A consensus seems to have formed here at The Atlantic that the Ft. Hood massacre means not very much at all. Megan McArdle writes that "there is absolutely no political lesson to be learned from this." James Fallows says: "The shootings never mean anything. Forty years later, what did the Charles Whitman massacre 'mean'? A decade later, do we 'know' anything about Columbine?" . . .The whistling-past-the-mass-graveyard reaction Goldberg discerns is quite striking among the opinion elite, if we contrast it to their reactions in other cases.
It seems, though, that when an American military officer who is a practicing Muslim allegedly shoots forty of his fellow soldiers who are about to deploy to the two wars the United States is currently fighting in Muslim countries, some broader meaning might, over time, be discerned, especially if the officer did, in fact, yell "Allahu Akbar" while murdering his fellow soldiers, as some soldiers say he did. . . .
Remember when Andrew Sullivan fretted about "Southern populist terrorism" in the death of Kentucky census worker Bill Sparkman? (Investigators now believe it to have been suicide.) Remember how Frank Rich interpreted the NY23 special election as "nothing less than a riotous and bloody national G.O.P. civil war," demonstrating how "the right has devolved into a wacky, paranoid cult"?
The tendency of elites to leap to hysterical, far-fetched interpretations when dealing with phenomena associated (rightly or wrongly) with the Right is counterbalanced by their "nothing to see here" reaction when confronted with events that implicate pet causes of the Left.
The nature of elite reaction is not strictly a matter of the potential political ramifications of events. There is also the matter of complexity and nuance, which are specialties of the intelligentsia. When events seem to teach a simplistic liberal lesson, there is no need to seek out any mitigating factors. Yet when the simple lesson would seem to favor a conservative argument, there is a frantic search for mitigation, or else the event is dismissed as meaningless.
The murder of Matthew Shepard was interpreted as evidence of mass homophobia induced by Christian conservatism, even though the murderers were a couple of two-bit hoodlums with no known ties to the Religious Right. Yet here we have Nidal Malik Hasan reportedly screaming "Allahu Akbar" while gunning down U.S. troops and . . . well, this means nothing.
So instead of a search for meaning, the elite engage in a search for non-meaning. The Fort Hood killer attended a radical mosque? Meaningless!
What is most amusing is how the elite assume that the rest of us are so stupid as not to notice the pattern.
UPDATE: Phyllis Chesler observed Saturday:
Quickly, reflexively, without waiting for more of the facts to emerge, the mainstream print media has already decided that Major Hasan is a tormented “innocent” who must have snapped under alleged conditions of extreme provocation and humiliation. The mainstream media assures people that there is no such thing as jihad; that the Ft. Hood massacre has nothing to do with Islam or with violent jihad; that if there are any victims here, it is not the dead and wounded soldiers . . . but the man accused of their mass murders.Michelle Malkin wonders, "Why do we have to read British papers to get Ft. Hood jihadist news?!" Meanwhile, Donald Douglas notices that anyone who thinks Islam had anything to do with the Fort Hood massacre has been declared guilty of anti-Muslim "bigotry."