Double standard

July 23, 2011 | By | 14 Replies More

The media is engaged in a stunning double-standard regarding the Norwegian terrorist–except that he’s not being called a “terrorist.”  As Glenn Greenwald points out, the term “terrorist” is reserved for special kinds of people who wreak destruction:

[N]ow 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.

As usual, Greenwald has done his homework and offered plenty of links.   When is the word “terrorist” appropriate?

Terrorism has no objective meaning and, at least in American political discourse, has come functionally to mean: violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes, no matter the cause or the target . . . if it turns out that the perpetrators weren’t Muslim (but rather “someone with more political motivations” — whatever that means: it presumably rests on the inane notion that Islamic radicals are motivated by religion, not political grievances), then it means that Terrorism, by definition, would be “ruled out” (one might think that the more politically-motivated an act of violence is, the more deserving it is of the Terrorism label, but this just proves that the defining feature of the word Terrorism is Muslim violence).

Greenwald also gives detailed proof that when there was no evidence that the perpetrator was a Muslim, many media outlets we happy to assume that the perpetrator was Muslim from the Middle East.  This was a total lack of critical thought on behalf of the New York Times and other major outlets, as documented here.

None of this is surprising these days, given that the news media so often sees its job as promoting government objectives.   And consider that uttering the phrase Al Qaeda, which was done more than a few times recently, gives the federal government yet more chances to give us nightmares so that we feel that we need the government as our warmongering protector against terrorists, meaning Muslims.


Category: Orwellian, Propaganda, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (14)

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  1. Jim Razinha says:

    I can't remember where I saw (here?) or heard that forces fighting governments we like are called "insurgents" while those fighting ones we don't like are called "rebels." The Afghans rebels fought against the Soviets, but they're insurgents against us … um, Karzai.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      How about "Freedom Fighters" for those people for whom we are supplying weapons? Especially when they are trying to establish power for a corrupt despot. And then there are those "militants," who are people we don't like. But we seem to call a fighting force a "military" only when we support them.

      I think that the media should be honest and just call any fighting force "people with weapons" or some other consistently used term.

  2. Tim Hogan says:

    I was taught that terrorism is "the taking of innocents (or their lives) for political purposes." Anders Breivik is a terrorist.

  3. Karl says:

    Be careful Erich – read his own manifesto before you draw any conclusions about the religion of Breivik.

    Piecing together Breivik's various posts on the Internet, many media reports have characterized the terrorist – who says he was upset over the multiculturalist policies stemming from Norway's Labour Party – as a "right-wing, Christian fundamentalist."

    Yet, while Tomothy McVeigh rejected God altogether, Breivik writes in his manifesto that he is not "religious," has doubts about God's existence, does not pray, but does assert the primacy of Europe's "Christian culture" as well as his own pagan Nordic culture.

    Breivik instead hails Charles Darwin, whose evolutionary theories stand in contrast to the claims of the Bible, and affirms: "As for the Church and science, it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings. Europe has always been the cradle of science, and it must always continue to be that way. Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I'm not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. However, I am a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe."

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    FOX News is having trouble admitting that Breivik had right-wing views.

  5. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    The definition of terrorism has changed over the past few decades. It was once defined as the use and promotion of fear to effect political change.

    The US defense department definse terrorism as "The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological."

    I've seen modern definitions that are worded to to exclude any similar activitie by the military of the recognized government. I guess that when the violence is coming from the army, it is considered "lawful"

  6. erichvieth says:

    Gary Younge, writes at The Nation:

    "Then came the fact that the terrorist was actually a white, Christian extremist and a neo-Nazi, Anders Breivik, raging against Islam and multiculturalism. Unlike Muslims in the wake of Islamist attacks, Christians weren’t called upon to insist upon their moderation. No one argued that white people had to get with the Enlightenment project. But the bombings—and the presumptions about who was responsible—suggest that the true threat to European democracy is not Islam or Muslims but, once again, fascism and racists."

  7. erichvieth says:

    Glen Beck argues that the slaughtered children were like members of “Hitler Youth.” John Nichols of The Nation sets the record straight:”

    “The campers who were attacked were members of the Norway’s Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking (AUF), the Workers’ Youth League that is the youth wing of the country’s social democratic Labour Party. In the aftermath of World War II, the Oslo Trade Union Confederation purchased the island and given as a gift to the AUF in recognition of the sacrifices that young socialists had made in the struggle against fascism . . . . So Beck has got things exactly wrong with his reference to “Hitler Youth.”

    But what he really got wrong was the notion that there is something wrong, something “disturbing,” something foreign, about young socialists gathering to listen to music, to dance, to swim and play sports and to imagine a better world.

  8. James says:

    Don't you think that "the media" is the commercially viable projection of the culture's views, be it on canvas, paper, or screen?
    That which sells soap succeeds.
    If what-is-being-proffered is seen as evil or misleading, is it not due to the ignorance of the people? And by ignorance I mean illiteracy.
    For example, doesn't the terrorism wielded by politicians playing with fear of sickness or poverty take more victims than all the violent types? I don't know, but I bet it does.
    But first it makes victimhood attractive.

  9. erichvieth says:

    It doesn't take FOX News much to determine that a violent person is Muslim, as point out by Jon Stewart.

  10. Erich Vieth says:

    Glenn Greenwald discussed this issue with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!:

    GLENN GREENWALD: My first reaction was to be pretty surprised about how—or not really surprised, but just struck by how intense the media coverage was and the media interest was in this attack. Obviously, it was a heinous attack. When a government building blows up, when someone goes on an indiscriminate shooting rampage aimed at teenagers, it’s horrific. And yet, at the same time, the United States and its allies have brought killing like this, violence like this, to numerous countries around the world that receives a tiny fraction of the attention that this attack received, a tiny—it prompts a tiny fraction of the interest in denouncing it and in declaring it to be evil. And it just struck me that when we think that Muslims are responsible for violence aimed at Western nations, it receives a huge amount of attention in the American media, and yet when the United States brings violence on that level to Muslim countries, kills an equal number of civilians, dozens of people killed by drone attacks and the like, and tons of people killed that way over Afghanistan over the past decade, it barely registers. I mean, an attack like this, this level of death in Iraq, for example, or Afghanistan, would barely register on the media scale.

    The other aspect of it, though, is what you referenced in your question, which is, when it was widely assumed, based on basically nothing, that Muslims had been responsible for this attack and that a radical Muslim group likely perpetrated it, it was widely declared to be a “terrorist” attack. That was the word that was continuously used. And yet, when it became apparent that Muslims were not involved and that, in reality, it was a right-wing nationalist with extremely anti-Muslim, strident anti-Muslim bigotry as part of his worldview, the word “terrorism” almost completely disappeared from establishment media discourse. Instead, he began to be referred to as a “madman” or an “extremist.” And it really underscores, for me, the fact that this word “terrorism,” that plays such a central role in our political discourse and our law, really has no objective meaning. It’s come to mean nothing more than Muslims who engage in violence, especially when they’re Muslims whom the West dislikes.

  11. Erich Vieth says:

    A graphic summary of Breivik’s rampage, including images and stories regarding many of his victims.

    Amazing that he considered it necessary to kill these youngsters. So utterly senseless and tragic.

  12. Mia says:

    No, it was medical experts who said that if you are getting dehydrated you should find out why and not just cover it up by drinking water. Diabetes is one possible cause, for example.

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