Friday, July 22, 2011

Everything you need to know in one sentence...

Updated ...about exploiting tragedies for ideological ends.

Norway was the site of what was certainly a terror attack yesterday, with a bomb going off in the capitol Oslo and a gunman shooting up a youth camp in what police believe are connected assaults. In covering the event, Reuters had this to say:
There was no clear claim of responsibility and while the attacks appeared to bear some, but by no means all, of the hallmarks of an Islamist militant assault, analysts said it was too early to draw any conclusions.
Um, then why mention it? Why couldn't it just say "Analysts said it was too early to draw any conclusions about who the perpetrators might be?" Why was it necessary to hint darkly about "Islamist militants" when there is "no clear claim of responsibility" and - weasel word on top of weasel word on top of weasel word - the attacks only "appeared" to have "some" of the "hallmarks" of Islamist extremist attacks? And what "hallmarks?" The use of bombs? "The attacks appeared to bear some, but by no means all, of the hallmarks of an IRA attack." That there may have been some coordination involved? "The attacks appeared to bear some, but by no means all, of the hallmarks of a US military operation."

More seriously, the use of guns in a shooting spree? "The attacks appeared to bear some, but by no means all, of the hallmarks of an attack by right-wing extremists."

Reuters doubled down later in the article:
Lilit Gevorgyan, analyst at IHS Global Insight, said the most likely suspects were al-Qaeda-linked or inspired groups, but added:

"As the news continues trickling in from Utoeya, however, right-wing extremist groups or even a lone perpetrator with army training or access to ammunition and weaponry could be behind the plot."
It's al-Qaeda! Except, um, maybe it's not. But it's al-Qaeda!

Eight graphs after that, eleven graphs after raising the looming specter of "Islamist militants," Reuters gets around to saying that
[t]he Oslo attacks, though hitting two targets, were not simultaneous and the delay between them left open the possibility of a single perpetrator.
But it's al-Qaeda! Run! Hide! They're everywhere! Surrender your civil liberties! And most important, be afraid!

Updated with the later news that the death toll has reached nearly 90, with seven killed in the Oslo bombing and 80 at the youth camp on Utoya Island. What's more,
[t]he Norwegian press say the man in custody for the terror attacks in Oslo and a nearby island today appears to have acted alone, and doesn't seem to have any links to Islamist militants.
He is, instead, a Norwegian national and a Christian conservative.
That may be relevant to his motives, since right-wing extremist groups have cropped up in Scandinavia over the issue of immigration, but the fact is those motives are unclear. What is clear is the bogus nature of the rush to judgment that took place in the wake of the attack.

Footnote to the Update: Credit where it's due goes to the Christian Science Monitor, which in the second paragraph of the story linked in the Update says
there was speculation in this paper and elsewhere that Islamist militants could have been involved.
No ducking of the fact of the prior coverage. I like that. Quite unlike Reuters:

At 1:58 PM EDT on Friday, in a "snap analysis," a Reuters report raised the possibility of both Islamist and right-wing terrorism, but called the former "more likely" and went on to cite various prior threats to Norway over its involvement in Afghanistan.

At 7:15 PM, in the Reuters article linked at the top of the post, the idea of right-wing terrorism was clearly downplayed and at 7:52 PM the agency ran a story describing six Islamist militant groups as potential suspects on the grounds that they had "a record of links to plots in Europe." No right-wing groups were mentioned.

At 8:08 PM came the first story that identified the man arrested as an "ethnic Norwegian."

And at 11:09 PM comes the update, which now quotes a different "expert" saying he "suspected a right-winger, rather than any Islamist group" and that it would be "very odd for Islamists to have a local political angle." There were no references to "al-Qaeda-linked or inspired groups" - nor was there any acknowledgment of, or reference, to having promoted that spin earlier. It just has been disappeared.

What remained, however, was the (apparently now irrelevant) references to prior threats against Scandinavian countries from Islamist sources.

And so it goes in mediaworld.


JayV said...

I didn't see the Reuters reports, but heard it on NPR, which hastened to mention Scandinavia (Denmark) being the land of the Mohammed cartoons. We had to be reminded of that, of course. Rush to judgment indeed.

LarryE said...

Exactly. I still remember how in the wake of the OKC bombing the NY Times intoned darkly that there are mosques in the city and some right-wing "expert" was all over the tube explaining how the bomb was designed "to cause the maximum loss of life, and that is a Muslim trait."

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