« this day in history | Main | a tale of two stories [that are the same story] »

when is a terrorist not a terrorist?

[via Jeff Jarvis]

The answer, of course, is when the terrorist is a suicide bomber in a foreign country.

Manning Pynn, "public editor" of the Orlando Sentinel, on referring to members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad as terrorists:

In April, the committee adopted this standard: "Use caution when using these terms [militants, terrorists], which can show bias toward one side in a conflict. Generally, 'bombers,"attackers' or 'suicide bombers' are preferred terms."

The term "terrorist" certainly expresses judgment: It imputes to the person or organization being described the motive of trying to instill fear. "Militant" seems to me much more neutral. And that may be why the Sentinel, despite its style committee's decision, continues to use that term to describe Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Bias. Judgment. Neutral.

So what do you think Hamas and Islamic Jihad are doing if not trying to install fear? Are they just calling Israelis out for a friendly game of dodgeball? Perhaps blowing up a bus filled with innocent people is just their way of clacking some beer bottles together and smirking "Warriors, come out and plaaa-aay!"

Why are so many editors (Reuters, NYT, etc.) afraid to show bias in a situation like this? As if siding with people who strap bombs to themselves and blow up little babies is an option.

I'm afraid that the horse is out of the barn on the labeling of al-Qaeda. Although journalists strive to avoid expressing bias in reporting the news, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, so shocked Americans -- including the news media -- that they almost universally applied the term "terrorism" to what had happened. I don't think the Sentinel will retreat from that.

Does that mean, though, that we should extend that judgment to all attacks on civilians?

I see. So until some hell-bent on martyrdom Palestinian blows himself to bits in say, downtown Dallas, they should be referred to as militants. You know, people sending a dire message by use of symbolism. Remember kids, it's not terrorism until it happens on your doorstep!

[Sami] Qubty [president of the Arab-American Community Center of Central Florida] acknowledged that suicide bombings resemble terrorism but likened them to the actions of Israelis "when they go out and shoot a missile and kill innocent bystanders."

I'd sure like to have some of what Qubty has been inhaling. Maybe it's some new Palestinian math, where an equation would look like this:

man strapping bomb to self and climbing aboard a bus packed with women, kids and non-military people, then detonating that bomb in order to provide maximum death and carnage = Israeli soldiers leveling the home of the leader of a terrorist organization, in the process killing a few terrorists and their supporters, and, on occassion accidently killing an innocent bystander.

It's moral equivalence run amok.

Pynn concludes:

But my belief -- and those of others who recoil at the violence -- doesn't warrant further injecting judgmental terms into impartial news reporting.

I have only this to say to Mr. Pynn: Get a dictionary.

terrorism n : the systematic use of violence as a means to intimidate or coerce societies or governments.

terrorist n. one that engages in acts or an act of terrorism.

militant n. A fighting, warring, or aggressive person or party.

So under which part of those definitions to the words 'bombers,"attackers' or 'suicide bombers' not fit?

Stop holding the hands of the over-the-edge left. Stop with this P.C. bullshit that threatens to make a friend of everyone, even our enemies. Call a spade a spade. Call a murdering martyr a terrorist.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference when is a terrorist not a terrorist?:

» Mincing Words Regarding Terrorists from dcthornton.com
Michele takes the Orlando Sentinel to task for their recent attempt at political correctness. Check it out.... [Read More]

» Mincing Words Regarding Terrorists from dcthornton.com
Michele takes the Orlando Sentinel to task for their recent attempt at political correctness. Check it out. Update: It appears... [Read More]

» A spade is a spade from Sheila Astray's Redheaded Ramblings
Amen to this. I have no problem with "judging" terrorists. I have no problem with "judging" lunatics who strap bombs on themselves and go take a crowded cross-town bus. Yes. I proudly "judge" them. I proudly say that what they... [Read More]

» blackjack from blackjack
Please visit some relevant pages dedicated to roulette blackjack [Read More]


When a black church gets torched or an abortion clinic gets blown up they never label that as the work of terrorist either, it's always bomber or arsonist. At least they are even handed in their reluctance to use those words.

I do wish the Isrealis would clean up their responses. I fully support their military response, but I wish they were a little more surgical in their strikes.

When is a terrorist not a terrorist? Why, that's easy:

When France says they're not!

a different Bill,

Why don't you go there then and help them out to do it more "surgical" as you say.

Because you won't, its hard and scary and you might get hurt -- armchair generaling is kinda sappy.

But one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter. I mean, I'm sure U.S. troops are striking fear into the hearts of a lot of Baathists, but that doesn't make us terrorists, does it? The bombers don't see themselves as terrorists -- from their point of view, they're just trying to overthrow a tyrannical system, much like we did in the Revolution. They're obviously misguided, but "terrorist" is a judgemental term, and the media tries to avoid any semblance of bias.


The line "one man's terrorist..." is the most annoying canard I've ever heard.

If the Hamas and Jihad human bombers were only attacking tanks and Israeli soldiers, that could be called "freedom fighting".

In the American revolution, the "freedom fighters" never tried to blow up Buckingham Palace. And the organized militias and Continental Army focussed on engaging and defeating the British army -- not a campaign to only kill the Tory sympathisers.

The difference is in the choice of targets.

Blowing up busses where the bus is the first and primary target -- terrorism pure and simple, by any definition.

The Village Voice is worst of all- they refer to Hamas and Islamic Jihad as "activists"