Defining Terrorism Down
The left has made a business of defining deviant behavior down, as famously noted by Daniel P. Moynihan decades ago. This generally serves its purposes by normalizing antisocial behavior that despised Western societies have carefully defined and limited over centuries of state-building. This has the result of rendering traditional categories of miscreant behavior as essentially meaningless, and opening up all sorts of antisocial actions to the left’s favorite moral distillation, i.e., everything’s relative.
Terrorism is no different. When it comes to terrorism, the left tends to define it in tendentious ways that protect favored actors, which is why most mainstream media refer to terrorists variously as militants, gunmen, or fighters, and their acts those of resistance as desperation or workplace violence.
The Washington Post follows this pattern, generally preferring to call all manner of Arab or Islamic terrorists as militants, from Gaza to Grozny, though these groups clearly engage in military/political terrorism in violation of international norms and law. But ever willing to push the envelope further, Post columnist Eugene Robinson recently opined that the destruction of Germanwings Flight 9525 by a mentally ill German pilot was an act of terrorism. Now to be fair, when discussing Robinson, it’s never clear whether he is pursuing a coherent agenda -- leftist or otherwise -- or just blathering to fill his required op-ed quota of 1400 words a week. And occasionally he has to do something other than defend the divinity of Barack Obama.
But let’s give Robinson the benefit of the doubt, because as absurd as it seems, this ludicrous ideation fits in perfectly with the leftist project in general. Defining the destruction of Flight 9525 as terrorism effectively removes any last vestige of logic or substantive meaning to the term. Robinson seems to be saying that any act of mass killing can be terrorism if you want it to be, or not -- after all it’s relative. Thus, when it comes to real terrorism, Hamas rocketry for example, Robinson is a fierce advocate of moral equivalence and “proportional response” (which he of course misunderstands). During last summer’s war in between Hamas and Israel, he put the onus of moral failing on Israel, as in this piece in which he studiously avoided calling Hamas actions “terrorism” or that radical Islamist organization “terrorist.” It is clear that the term “terrorism”, at least in large segments of the mainstream media, and the public at large, no longer has any meaning whatsoever. Media types and politicians of a particular left-leaning bent, feel free to simply define terror as they deem fit.
And, of course, this is happening everywhere. Essentially, the invented controversies over the shootings of young African American men in places like Ferguson, Missouri and Sanford, Florida are of a similar ilk. In each case, a drug-addled (a fact heavily underplayed by the media) young black man violently assaults an armed white man, who kills his assailant in self-defense. The left defines the act of self-defense terrorism -- part and parcel of a pattern of directed violence against young black men. While the initial assaults themselves are excused.
In the Middle East, Hamas sends terrorist teams into Israel by tunnel and sea to kill and maim any Jew that they can find, while their comrades lob rockets deliberately at Israeli population centers. These acts are defined as “attacks” or “fighting” or “resistance” by “militants” while Israeli responses in self-defense are defined by leftists like Robinson as morally reprehensible, or even by idiotic leftist actors (and others) as “state terrorism.”
A recent report by the FBI dramatically expanded the number of “mass shootings” in the United States -- tweaking the statistics by essentially conflating the definitions of “active shooter” and “mass killing.” They are not at all the same thing, but hey, it’s all relative right? The FBI’s redefinition fits the left narrative because “mass shootings” are the result of too many guns, while simple murders conducted by “active shooters” might be the result of merely angry or crazy people. And the destruction of Flight 9525 was not the work of a madman, but an act of terrorism, because Mr. Robinson says so.
Put all this together and the shootings at Fort Hood are finally clarified. An Army psychiatrist carrying “Soldier of Allah” business cards storms into a military clinic filled with soldiers and medical personnel he doesn’t know, and while yelling "Allahu Akbar" slaughters 13 people and wounds 30 more. Is this an act of Islamist terror? Or is it a “mass shooting” and an act of “workplace violence” caused by guns and the stress treating people who are stressed? Is it different from the case of a crazed German airline pilot with a history of severe mental illness, who without any evident political agenda, crashes a passenger plane into a mountainside, in an act of terrorism (According to Mr. Robinson)?
Let’s analyze this conundrum from the leftist perspective. The first case is not terrorism, because the perpetrator was a seemingly assimilated Muslim American (a protected group), and therefore a presumed victim (of latent and active discrimination), who was psychologically hobbled (by post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by other people), whose concerns were ignored by his employer (the U.S. Army). In the case of the airline pilot, he was a white European (always suspect), and German (even worse -- though not Jewish, which would have been more suspicious still), who killed more people (that’s bad), some of whom were children (much worse), while engaged in an environmentally harmful activity (when carried out by ordinary people, not celebrities). In Robinson’s own take on the Foot Hood shootings, he carefully avoided calling the killer (Nidal Hasan) a terrorist, and blamed the Army for failing both Hasan and his victims.
This might be funny if it wasn’t so tragic and sick. Worse, it represents the actual relativistic, nihilist philosophy of our current administration, plus a good portion of the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the mainstream media, of the world’s most powerful and important nation.
If we accept that the destruction of Flight 9525 was an act of terrorism, we should just get rid of the word entirely. But for the left, that won’t do. They still need this term that they have rendered virtually meaningless, to tar people and nations that they don’t like, for an audience of increasingly uninformed citizens, who don’t really seem to care.