good.

    When I visited Arlington cemetery and the unknown soldier area, or the Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor or a little known American cemetery near Cambridge, England I think about the families left behind. The vast number of useless events out there seem to go on forever.

  4. rickflick
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Sad. Again.

  5. Leigh Jackson
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    People of France, we mourn with you.

  6. darrelle
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Damn. I need to hug my kids.

  7. Anne-Marie Cournoyer
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    De tout cœur avec vous, amis français…

  8. Posted July 15, 2016 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Just read witness reports in the Daily Mail that Mr. Lahouaiej Bouhlel shouted a familiar phrase before opening fire into the crowd. I can barely process one nightmarish atrocity before another occurs.

  9. Curt Nelson
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Hannibal Buress did a bit about being “kept in people’s thoughts and prayers.” Something like: I’ve heard what you think and don’t want to be in there with that… unless you’re thinking about making making a sandwich. Don’t pray for me, make me a sandwich.

  10. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Recent info is that there were fake rifles and fake grenades in the truck.

    • Dominic
      Posted July 15, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      what would be the point of that?

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted July 15, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        Bizarre. If true.

    • Christopher
      Posted July 15, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      BBC reports the confirmation that there were real Kalashnikovs, bullets, and a grenade.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted July 15, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        Thanks for the update. I don’t know why the initial report said otherwise.

  11. Glandu
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    From France, 400km from Nice : thanks for your support. And thanks for your priority. Yes, the priority is to find a way to prevent this. Planting a cop behind each arab won’t work.

    Last rumors say that the link with terrorism seems very tiny, but rumor changes often, and I expect this version to be as short-lived as previous ones.

    • Christopher
      Posted July 15, 2016 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Perhaps only rumors but again the perpetrator was named Mohamed Bouhlel, a Franco-Tunisian, so it’s not much of a stretch to think it’ll be confirmed as more than rumors. Even if he wasn’t officially part of IS or some other group, there’s little doubt as to what he was trying to accomplish.

    • Posted July 15, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      I just looked through Wiki’s list of terrorist attacks in France and everything since 2000, except one minor one (by Coriscan separatists — I never knew they existed) and another minor one by Basque separatists (ETA), has been by Islamists, often shouting “Allahu Akbar!”.

      No connection to religion. No, none. Who would think such a thing. (/sarcasm)

  12. Christopher
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    With the frequency of this sort of thing increasing, and the only thing that ties them together seems to be Islam, though I know it hasn’t been confirmed in this case as of yet, I am finding it harder and harder each time to hold fast to my liberal, humanist, pacifist, cosmopolitan worldview.

    Can I assume I am not the only one?

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 15, 2016 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Sadly, these attacks bring out the best and worst in people. I too feel my worldview is shaken and wanting vengeance. It sucks to feel so beleaguered. Weltschmerz.

      • Christopher
        Posted July 15, 2016 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        I had to look up weltschmerz. perhaps la vague à l’âme would be a close approximation?

        At my core, I am still just a scared and confused little kid, wondering why people are so mean to each other.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted July 15, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

          You sound a bit like me. I don’t get why people can’t just be nice to one another.

          • Posted July 15, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

            It is older than people. Have you read Sagan’s “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors”? He describes a lot of nasty behaviors that humans usually consider unique for our species. E.g. how social groups of primates constantly patrol the borders of their reserved area, to defend it against neighboring social groups… and also to probe whether the neighbors’ defense is efficient. If it isn’t, then the patrols gradually expand the range of Our social group, until the Other social group is driven to extinction.
            Humans do the same, but spin sophisticated excuses for their behavior. Religion is one of the best.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted July 15, 2016 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

              I haven’t read that. It sounds like I should. We like to think we’re sophisticated, but it doesn’t seem to take much for our animal instincts to take control.

              Nice is truly a case of religion making, or helping to make, a person do a bad thing and thinking they’re justified in their actions.

    • Posted July 15, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      I do not understand the pacifism. It is good when your opponent is already restrained. But when you are facing a ruthless enemy, pacifism, to me, sounds incoherent. Like Gandhi advising non-violent resistance to Hitler.

      • Christopher
        Posted July 15, 2016 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        I could not, and would not advocate complete pacifism. Certainly I would not have done so in the face of Hitler. I admit it a difficult path to tread. I just have no desire to harm others unless and until I have been harmed, which negates my preferred stance of pacifism and I feel forced to reply much as in the well-known tit-for-tat of game theory that Dawkins has often discussed. I admit, of course, that to many, that stance leaves me open for a great deal of misery and as a target for those who have no restraints. What I meant by my post is that these continuing attacks push me to the limits of emotional restraint, and I feel the internal struggle; that I could jump from one pole to the other, from pacifism, or not wishing harm to anyone, to the “nuclear option” of wanting very dark and painful things to be unleashed upon those who would do so much harm.

        I’m not sure that makes it any clearer.

        • Posted July 15, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

          I think it did make it clearer, and your stance is nice (unlike what is often meant by “pacifism”). “You” (in a broader sense) have already been harmed, repeatedly. The question is how to attempt to prevent more of the same. While not against the nuclear option in any circumstances, I do not see any need even to conceive its use in the current “clash of civilizations” (which, to me, is an euphemism, because I see only 1 civilization).

          In the particular case of Nice, from what is reported about the alleged perpetrator, the attack could have been prevented simply by keeping him in his native Tunisia. Of course, nothing at the time indicated that he was a potential terrorist, but nothing indicated that he would benefit France, either. Unlike Prof. Coyne and most commenters here, I do not think that the values of Western societies require them to let in people who are strongly against those same values.

          • somer
            Posted July 16, 2016 at 5:11 am | Permalink

            The stance from the BBC and plenty of others that I have seen re ISIS inspired violence by individuals from ME and N Africa is that the region is economically depressed and has bad leaders and it is somehow overwhelmingly the fault of the West, even though the modern institutions they do have or the more humane laws are western inspired, but thanks to the West’s interventionism (surely great power play against the west is a factor in this) the young men have lost hope so why not mindlessly kill people? Insulting to young men I would have thought.

  13. Posted July 15, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    “The first thought should always be for the victims. For if we don’t perceive the depth of the sorrow, what good is our concern?”

    Moving and true.

  14. Phil Giordana FCD
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for that Jerry.

    Nice is my city. I was born there. My girlfriend and I live there, right on the Promenade des Anglais. We were supposed to be at the party yesterday evening, but decided to stay home at the last minute.

    We’re all in shock here.

    • Posted July 15, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Very glad you are safe. Shocked and saddened by this senseless violence.

      J’aime la France.

    • Posted July 15, 2016 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      I can’t begin to imagine the thoughts and emotions you must be having, Phil.

  15. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Right. Let’s try to quash (if that is even possible) the #NiceAttack hashtag. It should be #AttackOnNice …. otherwise, Islamists will take it as congratulations. It turns out the killer was indeed, a Tunisian Islamist. Nothing to do with Islam of course. If only France had withdrawn from the world and completely isolated itself while still allowing unlimited immigration from Islamic hell-holes, this would not have happened. Really? Does anyone actually still believe that shit? As long as the Regressive Left propaganda is the basis of policy regarding Islam in the West, everyone else will get the idea that our only choice in the West is between Christian fascism and Islamic fascism and will obviously opt for the former and vote in clowns like Trump as long as they promise “firm” (ie fascist) actions against all Muslims.

  16. Tamethyst
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    My heart goes out to the victims and their families in Nice. It seems that guns aren’t required for a terrible atrocity like this, and this is the awful thing, a truck and a huge crowd are now the only requirements for mass murder.

    But seriously, What are the options to deal with terrorism? In England & Northern Ireland the only thing that worked in the end with IRA Bombings was talking with the enemy, though Prime Minister of the time Mrs Thatcher always said we don’t negotiate with terrorists. The Red Brigade caused terror in Europe in the 1970’s also. Hawk types want to “bomb the hell outta them,” that may only bring more “martyr” types.

    Daesh (ISIS, call em what you will) don’t negotiate with “the infidel” so talking to them ain’t an option? We in the West can’t do nothing, mind you we are not doing nothing we are bombing Syria/Iraq, aren’t we? Hmm? What a tangled web.

    In the long run IMO as Jerry says terrorism/gun massacres etc will continue in a free liberal democracy. China sent tanks in to Tiananmen Square to eliminate its opponents, that’s the straight forward choice for totalitarians, but we can’t go down that road and continue as we are.
    We do have the example of The State of Israel which copes despite being surrounded by some serious lunatic neighbours.

    All that said the “common people” the world over, no matter which particular “superstition” they subscribe to, only want to have enough to live on each day, with a few luxury’s when and if possible. It’s the predators i.e terrorists (one man’s freedom fighter etc) soldiers who believe it’s their right or duty to kill enemies. It’s in accepting the “kill or be killed” mentality, as a valid life choice that seems to me to be the issue.

    Gandhi’s quote about an eye for an eye leaving the whole world blind seems like a nice philosophy, but it ain’t practical, nor realistic. Is it all a case of a “black ant” colony invading a “red ant” colony. Imagine the headlines in the ‘Ant News’ Today “Formicide On a Mass Scale.”

    My brain seems about to melt trying to solve this issue.

    • Posted July 15, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      I do not know enough about Northern Ireland, but it seems to me that there was something more important than talking, and it was the realization of pro-independence militants that they wouldn’t achieve their goal, and with force they would achieve even less than by peaceful means. I have not been there, but news reported decrease of support for IRA among Catholics, plus emergence of “loyalist” terrorist organizations that eventually became more powerful and deadly than IRA.

      In my Bulgaria, there was a communist-led uprising in 1923. After restoring order, authorities followed a path of dialog, amnesty and national reconciliation. This led nowhere, because the communists wanted simply to take power by force. In 1925, they ambushed and shot dead a general and then bombed the church where his memorial ceremony was being held, in order to kill off the country’s elite, to usurp power and to impose a Soviet-style regime:

      This time, the response of authorities was brutal. Three of the perpetrators were sentenced to death and hanged, others were killed extrajudicially. The same fate suffered many communists who were not in the conspiracy and a number of quite innocent people.
      These measures, while grisly, helped. Communism was no longer a threat until 1944, when the Red Army imposed it.

    • somer
      Posted July 16, 2016 at 4:49 am | Permalink

      I don’t think war is not going to solve anything and we don’t want to solve problems that way unless directly militarily threatened (e.g. by a state apparatus or obvious strategic preparation for attack on us). What Pinker called compassionate tit for tat works but most of this is not issues of war. Its issues of ideas that the superpowers (Russia and to a much lesser extent China) take advantage of. We need pushback against ideological thinking that reduces everything to immoral capitalism and west versus good everything else and ignores historical and biological facts. The need to argue forcefully that the regressive and abstract thinking of the left is immoral and stupid and sometimes near treasonous. We have a duty to take some refugees but no we do not have a duty to take unlimited numbers of muslims (i.e. the UN recently saying the West is racist for not assuming responsibilty for all 65 million almost all Muslim – refugees overwhelmingly seeking to escape the sectarian violence of their own religion rather than modernise it.) So much easier to blame the west. Liberal cultures by their nature compromise and accommodate but totalitarian cultures which are universal and evangelical,as Islam is – will eventually force us to their religion even as a largish minority unless we are forced to become far less liberal and ditch humanism in response. In a globalised world Muslims have to modernise for their own sake and we should be encouraging them not telling them its all our fault. That does not mean tolerating harassment and discrimination against muslims but it does mean expecting them to accept that they must abide by the majority law and most important cultural precepts. It also means being honest about the dangerous nature of traditionalist religion and expecting religions generally to respect humane values of absence of coercion and exploitation(except for good survival or overall social economic wellbeing reasons that actually pertain in the modern time and place). Principles are good guides but realism and outcomes are what people should be judged by. Need both good intentions and practical ideas/strategies that take into account realities.

    • somer
      Posted July 16, 2016 at 5:20 am | Permalink

      I often see an equation of the ME situation or Islamic violence with Northern Ireland conflict. The latter is an essentially nationalist conflict, whose leaders on both sides are/were not religiously inspired.
      (I know Paisley was colourful but he was not a militia leader). The situation was a stalemate of both sides with a third party able to provide impartial monitoring and neutral space for negotiation.

      You cannot “talk” to a culture whose whole identity is aggressive evangelical medieval religion, and which covers numerous countries. Especially when you have superpowers aggressively taking sectarian sides (Russia’s very long standing shia alliance)The religion needs to modernise to have anything to “talk” about.

    • somer
      Posted July 16, 2016 at 5:23 am | Permalink

      Sorry I don’t believe the common people just want a prosperous peaceful life for their kids. If indoctrinated in traditionalist norms they want to be in the secure group – the one that has the resources and the best chance of reproduction. Quality of life for children or parents is secondary as taught by the religion.

  17. Posted July 15, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    My son-in-law is attending a funeral today for
    a dearly beloved family member who died of cancer. The community who loved this family member will all be there together remembering him with love and shared stories. I can’t help but think of the people of Nice who’ll be conducting similar memorials for loved ones
    who were taken from their lives by terrorism.
    Yes. Thinking and praying are insufficient. No solution seems to be coming via thought or prayer, or any other source.

  18. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 15, 2016 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I heard an account of the massacre from a woman in France who is originally from Toronto. It’s awful. She saw children laying there crushed and dead with their father with them. She saw pieces of humans stuck in the truck tires.

    Seeing the children like that would really get to me.

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 15, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      I read a story about an American soldier in Iraq who saw a child’s shoe with its foot still in it. The soldier said he couldn’t get the image out of his head and it was directly responsible for his PTSD.

      Seeing the carnage you describe would stick with you for the rest of your life. So f’n sad.

      • somer
        Posted July 16, 2016 at 5:00 am | Permalink

        How many violent verses in the Quran?? Plenty indeed in the Old Testament in particular but as a percentage of the text, the Quran has considerably more. In addition to all the war stuff practically every page has a reference to hell or “doom”. Moreover the hadith are equally violent. Plus in the hadith there is an appetite for describing the grisly tortures of hell – which Christians, whilst they embedded the idea of a hell in which torture is eternal, didn’t go into specifics. Also in standard Islam, every creature, including humans, is supposed to be created naturally Islamic, but for infidels, wicked parents, or the child’s wicked inclination, may turn them away from Islam. Yet the prophet is supposed to have said there are 99 sects claiming to be Islam and only one is truly Islam. Thus war and sectarianism, exclusiveness and lack of sympathy for the outsider are ingrained.

  19. Mike
    Posted July 16, 2016 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    I’m just empty.

  20. Posted July 16, 2016 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    This terrorist technique, using a truck to run victims over, has been used in Israel more than once. Israel is the laboratory for terrorist techniques, just as Jews have historically been the canary in the miner’s shaft.

    I used to believe the world had to stand with Israel against Arab terrorism, before it spread to the rest of the world. Now, it’s too late.

    The most we can hope for is that our countries will start to learn from Israel how to try to limit these attacks. I’m not aware of any other nation with more experience, day after day.

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