November 13, 2009

The meme had been brewing for a few days among some of the Fox News guests -- particularly Michelle Malkin -- brought on to talk about the Fort Hood shootings, but it was Bill Sammon, during the broadcast of the memorial for the slain soldiers, who apparently made it official at Fox: The Fort Hood shootings were a terrorist attack -- comparable to 9/11 and Oklahoma City -- by a radical Islamist engaged in Muslim "jihad."

Now, it's not only the conventional wisdom at Fox News, it's one of their major attack points -- they're claiming that because President Obama and the rest of the media aren't adopting their presumptuous and hysterical meme, they're being "soft" on terrorism.

The meme gained momentum when Glenn picked up Sammon's ball and ran with it the next day, declaring: "If you don't call [Hasan] a terrorist, it clears a path for ... an extremist terrorist plan." That night, Sean Hannity explored the question at length with Michelle Malkin, as you can see from the video atop this post.

For Malkin and Hannity, "political correctness" -- which they blame for the military's failure to stop Hasan -- is actually code for "the refusal to engage in ethnic and religious profiling". Because such profiling, it's clear, is what they think the military (and the government generally) should do to prevent future such shootings.

The worst offender, though, has been Bill O'Reilly, who -- as you can see below -- not only harangued Sally Quinn for her reluctance to declare Nidal Hasan a "terrorist," but then devoted his leadoff Talking Points Memo segment last night to chastising the president and the rest of the media for their reluctance to embrace the meme.

This exchange with Quinn was especially revealing:

O'Reilly: But you have a hard time saying the words "Muslim terrorist," and so does Obama. He has a hard time saying it. I don't know why you guys aren't saying it. You know, why, why?

Quinn: Well, I think, first of all, there are different kinds of terrorists. As I said, Timothy McVeigh --

O'Reilly: He's a Muslim terrorist! What do you mean, different kinds of terrorist? He killed people under the banner of jihad! That's who he is! What do you -- look, what do you want, him to come to your house with a strap-on bomb? The guy did it for jihadist reasons! "Allah Akbar!" That's the slogan! He mails Al Qaeda! Miss Quinn, you're a brilliant woman, and I'm not saying that facetiously. You are. A third-grader gets this, and you're resisting it! I wanna know why!

Quinn: Bill, you're making a very good case. I mean, he's Muslim, and he may well end up being a terrorist. We don't know for sure --

O'Reilly: I know for sure! Ninety percent of the people watching me know for sure! I don't know why you don't know for sure! What else do you need?

Quinn: I mean, you can call the guy who blew up -- you know, who shot up the Holocaust Museum a terrorist --

O'Reilly: Did he yell "Allah Akbar?" If he yelled "Allah Akbar," and he e-mailed Al Qaeda in Yemen, I'd call him that, Miss Quinn!

Quinn: OK, he's a Muslim terrorist.

O'Reilly: Thank you.

O'Reilly seems to have a peculiar idea of what constitutes "terrorism." His definition of the word seems to be "any act of violence by devout Muslims", or something along those lines.

That, of course, is quite a distance from the the legal definition of terrorism (from U.S. Code Title 22, Ch.38, Para. 2656f(d)):

(2) the term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents;

This term, in fact, perfectly describes Holocaust Museum shooter James Von Brunn, who was, beyond any serious doubt, a classic right-wing "lone wolf" terrorist.

It is in fact still not clear, however, whether the description fits Nidal Hasan's motives in shooting 13 people to death. It is true that all kinds of evidence is emerging showing that Hasan was increasingly becoming politically radicalized.

What that evidence doesn't establish, though, is that he engaged in this horrendous act on behalf of those radical beliefs, or whether those beliefs simply formed part of the context in which he acted. There certainly haven't been any organizational ties established. We probably won't have any idea until Hasan himself starts talking, or at least his attorneys begin preparing his defense.

It's important to remember what mass-murder profiler Pat Brown told Fox's Brian Kilmeade:

Brown: Well, Brian, actually, I think religion does not play a role in this. What we're actually looking at is a typical mass murderer.

Mass murderers are either two age groups. They are either teenagers, who are disgruntled with where they are in life, and don't think they're going to be anything -- those teenagers that say 'I'm being bullied and nobody likes me, and so let me take everybody out -- or they're middle-aged men who are going downhill in life -- they're having problems with people, personality issues, you know, going up against authority. For whatever reasons, they're failing, and then when they start failing they have to find something to hang their hat on, they have to blame something.

So he happened to pick what he picked. But I don't think it really has anything to do with him being Muslim or any kind of "jihad." I think he just wanted to kill people and this was his excuse.

Kilmeade: Well, he did yell out, "Allah," that's kind of an odd thing to yell out for somebody who was just unhappy with his success in life.

Brown: But he was already going downhill. He's a psychopath, and that -- he's gonna say something.

We should also keep in mind that other evidence points to the likelihood that Hasan's rampage was triggered not by Islamic radicalism but by rage at his fellow soldiers:

-- He was regularly abused by his colleagues in the military for being Muslim -- called a "raghead" and other such terms -- and had been seeking to get out of the military because the environment had become so hostile.

... There are also reports that he had recently been the victim of a hate crime: His car was vandalized, with the word "Allah" scratched into the paint, and he was reportedly extremely upset by it.

In other words, the Fort Hood shootings may well turn out to be a Columbine-like case of psychotic rage, rather than an ideological or political act of terrorism. And that's why people -- including the president -- are reluctant to make Fox's leap of judgment.

They may turn out to be right. But even if so, it doesn't excuse they broad-brushed, and destructive, fearmongering against an entire ethnic or religious group that their leap represents. And if they're wrong, then it will be too late to undo the damage they've already inflicted on Muslims serving in the U.S. military, unfairly tarring them with their presumptive brush.

The right, as we've noted, has been looking for excuses to scapegoat Muslims and Arabs with racial profiling for a long time -- since at least 9/11. Some of you may recall such previous incidents of hysteria as the various claims by hysterical right-wing nutcases on airline flights that their fellow Muslim passengers were secret terrorists preparing for another attack -- such as Annie Jacobson's flight of xenophobic fancy back in 2004.

As I noted then:

This has happened before in America. In the spring of 1942, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a similar kind of racial hysteria swept the Pacific Coast, focusing suspicion on anyone of Japanese descent, playing on long-established conspiracist beliefs that the Nikkei immigrants were traitors in waiting.

... The end result of this hysteria, of course, was that we violated the constitutional rights of some 120,000 Japanese-Americans, over 70,000 of them citizens, by rounding them up en masse and incarcerating them for the war's duration in concentration camps.

It's fitting, of course, that Malkin -- who penned an entire book defending this internment of an entire ethnic group based on hysterical fears, largely in pursuit of her thesis that racial, ethnic and religious profiling is perfectly justifiable in the post-9/11 world. Malkin has never dropped this theme, embarking at one time on an attempt at organizing vigilante "watchers" to keep an eye on the evil Muslims in our midst.

Of course, as I and many others explained at the time, all that the Japanese internment episode really demonstrated was the utter futility and waste -- not to mention the gross insult to the Constitution -- that such profiling actually represents:

Would racial profiling of Muslims and Arabs really gain us anything, security-wise, in the long run? And would any of it be worth the price?

Michelle Malkin would have us think it would. Her case, though, is built on faulty method, faulty logic, faulty "facts", and an obviously faulty moral compass. Her book is best left shunned, untouched, and eventually, ignored.

Unfortunately, it will not be, at least as far as the "conservative movement" is concerned. Even if utterly discredited, Malkin's meme will continue to recirculate among the Fox News right, as well as more extremist elements. At some point it will become "received wisdom" as a talking point for right-wing pundits and radio talk-show hosts.

Well, now it has. And the national discourse, as a result, is headed in a bad direction indeed.

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