Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Newsweek tries to define "terrorism"

You gotta hand it to the editors at Newsweek. They showed some stones running their internal debate about whether or not to call IRS attacker Joe Stack a "terrorist." Greenwald has his typical detailed (and thoroughly disgusted) take on it here. Money quote:
What's perhaps most strange about the Newsweek discussion is that it often lapses into the Innocent Bystander Syndrome of journalism, where journalists talk about phenomena that they cause as though they have nothing to do with it and merely observe it. Thus, several of them don the voice of objective scientist studying the mating habits of farm animals (i.e., American citizens) -- let's try to understand why these interesting, bizarre creatures get so pent up over the Underwear Bomber but don't care about the IRS attacker -- without acknowledging or realizing that their jingoistic, tribalistic, and government-mimicking use of the term Terrorism (that's what is done by those Muslims who don't like us, but never by us) plays a major role in how these episodes are perceived.
One telling comment in the Newsweek piece is from Editor Devin Gordon:
Fundamentally, I'm with [reporter] Dan [Stone]: a Texan white guy named Joe Stack isn't as interesting / enraging / anxiety-inducing as a Nigerian Muslim named Abdulmutallab. I'm also with [reporter] Eve [Conant]: Stack's philosophy, unlike Abdulmutallab's, is pretty kosher with many — maybe even most — Americans. We're basically with him right up to the burn-down-your-house-and-fly-a-plane-into-a-building part of the story. Other than that part, right on, Joe Stack!
Or this priceless gem from Mulitmedia Managing Editor Kathy Jones:

Here is my handy guide:

Lone wolfish American attacker who sees gov't as threat to personal freedom: bomber, tax protester, survivalist, separatist

Group of Americans bombing/kidnapping to protest U.S. policies on war/poverty/ personal freedom/ - radical left-wing movement, right-wing separatists

All foreign groups or foreign individuals bombing/shooting to protest American gov't: terrorists

While it may be "easier and more convenient... to use the term to describe someone with a beard," that's not the job of a journalist. The job of a journalist is report facts as they are. Joe Stack was a lone wolf, to be sure. I didn't read his "manifesto," but I think I'm okay in assuming that any bit of writing, no matter how cogently argued or passionate it may be, that leads a person to set fire to his home and pilot his plane into a building with the explicit aim of inflicting harm on property and people, ain't gonna impress me all that much. But because his intent was to inflict harm on the employees and property of an institution of the United States government (the same as if that institution was the U.S. military), he is a terrorist. The lone gunman who shot Dr. George Tiller in his own church (and who is now serving time in prison), because his aim was to instill fear in the minds of abortion providers and those who work for them, is a terrorist, even if his cause was something that a lot of Americans support. And all those who think that maniac (or Joe Stack) is a hero for taking a stand against something they perceive as immoral are terrorist sympathizers.

See? When we try on those clothes they feel very strange indeed, huh? We may call some Muslim who straps on a bomb and rushes into a restaurant where off-duty security forces like to hang out so that he can detonate and kill as many as he can a terrorist, but in his community, there are many who believe his cause to be noble, and they honor him in death as a hero/martyr for the cause. To us, they're terrorist sympathizers (or even terrorists themselves), but because we're not even capable of being terrorists we have to call people on our side who engage in similar behavior something else. It's just hypocritical.

No comments: