Tag Archives: “extremism”

Slanted Journalism

President Obama insistently believes that the danger posed by jihadism is actually the product of some isolated, misguided “extremists,” who simply use Islam to rationalize their actions. He is unwilling to identify their savage crimes as acts of Islamic terrorism.

The major news media also regularly downplay the threat, by slanting the presentation of facts. The latest example is in yesterday’s (Jan. 15, 2015) New York Times. A front-page story discusses the role played by Al Qaeda in last week’s Paris massacres, perpetrated by two brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi. Here are the facts about that role, as revealed in this article:

1) Investigators have established that in 2011 one of the brothers went to Yemen, “where he received training and $20,000 from Al Qaeda’s affiliate there.”

2) “In a video and written statement, the Qaeda branch in Yemen on Wednesday formally claimed responsibility for the deadly assault.” The statement was quoted as saying that “the one who chose the target, laid the plan and financed the operation is the leadership of the organization.”

3) “Cherif Kouachi told a French television station [that his trip to Yemen] . . .  was financed by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who oversaw attacks against the West by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as AQAP.”

4) “In repeated statements before they were killed by the police, the Kouachi brothers said they had carried out the attack on behalf of the Qaeda branch in Yemen.”

5)   A counter-terrorism researcher in Washington is quoted as saying: “I suspect that Cherif Kouachi did engage AQAP members in Yemen, but that he was not fully brought into the organization. . . . AQAP may have offered minimal training, directed the [Kouachi] group toward publicly announced target lists and sent him on his way.

6) “The attacks appear to illustrate what analysts have described as an evolution in Qaeda tactics and logistics. Because of heightened surveillance, operatives are trained and assigned general targets, but details on how to carry out the operation are no longer micromanaged by the organization.”

What would you conclude from this? Plainly, we have evidence, from the Kouachi bothers and from Al Qaeda, that the killers were trained and financed by Al Qaeda. It would seem self-evident that this is the significant aspect of the story. But no. Sprinkled throughout the piece are the following skeptical interjections (all italics are added by me): 

1) The Qaeda statement “said the target had been chosen by the Qaeda leadership but did not specify which leaders.”

2) “But it is still unclear what specific guidance the Qaeda branch gave to the Kouachis about carrying out an attack.

3)  The counter-terrorism researcher, after suggesting that “AQAP may have offered minimal training . . . and sent him on his way,” said that if so, “AQAP did not exactly direct the attack."

4) And then we have the story’s final paragraph, a quote from a Brookings Institution scholar:  “But the big question that investigators need to look at is: How much of a role did AQAP play in the actual planning in the final stages of this process? . . .  They could have given these guys money and training three or four years ago, but when they executed it, it could have been done with money [from other sources].”

This is the technique of distortion by non-essentialization. It is perfectly appropriate for a journalist to present facts that raise doubts about some assertion. It is not appropriate to raise doubts by means of irrelevant facts.

In a story about the Paris bloodbath, when the world faces the growing danger of Islamic jihadism, the fact that the brothers received training and direction from Al Qaeda is important; the fact that they were “not fully brought into the organization” is not. Evidence that Al Qaeda was behind the event is important; the absence of evidence about a (potentially infinite) number of details, is not. The lack of knowledge about the exact instructions given to the Kouachis is insignificant—and stressing it serves only to make the point misleading. This disingenuous technique can be easily discerned if we look at these two imaginary sentences:

A. “We know that Al Qaeda trained and financed the killers, even though we don’t know their precise instructions.”

B. “We remain ignorant about the nature of Al Qaeda’s role in the carnage, even though there are some things about it we do know.”

Out of context, both sentences appear to be true. Within the relevant context, however, the second sentence is patently deceptive.

Now, the story is bad enough, but the headline—which is contradicted by the contents of the story itself—is even worse: “Disputed Claims Over Qaeda Role” (and the subhead goes even further by adding: “Unclear if Group Planned or Aided Paris Attack”). This conveys the message that we don’t really know whether Al Qaeda was involved. It conveys the message that regardless of the facts that a careful reading of the story would identify, no conclusions should be reached about an organized network of Islamists actively working to threaten our freedom.

And the “cash value” of repeated doses of this type of non-objectivity? The typical, casual reader will become more amenable to the Administration’s view of the problem. He will have a vague sense of uncertainty about the subject, leaving him unresistant to the notion that the threat we face comes from any form of “extremism”–whether practiced by terrorists or by the Tea Party Web Site.♦♦ 

Why Is The Tea Party “Extremist”?

(From Forbes Online, November 11, 2013)

When the Tea Party calls for real cuts in our welfare state, it kar?? is typically denigrated by the left as “extremist.” It would be a mistake though, to regard this response as mere name-calling. It is far more significant—and dangerous. This smear is an instance of a widespread technique regularly employed to undermine capitalism. From the campaign for “stakeholder rights” to the campaign against “insider trading,” the same insidious tactic is being used: the tactic of the conceptual “package-deal.”

Let’s say you oppose the idea that a corporation’s fundamental objective should be to make money for its stockholders. You could present various collectivist arguments, contending that the means of production should be controlled by “society as a whole,” rather than by selfish, profit-seeking individuals.  Or you could take the more devious approach of wholesale nfl jerseys trying to erase the very concept of a stockholder. How? By introducing the pseudo-concept of “stakeholder.”

A “stakeholder,” according to one dictionary, is “a person, group or organization that has an interest or concern in an organization.” The laundry list of examples includes “creditors, directors, employees, government (and its agencies), owners (shareholders), suppliers, unions and the community from which the business draws its resources.”

A concept is supposed to unite things that share an essential similarity. The essential characteristic integrating stockholders is their ownership of a company, which gives them distinctive rights and which clearly differentiates them from all other people. The term “stakeholder,” however, focuses instead on the superficial characteristic of having some “interest or concern” in the company. This approach packages stockholders together with everyone from the janitor to the vending-machine supplier to the residents of the same town.

Since almost anybody can be included in the “stakeholder” classification, the true function of this fuzzy term is to nullify the concept of a stockholder, who becomes just another “stakeholder,” with no distinctive rights.

The same methodology underlies the notion of “insider trading.” Stock traders can take two very different actions. They can steal proprietary information by using it without the owner’s authorization. Or they can obtain information honestly—information that perhaps no one else has managed to acquire—and then trade based on their superior knowledge, The first is a crime; the second is not—or shouldn’t be. But the nebulous term “insider trading” deliberately blurs the distinction between the two, and tars the second with the sins of the first. Its premise is that whenever you trade based on information not possessed by the general public, you are stealing. Thus, for example, the research division of an investment bank may painstakingly analyze reams of data to determine some corporation’s future prospects. But it isn’t permitted to convey its findings to the bank’s trading division unless the public is informed as well.  The private acquisition of unshared knowledge is smeared as theft.

“Extremism” represents a far broader package-deal, designed to undercut the system of capitalism per se. This sham concept gained currency during the 1964 presidential campaign, when it was used to tar Barry Goldwater and his supporters. It is an attempt to package together antithetical ideologies by ignoring what one believes and stressing only how strongly one believes it—i.e., by equating the ardent proponent of freedom with the ardent proponent of slavery.

Of course, the smearers don’t really cheap mlb jerseys ignore ideological content, since the “extremism” label is applied only to advocates of a free market and not to, say, Occupy Wall Street or MoveOn. When House Republicans last month were willing to shut down the government unless ObamaCare was defunded, they were called “extremists” and likened to terrorists; when Democrats were willing to shut down the government unless ObamaCare was funded, they were Slider called “moderates.” Unable scope to discredit capitalism by open argument, the smearers resort to subterfuge. They induce the public to associate pro-capitalists—like Tea Partiers– with the perpetrators of such evils as racist lynchings or Islamic jihadism simply by declaring them all “extremists.”

And then of course there is the deadly package-deal that subverts capitalism at its root: “selfishness.” Here, unlike in the other examples, there is a valid need for a precise concept–a concept to denote a concern with one’s own interests. Unfortunately, the term “selfish” has been corrupted so that it is now commonly associated with some amoral reprobate, who readily lies, cheats and kills in order to gratify his desires.  “Selfishness” has come to mean the (alleged) pursuit of one’s interests through the victimization of others.

But what about all the people who pursue their well-being by their own efforts, without victimizing others? From the mailroom clerk who works conscientiously for his paycheck, to the inventor who devotes himself to the goal of becoming rich by devising a better mousetrap, to the artist dedicated to cheap jerseys creating a work that fully meets his independent standards—these are people who are acting selfishly, to improve their lives by pursuing their values. But they are not benefiting at the expense of others. These are honest, productive, self-respecting individuals who deal with others by trading value for value, who don’t believe that one man’s gain must come through another’s loss and who neither sacrifice themselves to others nor sacrifice others to themselves. This type of behavior is the proper referent of the concept “selfish.”

Instead, that concept has been replaced in popular usage by one that indiscriminately lumps together the producer and the parasite—the Warren Buffets and the Bernard Madoffs, the long-range creators of value and the range-of-the-moment leeches—and suggests that just as the predator is committing a moral crime, so is everyone who pursues self-interest. And capitalism, since it endorses self-interest, is thus smeared as institutionalized blood-sucking.

Defending individualism, freedom and capitalism requires more than making a clear, rational case for these values. It also requires identifying, and repudiating, the obfuscations of the package-dealers.♦♦