Spinning for Al Qaeda

Michael J. Totten has a new column at TCS charging that, in its quest for neutrality, the media actually “spins for al Qaeda

Journalists don’t put Al Qaeda’s spin on the news because they sympathize with it. No one sits around the copy desk thinking of clever ways to shill for the enemy. It gets in there anyway, partly because of acute feelings of guilt over some Americans’ bad behavior in Abu Ghraib but mostly out of sheer laziness. Al Qaeda provides ready-made “news analysis,” so why not just stick it in there? It takes more effort to get contrary quotes and, besides, debunking propaganda is “editorializing.”


The idea that Al Qaeda murdered Nick Berg in retaliation for anything is absurd on the face of it. We already know Al Qaeda says every Jew (Nick Berg was Jewish), every American (Nick Berg was American), and every “infidel” (Nick Berg was an “infidel”) has a hit put out on his head. This was the case years before most of us had ever heard of Abu Ghraib, even years before September 11. Nick Berg would not be alive if Abu Ghraib were a soup kitchen. Saying one event triggered the other flies in the face of everything we know about Al Qaeda.


Sometimes, the “neutral” position that both sides in a conflict have equal standing amounts to propaganda, conferring false legitimacy on the perpetrators of evil. Blithely reporting that a dictator got 99% of the vote in an “election,” calling generations-old villages “refugee camps,” referring to terrorist groups as “militants,” and using the term “extreme Right” to refer both to Newt Gingrich and the Taliban are all classic examples of this.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.