a reply to: sputniksteve
Replying to the OP, here. We should first look at the meaning of "Political Correctness". This term is generally used in the pejorative to
denegrate those who choose their words carefully in order to avoid insulting minority constituents in the political spectrum. The thought, of course,
is that harm is done to some party when one asserts that, for instance, a transgender individual should be referred to by their chosen gender rather
than their biological gender. Honesty is lost! Truth is lost! I think that most of us can agree, however, that so long as the matter is not taken to
extremes, advocating for what can only be described as respectful politeness is rather harmless. Perhaps even helpful. But I don't think that's what
the OP is really concerned with. So, let's boil this down to the subtantive question raised in the OP: are we failing to properly address terrorism
because we are careful about labeling an event as "Islamist Terrorism"?
I don't think that any harm is being done here. Allow me to elaborate. The label of "terrorism" is useful in two ways, I think. First, in that it
describes a tactic -- wielding force, usually against an unarmed and unsuspecting target, in an effort to influence policy. This usually happens in a
highly assymetric power equation, where the perpetrators of terror are outmatched by their (usually nation-state sponsored and/or endorsed) opponents.
See: Israel v. Palestine, where Palestinians are grossly outmatched in any serious conflict with Israelis, and so some Palestinians (unwisely and
without regard for innocent life) employ terrorism as a force-multiplier in their effort to influence policy. But not always. The only documented
uses of nuclear weaponry were quite unquestionably employing the tactic of terrorism: Hiroshima and Nagasaki were soft targets, but the hope was that
an overwhelming display of military ferocity would usher in a rapid end of hostilities. Here, the United States was trying to terrify the government
of Japan into submission, and arguably succeeded. Here we find an unusual contrast when it comes to "political correctness": we don't describe the US
tactics as being terrorism, but we do label the tactics of the aforementioned Palestinians as terrorism. In this case, the notion of "political
correctness" probably is
harmful, but not, I suspect, in the way that you are proposing. It is harmful in that the politically correct way of
discussing the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki within the US political landscape totally avoids the truth of what those tactics were and are.
Whether you believe the acts right or wrong, it does no good to pretend as though the US did not deliberately end hundreds of thousands of civilian
lives (a conservative estimate would be 225,000) in the hope that this would bring an early end to the military conflict.
But secondly, I think "terrorism" as a label is useful in that it signals an organized effort by a constituency much larger than the perpetrator.
Looking at the San Bernardino incident, it is obvious that the question of whether the perpetrators were acting individually as opposed to being part
of a larger, organized effort is an important one. And I am sure the the author of the OP is convinced the latter is the case, and that the danger
introduced by tip-toeing around this situation is that people are deceived into underestimating the threat being faced. But this must be balanced
against the difficult to measure but very real damage which is done when ordinary Muslims are alienated by the effort to portray their beliefs --
beliefs that do not
drive them to commit horrible acts -- as being the seed of something terrible and malicious. The reason a wise diplomat is
careful when it comes to ascribing atrocities committed by Muslims to the religion itself is the same as it is for associating the KKK or violence
against abortion providers with Christianity. It is generally unhelpful to do so, and it insults the vast majority of peaceful Christians who would
never endorse those agendas.
Looking at the likely perpetrators of the San Bernardino attack, facts strongly suggest that they were motivated, at least in part, by an extremist
Muslim ideology. But whether it is useful to highlight this is still a matter of question. The shooter in Colorado Springs who murdered LEOs and
civilians rather indiscriminately looks to have been motivated by a twisted take on Christian ideology. Is it useful to talk about the perpetrator of
those crimes as a Christian terrorist? I don't think so. We are all grown-ups here, and we all know that sometimes people who've lost their marbles
do terrible things and ascribe their actions to whatever belief systems make them tick. There is nothing to suggest that he was part of some
underground network of secret Christian terrorists who are, as I type, arranging another attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in a community "Near
You." When discussing the San Bernardino incident, the same thinking applies: it is only important to discuss it as a matter of Muslim extremism
insomuch as this couple was tied into a larger network involving bidirectional planning and decision-making. If they were "merely" a couple of
extraordinarily imbalanced people watching awful videos on Youtube and the like who decided to make a horrorshow of their lives and the lives of their
victims, then they are very much in the same category as the perpetrator of the Colorado Springs, CO shootings or the Roseburg, OR shootings. And to
this point, the evidence made available to the public suggests that this is indeed the case.
So, were the San Bernardino shooters "Islamist Terrorists"? They probably were, in precisely the same sense that the Colorado Springs, CO perpetrator
was probably a "Christian Terrorist". Is it helpful to describe them that way? Probably not, for precisely the same reason it is probably not helpful
to describe the Colorado Springs, CO shooter that way.
That said, I do want to make mention of the fact they "crashed" their mobile phones and removed hard drives from their apartment prior to the attack.
I am concerned that this might indicate that they were in fact part of a larger network and were covering their tracks to avoid implicating their
accomplices. I hope that this is not the case and that these two were alone in their evil machinations, but I remain open to the possiblity that they
were "terrorists" in this second sense; that they were part of a larger, organized agenda. If that turns out to be the case, however, it would be
very irresponsible to have suggested such before the facts rather conclusively supported it.