My liberal friend is a headline reader. That’s why we had a ridiculous conversation in which he wondered about the Fort Hood shooter’s motives. To the reader who scans, headlines that say “motives a mystery” trump even those articles that add, under the headline, little facts such as Muslim death cries (“Allahu Akbar!”), radical mosques, jihadist internet postings and FBI scrutiny.
I thought of this when a scan of my local paper led me to yet another completely misleading headline today: “Filipino militants behead captive schoolteacher.” The incurious reader, with the MTV or CNN approach to news gathering, is left with the impression that there’s some sort of civil war in the Phillipines, with some of those nasty Filipino’s acting out. The slightly more inquisitive reader will discover that Al Qaeda lies at the heart of this brutal murder:
Suspected al-Qaida-linked militants in the southern Philippines beheaded a schoolteacher after kidnapping him last month, officials said Monday.
The severed head of Gabriel Canizares, 36, was left in a bag at a gas station on Jolo Island, three weeks after suspected Abu Sayyaf militants stopped a passenger minibus and dragged him away in front of his colleagues, said regional military commander Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino.
The militants, notorious for bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings, were reportedly demanding a ransom of 2 million pesos ($42,000) for his release.
What’s fascinating is that the word “Islam” never appears in the article, while the word “Muslim” appears only in what seems to be an irrelevant aside, in the very last paragraph, about student populations in the region:
He said his department was at a loss how to ensure security for public schoolteachers in high-risk areas and feared that the kidnappings would discourage others from teaching underprivileged youths in Muslim areas.
I’ll readily concede that you’d have to have lived under a rock for a long, long time not to appreciate that organizations such as Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah (described in the same article as a “Southeast Asian terrorist group”) are Muslim in nature. Nevertheless, the AP’s deliberately unwillingness to acknowledge that Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah aren’t just coincidentally Muslim, but have as their central tenet the violent advance of their Muslim faith, goes beyond a writer’s desire to avoid larding prose with the obvious. Instead, the news service is manifestly trying to unlink the groups from religion in the public mind. To this end, the report carefully carefully gives out the groups’ names, while describing them as “militants” or “terrorists,” the genesis of whose terror or militancy clearly has no known cause.
This obfuscatory, almost fraudulent writing* matters, as we know, because of the media’s frantic effort to de-couple the murderous Hasan of Fort Hood** from his faith. Jeffrey Goldberg, whose tenure at the Atlantic is going to get shorter and shorter as he keeps stating honest truths,*** has this to say on that subject:
A consensus seems to have formed here at The Atlantic that the Ft. Hood massacre means not very much at all. Megan McArdle writes that “there is absolutely no political lesson to be learned from this.” James Fallows says: “The shootings never mean anything. Forty years later, what did the Charles Whitman massacre ‘mean’? A decade later, do we ‘know’ anything about Columbine?” And the Atlantic Wire has already investigated the motivation for the shooting, and released its preliminary findings. Of Nidal Malik Hasan, the Wire states: “A 39-year-old Army psychiatrist, he appears to have not been motivated by his Muslim religion, his Palestinian heritage (he is American by nationality), or any related political causes.”
It seems, though, that when an American military officer who is a practicing Muslim allegedly shoots forty of his fellow soldiers who are about to deploy to the two wars the United States is currently fighting in Muslim countries, some broader meaning might, over time, be discerned, especially if the officer did, in fact, yell “Allahu Akbar” while murdering his fellow soldiers, as some soldiers say he did. This is the second time this year American soldiers on American soil have been gunned down by a Muslim who was reportedly unhappy with America’s wars in the Middle East (the first took place in Arkansas, to modest levels of notice). And, of course, this would not be the first instance of an American Muslim soldier killing fellow soldiers over his disagreements with American foreign policy; in 2003, Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar killed two officers and wounded fourteen others when he rolled a grenade into a tent in a homicidal protest against American policy.
Please do read the rest of Goldberg’s thoughtful, intelligent and intellectually honest post. Then think about everything else you’ve read. And then wonder if the Fort Hood massacre will be the breaking point for the American people, because it will stand as the moment when they can no longer stomach the cognitive dissonance of a media that so assiduously avoids the hard facts playing out in real time before our eyes.
*And it is fraud, as a matter of law, the the speaker deliberately fails to disclose material facts in order to deceive.
**I promised a military friend I wouldn’t use his rank and name together, since he doesn’t deserve that honor.
*** I see Goldberg pulling a John Stossel and seeking a more salubrious and intellectually honest work environment.