Making Excuses for Violence

The discussion surrounding both the building of a mosque in the vicinity of Ground Zero and the announcement by an obscure preacher of his intent to burn a number of Qur’ans has illuminated the huge double standard that exists in how the media portrays various reactions to supposedly “offensive” acts.

This is nothing new – for decades the American Left has told us how we need to be “tolerant” of those who burn the American flag. That we must accept those whose idea of “art” is a crucifix immersed in urine, or a picture of the Madonna covered in dung. We are told that “freedom of speech” requires such restraint.

But when the “offended” party is a member of some ethnic or religious minority, the rules change. Remember the riots over the Rodney King verdict? Liberals, in concert with their like-minded comrades in the mainstream media, predictably sought to “understand” the outrage – as if there were any legitimate reason for burning and looting.

And today, when Muslims react to so-called “attacks on Islam” with rioting, burning cars, and even murder, the Left once again “empathizes with their feelings” and instead of condemning those who would kill and maim over a silly cartoon in a Danish newspaper, they will lament the “racism” or “bigotry” that “provoked” the violence.

Even individual acts of violence, when committed by a minority, are subject to the same “nuanced” reporting. Take the case of Omar Thornton, the 34 year old man who was fired from a Connecticut beer distributor for stealing. Last month, Thornton entered Hartford Distributors and shot 10 employees with a hand gun, killing 8 before turning the gun on himself, according to Manchester Police.

End of story, right? Well, not quite. Because Mr. Thornton happened to be black. So, despite his being a thief (caught red-handed on video) and in spite of his work history showing a clear pattern of poor performance, as well as being a “disciplinary problem” for quite some time, the media practically fell all over themselves trying to portray his rampage as a “reaction” to his (supposedly) being “racially harassed” on the job. Never mind that no proof for such allegations exists.

Now, whether intentional or not, by focusing on the motivation of the killer, the press sends the underlying message that his actions are somehow “understandable.” The result is that we see him as just a little bit less responsible, perhaps even considering that there might be some “justification” for his killing spree. And that is a dangerous state of affairs.

In the case of the Qur’an burning, the fact that some previously unknown pastor of a tiny church (perhaps 50 parishioners) decides to have a bonfire shouldn’t even be a news “event” at all. Yet no sooner had the story broken than the talking heads on mainstream news programs were agonizing over the “backlash” that would most certainly come. No less a figure than General David Petraeus warned of grave danger to American troops should the book-burning occur.

But this creates a serious problem, because the insidious result of all this wailing and gnashing of teeth over the pastor is in essence to absolve violent perpetrators of their responsibility. The violence perpetrated by angry Muslims isn’t their fault – they were “provoked.”  But had the pastor decided to burn a Jewish Torah, a Christian bible, or some sacred Buddhist texts, would there be rampant fear of a “violent reaction” to his stunt?

Of course not. Because when Jews, Christians, or most other religious groups are “offended” they express their outrage without resorting to violence. They write letters to the editor. They appear on TV. They may even protest – but when they do, they do so peacefully. When the anti-Catholic “art” exhibits previously mentioned were given center stage at New York museums, did we see riots in the streets? When a synagogues is vandalized, do Jews retaliate by bombing Mosques?

But it is simply a fact of modern life that Muslims can be counted on to react to what is nothing more than an insult with rioting, smashing store windows, setting fire to cars, and yes, murder. When the famous “Danish cartoons” were published, depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a bomb-toting terrorist, Muslims took to the streets, rioting, looting and attacking innocent bystanders – as many as 100 people were killed. Theo Van Gogh, a relative of the famous Dutch painter, was assassinated by a radical Muslim, for the “crime” of…making a movie critical of Islam.

Yet even now, if you read about these incidents, the accounts will be filled with references to the “controversial” nature of the Danish cartoons or the “provocative” activities of Theo Van Gogh. The online reference site Wikipedia, known for a leftward tilt, goes to great lengths to paint Van Gogh in an unflattering light, saying that he had an “aggressive tone” and that he “delighted in provocation.” In other words, it’s the victim’s fault – no different than excusing a rapist because, after all, “she asked for it” by dressing “provocatively.”

But the bottom line is that the responsibility for violent acts rests solely with those who commit the violence – no one else. Even in self-defense law, something with which I have considerable experience, you don’t get to use force, let alone deadly force, simply because someone says or does something that you find offensive or insulting.

You may get angry. You may be outraged. And you may certainly express your feelings to anyone who will listen. But what you may not do is riot, destroy property, or attack people. And you most certainly should not get a free pass just because you happen to be black, or Hispanic.

Or a Muslim.

John Caile