Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Article excerpt

Boy, am I glad I'm not a Frenchman. Last week's dramatic incident on board a Paris-bound train, in which a terrorist atrocity was narrowly averted by a group of heroic passengers, is a stain on French manhood to rival the Battle of Agincourt.

I'm not referring to the incompetence of the French security services, who seem unable to stop terrorists roaming the country, shooting people at will. I'm talking about the response of the French men on the train when they became aware that a crazy-looking Middle Eastern man was stalking the carriages, armed with an assault rifle. The vast majority hid under their seats. Almost the only French nationals to react at all were employees of the Thalys railway company, who, according to one witness (whose account is denied by Thalys), ran from the gunman as fast as they could and locked themselves in an office at the other end of the train.

Contrast this with the reaction of three American men and a 62-year-old British grandfather, all of whom were sitting in the first carriage the terrorist entered. It's worth pointing out that by the time they decided to act, they'd seen Ayoub El-Khazzani shoot another man in the neck -- and, to be fair, this other man, Mark Moogalian, was a French passport-holder and the first to tackle the monster. But it's quite hard for any self-respecting Frenchman to salvage much national pride from his actions, because Moogalian was also an American, with dual citizenship.

Twenty-three-year-old Spencer Stone, an off-duty US soldier, didn't hide under his seat or run to the other end of the train. Instead, he ran towards El-Khazzani, fully aware that he was in mortal danger. Miraculously, the terrorist's gun jammed and Stone managed to reach him before he got off another shot. His friend Alek Skarlatos, a 22-year-old National Guardsman, arrived seconds later and wrenched the AK-47 from El-Khazzani's hands. The terrorist then produced a Stanley knife and slashed Spencer a couple of times, nearly severing his thumb, but at this point a third American -- Anthony Sadler, 23, a childhood friend of the first two -- joined the melee, accompanied by Chris Norman, a British IT consultant, and they managed to subdue the gunman and probably saved dozens, possibly hundreds, of lives. …

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