Thursday, October 23, 2014

Our non-obsession with the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu attack

An article in Vox by Amanda Taub proclaims:

Our obsession with the Ottawa shooter's religion reveals more about us than about him

It then argues  that since we don't yet know the shooter's religion, let alone his motivations (which is true), we shouldn't be talking about potential jihadi motives.

Leaving side the general temptation to discuss everything about every high profile shooting before the facts are known, it is a bit odd for Vox -- data-driven journalism! -- to be arguing that people have no basis to be connecting dots when Canada was still trying to interpret the events barely 2 days beforehand when an alleged Islamic convert rammed his car into two soldiers in a town 30 miles south of Montreal. Of course there could be no connection at all. But data-driven journalism! is all about living with interpretations based on probabilities. And since terrorism in North America is very, very rare, some of those empirical probabilities are going to be based on small sample sizes.

So the Ottawa incident is not just about Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. It's about that incident seen in the light of the earlier incident where a gun was not used -- and therefore already inclined to be ignored -- even though the ramming soldier technique bears strong resemblance to the Woolwich murder of Lee Rigby ... which was motivated by the killers' interpretation of their religion.