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Copycats and Justifications

Dr. Sanity posted yesterday on something I’ve noticed myself but couldn’t quite put into words: the media’s tendency to downplay events like suicides to reduce the likelihood of inspiring “copycat” occurrences. She sees this restraint as being still exercised at the local level, but largely abandoned at the national and international level in favor of blatant admiration and romanticization of terrorists. But what she describes also functions in the other direction as an explanation for the press’ tiptoeing around reporting the truth about Islamic extremism and terrorism…to address the question in her post’s title, the press often shows too much restraint where reporting on terrorism is concerned, and that too is a problem.

There is a tendency in the media to, for example, bend over backwards to avoid acknowledging the religious affiliation of terrorism suspects, illustrated most clearly in the reporting on the recent terrorism arrests in Canada. More broadly speaking, the press has a tendency to water down or dismiss radical Islam’s role in dramatic events like terrorist attacks, to the point of evading altogether any mention of Islam as a factor whenever such is possible.

Like the toned-down reporting used to avert copycat suicides, this whitewashing is in my view motivated largely by a fear among journalists that the truth might inspire negative responses in the “impressionable” populace (to the extent that it is not motivated by actual sympathy islamofascists and their efforts to destroy the West). Bluntly put, there is an elitist expectation that the intolerant and easily-led dupes in flyover country might rise up in violence if told the whole truth…that — like children — the ignorant public at large must be protected from the unpleasant facts, since they cannot be trusted to integrate such information rationally and formulate a response which these elitists would approve of as sensible and reasonable. The press must therefore act as a gatekeeper, concealing the truth lest the redneck mob draw the “wrong” conclusions and be roused by some jingoistic demogogue to the pogroms and crusades which are its nature.

It would indeed be irresponsible of the press to present news stories concerning Islamic terrorism in a lurid or sensational fashion with the intent to stir public passions — but “yellow journalism” is not the only alternative to the current fashion of whitewashing. Like Dr. Sanity’s local reporters covering a suicide, they could simply deliver the facts without embellishment, taking the middle road between the extremes of irresponsible romanticization and paternalistic obfuscation.

Somewhat related to this is the groundbreaking today on the Columbine massacre memorial. Bill Clinton was in attendance, so it received perhaps even more attention in the news than otherwise. For whatever reason the reporting today reminded me how, back in the aftermath of the shooting, there were those who asserted that Harris and Kliebold were justified in their actions because of the ill-treatment they had supposedly suffered at the hands of the jocks and popular kids in school — in other words, these people asserted that we ought to look for the “root causes” of Columbine in the way the victims had acted towards the perpetrators, and not ‘judge’ Harris and Kliebold for trying to kill as many of their classmates as possible. This perspective was largely jeered as “blaming the victims”, and rightly so — whatever the provocations, the two young men were old enough to know better and nonetheless elected of their own free will to commit mass murder as part of a glorious Götterdämmerung. And yet, while “the jocks deserved it” perspective is shunned in the case of Columbine, its parallel in regards to the victims of islamofascist terrorism is paradoxically embraced (and readily) by entirely too many people.

ADDENDUM: Alan K. Henderson comments.

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