Our Shared Blame for the Shooting in San Bernardino

Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker:

Daily-News-Hes-A-Terrorist-690Only in America, as the song says—only in America are there enough mass shootings in a single week to allow pundits and philosophers to make complicated points about the nature of responsibility and guilt that elsewhere might exist only in the realm of gruesome thought experiments. Having instructed us that the first of this week’s mass shootings was free from any ideological taint at all—that the Planned Parenthood killings were the work of a lone nut, completely uninfluenced by their rhetoric—the Republican candidates then ordered us to understand that the next mass shooting was nothing but ideology, that the horrific killings in San Bernardino were, as Ted Cruz instantly insisted, an act of Islamic terrorism that should place us in a “time of war.” (That phrase either means nothing at all, since in some sense we have been in “a time of war” since at least 9/11, or else means something so doomed and horrific—full-scale permanent warfare in the Middle East—that, as the historian Andrew Bacevich has explained, it could be achieved only by changing everything once admirable about American life.)

So God bless an American tabloid for doing the work that their headlines have long done (“Ford To City: Drop Dead” comes to mind from the past)—putting a complicated point into simple language. In this case, the headline is on the cover of this morning’s New York Daily News, announcing that Syed Farook, one of the two San Bernardino killers, and a Muslim-American, is a terrorist—and that all the other mass murderers of recent memory are terrorists, too, and (many bonus points for courage here) that Wayne LaPierre, of the N.R.A., ought to be thought as one as well.

More here.