According to widespread sentiment—expressed, most notably, by Secretary of State John Kerry—last month’s bloody attacks in Paris were different from those in January, which targeted only the staff of Charlie Hebdo and Jews rather than “just anybody.” Douglas Murray comments on what this attitude reveals:
The true problem with the line that it used to be “just the Jews, the writers, or [the] cartoonists,” is not that it is offensive or inelegant or any of the other words that are now used to shut down a discussion—though all these things it may be. The problem is that it suggests that people were not paying attention during those earlier attacks. It suggests a belief that the terrorism in January was a different order of terrorism—call it “understandable terrorism”—rather than part of a continuum of terrorism that now reached its logical endpoint as “impossible-to-understand terrorism”—because “Jews, writers, or cartoonists” were missing. . . .
The latest attacks in Paris were, indeed, targeted at absolutely everybody. In that, there should be a lesson of a kind. The lesson should remind us that in a free society, no one can wholly dodge the bullets of these particular fanatics. In the conflict that faces us now, there is no opt-out if you happen to be “lucky” enough not to be Jewish. There is no opt-out if you happen to think that people should not draw or publish opinions that are anything other than 100-percent agreeable to 100 percent of the people, 100 percent of the time. Because one day, you will be targeted for being at a restaurant or a concert, or for having the “decadent” temerity to attend a soccer match. That this has not yet sunk in to the public imagination is one thing. That it has still not permeated the understanding of the heads of the world’s only superpower is quite another. . . .
So here we are, at the end of what should be one of the world’s sharpest and most painful learning curves in recent history. At the end of this curve, we ought finally to be living with the realization we might have acquired earlier: that since we cannot live with Islamic State and [similar] groups, we had better live without them. We therefore had better do whatever it takes to speed up an end of our choosing before they speed up an end of their choosing.