The quote on the picture above is not from Bernie Sanders. It’s from a manifesto by Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber. I ran across it on Twitter, where Anne Thériault observes with inscrutable emoji that it has been shared 11,000 times on Facebook. But just because the Unabomber said it, is it wrong? The Unabomber is definitely wrong in his position on mailing bombs to people. But his position on antidepressants, at least in this quote, echoes an idea from Sartre, who argued that depression is the only sane response to modern life. It’s worth thinking about the fact that millions of Americans must consume drugs to tolerate daily life. On the other hand, context matters. If the next sentence after this one in the Unabomber manifesto is “that’s why depressed people should be allowed to die,” we should probably withdraw our tentative concession that the murdering Luddite has a point. I was going to look it up, but then I realized that if I type “Unabomber manifesto full text” into Google, I’ll probably end up on a list.
The Islamic State is the combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell of 21st-century geopolitics. It’s a terrorist organization and a state. It’s a brutal army and a pious theocracy. It’s our enemy, but it is also our fault. The only way ISIS is not like a Pizza Hut/Taco Bell is that it is not profitable. Back in January, it cut its fighters pay by half. Last week, the Washington Post announced that it was paying $50 a month—more if you have a wife and/or sex slave—and was struggling to supply electricity and medicine to the regions it controls. It turns out ISIS is good at taking over Iraq but bad at running it. Of whom does that remind me?
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) is now selling “ISIS hunting tags” for $15 apiece through his campaign website. They come with the disclaimer that they are not government-issued hunting permits, so don’t buy that plane ticket to Aleppo just yet. Still, for the price of a large pizza, you too can feel like you’re at war with violent fanatics on the other side of the globe—and contribute to the re-election campaign of a sitting congressman. We’re not at war with ISIS yet. But plenty of people in Washington say we ought to be. Demanding military action against the Islamic State is a sure way to drum up support, whether you’re Zinke or Donald Trump. It’s also exactly what ISIS wants, according to this cogent analysis by Scott Atran in the New York Review of Books.
As you have no doubt heard on the shortwave radio set in your guard tower, anti-government militia members took over the visitor’s center at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon yesterday. Led by Ammon Bundy, son of patriot/delinquent grazing account Cliven Bundy, the group massed to protest the arson convictions of Dwight and Steve Hammond, who were sentenced to five years in prison last week for burning several acres of federal land. But that’s bullshit. Federal land does not belong to the federal government; it belongs to ranchers, who have a constitutional right to graze it/set it on fire/shoot does on it while the rest of us pay for its maintenance. Bundy and his supporters are just standing up for their rights. There’s nothing violent about marching through the streets with guns and then seizing a federal building, as the Missoulian reminds us with its headline, Peaceful protest followed by Oregon wildlife refuge action.
In November 2001, the Los Angeles Times ran a short piece compiling uses of the phrase “…then the terrorists have won.” Hawkeye football earned a dubious mention after a letter to the Iowa City Press-Citizen claimed that long security lines at Kinnick Stadium were “letting the terrorists win.” The New York Times opined that the terrorists win if we “don’t send the marching band from Frank Scott Bunnell High School in Stratford, Conn., to the 2002 Rose Parade.” Disrupting Big Ten football was probably not the impetus behind the September 11 attacks, or behind the series of massacres and bombings in Paris Friday. So why kill all those people? Now that we have been at war with terror for 14 years, we should probably be able to say what the other side’s objectives are. “They hate our freedom” is not a goal we can stop terrorists from achieving. For the Islamists who keep killing civilians around the globe, what does winning look like?