From James Taranto’s Best of the Web, today:
“There’s something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that. There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of—not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, OK, they’re really angry because of this and that. This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate. It wasn’t to aggrieve one particular sense of wrong. It was to terrorize people.”
Those words were spoken yesterday by Secretary of State John Kerry. The reference to “legitimacy” calls to mind the remark that ended the political career of Todd Akin. But although Kerry’s statement was every bit as stupid as Akin’s, it was far more evil. Not only does he rationalize the mass murder of journalists; that rationalization is a fallback from his initial, impulsive though impolitic position that those murders had “legitimacy.”
The most charitable way to sum up Kerry’s view is that he believes discrimination is a mitigating factor when it comes to terrorist attacks—that murder isn’t as bad when the victim is someone who has publicly espoused views the killer finds abhorrent. The word for a murder carried out with this sort of extreme prejudice is assassination, and it is ordinarily considered even worse than murdering at random.
The attack on Charlie Hebdo, no less than the attacks last week, were intended “to terrorize people.” But the Charlie Hebdo attacks were also intended to terrorize people into silence. It was an attack on free speech as well as on freedom and Western civilization more generally. Kerry’s rationalizing of it is arguably the most un-American thing he has ever said in public—and that’s saying a lot, given that he made a name for himself slandering American military servicemen.
Kerry’s insouciance about the Charlie Hebdo assassinations also runs counter to one of the administration’s central talking points. We are given to understand that the source of the terrorists’ grievance against Charlie Hebdo was its practice of caricaturing Muhammad, the prophet of Islam; such representations are contrary to Shariah, or Islamic law. But Kerry himself went on to say “it has nothing to do with Islam.” So why would terrorists murder people over Shariah violations? What are they, compassionate progressives trying to create safe spaces?