Sunday, December 14, 2008

Terrorism at the New York Times

Clark Hoyt, the Public Editor of the NYT, has an interesting piece about the use of the term "terrorist". In the past media people did everything possible not to use the word. It was felt to be too judgmental, and it opened them to criticism by people who justified the terror. Of course refraining from using the term, which was mostly replaced by the annodyne "militant", was itself judgmental and morally obtuse, but they preferred that. The whole thing was of course part of a fundamental process of questioning the possibility of the very existence of objective truth and its corollaries, right and wrong.

The spread of Islamic murderousness this decade has focused some minds, and ever more people are not willing to accept a moral equivalence that refuses to recognize the nature of the danger and the simple evil of the murderers. This, Hoyt tells us, has caused the writers at the Times to be willing - however gingerly and hesitatingly - to apply the term when it really would be indefensible not to. In the recent attacks in Mumbai, for example.

This is a step in the right direction, but far from enough. Moreover, Hoyt's description of the editorial deliberations at the paper prove that the fundamental issue is still not clear:

Susan Chira, the foreign editor, said The Times may eventually put that label on Lashkar, but reporters are still trying to learn more about it. “Our instinct is to proceed with caution, not rushing to label any group with the word terrorist before we have a deeper understanding of its full dimensions,” she said.

The idea apparently is that such a potent term, even if it's now once again permitted, cannot be used except for black-and-white cases (i.e Mumbai), but not for complex ones such as Hamas:

To the consternation of many, 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.

Let me suggest that the distinction should be moral or legal, not political. Morality is always a matter of intent and choices, and any legal system recognizes this. In order for the taking of a life to be murder, there has to be the intent to kill irrespective of the acts of the victim. When the killing was not intended, even when it was the result of stupidity or sloppiness, it's manslaughter not murder, and of course, killing in self defense isn't even criminal.

This simple self evident truth can be applied to any context impartially. A man arming himself and purposefully and randomly killing people where his own life is not in immediate danger, is a murderer. When he kills as an act of politics he's a terrorist; when he kills to force a group out of a territory he's an ethnic cleanser; when he kills to eliminate an ethnic or national group, he's a genocidaire. (Terrorist is not the worst one can be). This is true whether the man is an Israeli shooting Muslims at prayer, or an ex-serviceman blowing up a building, or a gunman shooting commuters at a train station. You don't need to take time to research his political agenda and decide if you can agree with it a wee bit or not at all.


Anonymous said...


Oh, the NY Times is SO yesterday!

And, separate from having to canabalize their properties; they may even be unaware of the terror of lost subscribers? You just never know!

On the other hand, there's a great college professor, John SUtherland. Of UC London, and Caltech. Who makes the observation in one of his letures on "The CLassics of British Literature," that terrible times usually give literature a boost. For his examples? Milton's Paradise Lost. And, then, Thomas Hobbs, who uses Milton's description of the devil, as the Laviathan, to tackle society, when lives are brutish. And, short.

No such literature seems to be flowing out of the swamps, of today though.

And, by the time the "scribes" at the NY Times hit the papers with printed words, most of the globe has seen the terror perpetrated in real time.

Interesting, too, that in India, people speak English. And, around the globe, one way to ascertain the strengths belonging to your country (even in bad times), is to see how well English gets taught. So, you have front runners in many places that don't live under the US Constitution's umbrella.

But one of the "nice things" about freedom is that people remain free to choose.

And, businesses, be it the automotive industry that got killed by its unions; or the NY Times that got killed by the way it addresses promotions ... (You have to be born into the stock, sort'a like a Bushie, to be picked to lead. Even when you've demonstrated incompetence.)

At least the NY Times isn't a religious gazette. For if it were, it would have needed a funeral, to explain how deep in the hole it dug itself.

Word play? I'll leave that one to Scrabble players.

Now, there ARE lessons, here! Because in the streets of Jerusalem, when a lone palestinian takes a bulldozer into traffic; for a murderous "ride" ... he gets shot down by someone in the public, who happens to be peddling by.

In other words? Heroism remains with individuals. And, India,today, is also grappling with their internal problems. Especially with their police.

Did you know that in India competence isn't tested to be hired as a policemen? It's wall-to-wall graft. And, all the recruits use their jobs to fleece innocent citizens. It becomes lucrative.

This is the bugger that's got to be fixed.

You might not know this, but once, across America, not only was it possible to see ill-trained Keystone Cops, you could also find fat ones eating donuts. While they took there time getting to crime scenes. All the better to bring along papers and pens, to "write things up."

It's just not a perfect system.

But it is improving!

One way this happened is that the "locals" don't want to see their town's cops stuffing their faces with donuts. They want PROFESSIONALISM. And, they'll keep changing department heads, until they get this in place! (So, somebody's brother-in-law doesn't get the jackpot just handed out to them.)

Still to have respect for the police, they need to show how well they've been trained.

And, for Israelis? That means being trained to deal with settler-goons with velvet gloves on.

Yes, it's an act of courage.

But it's a worse offense that people actually donate money to stinking "charities." (And, here, I'm not talking about arabs!) Until the funding dries up? Hardly likely that you can change a thing.

Is there a race, ahead?

I think India is moving away from the flower-throwers. From people who believe that non-violence is a "cure." And, not just an excuse to cower when firepower erupts.

You've got to teach this. And, then you need to back it up. So what's missing? Constitutional laws that work. And, aren't the product of make-believe. Which is what happened when Ben Gurion did not understand Tel Aviv. Called it Ninivah. And, thought "colletivism" would be Israel's future.

What's to save until this gets fixed?

Forget the NY Times, you'll have to find other stuff (perhaps rags?) ... for your fish wrap.

Anonymous said...


Because Professor Sutherland is so good at presenting his lectures; it should be noted that the "timing" for Paradise Lost, and the Laviathan by Hobbes, falls on the termoil in England, (1641 to 1649 - When Charles The FIrst was beheaded) ... as the time England tried an experiment away from being ruled. Cromwell's time.

Of course, the Puritans, losing the "battle" ... are willing to get on wooden boats, and travel to unknown shores. (Well? How many of us are born without the reality of what has to take place "in the beginning?" Shorn of desire? Hardly likely to produce babies.) Turns out babies are welcomed "after the fact."

What leads into most things? Go ask someone who makes sausages.