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.
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.