A quarter of Americans believe Hamas atrocities are justified. Why?
A quarter of Americans believe the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7 were justified. You may want to check that you read that sentence correctly—but please sit down before you do.
That’s right. By pre-planned design, Hamas death squads entered Israel on a Jewish holy day to butcher 1,400 Israelis, most of them civilians. Women were raped, children and infants were burned alive and beheaded, the dead were mutilated and paraded through the streets. And all of this grotesque barbarism was effectively Israel’s fault, according to one quarter of living Americans.
This was the finding of a Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll of over 2,100 voters taken in October, its most shocking statistics masked by mainstream reporting that preferred highlighting the milquetoast fact that most Americans take Israel’s side in the war.
“Do you think the Hamas killing of 1200 Israeli civilians on Israel can be justified by the grievances of Palestinians or is it not justified?” the survey pointedly asked.
In a frightful omen for the future of the West, not only did a quarter of Americans agree, but over 50 percent of respondents aged 18 to 24 years affirmed that Hamas’ pre-civilisational brutality was excusable.
Australian journalist Claire Lehmann captured how many sensible-minded people would react to the data, posting on X (formerly Twitter):
I've been covering the toxic ideology in universities for years. But if you had told me a month ago that this ideology would lead more than half of Americans under the age of 25 to justify and excuse the torture and mass-murder of a minority group, I would not have believed you.
Believing the poll’s findings is hard enough. What about finding an explanation?
As the war rages on and pro-Hamas protests persist in the West’s biggest cities, a number of commentators have offered their suggestions.
Conservative filmmaker Christopher Rufo has been circling this topic for the last several weeks, observing the alarming ideological overlap among elite academics, Black Lives Matter activists, the Democratic Socialists of America, and supporters of Hamas.
“The critical race theorists are totally ignorant of world history and devoted to nothing more than racial egoism,” he recently mused. “For them, every conflict must be reduced to ‘white-black oppressor-oppressed’ and schematized as a morality play on 1950s/60s America.”
“Hamas, BLM, DSA, decolonization—same ideology; same bloodlust,” he has also warned.
In answering the question of why Ivy League students in particular cheered Hamas atrocities, Mercator’s own Michael Cook highlights moral relativism as the connecting thread. Having spoon-feed students this ideology for decades, Cook argues, American intellectuals “sowed the wind; now they must reap the whirlwind”.
“They taught that there are no self-evident truths, no unchanging moral standards. And guess what? Their students believed them. No wonder they have been celebrating the atrocities of Hamas.”
Rufo and Cook are both correct.
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Perhaps the most insightful think-piece on the topic so far, however, comes from Russian-British commentator Konstantin Kisin in ‘The Day the Delusions Died’, published this week at the Free Press.
“A friend of mine joked that she woke up on October 7 as a liberal and went to bed that evening as a 65-year-old conservative,” Kisin begins. “But it wasn’t really a joke and she wasn’t the only one. What changed?”
Kisin leans in to a political binary presented by the brilliant Thomas Sowell in his 1987 classic A Conflict of Visions.
“We disagree about politics, Sowell argues, because we disagree about human nature,” summarises Kisin. “We see the world through one of two competing visions, each of which tells a radically different story about human nature.” Kisin continues:
Those with “unconstrained vision” think that humans are malleable and can be perfected. They believe that social ills and evils can be overcome through collective action that encourages humans to behave better. To subscribers of this view, poverty, crime, inequality, and war are not inevitable. Rather, they are puzzles that can be solved. We need only to say the right things, enact the right policies, and spend enough money, and we will suffer these social ills no more. This worldview is the foundation of the progressive mindset.
By contrast, those who see the world through a “constrained vision” lens believe that human nature is a universal constant. No amount of social engineering can change the sober reality of human self-interest, or the fact that human empathy and social resources are necessarily scarce. People who s ee things this way believe that most political and social problems will never be “solved”; they can only be managed. This approach is the bedrock of the conservative worldview.
What October 7 catalysed for many Americans, Kisin argues, was an “overnight exodus” from the unconstrained camp into the constrained one.
“Many people woke up on October 7 sympathetic to parts of woke ideology and went to bed that evening questioning how they had signed on to a worldview that had nothing to say about the mass rape and murder of innocent people by terrorists,” he writes.
In essence, many Americans had assumed wokeness was about protecting minorities and victims, but were shocked to discover that all along, wokeness was only ever about raw power.
In the words of Kisin, “if there is any constant in human history, it is that revolutionaries always feel entitled to destroy those who stand in their way.”
Kisin also reminds his readers that if the West does finally collapse in on itself, what replaces it will not be a progressive utopia but rather “chaos and barbarism”.
I fear Kisin is correct. And I can’t help but ponder the perennial irony at the heart of it all: those most optimistic about human nature are those who pose the most danger to all of us. A humanity that is autonomous and unrestrained — and indeed, morally relativistic — is truly the most deadly.
Or, in the words of another Russian writer, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “We have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
Kurt Mahlburg is a writer and author, and an emerging Australian voice on culture and the Christian faith. He has a passion for both the philosophical and the personal, drawing on his background as a graduate architect, a primary school teacher, a missionary, and a young adult pastor.
Image: screenshot / The Guardian
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