Saturday, July 23, 2011

Terror

The terrible events in Norway yesterday remind us once again, if we needed reminding, that sociopaths with extreme and violent political views exist in all societies, even the most benign and advanced.  The early reporting of those events by news media in this country, as Glenn Greenwald points out in his column in Salon today, reminds us of just how low our journalistic standards have fallen.  The immediate reaction by news outlets here was to assume, without investigation, that Al Qaeda was responsible.  Their stories reflected that slant.  This was true not just of right-wingers but even, as Greenwald shows, of The New York Times, the supposed "newspaper of record."   Greenwald writes:

Al Qaeda is always to blame, even when it isn't, even when it's allegedly the work of a Nordic, Muslim-hating, right-wing European nationalist. Of course, before Al Qaeda, nobody ever thought to detonate bombs in government buildings or go on indiscriminate, politically motivated shooting rampages. The NYT speculates that amonium nitrate fertilizer may have been used to make the bomb because the suspect, Anders Behring Breivik, owned a farming-related business and thus could have access to that material; of course nobody would have ever thought of using that substance to make a massive bomb had it not been for Al Qaeda. So all this proves once again what a menacing threat radical Islam is.
...In other words, now that we know the alleged perpetrator is not Muslim, we know -- by definition -- that Terrorists are not responsible; conversely, when we thought Muslims were responsible, that meant -- also by definition -- that it was an act of Terrorism.

We have allowed our media to redefine the very word "terrorism" to mean only violent acts committed by Muslims in pursuit of a political goal which we hate.  So by this definition, the attack on Rep. Gabby Giffords and her constituents in Tucson in January was not terrorism.  And neither were the attacks in Norway yesterday.  Attacks by homegrown right-wing nuts can never be terroristic in nature.  They are simply violent acts by misguided, troubled souls who are disturbed about the direction of society.

The overuse and misuse of the word terror has caused it to lose all meaning.  It has become simply another political shibboleth to stigmatize a particular group of people.  The War on Terror never was, really.  It was always and still is a war on those, foreign and domestic, who disagree with the warrior's world view.  Muslims simply make a convenient scapegoat.    

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