I’m sure you remember the story of Roy Horn, the Las Vegas illusionist mauled on stage by Montecore, an exquisitely beautiful seven-year-old white tiger with whom he thought he had a trusting and affectionate relationship. It was an awful story. Of course many made an obvious observation: Animals do what animals do. Tigers have instincts and a fixed nature. It would have been ridiculous to call the tiger a “savage” or a “barbarian.”
To those in the media who are suggesting, apparently in all seriousness, that Terry Jones caused the deaths of seven UN employees in Afghanistan by burning a copy of the Koran, I’ll just note that the only way that argument works is by means of a suppressed premise. The premise is that the killers had no moral agency–in other words, that they were, literally, animals.
Me, I’ll stick with “savages” and “barbarians.”
Correction: Thanks to our member Pious Agnostic, who pointed out that Roy Horn, not his partner Siegfried Fischbacher, was mauled.