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Vocabulary is all

In the fight against terrorism

Gentle Reader who has been following the continuing confrontation between the forces of science, reason, and faith needn’t require the services of Arkansas’ Newspaper to decide whom to root for in what Samuel Huntington once called a clash of civilizations. It’s really a choice between civilization and the latest barbarism to threaten it. And the key to this decisive battle, the Little Round Top of this ideological struggle, is words, words, words. Not only how they are used but how they are regularly abused. So that straight talk and plain dealing come not only as a relief but may provide the key to victory.

According to the 35th-anniversary issue of The New Criterion, a journal that brings not only its wit but well-founded scholarship to this fight for the soul of civilization, it is fine to express anger at the latest barbarity committed by those dedicated to the West’s destruction. Which is what Bruce Bawer did in a piece for the City Journal website which he began with a curse: “Damn these jihadist murderers of children. And damn the politicians who have, in many cases, helped make these murders possible but who are quick, this time and every time, to serve up empty declarations of ‘solidarity’ even as the bodies of innocents are still being counted.” There, feel better now? But such expressions of outrage do little to bring the victory of light over darkness any closer in this ages-old struggle.

Mr. Bawer could have been writing about any of the massacres planned and committed by these fanatics over the years. They bring to mind the traditional definition of fanaticsomeone who won’t change his mind or change the subject. and whose favorite subject, indeed obsession, is murder most foul, its planning and execution. And execution meant literally.

The bloody roll of dishonor these murderers have compiled is long, extensive and surely will continue. It already includes low points like the mayhem that followed fast after the publication of the Danish cartoons that dared to use Allah’s name in vain and other slaughters around the globe from Paris to Orlando to San Bernadino and points well beyond.

Yet the best the world’s well-intentioned but sorely misguided peaceniks may be able to do in response is to call for “togetherness” or issue solemn requests that the world “meet hate with love.” Who knows how many other outrages will have been committed by the time the newspaper you’re now reading will have gone to press, or in this age have been distributed by iPhone or whatever your own preferred app might be.

As a commentator named Brendan O’Neill put it all too well: “It is becoming clear that the top-down promotion of a hollow ‘togetherness’ in response to terrorism is about cultivating passivity … . Where’s the rage? If the massacre of children and their parents on a fun night out doesn’t make you feel rage, nothing will. The terrorist has defeated you. You are dead already.”

It was our current president and tweeter-in chief, Donald J. Trump of all people, who hit the jihadist threat smack in the head when he described the terrorists as “evil losers.” It wasn’t so much the ritual denunciation of evil that must have stung the enemy as Donald Trump’s description of them; that must have really hurt. As the concise cartoonist Scott Adams noted: “If you call them monsters, they like it. If you call them ISIS or ISIL they put it on a flag and wave it around. If you call them non-Muslim it just rolls off their backs because they have Korans and stuff. Almost any other ‘brand’ you can imagine is either inert or beneficial to Loser recruitment … . Loser is different. No one joins the Loser movement.” Certainly not when it’s clearly labeled as such.

Words count most in this epic confrontation. And when those words are counterfeits, the quality of thought they reflect is soon enough devalued until it reaches nothing or goes into the minus numbers. And when that thought becomes ridiculous, it is less dangerous than just laughable. Few things deflate a bloody wanna-be dictator than the sounds of laughter following in his every footstep.

Remember how a talented satirist named Alan Sokal deflated a whole, bogus “philosophy of science” by writing a supposedly serious, scholarly piece in the latest intellectual text for a journal still called Social Text? The article went by the high-falutin’ title of “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” a piece that had no gravitas about it whatsoever, but was taken seriously by those who, well, take such nonsense seriously. What a delicious spectacle. When the hoax was revealed, there was some brief consternation but no sign of genuine remorse, let alone reform. This ideologically blind confederacy of dunces just went on its blithering way, and still does.

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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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