FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk

by

The frightful and bloody hours of Friday night and Saturday morning in Munich and Kabul – despite the 3,000 miles that separate the two cities – provided a highly instructive lesson in the semantics of horror and hypocrisy. I despair of that generic old hate-word, “terror”. It long ago became the punctuation mark and signature tune of every facile politician, policeman, journalist and think tank crank in the world.

Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. Or terrorist, terrorist, terrorist, terrorist, terrorist.

But from time to time, we trip up on this killer cliché, just as we did at the weekend. Here’s how it went. When first we heard that three armed men had gone on a “shooting spree” in Munich, the German cops and the lads and lassies of the BBC, CNN and Fox News fingered the “terror” lever. The Munich constabulary, we were informed, feared this was a “terrorist act”.  The local police, the BBC told us, were engaged in an “anti-terror manhunt”.

And we knew what that meant: the three men were believed to be Muslims and therefore “terrorists”, and thus suspected of being members of (or at least inspired by) Isis.

Then it turned out that the three men were in fact only one man – a man who was obsessed with mass killing. He was born in Germany (albeit partly Iranian in origin). And all of a sudden, in every British media and on CNN, the “anti-terror manhunt” became a hunt for a lone “shooter”.

One UK newspaper used the word “shooter” 14 times in a few paragraphs.  Somehow, “shooter” doesn’t sound as dangerous as “terrorist”, though the effect of his actions was most assuredly the same. “Shooter” is a code word. It meant: this particular mass killer is not a Muslim.

Now to Kabul, where Isis – yes, the real horrific Sunni Muslim Isis of fearful legend – sent suicide bombers into thousands of Shia Muslims who were protesting on Saturday morning at what appears to have been a pretty routine bit of official discrimination.

The Afghan government had declined to route a new power line through the minority Hazara (Shia) district of the country – a smaller electric cable connection had failed to satisfy the crowds – and had warned the Shia men and women to cancel their protest. The crowds, many of them middle-class young men and women from the capital, ignored this ominous warning and turned up near the presidential palace to pitch tents upon which they had written in Dari “justice and light” and “death to discrimination”.

But death came to them instead, in the form of two Isis men – one of them apparently pushing an ice-cream cart – whose explosives literally blew apart 80 of the Shia Muslims and wounded at another 260.

In a city in which elements of the Afghan government are sometimes called the Taliban government, and in which an Afghan version of the Sunni Muslim Islamic State is popularly supposed to reside like a bacillus within those same factions, it wasn’t long before the activists who organised the demonstration began to suspect that the authorities themselves were behind the massacre. Of course, we in the West did not hear this version of events. Reports from Kabul concentrated instead on those who denied or claimed the atrocity. The horrid Islamist Taliban denied it. The horrid Islamist Isis said they did it. And thus all reports centred on the Isis claim of responsibility.

But wait. Not a single report, not one newscast, referred to the Kabul slaughter as an act of “terror”. The Afghan government did. But we did not. We referred to the “suicide bombers” and the “attackers” in much the same way that we referred to the “shooter” in Munich.

Now this is very odd. How come a Muslim can be a terrorist in Europe but a mere “attacker” in south-west Asia? Because in Kabul the killers were not attacking Westerners? Or because they were attacking their fellow Muslims, albeit of the Shia Muslim variety?

I suspect both answers are correct. I can find no other reason for this weird semantic game. For just as the terrorist identity faded away in Munich the moment Ali Sonboly turned out to have more interest in the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik than the Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of Mosul, so the real Isis murderers in Kabul completely avoided the stigma of being called terrorists in any shape or form.

This nonsensical nomenclature is going to be further warped – be sure of this – as more and more of the European victims of the attacks in EU nations turn out to be Muslims themselves. The large number of Muslims killed by Isis in Nice was noticed, but scarcely headlined. The four young Turks shot down by Ali Sonboly were subsumed into the story as an almost routine part of what is now, alas, the routine of mass killing in Europe as well as in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The identity of Muslims in Europe is therefore fudged if they are victims but of vital political importance if they are killers. But in Kabul, where both victims and murderers were Muslim, their mutual crisis of religious identity is of no interest in the West; the bloodbath is described in anaemic terms. The two attackers “attacked” and the “attacked” were left with 80 dead – more like a football match than a war of terror.

It all comes down to the same thing in the end. If Muslims attack us, they are terrorists. If non-Muslims attack us, they are shooters. If Muslims attack other Muslims, they are attackers.

Scissor out this paragraph and keep it beside you when the killers next let loose – and you’ll be able to work out who the bad guys are before the cops tell you.

More articles by:

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail