Dr. Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum discusses the reluctance of the media to call Islamic perpetrators of terror "
CNBC: Kudlow & Cramer
Translations of this item:
JIM CRAMER, co-host: All right. This is something that Larry and I have been focused on for some time. We feel like we're kind of an island on this. The press continues to hold back from calling the perpetrators of terror 'terrorists.' They often seem to hold back from calling Islamic fundamentalist imperialists anything other than 'activists,' and we're trying to figure out why that is. With us now, Dr. Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, author of an article out today called "They're Terrorists, not Activists."
Daniel, welcome back to the show. Kind of fill us in about this weird 1984 Orwellian thing that most of the press, with the exception of you and us, do?
Dr. DANIEL PIPES (PhD, Middle East Forum Director): Well, thanks. Yeah, I did a little survey. You know, the Internet makes it possible to look around the world and see how people are being called, and in the case of the Beslan atrocity, which everybody agrees—everybody but everybody agrees it was a terrorist atrocity—I found, looking at major media, some 20 words, some 20 euphemisms being deployed instead of 'terrorist.' 'Militant' is the most frequent, but also, if I can give you a few of them...
Dr. PIPES: 'Activist,' 'assailant,' 'attacker,' 'bomber,' 'captor,' 'criminal,' 'extremist,' 'fighter,' 'group,' 'guerilla,' 'gunman,' 'hostage-taker,' 'insurgent,' 'kidnappers,' it goes on and on.
LARRY KUDLOW, co-host; You know, Daniel, let's put the names of the media to these things; it's more fun that way. 'Assailants' used by National Public Radio, NPR; 'fighters' used by The Washington Post; 'insurgents' used by The New York Times. In other words, is there an agenda here among these media outlets? Is there a sort of sly, pro-terrorist, somehow pro-al-Qaida agenda going on?
Dr. PIPES: Well, I think it comes out of a sympa—I think it comes out of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and I think it comes out both of a sympathy for the Palestinians and a fear, an intimidation that if you call the Palestinian terrorists by that name, you'll pay for it. And after it began with the Palestinians, it then spread to Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kashmir, now Russia. I don't think it's quite a sympathy for them as an unwillingness, really, to deal with these rude, raw, horrible facts, rather to make it a little softer.
CRAMER: All right. Well, Dan, tell us about what is the reluctance to call people who would identify themselves—if we had them in the room, they'd say, 'Listen, I'm an Islamist who believes that Islam is the only religion, that other people who are not Islamic are inferior and perhaps even should be subject to genocide,' why would those people not to be identified the way that they seem to want to be identified?
Dr. PIPES: That's related with a somewhat different topic of the reluctance to mention Islam or Muslims, and I think that goes back to 9/11 itself when President Bush that evening got on television and said, 'These are terrorists and this is a war against terror.' Now that was a perfectly legitimate thing to do, because we hadn't really figured out—we'd guessed who was behind the atrocities that day, but we didn't know. Within a week we knew, but still the term 'war on terror' stayed in place, and the official, governmental, media, university and other term is 'war on terror.'
Now interestingly, just some weeks ago, President Bush said, 'I made a mistake, it's really not a war a terror; it's something else.' He didn't really define what else it is, but there's a willingness now in the last couple of months, with the 9-11 Commission coming out and saying it's Islamist terrorism, not just terrorism, there's an increased willingness to call this phenomenon, this ideology, by its proper name. But it's been three years in the works, and I think it's due to a discomfort that we all feel in pointing not to a general phenomenon, but to a specific phenomenon.
KUDLOW: Well, in effect, in effect, Daniel, terrorism is a tactic.
Dr. PIPES: Right.
KUDLOW: The issue here is the totalitarian descendents of Stalin and Hitler and Mussolini...
Dr. PIPES: Exactly.
KUDLOW: ...which are the radical Islamists. Now you mentioned George Bush saying, 'I wish I had a better name on terrorism.' How's Bush doing on this? I can't recall at the convention when he talked about it what he said, what his label was.
Dr. PIPES: He actually hasn't given an alternate label. There is no other term yet, but what one finds is a gradual movement away from this "war on terrorism," which you correctly point out is a war on a tactic, which makes no sense, towards something else. But it is going slowly, very slowly, and I believe, I really believe, that just as a physician cannot treat a disease without having identified it, so strategists cannot fight and win a war without identifying who the enemy is, and we have not really done that.
CRAMER: Now what's up about why the media would not do it? You know, it's not—the media's not dominated by members of the Islam religion. There seems to be someone looking out for them internally in media. But you can never get your arms around it, 'cause I know whenever I write an article that says 'Islamic terrorists,' they always strike 'Islamic' and they always strike 'terrorists'...
CRAMER: ...and they put in 'insurgents.' And I mean, it just happens, it's like there's some sort of Columbia Journalism Review handbook which says, 'Do not mention this.' I mean, where is it coming from?
Dr. PIPES: I think it's coming out politeness, a delicacy, a tactfulness, an unwillingness to call rude facts by their name.
KUDLOW: They're not insurgents. They're killers and murderers, Daniel.
Dr. PIPES: I'm...
KUDLOW: That's what they are.
Dr. PIPES: I'm perfectly aware, Larry. I'm perfectly aware. I agree.
CRAMER: How can we, three years after the event, still be discussing this as if it was, like, an actual, legitimate, non-euphemistic thing?
Dr. PIPES: Because...
CRAMER: It is really ridiculous.
Dr. PIPES: ...we're not really scared yet. I'm reading at the moment Michelle Malkin's very interesting book...
Dr. PIPES: ...In Defensive of Internment, about World War II and what happened there. And people were really scared there. I mean, the Japanese had attacked, and you know, the Japanese had an army and a navy and an air force that was comparable to ours, in some ways superior to ours, and we were scared.
Right now, because of the asymmetric nature of this war, the fact that we have a huge economy and a huge arsenal and they don't, makes it hard for people really to believe that they are a worthy adversary, and I think that's behind this tact and delicacy because we don't fully believe that they are an enemy that we have to be afraid of.
KUDLOW: In one of the worst, Russia just saw this, the Russian people if they needed any reminding with what happened, with those cutthroats and there was a lot of, quote, "Arabs" involved with the Chechens. Arabs, read: al-Qaida or read terrorist network. That's the way I read it, Daniel.
Dr. PIPES: I don't disagree. And I...
KUDLOW: It's a worldwide war against civilization.
CRAMER: Yes, it is.
Dr. PIPES: You got it.
KUDLOW: I'm sorry we don't have more time. Daniel Pipes, you've done as much or more than anyone...
KUDLOW: ...in defining this correctly, and...
CRAMER: Brave man.
KUDLOW: ...we appreciate your work.
Reader comments (7) on this item
Comment on this item
Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes