When an earthquake hits you don’t sit still – for anyone like me who grew up in Southern California, it’s axiomatic. When terror of the non-terrestrial kind strikes, the initial seconds of shock are like gold to the perpetrators, for that’s what they’re betting on for replay in the media ad infinitum. The brutality of the act may be what feeds the evil maniac’s dark appetite, but it’s the amplification of it across front pages and television screens around the world that sets them salivating. A sick spectacle from start to finish.
An act of terror is a sucker punch to the soul of anybody who’s got one. On September 11, 2001 as I walked away from the crumbling skyscrapers I paused every few minutes to catch my breath, also catching sight of people photographing the tragedy taking place so close by. I thought then as I do now that willfully capturing heinous crimes on film as they occur has about as much glamour, and less necessity, as defecation. The compulsion of so many to do it is no longer shocking, but it remains highly offensive.
As evidence of this offensiveness, I cite a recent survey by Sony Electronics and Nielsen that those attacks in and on New York City, from where I write today, were the best – oops, sorry, I meant “universally impactful” as the survey said – televised moments of recent decades. Disgusting: acts of mass murder instantly converted into digital tombstones on demand, and judging by a planet that covets violence while never daring to admit it, the demand continues to be high.
Human nature has rarely changed overnight, but it is important for people in the nominally enlightened societies of the West to realize their passive complicity in the acts of barbarism committed against them. There is blame to go around, contextually speaking, and much of it lands squarely with a puerile American-led commercial culture that manages to turn everything but the sun itself into a popularity contest. Anyone who has ever had the strenuously dubious pleasure of attending an American high school ought to know what I’m talking about. What doesn’t matter is the scope of your accomplishments or aspirations, or the size of your heart or of brain, but what does matter is how much you conform and how well you are liked in the process of conforming.
Take that 1950s mentality and fast forward to today, when what matters, other than how much money you have of course, is how many “likes” you get on Facebook, a company that has seized on idle peoples’ limitless penchant for profligate idiocy to become a titan, along with Google and a few financial institutions that come to mind, of the current Yankee corporate-fascist complex. It’s an age where people can and are relentlessly egged on to “like” a news story, whether it’s about a new ice cream flavor or a drive-by shooting. It all adds up to an unexamined life and a muddled public discourse, and leads to both premature revolutions (obviously) and also roundly toxic layers of social alienation.
It’s here that the yucky undersides of Jihad and McWorld churn in unholy opposition, as they have for quite some time now, but meeting in periodic paroxysms of violence that in their occurrence no longer surprise yet still shock. This is not for a minute to challenge Israel’s position that Hezbollah and Iran are responsible for the murders in Bulgaria. If anything, the countries of Sweden (if some of the news reports concerning the attacker’s background are to be believed) and Lebanon are also implicated.
And this is not for a moment to say that a moment of silence should not be observed for the tragic victims of this inescapably senseless and horrific crime. If anything, 24 hours of silence should be observed in Israel – step back from the Western Wall, haul yourself off the beach, and seriously contemplate what the hell just happened in a nearby friendly country. In my view it is tantamount to an attack on every Israeli, Jewish or not, and an attack on every Jew and on every traveler in every continent too. It’s Hitler with a dynamite rucksack.
There should have been 24 hours of silence in the United States on September 12, 2001 – but instead We the People bowed and prayed to the neon god we made, and we the people let instant replay rule the day, doubtless making the terrorists and their vermin brethren cackle with glee as we the people filled in the pages of the playbook they published especially for us. Don’t think for a moment that the same thing isn’t happening right now. The only difference is that now there’s a new god in the pantheon called Facebook, and the terrorist schemers can dance their evil twist as they punch us in the belly and see how soft we’ve become, any consensus on or call for constructive action against their vileness lost in a silent cacophony of cross-linking and “likes.”
And so while a moment of silence is a necessary thing, this bigger Moment calls for something more. For asking questions loudly of ourselves as citizens of the “free” West. For recognizing the scary truth in Bret Stephen’s Wall Street Journal article about “the Hillary Myth,” and demanding more, in the U.S. at least, from our elected officials, whose predictable expressions of “shock and sadness” are now so rote as to be meaningless, glued as they are to an endless policy of inaction, except when it comes to their own reelection. Animal Farm and George Orwell, I remember it well.
As I do some basic facts about the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, which left scores of American and French military dead, with Lebanese victims as well. Nearly three decades later, the same or similar terrorist elements operate in basically the same area, and the navel-gazing West has allowed this to happen, perhaps even worsen. And are we to expect any real change or initiative or triumph of hope from a President who cannot even be bothered to go to Israel? Maybe all those fundraisers just don’t leave enough time to seriously, proactively engage with an ally.
Not that either of the Bushes, Clinton, or even Reagan or Carter did that much better.
So while the West dithers let’s not confuse the imperative for mourning with an equally urgent need for a little shouting. Because the outrage in Bulgaria ripples across multiple fronts, and unless we stop playing it so cowed and safe and start making some noise of our own, it will multiply.