American Elephants

Insist on Clarity. It Is More Important Than You Know. by The Elephant's Child
December 7, 2008, 6:34 pm
Filed under: History, Media Bias, Terrorism | Tags: , , , ,

Today, December 7th, is Pearl Harbor Day, a “day that will live in infamy” as President Roosevelt said in his broadcast to the American people. The American people learned about what had happened by listening to the radio.  There was no television, no instant pictures of the attack, no rush of pundits to tell us how to think about the event and what it meant and what vocabulary to use in thinking about it.

“A little over a month ago”, according to the Wall Street Journal, the  head of Japan’s Air Force, Gen. Toshio Tamogami, was fired by Prime Minister Taro Aso after he entered and won the grand prize in a history essay contest in which he advanced some very interesting ideas.  Among other things, Gen. Tamogami wrote that President Franklin Roosevelt entrapped Japan into carrying out Pearl Harbor, that Japan never waged a war of aggression, and if Japan had not fought the war it may have very well become a ‘white nation’s colony’.”

Historical revisionism is nothing new. Most countries involved in World War II have developed their own version of its story. But our current age is beset with moral equivalence and political correctness that confuse understanding.  Recent surveys show that civics and real history are unfamiliar subjects for Americans. Precise use of language is no longer considered important.

This time around, it is Bombay (or Mumbai for the politically correct).  Mark Steyn points out the morally equivalent use of language that interferes with our understanding of this horrific event.

This time around — Bombay — it was the Associated Press that filed a story about how Muslims “found themselves on the defensive once again about bloodshed linked to their religion”.

Oh, I don’t know about that.  In fact, you’d be hard pressed from most news reports to figure out the bloodshed was “linked” to any religion, least of all one beginning in “I-” and ending in “-slam”.  In the three years since those British bombings, the media have more or less entirely abandoned the offending formulations — “Islamic terrorists,” “Muslim extremists” — and by the time of the assault on Bombay found it easier just to call the alleged perpetrators “militants” or “gunmen” or “teenage gunmen,” as in the opening line of this report in the Australian: “An Adelaide woman in India for her wedding is lucky to be alive after teenage gunmen ran amok…”

…Tom Gross produced a jaw-dropping round-up of Bombay media coverage: The discovery that for the first time in an Indian terrorist atrocity, Jews had been attacked, tortured, and killed produced from the New York Times a serene befuddlement; “It is not known if the Jewish center was strategically chosen, or if it was an accidental hostage scene.”

Hmm.  Greater Bombay forms one of the world’s five biggest cities.  It has a population of nearly 20 million.  But only one Jewish center, located in a building that gives no external clue as to the bounty waiting therein.  An “accidental hostage ” that one of the “practitioners” just happened to stumble upon? “I must be the luckiest jihadist in town.  What are the odds?”

How are people to understand Bombay, or London, or Bali, or 9/11 or Iraq if they are confronted with such obfuscating language? It matters.  Careless journalism and deliberately false journalism can lead to misunderstandings that can have devastating consequences.

In a well-planned attack on iconic Bombay landmarks symbolizing great power and wealth, the “militants” nevertheless found time to divert 20 percent of their manpower to torturing and killing a hundful of obscure Jews helping the city’s poor in a nondescript building.  If they were just “teenage gunmen” or “militants” in the cause of Kashmir, engaged in a more or less conventional territorial dispute with India, why kill the only rabbi in Bombay?…

And yet we take it for granted that Pakistani “militants” in a long-running border dispute with India would take time out of their hectic schedule to kill Jews.  In going to ever more baroque lengths to avoid saying “Islamic” or “Muslim” or “terrorist.” we have somehow managed to internalize the pathologies of these men.

Language matters, but it is up to us to be alert to the potential of language to mislead, to understand what is not said as well as what is said.

1 Comment so far
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Here goes. . .

The men responsbile for the killings in Mumbai are/were fundamentalist Muslims who hate Jewish people. They were Islamic terrorists.

There. I said it.


Comment by renaissanceguy

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