We expect moral imbecility from Keith Olbermann on issues such as the Fort Hood murders and last night he didnâ€™t disappoint.Â Enumerating the pressures Nidal Hassan must have felt, the Countdown host itemized especially Islamophobia (â€œThey keyed his car!) and the brazen assault on the Majorâ€™s free speech rights (â€œAnd ripped off a bumper sticker!â€)
But surprisingly, Olbermann was outdone a little later on Â the Bill Oâ€™Reilly Show where Geraldo Rivera, whose mind often seems as empty as Al Caponeâ€™s vault, insisted that the defining characteristic of the murder spree was notÂ the specifics of Hassanâ€™s behaviorâ€”criticizing the American mission, finding brotherhood with Iraqi and Afghan fighters, handing out commemorative Korans just before leaving to rendezvous with his evil Â destiny at the base, etcâ€”but how similar he was to Jason Rodriguez, the Orlando shooter, and to other demented killers (even, under Oâ€™Reillyâ€™s clumsy prodding, including Charlie Manson.) Â Â
This is a particularly bizarre form of moral equivalence.Â Yes, these psychopaths may share certain featuresâ€”lack of success with women (although Manson seems to have slipped out of the archetype here); emotional withdrawal; self imposed isolation, etc. Â But such psychobabble, delivered in Riveraâ€™s case with pontifical certainty, not only misses, but willfully obscures the point. To understand acts such as Hassanâ€™s, one must acknowledge that God (or in this case, the Devil) is in the details.Â He decided to start murdering servicemen and women not because he didnâ€™t feel good about himself, but because he felt that by doing so he was accepting Allahâ€™s summons.Â Col. Ralph Peters redeemed the Oâ€™Reilly Show somewhat when, following Geraldo, he said that Nassan was a jihadi whose murders could be understood only in one way: as the most horrific act of Islamic terrorism on American soil since 9/11.
There will be many efforts in the days ahead to portray Hassan as wronged, misunderstood, displaced. Â All of the clanking machinery of psychiatry, ironically, will be brought to bear on â€œunderstandingâ€ him.Â Worse yet, however, will be those who apply Geraldoâ€™s universal solvent to this case and see Hassan as just another twisted dude.