Words Do Matter
You may have read it here first, but the NY Times’ nonsensical, even demented speculation that the Mumbai Chabad house might have been “an accidental hostage scene” has cascaded through the hands of many media critics. Mark Steyn, in particular, so precisely echoed my own sentiments on the matter that I could almost wonder if he’s now reading Cross-Currents:
Hmm. Greater Bombay forms one of the world’s five biggest cities. It has a population of nearly 20 million. But only one Jewish center, located in a building that gives no external clue as to the bounty waiting therein. An “accidental hostage scene” that one of the “practitioners” just happened to stumble upon? “I must be the luckiest jihadist in town. What are the odds?”
Those critics found many additional examples scattered throughout the international media of what Andrew McCarthy calls Willful Blindness, “the refusal among academics and political leaders to confront fundamentalist Islamic tenets, the 800-pound gorilla that is somehow always in the middle of the room when terror strikes.” Caroline Glick goes a step further, calling it “The jihadist-multicultural alliance.” [Thanks to Scott Johnson of Power Line for these sources.]
Again and again, the media bent over backwards to avoid labeling the perpetrators of the Mumbai massacre “Islamic” “terrorists,” to avoid identifying their preferred victims as “Jews,” and to avoid placing the blame where it belonged: upon the murderers and their Islamic clerics, rather than their innocent victims. Tom Gross provided a litany of examples in the National Review:
Why are so many prominent Western media reluctant to call the perpetrators terrorists? Why did Jon Snow, one of Britain’s most respected TV journalists, use the word practitioners when referring to the Mumbai terrorists? Was he perhaps confusing them with doctors? Why did Reuters describe the motivation of the terrorists, which it preferred to call gunmen, as unknown?… Why did Britain’s highly regarded Channel 4 News state that the militants showed a wanton disregard for race or creed when exactly the opposite was true?
What are we to think when even such a renowned publication as the Times of London feels the need to refer to terrorists as “militants”, rather than calling them by their right name? “Militant”, after all, can be a neutral term in many contexts, and a favorable one in others. What is the motivation of journalists in trying to mangle language? Do they somehow wish to express sympathy for these murderers, or perhaps make their crimes seem almost acceptable? How are we going to effectively confront terrorists when we can’t even identify them as such?…
For most of the Mumbai siege, the BBC went out of its way to avoid reporting that the Jewish community center was one of the seven targets. At one point viewers were told that “an office building” had been targeted (referring to the Jewish center as such).
Has the New York Times learned anything since the Holocaust when, even after the war ended in the spring of 1945, the paper infamously refused to report that the Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Germans and so on killed in the camps had been Jews, and killed as Jews?
Dozens of eyewitness accounts by local Indians said the gunmen shouted “Allah Akbar” from the Jewish center. It is housed in a non-descript block and is not obviously marked from the outside as a Jewish center. It is the one Jewish building in a densely crowded city of millions. And the Times, the self-proclaimed paper of record, wants to let readers think it might have been “an accidental target”?
Gross’ last example should remind us that the NY Times was no better during the war itself, when its ability to reach the American people could have made a difference. Instead, the NY Times and other media deliberately failed to report the extent of the Nazi Holocaust, in a conspiracy of silence that abetted the Holocaust. Public outcry might otherwise have ensured that the train routes to the death camps were actually bombed, something FDR (who was held in the highest esteem by the then-dominant Reform Jewish leaders in the US) could not manage to do, although bombs were dropped on other targets five miles away.
The Times was not satisfied to speculate about the attack on Mumbai’s Chabad house while the battle was ongoing, and one could attempt to say that it was simply reporting the fact that “it is not known” if it was “an accidental target” in much the same way that it could not have been proven at the time that the attackers were not from Finland. No, the Times repeated this same line a day later, in its article announcing the death of Rabbi and Mrs. Holtzberg, when Indian doctors were already on record decrying the barbaric torture specifically visited upon the Jewish victims before they were murdered. Whether it was “willful blindness,” “the jihadist-multicultural alliance,” or plain old anti-Semitism, what it was not, by any stretch of the imagination, was unbiased reporting or an innocent slip.
The Times called the Chabad house an “unlikely” target, whether or not it was chosen or accidental. Words matter, and the distortion of language can and will affect our ability to confront evil. If we don’t call them terrorists, we’re not going to fight them as terrorists. If we don’t recognize that Jewish targets are anything but coincidental, we will fail to understand why “disproportionate” protection is warranted.
It’s wonderful to talk about being race-blind, but the Secret Service isn’t quite so blind (or foolish) as to fail to acknowledge that the President-elect they call “Renegade” is being targeted by a really nasty cadre of people who would be all too happy to ignite a race war in this country. Similarly, it is blind and/or suicidal to ignore the affiliation of these terrorists with radical Islam, and blind and/or anti-Semitic to ignore the likelihood that Jewish institutions will be their targets.