In last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama promised to assist “people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of”—get ready for it—“violent extremism.”
“Violent extremism,” of course, is not an ideology. Extremists can adhere to any ideology, and violence is inherent to some ideologies but not to others. The “violent extremism” formulation is so ridiculous that even Thomas Friedman is making sense:
When you don’t call things by their real name, you always get in trouble. And this administration, so fearful of being accused of Islamophobia, is refusing to make any link to radical Islam from the recent explosions of violence against civilians (most of them Muslims) by Boko Haram in Nigeria, by the Taliban in Pakistan, by Al Qaeda in Paris and by jihadists in Yemen and Iraq. We’ve entered the theater of the absurd.
The Friedman column contains this passage:
The administration has lapsed into unselfconscious ridiculousness. Asked why the administration won’t say [after the Paris attacks] we are at war with radical Islam, Earnest on Tuesday explained the administration’s first concern “is accuracy. We want to describe exactly what happened. These are individuals who carried out an act of terrorism, and they later tried to justify that act of terrorism by invoking the religion of Islam and their own deviant view of it.”
This makes it sound as if the Charlie Hebdo terrorists set out to commit a random act of violent extremism and only subsequently, when they realized that they needed some justification, did they reach for Islam.
The day before, Earnest had conceded that there are lists of recent “examples of individuals who have cited Islam as they’ve carried out acts of violence.” Cited Islam? According to the Earnest theory . . . purposeless violent extremists rummage through the scriptures of great faiths, looking for some verses to cite to support their mayhem and often happen to settle on the holy texts of Islam.
As we quickly read the column, we thought: Wow, this is surprisingly good. Then we realized it was an extended quote from Rich Lowry.