Barbara Kay: When it comes to Islam, the media needs to ditch the ‘narrative,’ and report the truth
National Post - Wednesday January 7th, 2015
In his Jan. 5 column, “ISIS is watching us,” University of Calgary terror researcher Michael Zekulin offers welcome pushback to the notion, popular amongst liberal commentators, that lone-wolf terrorism is more the product of mental disease than it is of ideology.
Writing of the October attacks in which Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo were killed in separate incidents, Zekulin says that the “predominant narrative” of mental illness and criminal histories “is an oversimplification and misrepresentation.” His analysis of larger samples of terrorists shows that “the majority are remarkably normal and do not demonstrate any significant abnormal characteristics.”
The present discussion around what is or is not normal behaviour recalls to mind Lenin’s sibylline utterance on political bloodletting: “Who? Whom?” which means: interpretation depends on who is doing the killing and who is being killed. If a politically correct group does the killing, the killers’ moral deviancy is dumbed down (they are “militants” or “revolutionaries”) or otherwise exculpated (mentally ill). If politically incorrect, they are simply evil.
It works the other way too. A clearly mentally-ill lone wolf is judged evil, and representative of a greater evil, when his crime suits the purposes of a political movement. Polytechnique massacrist Marc Lepine was the very epitome of the lone wolf beset by personal demons. He had no ideology, belonged to no movement, followed no leader, but was counter-narrated by feminists into a poster boy for the politically correct (alleged) evil of inherent male misogyny.
And when the killer is demonstrably a true believer? Again, Who? Whom? To denounce fundamentalist Christianity in the rare event of a Bible-thumper’s killing of an abortion doctor, whether the killer is mentally disturbed or not, is never perceived as racism. But linkage of any terrorist act to Islam is repugnant to liberals, even when the killers themselves declare Islam is their motivation.
We saw intense Islamo-cringism following the 2009 Fort Hood massacre, in which Maj. Nidal Hasan, an army psychiatrist who had made his Islamist views well-known for years, shot 13 people dead while shouting “Allahu Akbar.” (His business card had the words “Soldier of Allah” on it!)
But liberals refused to recognize ideology as his motivation, several insisting on the desperation counter-narrative of PTSD (he was never in combat, but it was claimed he was driven over the edge by stories he heard from soldiers who had been to Iraq and Afghanistan). “I cringe that he’s a Muslim … I think he’s probably just a nut case,” wrote Evan Thomas of Newsweek. Time’s Joe Klein went farther, denouncing “odious attempts by Jewish extremists … to argue that the massacre perpetrated by Nidal Hasan was somehow a direct consequence of his Islamic beliefs.” (Really, Joe? It’s not the Islamists, it’s those pesky Jooz that are the real problem?)
Communism used to get the same kid-glove treatment from liberal media types when it came to terrorism. Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated JFK, was an America-hating, hard-core communist. He killed Kennedy to prevent the U.S. from overthrowing Castro or invading Cuba. The Left owned this crime but, with Cirque de Soleil-worthy intellectual contortionism, liberals produced a counter-narrative cut from whole cloth in order to shift the blame to the Right.
The day after the shooting James Reston, Washington Bureau Chief of The New York Times ascribed Oswald’s lone-wolf action to “something in the nation itself, some strain of madness and violence.” Chief Justice Earl Warren immediately declared JFK had suffered martyrdom “as a result of the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots.” The counter-narrative of right-wing racism took firm hold. California governor Pat Brown organized candlelight vigils nation-wide “to pledge the end of intolerance.” A NYT editorial three days afterward projected “the shame all Americans must bear for the spirit of madness and hate…”
Oswald did not represent a “spirit” of madness and hate any more than Marc Lepine represented a spirit of mass misogyny. The JFK assassination was a significant moment in the Cold War. It was massaged into a civil-rights platform in order to denounce the right, as surely as Klein shifted blame to the Jews for calling out Hasan’s Islamism. We can be sure that there would have been no conspiracy theories about JFK’s assassination if the assassin actually was a right-winger.
We’re in the middle of a Hot War with Islamism. There will be more attempted, or realized, lone-wolf terrorist attacks on our shores. In the event, it would be helpful if the liberal media could ditch its love affair with narratives, and stick with the truth.