Accuracy in Media

Dan Abrams of MSNBC has aired a commentary asking, “Why are so many in the media afraid to call terrorists what they are, terrorists?  Instead, many use softer, more heroic, and I would say less accurate words like ‘insurgents,’ ‘militant’ or ‘rebel.'” That’s a good point, Dan. Why not send a transcript of your commentary, which is posted on the MSNBC web site, to your bosses and demand changes at your own network?

We searched the MSNBC web site for stories about the terrorists and found an Associated Press story referring to beheadings of Americans committed by “Islamic militants.” We found a story about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who runs the group that claims responsibility for suicide bombings, kidnappings and hostage beheadings. He was merely labeled a “Jordanian-born militant.” Ironically, Abrams had complained about the media labeling Zarqawi “an Iraqi insurgent, not the terrorist that he is.” But his own network ran a story calling him a “militant.”

Abrams is to be congratulated for noting how the media refuse to tell the truth about the terrorists who want to kill us. But this is just rhetoric unless he takes action to change the terminology at his own network. He mentioned the “flap” involving the Reuters news agency, which doesn’t use the word “terrorist” because it is supposed to be too emotional. Its stories were being changed by a Canadian newspaper chain that wanted to label terrorists as terrorists. Abrams asked, “Why don’t they [Reuters] just say we’re unwilling to relay the news in the most accurate way possible?”  So what is the excuse of MSNBC and other media for running those kinds of stories?

Abrams made an excellent case, running through the dictionary definitions of terms such as “militant” and “rebel” to show that these labels do not apply to the terrorists who deliberately target civilians for death.  Abrams declared, “It’s time for the media to step up to the plate and stop treating these killers with respect they don’t deserve.” Fine, Dan, but MSNBC should also step up to the plate.

MSNBC on September 30 ran an AP story about three bombs exploding at a neighborhood celebration in Iraq, killing 35 children and seven adults. The story said, “The bombs in Baghdad’s al-Amel neighborhood caused the largest death toll of children in any insurgent attack since the conflict in Iraq began 17 months ago.” Insurgent? Once again, MSNBC failed to meet the standards that Dan Abrams says he expects of other media. The Washington Post wasn’t any better, calling the attacks “a dramatic escalation of the country’s violent insurgency?” The refusal to identify and describe terrorism dulls the public mind to the realities of what we face in this war. Using terms like “militant” or “insurgent” gives some form of legitimacy to the terrorism they were responsible for.

Recently, Dan Abrams went public with his story of discovering and fighting testicular cancer. His story was a lesson for other men about the need to be examined and tested for the disease. Abrams can also perform a public service by confronting his own bosses about how they portray and cover terrorism, which also kills people.

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