John on September 2, 2010 at 3:22 pm
What does an anti-human-life atheist do with his spare time? Argue with Christians and pro-lifers of course. This video combines two seperate interviews James Jay Lee did, one in 2008 and the other in 2009:
Why is this significant? Because people on the left and right seem eager to dismiss Lee as a “nutjob” whose list of demands proves he was crazy. And indeed from reading his manifesto, one might get the image of someone like the Unabomber, living in a cabin by himself shut off from normal human interaction.
But in Lee’s case, he’s lucid, maybe a bit arrogant, but he doesn’t fit the usual image of “crazy” in these clips. In fact, I’m sure there are many, many people who would agree with much of what he says here, at least if it were being said by someone else.
I’m not suggesting that everyone who agrees with him is a violent extremist. On the contrary, I think every sensible person on the right and left agrees that what he did on September 1, 2010 was unacceptable. But it does bother me that certain violent extremists become symbols for a movement while others are quickly written off as lone nuts.
When it came to the shooting of Dr. Tiller the story line was that ideas have consequences. Case in point, the NY Times titled this piece on the murder “An Abortion Battle, Fought to the Death.” Not very subtle that. The Times applied the same kind of frame to the story of a Muslim cabbie who was stabbed noting that “The violence that erupted during the cab ride came amid a heated and persisting national debate over whether to situate a Muslim community center and mosque two blocks north of ground zero.”
But now, when it comes to James Lee, the Times finds no comparable backdrop to the violence. Lee is simply a lone troublemaker with a website. In fact, the Times actually twists Lee into a humanitarian, saying “The Web site complains that the Discovery Channel produces programs about the environment for profit, not for humanitarian reasons.” Was James Lee a humanitarian? Where did they get the idea that his concern was humanity? And so the fact that he was an extremist environmentalist and a devotee of Al Gore and Richard Dawkins barely registers at all. The story is headlined “Maryland Hostages Safe as Police Kill Gunman.” What a difference from “An Abortion Battle, Fought to the Death.”
Maybe not mentioning his beliefs is the appropriate choice, but if so why didn’t the Times apply this same rule (nod to Ace) when covering these other recent cases? I doubt that anyone can explain it apart from the obvious partisanship at work at the Times.
If nothing else, these clips remind us that there are just as many potentially violent extremists holding left wing views as the opposite. We just haven’t heard much about them in the last 18 months and, for some reason, we still aren’t.
Addendum: Credit to the Washington Post for labeling James Lee, albeit in the final paragraph, an “environmental militant.” It’s only two words, but it’s more than the Times could manage.
Related: An interesting discussion by some atheists about tying violent behavior to movements. I like their principled stand, but I admit I don’t share the view that ideas and consequences can be so easily divorced the moment violence erupts. Specifically, I do think James Lee’s anti-humanist beliefs probably played a role in his actions, though there obviously must have been other factors at play since the percentage of atheist environmentalists who take hostages is vanishingly small. Ultimately, I’d just like to see his beliefs receive the same scrutiny that other belief systems receive when, say, an abortionist is shot.
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