by Todd Gitlin
8 July 2005
Hearing the news, a pall came over America, and then: solidarity, horror, memory, resolve, dark fatalism, and regrettably, some smugness (we got hit first so welcome to the club, New York Governor George Pataki seemed to brag while relaying good wishes to London). Police poured into the subway cars. Calls for spending money on rail safety, subdued for months, years, revved up.
And inevitably there were lunatic spasms. Unimpressed by new fact, barking heads launched into messages that sounded prerecorded. “Finish the job,” “stay the course”—these were among the cant phrases that spilled through the airwaves.
Right-wingers lurched into rhetorical high gear. Kimberly Strassel, a Wall Street Journal leader writer on public television tonight, thirsted for an expansion of the Patriot Act—this on a half-hour show whose entire cast of characters comes from the most right-wing editorial page in the United States. Another Journal editor gamely maintained that the attacks proved that al-Qaeda is fading. This had a bit of the aroma of Dick Cheney maintaining that the Iraqi insurgency is “in its last throes.”
The second most visited right-wing blog in the U. S., and the largest that allows comments, featured comments including these, according to http://www.mydd.com:
* "Can we eradicate Islam now, please?"
* "If there are no Arabs there are no attacks. How many more need be sacrificed?"
* "Britain should END ALL ISLAMIC IMMIGRATION NOW....Continuing to welcome the enemy into your country is insane."
* "Martyring Muslims doesn't seem to make much of a difference to the fanatics. What is needed is to take their human capital out their hands - their children. No more warped children, no more jihadis. "
The wacko guru of antiwar.com, Justin Raimondo, seemed obsessed with the question of…Israel, whose former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, canceled a conference appearance near one of the bomb sites in London, he says. “What did Netanyahu know, when did he know it, and how did he know it?” Raimondo asks. Actually, he seems to know a good deal, for example: “Netanyahu was no doubt a target of the bomb plot.” I suppose this is original. On second thought, not.
Don’t get me wrong. The jingos are whooping, but most of America is sane: worried but sane. The New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman, the reliable center-point of American opinion, properly warns: “The more Western societies - particularly the big European societies, which have much larger Muslim populations than America - look on their own Muslims with suspicion, the more internal tensions this creates, and the more alienated their already alienated Muslim youth become. This is exactly what Osama bin Laden dreamed of with 9/11: to create a great gulf between the Muslim world and the globalizing West.”