Commonly, journalists think they know everything. It's not (entirely) their fault. Journalism is all about seeing through lies and false alarms,understanding the big picture, getting to the truth. Nobody can do that, not really.But journalists devote their lives to pretending they can. It's the same with university teachers - and it can be very bad news when journalists and university teachers get together. Take, for example, today's column by Norbert Cunningham.
It's about a book by a Harvard psychologist, Stephen Pinker who was known, back in his graduate days as a great thinker. Or, more accurately he thought he was. He has now gone on to greater fame by using his psychology credentials to write books on topics he knows nothing about.
Naturally, Norbert the journalist felt drawn to those books - and he devoted today's column to Pinker's book on terrorism.
So we learn that terrorism goes back 2,000 years, that the worst terrorist attack from 1970 to 2007 was 9/11, that almost all terrorism has been caused by "different" people like arabs, Africans, you know - and terrorism almost never succeeds.
Terrorism goes back even before humans, to animals, for example, that terrorized their prey with roars. Human fighters have always used terror - in the painting of faces, in raids on neighbouring people to punish them. If the story of Exodus is true, God used terror against the Egyptians. And, certainly, the people of ancient Israel used terror - as at Jericho. For some Christians, terror (named Hell) is a prime reason for opting to be Christian. Revelations is a wonderful book on the subject.
There is probably no community of people which has not at some time used terror to defeat an enemy. And that means good, white folks just as much as any other.
In the American Revolution, the Sons of Liberty were terrorists - killing, burning, stealing, raping. Why do you think so many Loyalists fled to British North America. When an American-hired mercenary was killed in Fallujah early in the Iraq war, the US retaliated with a massive bombing and shelling and random slaughter that killed uncounted numbers of innocent people. What was the napalming and bombing and poisoning of Vietnam about if not terror? Nobody can even guess how many millions of innocent people were killed. So much for Pinker's contention that 9/ll was the biggest act of terrorism in almost forty years. And that doesn't count the deliberate American bombing of civilians, killing half a million of them, in Cambodia. It was no secret. The purpose of the bombing of Cambodian cities was, as the American air commander said publicly, "...to bomb Cambodia back into the stone age." And what were the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki all about if not terrorism?
How about the CIA led slaughter of a quarter million of the Maya people - men, women and children - in Guatemala?... or the Ton-Ton-Macoutes who raped, beat and murdered at random in Haitia - supplied and paid for by the US taxpayer? They did it to keep Haitians terrirified so they would submit to abuse and overwork in European and American-owned farms and factories at abysmal wages.
French brutality in Morroco after 1945 was stunning even by European standards. Random killing and/or torture were the methods of choice there and in French Indo-China.
In 1920, the sainted Winston Churchill, as Secretary of the Colonies, launched terrorist bombings of civilians in Kurd villages in what is now Iraq.
The record holders in terrorism are probably Stalin and Mao, both of whom could count victims in the tens of millions. But that part of the world that is western and Christian has been no slouch. Nor have the terrorists been church dropouts. Remember the inquisition? That was terrorism. In fact, the very word 'terrorist' originated in the West. It was taken from the so-called "Reign of Terror" in the French revolution.
Nor is it true that terrorism seldom works. Western terrorism held much of the world prisoner for centuries after the age of Columbus. Modern states have been built on terrorism. European Jews pushed into what was Palestine using terrorist gangs against Palestinians and their British overlords. Modern Israel is a living example of successful terrorism.
I have no doubt that Pinker's book will be a best-seller. It has just the right blend of bigotry, one-eyed vision, and pseudo-intellectualism to fool a journalist.
Oh - there's kind of a related story that today's TandT missed. An American marine officer in Iraq was charged with ordering his men into a 45 minute orgy of killing. In retaliation for the death of a marine by a bomb, they invaded neighbouring houses, killing 24 innocent people, men, women and children - including an elderly man in a wheelchair.
After years of delay and denial, a charge of multiple murder was laid though, just to be fair, the jury was made up entirely of marines. But yesterday, perhaps to make it all easier, the accused plea-bargained for a charge of dereliction of duty. The maximum sentence for that is three months. Would that count as terrorism?
As Norbert says, we have to learn to cope with the uglier aspects of the world. Very true. But first we have to look at them. And some of that looking calls for a mirror.
Interesting editorial. It's summed up as "We Say: Publicly-paid benefits of any kind must be open to public view." Damn right.
So when is the TandT going to tell us how much in benefits like loans, gifts, tax breaks, resources and other favours we give every year to Irving and friends? That's public money, whether it's direct grants, or in taxes we have to make up for, or in the forests and minerals that belong to us. That's public money. Damn right they should be open to public view.
So why don't the editors at the TandT do it?