A few months ago you may recall that rioting in Ferguson, MO was followed almost immediately by a large riot at, of all things, a Pumpkin Festival at Keene State University in New Hampshire. This happened for two reasons. One is that God loves us and has a sense of humor. The other is that white college kids like to go crazy and destroy lots of property and it's cool because Kids being Kids, amirite? Of all the sarcastic commentary comparing media and public reactions to the two riots, this tweet was my favorite:
It came to mind immediately when I saw this recent bon mot of brilliance from Rupert Murdoch:
We have this remarkably silly tendency to refer to all minority groups – ethnic, racial, religious, etc. – as a cohesive and organized group. It is an extension of the Well They All Look the Same! mentality, and it is not worth stating that it is deeply flawed logic to assume that everyone who is black or Muslim or Asian or Latino believes the same things. But if that isn't ridiculous enough, we take it one step farther and assume that they are somehow collectively responsible for one another's behavior or have control over what their fellow humans do.
I can't tell you how many times over the years I have had the conversation where I press other white people to explain what exactly The Black Community is. Like, do you think they all have a meeting every week or two where the grand Black Strategy is plotted? Do they have some kind of quasi-parental control over one another, not to mention a highly efficient information distribution system that instantly tells them "Brian in Fresno robbed a gas station – someone get on his ass!" I like to ask Black Community enthusiasts, what should you and I be doing to stop serial killers? Aren't nearly all serial killers white men? We, as pillars of the White Dude Community, are clearly responsible for their actions. Perhaps I should Speak Out Against serial killing, just to make sure people know it's illegal and not cool.
Granted, mocking the words of Rupert Murdoch is an exercise in harvesting low hanging fruit. It just baffles me how people who say things of this sort expect "Good Muslims" to stop small groups of committed and fanatical terrorists from behaving as committed, fanatical terrorists? The absolute best argument that could be made would be some sort of slow, indirect process of trying to identify every radical cleric (How would this witch hunt be executed? Some would be terribly obvious. Most wouldn't.) and then engaging in some sort of ecclesiastical politics to get them removed. Of course that is impractical even if the Muslim Community, spread across a hundred countries and representing every language, social class, and different interpretation of Islam on Earth, could organize at their weekly meetings and decide to do it.
The truth is that Good Muslims have as much ability to combat Islamic terrorists as you and I do. As much as any person, Muslim or not, does. I would not roll my eyes if someone argued, as many did after 9/11, that Islamic states and governments should take more responsibility for terrorist activities that may happen within their borders. That is because governments are organized, structured toward making decisions and executing them, and possessing of a security apparatus that allows them to take action against violent people. The Paris attackers trained in Yemen, which is widely understood to have slid toward anarchy and failed statehood in the past two or three years. To propose a productive solution, one might suggest that the Arab League or a comparable organization take some sort of action to increase the strength of a legitimate government in Yemen.
No, that would involve too much thinking. Let's just tell all of The Muslims that they're responsible.