Usually I just glance at the New York Times, so I miss most of the goodies, and I’m glad when someone points them out. So I was happy when Diana West noted in a recent column that the Times is apparently incapable of identifying the Muslim suicide terrorists who seized the theater in Moscow as Muslim suicide terrorists. As she points out,
this Muslim suicide gang sent a videotape to Al-Jazeera proclaiming its intention “to take the lives of hundreds of infidels” was led by a Chechen who London’s Daily Telegraph describes as having been “imbued with an unshakable faith in militant Islam” and included “a number of Arab fighters believed to be of Saudi Arabian and Yemeni origin.”
To the Times, such telling detail registered only as “gestures and symbols borrowed from extremist Islam.” The Chechens, the report wrote with re-capping confidence, were “intent on projecting the image of international Islamic warriors in search of ‘martyrdom,'” the idea being to draw Islamic gold into their coffers.
So it’s very difficult to become a Muslim extremist these days. Attaching bombs to your body and murdering innocents just isn’t good enough any more. Something more is needed, but the Times is coy about telling aspirants what that thing is. The situation rather reminds me of the story how a Paul Tillich lecture led Edmund Wilson to protest that no matter what Tillich said he had a right to be an atheist if he wanted to. I agree with Wilson, and think jihadists should be granted the same right.
The problem, I think, is postmodern linguistics. Since there are no essences classifications are determined by the purposes of the person classifying. And if the Times, for reasons of its own, doesn’t want to identify violence, terror and traditional jihad as Muslim there’s no way they can be forced to do so, and no reason (from their point of view) why they should feel bad about the refusal. Still, the rest of us, when considering what we are told, should keep in mind that not only is the language used by the most respected mainstream outlets often purely manipulative, but the theories in which those using it were trained rule out in advance any objection to the practice.