Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Cause vs. Influence

Damian Penny makes a point about the Newsweek scandal:

The Newsweek story probably doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Theo van Gogh's Submission, but the story did not cause these 15 deaths any more than van Gogh's movie caused his own murder. Those who acted on their murderous impulses, ultimately, bear all the responsibility. All of it. Anything less seems like our own version of the "American policy was the root cause of 9/11" argument.

We must distinguish between cause and influence, as Damian demonstrates. Let me raise another issue: distinguishing between weak and strong influences. An influence is strong only if a) it is relevant to the subject's chief motivations, and b) if it is not counteracted by other strong influences that draw the subject into a different direction.

There's a reason why the old predictions of massive anti-Muslim rioting in America didn't come to pass: America by and large lacks the cultural elements that breeds such thuggery - unlike, say, Afghanistan. Note that our country's Muslims aren't killing people in the wake of the Newsweek article. Our Muslims don't live in a society dominated by thugs and a state-controlled press that severely curtails their knowledge of the rest of the world (and even their own corner of it). And they don't see Americans killing each other over allegedly antisemitic or anti-Jesus religious films. They don't see anyone bombing the National Endowment of the Arts for its taxpayer funding of sacrilege. I'll say it again - we have the most peaceful ideological discord in the world.

I am deeply concerned about the message of the Koran as it relates to common civility. But if eternal violent jihad against the infidels is its true context, certain Western influences - and alternate Koranic interpretations - are serving as countermeasures in this country. I hope it can last.

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