NY Times' Gesticulations Regarding The Lexicon Of Terrorism

December 16, 2008 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - On December 13, the NY Times published a piece by its "Public Editor," Clark Hoyt, explaining the newspaper's position regarding the use of the lexicon of terrorism. [see, Clark Hoyt, Separating the Terror and the Terrorists, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/opinion/14pubed.html?_r=1]

Given the Times' consistent multicultural coyness on a wide range of issues, why this would occur now is hard to determine, though it does appear that in large part Mr. Hoyt's conscience dump was a reaction to criticism the paper received due to its antiseptic coverage of the Mumbai attacks.

Whatever the reasoning, exploring Mr. Hoyt's thinking on the subject is fascinating though because it allows access to the media elite's thought process as complicated by its moral relativism.

Consider the following paragraph:

"Many readers want the newspaper, even on the news pages, to share their moral outrage - or their political views - by adopting the word terrorist, with all its connotations of opprobrium. What you call someone matters. If he is a terrorist, he is an enemy of all civilized people, and his cause is less worthy of consideration."

This seems to mean that in the Times' version of journalism, precision in language is trumped by pretensions of appearance. In that logic, the use of the word terrorist looms as "political," a hot word denoting "moral outrage."

Therefore, according to that manner of thought the word must be stricken in order to achieve, we surmise, "cool," verbiage, the goal being bloodless prose.

The question occurs, does that line of argument hold up under reasonable scrutiny?

The Miriam Webster dictionary defines terrorism as, "the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion." Similarly, Webster defines terror as, "violent or destructive acts (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands."

In common parlance then, a terrorist is one who systematically uses violent or destructive acts in order to intimidate and coerce a population and/or government into granting certain demands.

This contrasts sharply with the Times' viewpoint which unnecessarily expands the meaning of the word to land it on the organization's list of verboten descriptors.

Knowing the Times' record on such matters it should prove unsurprising to find that the paper is not so abstemious when it comes to similar but approved usages.

For example, a New York Times' website specific Google search for "Christian right," produced 9,320 instances of its usage.

The linking of Christian and right in the minds of many, especially on the left, has specific connotations; none of which are especially favorable, yet the Times has used this type of terminology in a profligate manner.

Consider the following paragraph which appears later in the Hoyt piece:

"The Times does not call Hamas a terrorist organization, though it sponsors acts of terror against Israel. Hamas was elected to govern Gaza. It provides social services and operates charities, hospitals and clinics. Corbett said: "You get to the question: Somebody works in a Hamas clinic - is that person a terrorist? We don't want to go there." I think that is right."

The Corbett here is Times' news editor Paul Winfield's deputy, Phil Corbett.

But what is Hamas but an organization created by the Muslim Brotherhood to kill Jews?

The U.S. Treasury Department describes Hamas as follows:

"HAMAS is a terrorist organization that has intentionally killed hundreds of innocent civilians and continues to kill and maim with the aim of terrorizing a civilian population. HAMAS was formed in 1987 as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. HAMAS activists have conducted many attacks - including large-scale suicide bombings - against Israeli citizens and military targets." [source, http://www.treasury.gov/press/releases/js672.htm]

Hamas was declared a terrorist entity by the Clinton administration via Executive Order in 1999 and article 7 of its charter reads:

"[T]he Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah's promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

'The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.'(related by al-Bukhari and Moslem)."

De-linking "terrorist" and Hamas limits reader's understanding, rather than expanding it, doing considerable injury even to the most limited rendering of journalistic responsibilities.

Considering those responsibilities, allow us to suggest that something entirely different is going on with the Times' efforts to appear thoughtful on this matter, despite Mr. Hoyt's reluctant final admission that the, "Times is...maybe a bit more conservative in their [the "T" word's] use than I would be."

In our opinion, the Times' "review" of this matter is a smokescreen, nothing but abracadabra calculated to distract inquisitive but not overly bright observers from noticing that the bulk of its coverage on the war on terror is politically motivated, i.e., it's all editorial.

It defies logic that an organization would on one hand be so bound by introspection and thoughtfulness that it would hamstring its reporting solely to protect the right it has created out of whole cloth and granted to the practitioners of political violence, of being free from any slight caused by the pejorative assignation of "political" adjectives, while on the other hand be so manifestly negligent of the rights of an entire society that it would reveal highly classified national security secrets with a delight that can only be described as Pavlovian.

For that reason the Times' performance in this matter is so transparently ludicrous that it reeks of the reprehensible; taking the organization a few steps further down the path towards its ultimate irrelevance.

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