On Wednesday, London was attacked. Just before 3 p.m. in the British capital, a terrorist drove a vehicle at high speed down the Westminster Bridge toward Parliament, running over pedestrians along the way. In an attempt to gain entry to Parliament, the man stabbed and killed a police officer before being shot to death. Forty people were injured in the assault. Three died. The attack occurred on the one-year anniversary of a deadly ISIS-linked incident in Brussels. It happened as an anti-ISIS coalition of Middle Eastern leaders met in Washington D.C. and as militias prepare for the siege of the Islamic State capital, Raqqa. Hours later, ISIS took credit for the attack.
Londoners have a right to be furious, but many have chosen a misguided target for their ire: Donald Trump Jr. With artless timing, the son of the American president took to his Twitter account on Wednesday to criticize London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan. “You have to be kidding me?!,” the Trump family scion wrote, linking to an article published in the autumn of 2016. “Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan.” In the interview, Khan described how preventing acts of terror was his priority as mayor, but he added that the threat of terror was “part and parcel of living in a big city.”
Rather than direct their outrage at the terrorists who attacked their city or the mayor who had advised them to make their peace with such events, the British are directing their rage at Trump. “You’re a disgrace,” wrote Minister of Parliament Wes Streeting. “Is this helpful,” asked Britain’s Channel 4 journalist, Ciaran Jenkins. “Did you even read the article before goading London’s Mayor during a live incident?” The BBC quoted “many British people on Twitter” who were “incensed” by the tweet. When asked for a response to Trump’s tweet, Mayor Khan said that he had more important matters on his mind. CNN described this dismissive response as “London mayor shuts down Trump Jr. tweet.”
All this may be forgivable in a moment of national psychological trauma, and Donald Trump Jr. did himself no favors with his ill-timed attack on London’s mayor, but this outrage amounts to projection. The sentiment Khan expressed is not an uncommon one on the left. He is hardly the first liberal political figure to advise the public to get used to terrorism as they would unfortunately destructive weather events.
“We would like to tell the French people that we will never give in. We will not give in to the terrorist threat. The times have changed, and France is going to have to live with terrorism,” said French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in the wake of a deadly 2016 attack on Nice. “There will be attacks. Large-scale attacks. It’s a certainty. This hyper-terrorism is here to stay.”
When asked by Vox.com editor Matthew Yglesias in 2015 if media irresponsibly hypes the terrorist threat, President Barack Obama emphatically said yes. “You show crime stories and you show fires, because that’s what folks watch, and it’s all about ratings,” he said. Though he belatedly conceded that it was “legitimate” for the public to fear a premature death at the hands of terrorist actors, he said that local and national officials “have to attend to a lot of other issues.”
Obama “has never believed that terrorism poses a threat to America commensurate with the fear it generates,” according to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. In his widely-read 2016 interview with the president outlining “the Obama doctrine,” Goldberg noted that Obama admires the “resilience” of Israelis. Theirs is a nation that has come to accept a life marred by the ever-present threat of deadly jihadist terrorism. Only “out of concern that he will seem insensitive to the fears of the American people” was Obama convinced not to relegate the importance of the fight against terrorism to its “proper” place.
The left sowed the wind of a global populist backlash with this trivializing, self-indulgent attitude toward the threat posed by acts of war. Liberals today find themselves relegated to coastal and urban enclaves not just in the United States but in much of Europe, too. It is no coincidence that the left’s defenestration at the hands of voters coincided with the resurgence of Islamist terrorism around the world.
Perhaps it is easier to lash out at Donald Trump Jr.’s insensitive tweet than it is to dispassionately dissect a worldview that sees foreign-inspired terrorist bloodshed as the rough geopolitical equivalent of hurricanes. We are drowning in evidence that the West’s voters have rejected that view. Don Jr. may be a much softer and more emotionally gratifying target than radical Islamist terrorists, but he isn’t the problem.