Fighting Terror With Irony

Defeating terrorists with irony, now there’s an idea. Theodore Kaczynski is facing his most awful punishment yet. Kaczynski is the so-called Unabomber who killed three people and injured twenty others between the 70s and the 90s as part of a one-man terror campaign focused on his hatred of technology. He may be facing the rest of his life behind bars, but a recent decision by a judge that made news last week is probably not going to make life feel any better. The judge ordered that the Unabomber’s possessions, seized on his arrest, be sold at public auction to contribute to restitution for his victims. But here’s the good part. The auction is going to take place online. Using the internet to make profit off the Unabomber is like using fines paid by animal rights activist to buy a fur coat. You know it’s wrong, you know it’s mean, but there’s just something so right about it.

By the same token, if Al Q’aida are paying attention, one thing has got to be bugging them more than anything. The people who chose the Twin Towers, symbol of western capitalism, as their prime target have got to hate that Hollywood is now cashing in. With two major motion pictures dealing with the events of September 11 raking in big bucks for studios that are part of the American financial juggernaut that also owns countless oilfields and pays bejillions of dollars into both Republican and Democrat campaign funds, it is clear what we must do. We must deliver an ultimatum: If you keep attacking us, we will keep making films. I know what you’re thinking. This is blackmail.

Home Secretary John Reid would disapprove too. Last week he dismissed an open letter from Muslim leaders that suggested that British foreign policy was making it hard for moderate Muslims to fight extremism (and actually fuelled it) as “a dreadful misjudgment”. The letter which was disconcertingly not written by an Imam with a hook, an eye-patch or anything else denoting a comic-book villain, was signed by three MPs and three peers as well as 38 groups. Mr Reid (who was echoed by Michael Howard in yet another step towards the inevitable fusion of the Labour and Conservative parties) said that the UK would never let it’s policies be dictated by terrorists. And of course he is right.

But isn’t it a little disingenuous to equate the suggestion that some of our policies may make people angry (rightly or wrongly) with handing over power to nutters with bombs? Do we really believe that former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright’s comments that the half a million children starved to death by sanctions against Iraq were “worth it” in 1996 had no effect on people pondering the ethics of killing thousands of Americans a few years later? Do the actions of abortion doctors really have nothing to do with the actions of those Christians who shoot them? Are Israel’s actions in Lebanon really nothing to do with those of Hammas? A link justifies nothing. But pretending there is no link, pretending, like someone denying climate change, that what I do has nothing to do with the problem, is not just willfully blind, it’s dangerous. It reduces the area for debate and diminishes the possibility of discovering the truth. If our only plan is killing all our enemies, as a Christian I fear we are doomed to failure. Irony is not going to stop the killing. I am afraid an act of contrition won’t either. But closing our eyes to our own failings will only leave us blind to danger too.



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