The simple logic of free will

One of my pet peeves is that whenever a gunman opens fire on unsuspecting victims, there's a flurry of finger-pointing, and a haste to blame almost anyone besides the gunman, often with blatant political overtones.

The fallout over the recent shooting at an Israeli gay center (in which the gunman killed two and wounded twelve) shows that the idea of collective blame is not limited to the United States. Activists in Israel are blaming an anti-gay party called Shas for the shooting:

Homosexual activists and some politicians were quick to condemn what they called an atmosphere of incitement by elements in Israel's religious and specifically ultra-Orthodox society, including the Shas political party.

At a demonstation through the streets of Tel Aviv immediately following the attack, hundreds of protesters marched and carried banners accusing Shas of incitement.

But Shas, whose members and rabbis have been openly critical of the country's homoseuxual community, condemned the attack.

"We are shocked and bereaved, and denounce without reservation the murderous incident that targeted Tel Aviv's gay community," the statement said.

The two people killed in the attack were identified as Nir Katz, 26, a counsellor helping lead discussion at the support group, and Liz Troubishi, 17.

Ten people wounded in the attack were still being treated in hospital on Sunday, two of them in critical condition.

The unprecedented attack has sent shockwaves in the country as a whole where the homosexual population enjoys civil liberties and a general sense of tolerance. Homosexual soldiers serve openly in the army. Tel Aviv in particular is known for it's embrace of the community, a city Israeli tourism officials have been marketing as an international homosexual travel destination because for its openness and vibrant local culture.

Among the injured were teenagers who had not yet discussed their sexuality with their families. Some of their parents found out about their children's sexual identity only when they arrived at the hospital on Saturday night.

Rona Kenan, one of Israel's most popular singers and a lesbian, said: "Some of them were thrown out of their homes because they voiced their willingness to come out of the closet.

I've known quite a few kids who were thrown out of the house for being gay (a friend used to work with such kids, who would often end up selling their ass in the street). Still, I blame the parents for abandoning their kids, not some idiot on the radio or asshole in the pulpit.

It's a total copout and cheap shot to blame political opponents for the individual actions of others, much less for crime. Unless there is direct incitement to murder (something I doubt Shas would do), or unless the shooter can be shown to have a direct, culpable connection with the group, they're no more responsible than an anti-gay group in this country would be had a similar shooting occurred at an American gay center. Same thing if an angry gay man shot up a group of anti-gay Mormons. (It wouldn't be "the gays" who did it, but the shooter.)

Blaming political enemies for crimes committed by inviduals is a predictable consequence of the activist view of things, which is often communitarian, and divides the world as "us" versus "them." Anyone who is not with us is one of them! And if one of "them" attacks one of "us," then they become responsible! I admit, it does make it much easier to analyze things if you see the world that way, but it turns my stomach anyway. Gays of all people should remember that many of their political opponents not only blame them (in the form of "the homosexual agenda") for a whole host of problems, but they believe homosexuality is a social contagion, with gays being collectively responsible for others being gay. Which is about as logical as saying that if you smoke pot, you're responsible for the fact that others smoke pot.

This is all very easy for me to say.

But what if it turned out that the Tel Aviv shooter was a Palestinian? I would have a very different attitude, and I would condemn and probably blame Islamic bigotry.

How I hate my contradictions! They make it so hard to be honest. It makes for a much easier argument that the shooter does not appear to be a Muslim (if he was, someone would have most likely said so by now, and Shas would not be condemning the attacks in the same way), and I don't know why I'm being so hard on myself, but these contradictions plague me, and sometimes make it very difficult to write, as they get in the way of clear thinking. Which is logical, because contradictions by their nature highlight unclear thinking. In my defense, I would argue that had the shooter been a Muslim, he'd most likely have been driven by Islamism, Hamas or Hezbollah style. This is such an extreme form of communitarianism that it would be hard to argue that such a person could even be considered an individual, much less someone with free will. Islamists do not have free will, because it's all about submission, and the further you get into that, the more you cease to be a free individual.

But Islamism is one of the biggest challenges to libertarianism as a worldview, and it's been one of my biggest worries since the September 11 attacks. And while it's easier for this particular analysis that Islam is not implicated in the Tel Aviv gay center attack, the "what about Islam?" question has a way of sneaking its way into my head, and raising unsettling questions.

Easy to say it would never happen here. But what if one of the Somalian immigrant youths in this video had been armed and shot the gay guy instead of just taunting him?

I want to see those kids as free-thinking individuals living in a free country and possessed of free will. I really do.

But I worry that wanting to see them that way does not make them the way I want to see them.


I guess when all logic fails, at least we can thank God for the Second Amendment.

MORE: Phyllis Chesler highlights another ugly story, involving the rape of a Liberian girl by Liberian boys, and the girl's rejection by her family:

Immigrants bring both their barbarism and their traumatized histories right along with them when they come to America.

For example, an eight-year-old girl from Liberia was recently savagely gang-raped in Phoenix, Arizona, by a gang of Liberian boys, aged 14, 13, 10, and 9. The poor child was lured to an empty shed with an offer of chewing gum. The boys held her down as each took turns raping her. These boys knew her and live in the same immigrant community. Sgt Andrew Hill said: "She was brutally sexually assaulted for a period of ten to fifteen minutes." The police and others heard "hysterical screaming" and found the girl "partially clothed."

This much we know. All else is somewhat in question.

Instead of comforting her, the girl's family was said to have rejected her for bringing "shame" upon them and upon the community.

I don't know what possesses people to think that way about a brutal crime inflicted on their daughter, and once again, as a libertarian I would like to blame them as individuals instead of blaming their "culture." But even if we assume the problem is their culture, if they cannot shed such a culture, why bring them here to to live?

At the rate things are going, libertarians will be out of touch with the communitarian reality, with nowhere to go except outer space!

posted by Eric on 08.02.09 at 10:04 AM


But what if it turned out that the Tel Aviv shooter was a Palestinian? I would have a very different attitude, and I would condemn and probably blame Islamic bigotry.

I would suggest the difference is official approval.
In Israel, they don't condone killing homerseckshuls. I'm sure they're pretty harsh about how it's wrong and they're spitting on God, but they don't go around advocating killing them. And if they do, they surely don't publicize it so they know it's wrong.
In areas like the Palestinian terrortories, it's accepted and condoned. The only argument is the proper way to kill gays. Hanging or dropping a wall on them.

That's the difference.
I think Fred Phelps is a jackass but he can say what he wants.
If he advocates killing gays, then he's crossed a line.
That's the difference.

Veeshir   ·  August 2, 2009 2:21 PM

Good point Veeshir. Thanks!

Eric Scheie   ·  August 2, 2009 2:43 PM

Can we assume the Liberians are Muslim? They're the only group I can think of where 10 year old boys participate in rape, and then have the victim's family reject them. If I were the authorities, I would be on the lookout for an honor killing against the girl.

Bob Smith   ·  August 2, 2009 3:25 PM

This is bizarre, but apparently Rape was legal in Liberia until 2006.

MetaThought   ·  August 3, 2009 10:38 AM

But what if it turned out that the Tel Aviv shooter was a Palestinian? I would have a very different attitude, and I would condemn and probably blame Islamic bigotry.
- - - - - - - - -

yeah - AFTER the killer was known. You would then be justified in blaming those who educated him in this manner.

If the gunman in Tel Aviv turns out to be a crazy Shasnik, then making the connection to Shas' pronouncements would be understandable (although they never said anything justifying murder).

Ben-David   ·  August 3, 2009 2:46 PM

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