Bombs and Banality

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WaPo's Jim Hoagland writes today that the surveillance images of London's would-be July 21 bombers "show the face of evil as all too human and surprisingly mediocre — a face not of mysterious supernatural forces that we cannot comprehend or combat, but one of petty criminality and hatred that we can easily recognize."

Hoagland argues that these portraits are a natural counterpoint to the dramatic images of terrorist destruction, whether of 9/11 or Sharm el-Sheikh, which can distort the nature of the terrorist operative in terms of the scope of his deeds. But, writes Hoagland drawing on Hannah Arendt, "To glimpse Yasin Hassan Omar and others as the shiftless punks they seem to have been for most of their lives — to put a name and a face on evil rather than resign ourselves to endless speculation about the motives and long-lost origins of these criminals' grievances — should help shrink the sense of menace we feel around us."

Theo van Gogh's mother made a related observation following last week's sentencing of her son's Islamist murderer. "What is so regrettable after this trial is that Theo has been murdered by such a loser," Anneke van Gogh told a Dutch newspaper. [Van Gogh link via Samizdata.]