Oversampling the Darkness

Game of Thrones iron throne

A week ago, an 18-year-old Somali immigrant named Abdul Razak Ali Artan rammed his car into a crowd at Ohio State University, then attacked bystanders with a knife before being shot dead by campus police. As investigators dig into his motivates, it is clear that Artan’s understanding of his faith helped to motivate the attack, as he left behind a Facebook post praising the al Qaeda-aligned cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and warning that lone-wolf attacks by Muslims would continue unless the US made peace with ISIS. But it appears that Artan was motivated by more than allegiance to the Islamic State.

Artan believed that his attack was justified because he and his fellow Muslims were persecuted and oppressed by Americans. He wrote, “I am sick and tired of seeing my fellow Muslim Brothers and Sisters being killed and tortured EVERYWHERE.” Bizarrely, the only example he cited was Burma, where persecution of Muslims is real and appalling, but also somewhat more directly linked to the nation’s Buddhist majority than to anyone associated with Ohio State University. However, Artan appeared to feel persecuted at his school as well. He was quoted in the OSU campus newspaper in August saying he was afraid to pray in public because, “If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen.”

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When ‘violent disagreement’ isn’t just a figure of speech

A few days ago, journalist Zoey Tur, formerly Bob Tur, briefly made headlines after a televised roundtable discussion of transsexuality during which he grabbed another participant by the back of the neck, leaned in, and growled, “You cut that out now, or you’ll go home in an ambulance.” The other panelist’s offense? Arguing that Tur’s male genome meant he was in fact… male. When he was asked later why threats of violence against transsexuals are wrong but threats of violence against those who disagree with transsexuality are acceptable, Tur tweeted, “being called Sir and mentally ill is violence” (emphasis mine).

I bring up the incident because it illustrates a new and increasingly widespread perspective which has the potential to radically change the social and legal framework of conversation and disagreement in America. This is the idea that being confronted with “bad” ideas, and especially being challenged on issues which one considers important, is tantamount to violence.

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