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.. and now I'm also an Uppity Norwegian


(This comment was originally posted to Ace of Spades HQ)

First, I should point out that whatever you have in mind when you picture a European intellectual to yourself, I'm not it. At least I think they would be offended by the comparison. I belong to no camp, and I'm unimpressed by all those people who have implied that since I'm obviously not on "their" side, I must be on the other.

Second, you say you can't control your fear. Maybe not, or at least there's a limit to it. But you can control how you react to that fear. You can train yourself not to listen to it. The reason I mentioned fear of flying one place is that I'm moderately afraid to fly myself. I used to think that if perhaps I could do it often enough, then the fear would go away. It hasn't happened yet. What has happened instead is that I've learned ways to deal with my fear. I've learned to do something that I really don't enjoy. I suspect it's like that with all fears. The fear itself may largely be beyond our control, but nobody can take away your choice - only yourself, by telling yourself you have none.

"Note the contradiction here: Your fear of the suspicious Arabs in the row in front of you is irrational, and yet it's brave to ignore it. But in order to do something brave, don't you have to be putting yourself at risk? Because if that's the case, than your fear can't be irrational. So which is it?"

Illusion and reality. The threat is mostly illusory, there is virtually no chance that you will find yourself on a plane with terrorists. But the illusion is real to you, and creates a very real fear. Ignoring that fear requires a modest amount of bravery - even though the fear is irrational.

Andrea Harris: "I'm surprised. Bjorn Staerk used to be all for fighting terrorists. However, he's been known to do parodies of deep-dyed moonbats on occasion. Are you so sure this isn't one of those parodies? True, these days it's hard to tell."

Hey, Andrea, it's been a while. This is no parody. A lot of people find it difficult to read it on its own terms, though. They seem to think one must either be on one side or the other. This post here isn't the worst I've seen, (despite that bizarre "typical European intellectual"-thing) - I've been flamed at Dhimmi Watch all day for being coward and a disgrace to the proud viking nation or whatever. The comments I've written there clarify some of the things that might be unclear.

Anyway, I'm all for fighting terrorists. I said so in the piece. But do you have a method of eliminating terrorism alltogether? If not, we need a personal approach to living with it, in addition to any political and military approaches. I didn't feel it necessary to write much about those other approaches here, I figure my readers should be able to read a post on how to live with terrorism, without being assured in every paragraph that I also intend us to fight it, like they were children with an attention deficit problem.

(Comment 2, to post Bjoern Staerk responds:)

AndrewR: As I said, I'm all for realizing there's a threat and learning to deal with it, but to describe the threat as "illusion" is simply false. It's there and it's real

The illusion is not that Islamist terrorists are out there and want to kill you. The illusion is that you have the ability to spot these people before the plane takes off. If you look at someone and thinks, "hey, I think that guy's a terrorist", then you're probably wrong. If I grant you 1% chance of being correct, with 99% false positives, I'm extremely generous.

Which brings us back to the airplane example that has made everyone so angry. The context is the group of passengers who recently forced two other passengers to get thrown off the plane, merely because they looked suspicious. You ask me if I truly believe that "it is more important to you to preserve an open and tolerant society than to survive this trip". I do. If it sounds like I'm a wannabe martyr for political correctness, then you haven't understood the dilemma. Which is this: Should passengers have the power to get other passengers thrown off their plane, merely because they look suspicious?

My answer is that they shouldn't, and that it is cowardly to behave this way. I say this not because I live in a politically correct fantasy, but because I recognize the very real effect this would have on the lives of a large number of Muslims. I have very little faith in anyone's ability to recognize a "suspicious" Muslim - least of all amateurs with their nerves on edge.

You may say, if you like, that nothing is more important than the life of yourself and your family. Very well, you've made your choice. Now imagine that everyone acts like you do, staging little "mutinies" whenever a Muslim they don't like the face of boards the plane. Do you want to live in that world? I don't. I think the right of people to be treated as individuals, and not as representatives for some collective, is one of our most important ideals. It is worth a miniscule risk to my life to preserve.

Btw, "children with an attention deficit problem" was meant as an explanation of why I don't include "yes I also want to fight terrorism" in every single paragraph of every single blog entry I write. Judging from the comments here and at Dhimmi Watch, that, apparently, is what is required for me not to be a politically correct depraved European dhimmified coward. I won't go into my "credentials" as a right-wing pro-war on terror blogger here - I shouldn't have to - but if you really want to know what my other views are, I have five years worth of archives you can browse through.

(Comment 3:)

Andrew: "And I will go look in your archives. Based on some of the comments here, it looks like I may have picked the wrong piece to use to represent your thinking."

I've thought and said many things. Some things I wrote in my early "warblogger" days I no longer believe. If you compare those posts to this and other recent posts, you might get the impression that I've switched "sides". What happened instead was that I detached myself from the herd thinking of the blogosphere. I'm on the right, but I feel no loyalty to and little admiration for right-wing pundits and bloggers, and I feel I have an obligation to put a particular focus on their excesses and faults. After all, few other bloggers on the right do this - they want to be loyal and walk in file with their comrades. I don't.

Anyway, I don't see why it matters whether this was a piece that "represents my thinking". I believe we should be able to discuss ideas like these independently, without turning every debate into the Great Big Islam Debate. I'm all for fighting terrorism, with military force when appropriate. But my beliefs on this are logically independent from most of the arguments I presented here. I intended this essay for anyone who doesn't have an infallible method for eradicating terrorism - whether on the left or right, among the most p.c. and the most islamophobic. What happened instead was that it was classified as subversive enemy propaganda because of its lack of the appropriate anti-terror code words. I'm not surprised, this is why I lost respect for the political blogs in the first place. I hope, though, that at least a few people were able to read and think about it on its own terms. It would be sad if the only thing anyone cares about in a debate about terrorism is whether or not you're safely and obediently on "their" side.

(Comment 4:)

Mr Minority: As Andrew said, we can civilly agree to disagree.

Thank you. I've been called a lot of things in the last couple of days, and I can count the civil replies on one hand ..

I don't want us to wait out terrorism. The reason I brought up the inevitability of terrorism is that, even if we play a very active role in fighting terrorism, we can't eradicate it. We can make it very hard - and we should. But we can't create a world where terrorism is nonexistent. This means that whatever amount of terrorism is left after we've done everything we can as a free society to fight it, is something we will have to live with. We shouldn't wait out terrorism, we should fight it. But even if we do that, you may still find yourself on a plane with a couple of suspicious-looking Muslims, and worry that they may be terrorists. And then what? How do we live with whatever is left of the terror threat after we've done what we can to fight it?

My main point wasn't to say how precisely we should balance liberty against security, but that we should train ourselves to rely more on reason than on emotion. Fear is a powerful weapon for the terrorists to have. I see no reason why it is wrong to want to sabotage it.