Getting Distance from the Demons That Look Like Us

September 1, 2010 at 11:06 am (politics, psychology) (, , , )

Stanley Fish wrote an absolutely mindblowing piece in the NY Times blog about the similarities between American reactions to Islamic terrorists compared to their reactions to Timothy McVeigh (he was a disturbed individual) and Michael Enright (the white guy who slashed a cabbie after asking if he was Muslim- also a disturbed individual).

The formula is simple and foolproof (although those who deploy it so facilely seem to think we are all fools): If the bad act is committed by a member of a group you wish to demonize, attribute it to a community or a religion and not to the individual. But if the bad act is committed by someone whose profile, interests and agendas are uncomfortably close to your own, detach the malefactor from everything that is going on or is in the air (he came from nowhere) and characterize him as a one-off, non-generalizable, sui generis phenomenon.

Absolutely amazing, go read it here.

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