Conservatives across the American media landscape are speaking with one voice after the attacks that left scores of French civilians dead and hundreds maimed Friday: Terrorism has a religion, and it is Islam. The messaging has not been subtle. "The Barbarians Are Inside, And There Are No Gates," declared author and Fox News contributor Mark Steyn. "Stop pretending terrorism has nothing to do with Islam," cried the right-wing twee blog the Federalist. "Islam is a religion of violence," wrote RedState founder, conservative radio host and blogger Erick Erickson.
"I love the 'They’re not real Muslims' tweets," Erickson later wrote. "YES. THEY. ARE."
While there's been no shortage of condemnation of Friday's attacks from devout Muslims, the American left and those in the center, conservatives are back to a rallying cry that the right -- and some liberals -- embraced in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. Islam, they say, is the problem. Although some specified "radical" Islam in their polemics, the main idea seemed to be that Muslims bear a unique and direct responsibility for terrorism in 2015. Facing up to that supposed reality seems to be the litmus test put forth by conservative media.
Many linked the attacks to the right’s pet issue this election season: immigration and the scourge of open borders. The Atlantic’s David Frum, a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush in the buildup to the Iraq War, tweeted: “Maybe guard the border before the massacre.” Commentator Ann Coulter sarcastically added: “[T]hink of all the wonderful things refugees are bringing to Europe! Rape, murder, car burnings -- list is endless!” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich didn’t miss a chance to chime in: “Now can we have a serious debate about millions of Syrian refugees and how many terrorists will be in the crowd.”
For others, the attacks begged for an even bigger commitment than securing the borders: war, war and more war. No one summed up that impulse better than the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, one of the leading public intellectuals agitating for war against Iraq in 2003: "[I]f ISIS is to be destroyed, it will be because America decides it is an American fight."
"When I see the #PrayforParis hashtag, I can't help but think: Fine, pray for Paris -- but pass the ammunition," he added later, as he tweeted his favorite wartime quotes from Winston Churchill.
Joining Kristol was his colleague Stephen F. Hayes, a Fox News contributor whose 2004 book "The Connection" made the case that there was a working relationship between former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. "This isn't a new war. It's another battle in the long war against radical Islam," Hayes tweeted on Friday. "That war won't end until we commit to winning it."
Even the American Conservative magazine, usually a voice for restrained, small government, anti-war politics against its more trigger-happy and militaristic fellow travelers, ran a feature arguing that the West has “little choice” but to go to war in Syria. The only request was that we keep our eyes on the prize, unlike in 2003. “This time, fight the real enemy,” founding editor Scott McConnell wrote. “The Islamic State is the threat to West — not Assad or Iran.”
Wishy-washy liberals, meanwhile, received their fair share of scorn in the face of the clear consensus on the right.
"MEDIA RUSHES TO SHIFT FOCUS OF PARIS ATTACKS AWAY FROM JIHADIST TERROR," blared a headline at Breitbart.com, accusing the liberal press of making excuses for the terrorists by discussing issues of gun control, racism and the geopolitical effects of climate change. (Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont took a special thrashing for suggesting that instability caused by global warming contributes to the proliferation of terrorism.)
MSNBC's Chris Hayes got a taste of the right's vitriol when he asked, "If we don't use reason in the face of evil and murder and horror, then what good is reason at all?" Conservative pundits retweeted a brusque rebuttal: "Figuring out how to wipe out the people who perpetrate evil, murder and horror comes to mind." Other responses were more personal: "Simpleton."
Even National Journal's Ron Fournier, who fashions himself a monk-like centrist on all matters, was heckled when he suggested a mandatory system of national service to combat the allure of ISIS across the globe.
“Teach for America is going to defeat ISIS? C'mon,” scoffed Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto.
The fight ahead is framed, as ever, as a clash of civilizations and an existential threat to every person in the West. In his post about "barbarians," Mark Steyn wrote: "If [French president Francois] Hollande isn't prepared to end mass Muslim immigration to France and Europe, then his 'pitiless war' isn't serious," Steyn wrote. "And, if they're still willing to tolerate [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel's mad plan to reverse Germany's demographic death spiral through fast-track Islamization, then Europeans aren't serious."
"In the end," Steyn concluded, "the decadence of Merkel, Hollande, [British Prime minister David] Cameron and the rest of the fin de civilisation Western leadership will cost you your world and everything you love."