Friday, May 28, 2010

Actually, no. Not really.

Orcs are a mockery of elves, trolls are a mockery of Ents, and Fox ... oh, let's just have a brief look at the top news story from this afternoon:

The president's top counterterrorism adviser on Wednesday called jihad a "legitimate tenet of Islam," arguing that the term "jihadists" should not be used to describe America's enemies.

Part foot fake, part red herring. Here's the official version of what was actually said:
Nor do we describe our enemy as “jihadists” or “Islamists” because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenant* of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community, and there is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children.
If you got to the undergraduate-level class where you learned stuff like the assorted meanings of "jihad," you probably also passed through the stage in eighth grade or whenever at which you can puzzle out the implications of "I won't call you an X, because X is good and you're no good." He isn't saying that blowing civilians up is legitimate; he's saying the new policy isn't going to call it "jihad," precisely because it isn't legitimate.

During a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, John Brennan described violent extremists as victims of "political, economic and social forces," but said that those plotting attacks on the United States should not be described in "religious terms."

That's close enough to random journalistic word salad -- and the "but" gives it a particularly disoriented air of non sequitur -- that you can't conclusively call it a lie, but it's tempting. Here's the relevant quote:
The president’s national security strategy also outlines how we will strengthen other tools of American power which will help us meet many challenges. This includes addressing the political, economic and social forces that can make some people fall victim to the cancer of violent extremism.
In other words (oh, stop the press), people might be more likely to fall victim to the arguments of political violence when those arguments are enabled by political, economic or social conditions. That's almost as profound as noting that water goes downhill -- though understanding that water goes downhill is a pretty good first step if you want to figure out what it's going to do next.

He repeated the administration argument that the enemy is not "terrorism," because terrorism is a "tactic," and not terror, because terror is a "state of mind" -- though Brennan's title, deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism and homeland security, includes the word "terrorism" in it. But then Brennan said that the word "jihad" should not be applied either.

Which makes sense if you're looking for more examples of the Administration That's Scared To Say the T-Word. Except for this: The United States of America is at war. We are at war against al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates.

So instead of a War on Terror, we have a War on Terrorists? Which creates a problem for the Fox audience exactly how?

There's not a lot surprising about Brennan's remarks. Compared with his comments in the same setting last year, you can make a case that there's not much new on the "I know jihad, senator, and you're no jihad" front:
Nor does President Obama see this challenge as a fight against "jihadists." Describing terrorists in this way—using a legitimate term, "jihad," meaning to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal—risks giving these murderers the religious legitimacy they desperately seek but in no way deserve. Worse, it risks reinforcing the idea that the United States is somehow at war with Islam itself.
Indeed, you can start to wonder if the chorus of people who think this administration is incapable of saying the word "terrorist" are deeply dishonest or just deeply illiterate. Brennan certainly isn't shy about pushing the sorts of buttons that Fox likes to push:
That is because "terrorism" is but a tactic—a means to an end, which in al Qaeda’s case is global domination by an Islamic caliphate.
Long story short, there's nothing of substance for Fox to complain about. But if you look at the last two grafs of the story, you get an idea of the context in which you're supposed to understand it.

The comment comes after Brennan, in a February speech in which he described his respect for the tolerance and devotion of Middle Eastern nations, referred to Jerusalem on first reference by its Arabic name, Al-Quds.

"In all my travels the city I have come to love most is al-Quds, Jerusalem, where three great faiths come together," Brennan said at an event co-sponsored by the White House Office of Public Engagement and the Islamic Center at New York University and the Islamic Law Students Association at NYU.

Yeah, "after" by three months. But Arabic --oh, hell, how often do we have to say this? -- is a language, not a religion or a political affiliation. "Al-Quds" is what servis drivers say when they're calling out their destination. It's about as scary as "Paree." Sometimes, people speaking in public will toss in a few Berliners words in a language that might strike a different chord with the audience. If it bothers you that much, stay home.**

Fox looks a lot like journalism sometimes, but don't be misled. As a wiser journalist once said, if I had a yaller dog didn't have any more sense than Fox does, I'd give it pizen.

* Ahem. Give Fox points for correcting this one.
** More kefta for the rest of us.

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Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Indeed, you can start to wonder if the chorus of people who think this administration is incapable of saying the word "terrorist" are deeply dishonest or just deeply illiterate - they can write. Wondering answered.

Plus, of course, we are at war with Islam itself, or should be, according to these guys, and although Arabic is a language, if everyone who spoke it was dead we'd be free to ... fight in Afghanistan and Iran.

5:49 AM, May 28, 2010  

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