In Oregon, members of Cliven Bundy’s paramilitary organization have seized and occupied the headquarters building of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which belongs to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal agency. Many people are calling Bundy’s rebels “terrorists” and accusing the media of treating them differently because they are white. Their point is well-intentioned–it is true that violent criminals from Middle Eastern backgrounds are more readily presumed to be terrorists by the press. But the argument is ill-applied to this particular case. The law is very clear–the Oregon rebels are guilty of sedition, not terrorism.
Over the past few days, the public debate has turned toward the question of Syrian refugees. I’ve been wandering around the internet, reading the different arguments people have for refusing to accept refugees, and I have found all of them wanting. So today I’d like to run through the most common and pervasive anti-refugee arguments and the reasons they fail.
On social media, the reaction to the Paris terrorist attack is steadily devolving into a compassion competition in which people try to prove that they are nicer people than their friends by parading how empathetic they are on the internet. They write sentimental statuses, they change their profile pictures to the tricolor, they send their “thoughts and prayers”, and so on. None of this does anything to make the world a better place–it’s all about using tragedy to self-promote. It’s just another way for people on the internet to say “Look at me!” But perhaps the most obnoxious form of self-promotion is when people claim they are too good to care about Paris, because they care about less mainstream tragedies, most commonly the recent Beirut bombing. These people are tragedy hipsters who engage in tragedy one-upping. They may be well-intentioned–these folks argue that the media fails to cover attacks like the one that occurred in Beirut because of systemic racism. But while systemic racism certainly is a significant problem in our society, their argument mischaracterizes the social forces that cause the media to pay more attention to some tragedies rather than others.
Last night, in a series of horrible attacks, at least 128 people in Paris were killed. The attacks were committed by the Islamic State with internal help from homegrown French terrorists. The best way we can respond is by completely ignoring the attack and paying no attention to it whatsoever. Here’s why.
Everyone knows about what a mess Iraq and Syria are. Libya is still a disaster, but even that country once had our attention. This is a story about Yemen. Remember Yemen? It’s the box-like country on the southwest corner of the Arabian peninsula:
Yemen is in the grip of a civil war that has now killed over 4,300 people. It’s an omnishambles. Let me tell you the horrible story of how we turned this country into the war-torn dystopia it now most assuredly is.