September 02, 2003
"Terrorist" versus "militant"

Someone in the media finally gets it.

Philip Gailey, editor of editorials for the St. Petersburg Times (the one in Florida, not the one in Russia) is the first major media figure (the paper has the largest circulation in the state of Florida, and is one of the 20 largest in the country) to recognize that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not militants, they are terrorists. The column is a refutation of the whole "militant" mindset.

His most rousing denouncement of the whole issue comes in the last two paragraphs of his column, in which he levels some harsh criticism at the public editor of Central Florida rival Orlando Sentinel, and the fabulously stupid statement he made on the issue:

Manning Pynn, the Sentinel's public editor, recently wrote that despite the style committee decision, the paper will continue to use "militant" to describe Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, both of which are on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. "The term "terrorist' certainly expresses judgment: It imputes to the person or organization being described the motive of trying to instill fear. "Militant' seems to me much more neutral," Pynn wrote.

Foolish me. I thought instilling fear is exactly what Hamas and Islamic Jihad mean to do when they send their suicide bombers into markets, restaurants and buses to kill and terrorize Israeli civilians. I'm all for fair and balanced reporting (I hope the Fox cable news network doesn't slap me with a lawsuit for trademark infringement), but I also believe that words do matter. And if the word "terrorism" is to have any real meaning, then blowing up a bus crowded with women and children must be condemned for what it is - an act of terrorism.


I have a few quibbles with word choices ("assassination" for the Israeli targeting of terrorist leaders, for example), but overall, the column is a stunning refutation of the media establishment's pussyfooting around the issue. It should be required reading for every editor across the country.

(Link courtesy of Common Sense and Wonder.)

posted on September 02, 2003 09:11 AM


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