Dispatches > The Buzz


Issue: "A patient nation," Oct. 13, 2001

BLAME THE TERRORISTS: Since the 9/11 attacks, many Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent have complained about discrimination and even racial profiling. This is a necessary evil, writes Muslim writer Marlon Mohammed in the Los Angeles Times. He said he was especially outraged that the terrorists tried to pass as assimilated immigrants while plotting horrors. So the "hostile stares from strangers" should be met with "empathy and mercy." Mr. bin Laden apparently trained his goons to act normal to avoid suspicion, Mr. Mohammed points out. "If you found out that a criminal was pretending to be you while committing murder in your community, who would you be most angry with?" he asks. "The victimized people in your community? Or the man using your identity to commit the murders?" OSAMA'S USEFUL IDIOTS: The peaceniks are back. When the Cold War ended, left-wing pacifism went into dormancy as activists preferred to complain about "globalization." Many of Manhattan's bohemians have taken up the old cause, as Rod Dreher writes in the New York Post. "If liberty had to depend on most of the young people I spoke to in Washington Square Park the other day," he argues, "we'd all be answering to Osama by Christmas." Mr. Dreher wrote of finding one college-age youth after another who said he would be unwilling to fight in a war. "Man, we're in the Village," one of them said in the city's famous Greenwich Village. "I don't know anyone who would go, even if there were a draft." Mr. Dreher concludes on a down note, characterizing this attitude as decadence that leaves us with no moral ground against the terrorists: "You could have gone into Washington Square Park in December 1941 and found plenty of liberal young men who were willing to go fight Tojo and Hitler, neither of whom had done what Osama bin Laden did." A DRY COMEDY WELL? So where does American comedy go from here? "Will being 'funny' in America ever be the same?" wondered Daniel Wood and Gloria Goodale in the Christian Science Monitor. They noted that the 9/11 disaster is the kind of titanic event that alters society and popular opinion. "Such a shift may be starting now, if only gradually," they say. The obvious examples of change are how late-night talk shows and other comedy programs abruptly dropped their facades of irony. Mr. Wood and Ms. Goodale said that many writers are rethinking their approach. They quote Comedy Central's Daily Show, saying "For a lot of us, irony had long ago been reduced to a cynicism whose well had pretty much run dry." The pair do not stretch their insight far enough to wonder whether our mass culture is preparing to drop its adversary stance, which often treats middle American norms as repugnant and backward. MORE GUNS, LESS TERRORISM: That's what scholar John Lott writes in The Wall Street Journal. Airport screening and other efforts are likely inadequate and "the only adequate response is to encourage more ordinary, responsible citizens to carry guns." Mr. Lott believes sky marshals are a good idea-and a main reason for the dearth in hijackings from the 1970s until last month-but the staffing problem is tremendous. "To put just one marshal aboard every daily flight in the U.S. would require at least 35,000 officers-far more than currently work for the FBI, Secret Service, and U.S. marshals combined (17,000)," he wrote. The American Enterprise Institute scholar wrote that crafty terrorists will outwit most security precautions. Even bolting cockpit doors isn't foolproof; after all, pilots sometimes have to go the bathroom. The only adequate answer is more firepower. "True, some terrorists are suicidal, but they still want to cause maximum carnage," Mr. Lott writes, and they won't be able to do that if they're thwarted by an armed "victim." Pilots should be armed, Mr. Lott believes, and law-enforcement officers should be allowed to carry guns on planes. He said that the fear of guns on planes is exaggerated and that even if regular bullets went off, "the worst-case outcome would simply be to force the plane to fly at a lower altitude, where the air pressure is higher."

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