Comedian Patton Oswalt’s reaction to the Boston Marathon bombings has been paraded around all corners of the Internet in the last two days, covered by ABC News, Yahoo, the Daily Mail, and many, many others. He posted this on Facebook:
This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in a while, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness. But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evildoers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”
A variation on the same theme is this Deadspin post by someone staying in the hotel above the bombing that concludes “the people or person who did this to Boston are in the minority, and as long as that’s true, we will be OK.”
Look, I don’t intend to mock the way people grieve, but why does this qualify as an inspiring message? It’s vapid nonsense.
That we should be comforted by the fact that a majority hasn’t yet become terrorists is a weird non-sequitur. If the post-9/11 paradigm has enshrined anything, it’s the idea that a small number of people is capable of wreaking immense harm. Good people have consented to an awful lot of evil out of fear of just that.
“Evildoers” aren’t eliminated “like white blood cells attacking a virus,” as if we could have destroyed Al-Qaeda by sending a horde of Rotarians into Tora Bora with vaccines and pancakes.
Oswalt’s statement is an invitation to bundle all of one’s ideas of what’s good and bad into a judgement about “good” and “bad” people; an excuse to conflate bombers with bigots. It’s more about self-affirmation than grief, which, to be a bit cynical, probably explains its online virality.
Update: But let’s not be too hard on Oswalt. Here’s an advance clip from Thursday’s episode of “Parks and Recreation,” in which he filibusters the Pawnee City Council over the new Star Wars movie: