The terror attacks in Paris are an unspeakable outrage. But when a tragedy like this happens, we don’t always know how to respond. It is only natural that we should be overcome with anger at the murder of so many Parisians, even as we shrug our shoulders whenever a big bomb goes off in Baghdad or Beirut, killing dozens of people.
But this feels closer to home. Many of us have been to Paris. The people killed were doing the sorts of things we could imagine ourselves doing on a Friday night: going to a concert, having a drink at a bar, or dining at a restaurant. Westerners doing the kinds of things Westerners do.
So how to react? We don’t know for sure who was behind these attacks (although ISIS is strongly suspected), or how they were planned, and we don’t know for certain what can be done to prevent further attacks.
So it’s obvious that staying calm and waiting for further information to emerge simply isn’t an option. We owe it to the victims of these atrocities to jump to conclusions.
The most important thing we can do right now is cast around for people or things to blame. Islam, religion in general, US foreign policy, or refugees. Hey, why not climate change? Whatever works for you. Just don’t fall into the trap of waiting for more details to come in, for the authorities to release further information. The news cycle moves quickly, and you don’t want to be left behind, all because you made the mistake of waiting for the facts to emerge.
People need answers, any answers. It isn’t important right now that they be sensible ones; in this trying time even terribly wrong answers will do. So long as those answers are simple and involve blaming whole groups of people who had nothing to do with the carnage.
And if those answers promote the advancement of your political viewpoint, then all the better. If you can use this event to illustrate how voting for the other party endangers national security, then you absolutely should.
A word of warning, though. Using this horror event to promote your political platform is essential, but appearances are important. Show some respect. Wait at least 72 hours before blaming the other party, lest you be accused of doing exactly what you are doing: exploiting misery for political gain. Unless you’re Donald Trump. If you’re Donald Trump, you definitely shouldn’t wait.
The civil war in Syria is horribly messy, with no simple or obvious solutions in sight. It’s not always easy to work out who’s good or who’s bad, and any intervention in the conflict by the West will probably just make things worse. But if ISIS really is behind the attacks in Paris, then indiscriminately bombing as much of Syria as we can must now be very high on the to-do list. There’s always the possibility that we might get one of the masterminds behind these attacks, particularly if he just happens to be visiting a hospital or orphanage, or attending a wedding.
If you are planning to go down the path of blaming the whole thing on “the Muslims” (and it’s a well-trodden path), then for God’s sake don’t listen to those who will try to tell you that the vast majority of Islamic terror is directed towards Muslims. That just makes things more complicated than they need to be. Close down that little part of your brain that might be tempted to give some weight to such arguments, by reciting again and again: “Islam is not a religion of peace. Islam is a religion of war.”
Don’t worry if your solution doesn’t work, or makes things worse. You won’t lose face if things go disastrously wrong. For example, if your solution is to bomb Syria into oblivion and for some strange reason this doesn’t eliminate the scourge of terrorism, you can always argue that not enough bombs were dropped. If another major terror attack occurs outside the Middle East (obviously nobody cares about all the terror occurring in the Middle East), you can blame liberals for opposing your police-state plan, or your plan to send all the refugees back to wherever it is they call home.
So, in summary, cool heads won’t do right now. Now is not the time for considered and careful action. Keyboard warriors, your time has come. The social media monster must be fed, and you know exactly what it needs. At least I hope you do. Because if you can’t describe your solution to the complex problem of global terrorism and its underlying causes in 140 characters or less, it may be time you gave up tweeting.