Open thread for episode 20.07: Russell & Martin

Martin here. Predictably there have been the usual suspects on social media firing off about the discussion with Kieran. I think a lot about the conversation with Kieran could have gone better, but what’s notable about those responding is the way in which binary thinking is their general pattern. Either you’re someone who condemns everything about Islam as a cancer and scourge upon the earth that requires immediate cauterization, or you’re a jihadi apologist. Very little in the way of nuance, shall we say, is on display. The usual dog-whistle terms (“regressive left,” etc etc.) are trotted out and put through their paces, indicating a preference for lazy reactionary emotionalism over intellectual engagement.

Also, posting actual data which shows that, in the US at least, random gun violence has been an exponentially higher cause of death than violence of an expressly terrorist nature is seen as a “deflection” from the real issue. The following tweet (not embedding it because I don’t wish anyone to come back at the guy) is typical: Three different issues: Mass shootings by insane people, gang violence/crime, & terrorism. “Different issues”? They’re all about mass murder and its causes, which sounds like the same issue to me. Are the victims of mass shootings by “insane people” somehow less dead than those deliberately carried out by ISIS cells?

Click to embiggenify.

There is a contigent among atheists who are very much in line with conservative Christian Republicans on this topic, and it’s a problem. Allow me to suggest the following radical ideas: rejecting xenophobia towards Muslims generally does not mean one is blithely pretending Islamist violence and terrorism do not exist at all. (Yes, some of the haters are arguing that.) Pointing out that gun violence by angry white men takes vastly more lives in the US is, also, not a way of denying that Islamist terrorists are a thing. It’s simply asking paranoid people to look at the data, put your paranoia in perspective, and then come up with reasoned and effective responses to terrorism that don’t target the innocent victims who are fleeing that very terrorism.

That Islamist theocracies are the most oppressive societies in the world is not anything any sensible person would debate (in fact I recall both of us on the show yesterday making that point). But when people assume, and politicians like Trump and Farage go on to exploit said assumption, that we have to fear all the people fleeing an Islamist bloodbath because they’re obviously just coming here to start a bloodbath of their own, then it’s time for folks to step back and take a breath. Caving into that manipulative fear is playing right into the terrorists’ hands.