The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence, as Carl Sagan noted. And that is what New York Mayor Bill de Blasio should know about the Chelsea bombing Saturday night. Every school boy and girl will immediately recognize the classic logical fallacy known as the argument from ignorance in de Blasio’s implication that the Chelsea bombing was not an act of terrorism because there was insufficient evidence to call it that.
Of course, our public officials are reluctant to call anything terrorism no matter where the evidence points, for to do so shows how vulnerable we are.
Sunday morning, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo weighed in with his own version of the argument from ignorance, implying it was not international terrorism because there was no evidence of such; but the governor was willing to call it domestic terrorism. De Blasio, however, was still clinging to his version of the argument from ignorance.
Let’s face reality—when our public officials jump to tell us what a bombing is not because there is no evidence, we need to remember that when it comes to terrorism, we should absolutely not believe anything until it is officially denied—especially if the officials are Democrats beholden to the religion of political correctness and the cult that labels negative comments about Muslims, Islamophobia.
So, let me venture some reasonable speculation. The Chelsea bombing included a pressure cooker device similar to the one used by the Boston Marathon bombers and the one taught over the Internet by Al Qaeda. The Chelsea bombing came hours after IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were set to go off at the Marine Corps run at Seaside Park, New Jersey. That same evening a jihadi running through a shopping mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota stabbed nine people while yelling Allahu Akbar! ISIS lost no time in claiming responsibility, although officials are unwilling to confirm this as a terrorist attack. No doubt this will be another case of back-to-school shopping rage, and there will be a public mobilization to ban assault knives.
Authorities are calling the St. Cloud jihadi a lone wolf. This is another myth. There are no lone wolves. Individual acts of jihadist terrorism are undertaken within a larger structure of belief and within a mass movement that promulgates an ideology known as radical Islam. The individual acts from an organized belief system. He is not alone. He is part of a mass movement. He receives motivation for his actions through a corrupted narrative of Islam that now has an expansive promulgation and a growing following.
The St. Cloud Jihadi was identified as Dahir Adan, a member of the local Somali community. St. Cloud has been one of the designated areas for Somali refugee resettlement, some of whom were radicalized and returned to Africa to fight for Islamist terror groups.
In the Chelsea bombing, who are the likely suspects? The Chabadniks who stand on the corners of Manhattan and ask their fellow Jews to pray with them? I have seen them very aggressively reciting the Shema. The Catholics? You do know they were rumored at one time to keep guns in the church basements? Maybe those fundamentalist Christians who wake up every morning and ask Jesus how they might make the world a better place? Never trust a person who thinks about making the world a better place—especially if the imperative to do so comes from the Bible.
Most terrorism—not only in New York City, but across the globe—is carried out by radical Muslims. On a probability basis, the bet should be on radical Islam. That should be the first place to look for the usual suspects.
The Chelsea bombing took place in an upper-middle class, gentrified neighborhood with lots of white people: the type of target at which ISIS directs its homegrown jihadis.
The absence of evidence that it is radical Islam, is not the evidence that it isn’t. Our public officials should not play us for fools in the name of political correctness. Life is based on probability, not certainty. Probability helps us navigate through the uncertainty of life. Denial of that which is likely only increases the probability that we will be unprepared for the next attack.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center. Follow him @salomoncenter