Monday, June 13, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 13, 2016, Josh Earnest

When it comes to Hillary Clinton's pronouncement earlier Monday that "radical Islamism" and "radical jihadism" are "the same thing" in discussing the Orlando, Florida, terrorist attack, the White House is sticking with its current terminology.

"Listen, I think the president has been quite clear why we choose the language we use to define our enemy. And we have defined the enemy, our adversary in this war as a terrorist organization that perverts Islam," press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. "And the president's been blunt about that and the president has been blunt about why exactly we use the terminology that we do. And it is to make crystal clear we're not going to give those extremist organizations the legitimacy of claiming legitimate Islam."

President Barack Obama is "not going to give into them," Earnest said, because those groups and people "want that legitimacy."

"They want to further this narrative that they represent Islam in a war against the West. That narrative is false. It is empty. It is a myth. In fact, most of the victims of these terrorist organizations are in fact innocent Muslim men, women and children," Earnest continued, adding, "Many of the -- many of our most important partners in our counter-ISIL effort are our partners in the Muslim world."

That should suggest that the "extremist organizations do not represent the Muslim faith," Earnest said.
-- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, June 13, 2016, as related in a story by Nick Gass of Politico. Earnest was referring to the Orlando nightclub shooting by Omar Mir Seddique Mateen.

Comment: Earnest is making the argument that Obama won't call the shooting "Islamic" because it would be saying that such violence is a legitimate part of Islam, which a derisive distortion of Islam and a false justification of the shooter's actions. But is that really what such language commits us to? If I call Adolf Hitler a "German supremacist" or a "white supremacist", does that mean I'm saying his rhetoric and violence is a legitimate part of what it is to be German or white? Or, if I say that Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong were socialists – or "radical socialists" – am I therefore saying their violent, oppressive behavior is an essential part of socialism, and that all socialists are committed to the same? The same question goes to phrases like "right-wing violence", "left-wing violence", 'environmental terrorism", "Christian militants", etc. Do they all amount to a false portrayal that demonizes these wider movements as being represented by extremists? Do these phrases all give unearned legitimacy for the people doing the violence?

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