OFF THE GRID

Who Was the Fort Hood Shooter?

Nov 11, 09 | 9:07 AM   byMichael Wolff
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It seems to be coming to this: Was he a Muslim or a nutcase?

The nation’s two most sententious conservative columnists have weighed in with their view. Both David Brooks, in the Times, and Dorothy Rabinowitz, in the Wall Street Journal, believe that the evidence—ie, he was a practicing Muslim, and, to boot, he shouted “Allahu Akbar”—shows that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was committing an act of terrorism, rather than having a psychotic breakdown, when he shot dozens of people at Fort Hood last week.

Their analysis is aided by Anwar al-Awlaki, the 9/11-connected imam in Yemen, who had once worked at a mosque in Virginia, with whom Hasan had been in touch, who is saying Hasan is a hero.

Brooks and Rabinowitz take issue with the rest of the media and with the army for pussy-footing around the issue, for not seeing Hasan for what he was: an agent of radical, nihilistic, and vengeful Islam. Their further point is pretty much that liberals fail to see the binary nature of us and them, good and evil, survival and apocalypse in today’s world, and that vigilant conservatives appreciate the unique nature of this threat.

It’s of course a partisan diagnosis. To see Hasan as a dedicated terrorist rather than, say, an extreme, but particularly American phenomenon—the quiet suburban sort who cracks one day—is both to pump for a hard-bitten, right-wing, conspiratorial, enemy-within view, while disdaining the soft, lefty, psychiatric view (Rabinowitz went after Dr. Phil).

True, when you mow down random people it does not seem like a conflicted act. It would seem to require quite some motivation. On the other hand, actually building a military career, as well as attending medical school and completing a psychiatric residency, is not chopped liver with regard to staying power and commitment. In other words, Hasan either was some tenacious sort of sleeper or had a powerful conversion—so powerful you might reasonably describe it as of a psychotic break variety.

The Brooks and Rabinowitz position, while endearing to conservatives, is also an inter-media thing. Everybody has been contorting themselves not to dwell too much on the Muslim thing, so Brooks and Rabinowitz get to say, as columnists are wont to say, ah-ha (especially if the ah-ha is in service to a columnist’s partisan position)!

Let me claim an even higher columnist’s ground, and argue that the real issue is that we don’t seem able to see him as a Muslim and a nutcase. For Brooks and Rabinowitz, being a certain sort of Muslim is being, by definition, murderously rational—just wanting the infidels dead. For the Army and the media, being a Muslim in addition to being a wacko—the kind we know all too well in America—requires both too much explanation and risks too much misunderstanding (inviting protests and irate letters).

That’s such a hell of a horrifying combination, mixing up the crazy Muslim thing with the crazy American thing, that nobody wants to go there.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NewserColumns.
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