Soldiers who witnessed the shooting rampage at Fort Hood that left 13 people dead reported that the gunman shouted "Allahu Akbar!" — an Arabic phrase for "God is great!" — before opening fire, the base commander said Friday.In a video clip on the CNN website, Anderson Cooper narrates security camera footage from a convenience store where Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the suspected killer in the Fort Hood attack, was buying something. The video showed Major Hasan in recognizably Islamic attire. Knowing his viewers where seeing this, and therefore unable to let it pass without comment, Cooper repeatedly said that Major Hasan's was "dressed in traditional garb."
Traditional garb? What tradition? Does it matter? Is it relevant to this story or just an irrelevancy? Was Major Hasan dressed in traditional Hopi garb? Traditional Sikh garb? Where's the adjective in that sentence? Why did Cooper not say? Cooper's fellow CNN reporters were eventually obliged to utter a few of the censored terms, discretely to be sure, as though they were of no real importance to the story.
There's something deeply weird about the media's instinctive avoidance of the M-word or the T-word and the careless abandon with which they speculate about "post-traumatic stress disorder" even as the emerging facts render it absurd . . . One can forgive the press not getting the story right in the first hours, but it will be interesting to see how honestly they cover it as the facts emerge.Every person honest with himself knows: No one in his or her right mind thinks Anderson Cooper is an Islamophobe. (If the term means an irrational fear of Muslims, how many suffer from it? Perhaps 1% of the population). Cooper left out a not insignificant detail of the story -- an irresponsible thing for a serious journalist to do -- because he did not want to be accused of Islamphobia, or perhaps, even more shamefully, he didn't want to be thought even mildly sympathetic with more politically conservative people who might be less cavalier about Major Hasan's religious motivations.
This sort of self-censorship is almost certainly why Major Hasan's army superiors and colleagues did not raise warning flags about his behavior, which -- had it been exhibited by anyone else, would have had immediate consequences. As a result of this fear of being labeled Islamophobic, this disturbed man was apparently allowed to continue to give psychological and psychiatric counseling to troubled soldiers. Can you imagine?
The news stories refer to the fact that Major Hasan was a psychiatrist far more often than that he was a Muslim, but which is more relevant to the story?
Is all this just sensitivity? What if the shooter in this crime had been an identifiable Christian -- say a priest with a Roman collar or a Bible-belt fundamentalist with big "I love Jesus" on is sleeveless T-shirt? Would Anderson Cooper have referred to the former as dressed in traditional garb and the latter as a local mechanic?
This fear -- not of being an Islamophobe (whatever that might be) but of being accused of being one -- is a very serious form of self-censorship that is reserved for only one religious tradition today. It is unhealthy for our society. I'm as weary of elite liberal anti-Catholicism as anybody, but as long as such things can be countered with reason and persuasion, I'll take anti-Catholic slurs any day over censorship, especially the pernicious self-censored sort.