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How They Did It - Moral Equivalence Last: 06/05/2013

The “we are just as bad as… or worse than them” mentality.

A pervasive argument appearing in the post-colonial paradigm is that of “Moral Equivalence.” In the case of Islamic terrorism the dynamics of moral equivalence can be seen among some figures of the western intelligentsia in their vociferous moral indignation at the behavior of Western nations that, they allege, led to acts of terror, and their understanding attitude towards the terrorist acts themselves. Even if they do not intentionally excuse terrorism, such writers produce the unhappy consequence of explaining Islamic terrorism in terms of “Western misdeeds and faults,” and of framing the debate in terms of “what the West did to deserve such attacks” and, therefore, reverse the moral equation. The West’s “wrongs” come to be seen as more reprehensible than the “reaction” (however “harsh” and “inexcusable”) by terrorists. The easy moral challenge is: “Are we not hypocrites, when we do the same thing?”

At some level, this is a pathology of self-criticism – it is all our fault, and if we were better, then we could fix everything. Meanwhile, while we demand the highest standards of ourselves, we treat the terrorists as morally challenged, who can’t even understand the questions of intention and cannot be expected to self-criticize. We become incapable of making the distinction between victims and perpetrators, and end up blaming the victim.

As victims of our own stupidity (Moral Equivalence) we lose our need of self preservation.