'Militant' media

Why do news outlets use a synonym for 'combative' for those who specialize in killing civilians?

Hamas man rocket 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas man rocket 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A New York Times July 6 report by Isabel Kershner had me mixed up. The headline read "Israeli Offensive in Central Gaza Kills 11 Militants" and the lead sentence began: "At least 11 Palestinian militants were killed in airstrikes and armed clashes during an Israeli Army incursion." It continued with these details: "Hamas officials said that seven of the dead were members of its military wing, known as the Qassam Brigades…The Islamic Jihad faction said one of its men was among the dead." And to "balance" the information thus far provided, we next read that "Israeli military officials described the raid as a routine operation to root out 'terrorist infrastructures.'" Why am I bewildered? In the first instance, "militant" is used in the headline which is the main attention-grabbing element. It is also used in the lead sentence, the most important one, as any journalism student can tell you. But then the story acknowledges that 7 of the "militants" were members of Hamas's "military wing" and another was an Islamic Jihadist - individuals who generally specialize in anti-civilian warfare such as launching rockets into cities and blowing up buses. However, when it comes to Israel's version, the term "terrorist" is in quotation marks, which means in the media lingo - don't believe them, that's only what they claim. OF COURSE, the Times is not the only media outlet that fobs off ideological mindset as newspaper "style," or as an unwillingness to "become part of the conflict" - a silly attempt to mimic objectivity. Haaretz's headline of the same day's events read "IDF troops quit Gaza, ending raid that left 11 militants dead." The Jerusalem Post provided a reasonable alternative when it set to type: "IDF troops kill 11 gunmen in Gaza Strip." On July 1, the Times invidiously paraphrased the IDF spokeswoman when it published: "The spokeswoman said the militants had executed suicide attacks against Israelis." I don't think she used the Hebrew for militants, and anyway, since when are "militants" suicide-bombers? On July 4, the same newspaper (of record) published this gem: "Muhammad Farahati, 22, a militant affiliated with both the pro-Fatah Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades militia and the group Islamic Jihad…". Now, if he was affiliated with a militia, why not refer to the young man as a "militiaman"? After all, if you're not going to be choosy, America was liberated by militiamen fighting against the British. PICTURE CAPTIONS also provide an opportunity for radical multicultural, post-modernist, behind-the-scenes editors to manipulate public opinion. At the end of May this year, a photo gallery was posted on the NYTimes's Web site. Here's one caption as it appeared: "A man inspects the damage at the American International School in Gaza after Palestinian militants set off explosives there in April." A May 30 AP bulletin explained that "Israel resolved Wednesday to keep striking Gaza Strip rocket squads…The supreme leader of the Hamas militant group, which has been behind the latest surge in rocket attacks, vowed…". That leaves me befuddled. If Israel is striking militant rocket squads who are firing off Kassams at civilian population centers, what is Israel, then? More militant? Radically militant? Or just plain evil? The State Department presents another language twist. Reacting to the activity in Lebanon's Nahar El-Barad, its spokesperson published this notice: "Lebanon's Security Forces rightfully" are taking action against a violent extremist group, adding that the group, Fatah al-Islam, is "dedicated to the use of violence." So, Arabs who use guns can be referred to as "extremists" and moreover, it is right, just and proper to use force against such persons. If so, why is Israel always being counseled by the State Department, British Foreign Office, the EU and myriad other "human rights" actors to limit its response to terrorist actions aimed almost exclusively at killing infants (Yehuda Shoham), teenagers (Avi Siton and Harel Bin-Nun) and women (Rachel Druck)? And those fatalities are from my hometown of Shiloh alone. THE BBC is quite open about its aversion to the use of the T-word. Its Producers' Guidelines dictate: "The word 'terrorist' itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding. We should try to avoid the term without attribution… We should not adopt other people's language as our own… We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as 'bomber,' 'attacker,' 'gunman,' 'kidnapper,' 'insurgent,' and 'militant.' Our responsibility is to remain objective and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom." (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/). No matter how much we complain, the BBC, CNN, NYT and Reuters are stuck on "militants." They've taken a word that's synonymous with "combative" and employ it to describe those who specialize in killing unarmed civilians. The right word is "terrorist." In this way, the media is taking sides and corrupting not only language, but our minds. They are being zealously "militant" in perverting political and historical truth while inverting reality. The writer, a resident of Shiloh, comments on political, cultural and media affairs and blogs at www.myrightword.blogspot.com