Friday, November 06, 2009

The M-word and the T-word

Major Nidal Malik Hasan
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.

Mark Steyn:
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.

1 comment:

Dean said...

There are currently between 5 million to 7 million Muslims in the United States. They make up between 10,000 and 20,000 members of the American military. If each and every Muslin in the military goes berserk, and manages to kill at least 12 people, as Hasan did, why, that would be close to 250,000 dead Americans! That's 83 separate 9/11's! Will these Manchurian candidates imbedded invisibly in the core systems and institutions of our democracy, go off like Jihad bombs some day? Of course, 42% of American Muslims are Black, native born African Americans, so any racial or psychological profiling we do is going to be mired in something deeper and nastier than mere Qur’anic seduction. Maybe we should ask Glenn Beck. Or someone posing as him.

From the Atlantic Monthly:

Reading Malkin, Dreher and Bawer and listening to Mark Steyn almost gloating on Rush today about how the Fort Hood shooting unmasks a Jihadist threat from within, one has to ask: what, even if this is true, do they expect the US government to do about it?
More vigilance toward troubled cases like Hasan - not unlike the greater vigilance that could have avoided the Virginia Tech massacre - is certainly and rather obviously a good idea. If political correctness is preventing this vigilance, it needs to be pushed back, and hard. But it is equally important not to do this crudely, to avoid impugning the overwhelming majority of Muslim-Americans who disdain violence, to sustain the civil, non-sectarian bonds that keep this country together. Because a failure to do so would surely only give Jihadism more strength, not less.
The one thing we can say about Muslim Americans this past decade is that they have not responded the way many European Muslims have.
Their more successful integration and their economic success have led to a remarkably puny number of instances in which actual Jihadists have tried actual terror attacks (and I don't mean the countless false leads pursued by Bush and Cheney and innocent people they rounded up and abused). 
So to foment the notion that every Muslim-American is now suspect, or that the military, already disproportionately controlled by Christianist forces, should monitor Muslim servcemembers as rigorously as they do, say, gay ones, would surely hurt, not help.
What troubles me about the right at the moment is that they are becoming a pure protest movement. They know what they are against, and they keep describing one issue after another as a Manichean contest - freedom or slavery, good or evil, Muslim or American, libruls and "real Americans" - in ways that do nothing practically to move the country forward. It is pure rhetoric, talk-radio politics, and dangerously contemptuous of its social consequences. When they offer us plans to balance the budget, plans to insure the uninsured, strategies to defeat Islamism, we should listen with all ears. Until then ...  it's painfully immature.