What is up with the word “radicalize” lately? It’s getting a lot more mileage thanks to analysis of those wild ‘n’ crazy Tsarnaev brothers.

Everyone seems to be taking it as a given that the bombers were just regular guys–swell guys, in fact, princes among men–until they went through some kind horrible process that “radicalized” them and made them want to blow stuff up.

We’re not sure who’s responsible. Maybe it was some guys back home in Chechnya, or some weird spiritual leader, or maybe it was their mom.

If it was none of those people, then (in what may be my favorite nonsense, psycho-babble formulation of all time) they may have “self-radicalized.” Which, if I understand correctly, is a lot like the power of positive thinking, except with bombs.

I may be missing something here, but what’s the difference between “self-radicalizing” and “deciding to be an evil bastard and hurt people”? If there is none, then what’s the point of the new phrase?

We seem to be looking for any excuse to avoid facing the ugly truth that evil walks among us. It’s not that they’re bad; it’s that they were “radicalized.”

And if they were radicalized by Chechens, well, it’s not the Chechens’ fault either. They’re that way because of Russian abuses. And if they were radicalized by their mom, well it’s not her fault either. She’s a prisoner of a culture that oppresses women. And so on.

We can, and should, certainly look into whether the brothers had material support or training, and if so, we should track the co-conspirators down and remove some of their limbs with assorted explosives. But anyone who’s talking about their radicalization is just trying to dance around the notion that there are good guys and there are bad guys, and that those clowns are bad guys.

However, next time I get a parking ticket, I will defend myself by saying that I was self-radicalized against local parking ordinances.

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