IDIOCY WATCH: The disaster of September 11 has prompted many, many dumb and outrageous observations: Such an enormity addles the mind, and many minds have been addled. But there is nothing more dumb and more outrageous, surely, than the suggestion that a terrorist attack never took place. That suggestion would denote either a complete collapse of the moral sense or a complete collapse of the sense of reality. Nowhere to be found, right? Wrong. To Reuters goes the shameful distinction of having suffered both those collapses. The news agency has decided not to refer to what happened in New York and Washington as terrorism. "We all know that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," explained Stephen Jukes, the head of global news at Reuters, "and that Reuters upholds the principle that we do not use the word terrorist." It is in the same Orwellian spirit as his agency's policy that Jukes invokes principle to justify an abandonment of principle--of the principle, say, that the first duty of journalism is to describe the world accurately, or of the principle that language must not be allowed to be infected by politics so that accuracy of description is no longer possible. The only other person in the world who insists that what we are witnessing is not terrorism is, of course, Osama bin Laden. Oh yes, Jukes admitted that Reuters' disgusting semantics is also inspired by cowardice: "[W]e don't want to jeopardize the safety of our staff. Our people are on the front lines, in Gaza, the West Bank, and Afghanistan. The minute we seem to be siding with one side or another, they're in danger." This is how repressive governments and societies have always beaten a free press. And what are those sides, exactly? We say they are the side of truth and the side of falsehood, and that Reuters has chosen sides quite clearly. Now for the other addled minds:

 "My daughter, who goes to Stuyvesant High School only blocks from the World Trade Center, thinks we should fly an American flag out our window. Definitely not, I say: The flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war."--Katha Pollitt, The Nation, October 8

"America, America. What did you do--either intentionally or unintentionally--in the world order, in Central America, in Africa where bombs are still blasting? America, what did you do in the global warming conference when you did not embrace the smaller nations? America, what did you do two weeks ago when I stood at the world conference on racism, when you wouldn't show up? Oh, America, what did you do?"--Former San Francisco Supervisor Amos Brown, speaking at a memorial service for the victims on September 17 (Thanks to Andrewsullivan.com.)

"We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now. We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."--Ann Coulter, National Review Online, September 13

"Perhaps it's eerie serendipity, perhaps it's my paranoia, but an acid thought keeps plaguing me. Isn't it odd that on the day--the DAY--that the Democrats launched their most blistering attack on 'the absolute lunacy' of Bush's unproven missile-defense system, which 'threatens to pull the trigger on the arms race,' what Sen. Biden calls today in the Guardian, his 'theological' belief in 'rogue nations,' that the rogue nation should suddenly become such a terrifying reality. The fact that I could even think such a thought says more to me about the bankruptcy and moral exhaustion of our leaders even in the face of a disaster where any action, in the current nightmare, will seem like heroism." --John Lahr, Slate, September 12

"If I see someone come in that's got a diaper on his head and a fan belt [wrapped] around [it], that guy needs to be pulled over and checked."--Representative John Cooksey (R-Louisiana), September 17

"Many families have been devastated tonight. This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, DC, and the planes' destination of California--these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!"--Michael Moore, Michaelmoore.com, September 12

"The post-Cold War interlude is over, an era of follies--OJ, Monica--and fatuities, a few of which Tuesday's horror stories cruelly underlined: employees in wheelchairs, whom Bob Dole's Americans with Disabilities Act and the various lobby groups insist can do anything able-bodied people can, found themselves trapped on the 80th floor, unable to get downstairs, unable even to do as others did and hurl themselves from the windows rather than be burned alive."--Mark Steyn, the Spectator (U.K.), September 15

"That characters can bring about in one act what we in music cannot dream of, that people practice madly for 10 years, completely, fanatically, for a concert and then die. That is the greatest work of art for the whole cosmos. ... It's a crime because those involved didn't consent. They didn't come to the `concert.' That's obvious. And no one announced that they risked losing their lives. What happened in spiritual terms, the leap out of security, out of what is usually taken for granted, out of life, that sometimes happens to a small extent in art, too, otherwise art is nothing."--German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, September 16 

"In the West, we most often see Islamic people as crazed and irrational. But have we considered that the Muslims might not be irrational when they consider America to be akin to Satan? Let's look at the Satanic Bible. What are the values of Satan? Lust, greed, gluttony, revenge. Hmm. Sounds like American society. Is New York the head of the 'Great Satan'? All that is evil in the world can be found in New York: MTV, the United Nations, the U.N. abortion programs, the Council on Foreign Relations, New Age Church of St. John the Divine, Wall Street greed, Madison Avenue manipulation and of course more confirmed aids cases than the rest of America combined. Let's remember the filthy sodomite gay parade last summer in New York. Let's remember all the New York politicians falling all over themselves to praise this sick spectacle. And let's not forget that New Yorkers elected--by a landslide--the openly Marxist, treasonous and abortion-mongering, occultic Hillary to a Senate seat. All while fully knowing what she was all about. So are we all innocent here in New York? Are we innocent with our porno, drugs, filthy Jay Leno monologues, our idolatry, materialism and consumerism?"--Anthony Lobaido, international correspondent, Worldnetdaily.com, September 13 (Thanks to James Taranto, Opinion Journal.)

This article originally ran in the October 8, 2001, issue of the magazine.