In today’s Detroit News, the important wire story about the arrest of three jihadists in Germany caught assembling bombs to blow up Americans was run under the large headline, “Alleged attack plot foiled.”
There’s nothing in the story itself to call into question the truth of what German authorities described of the jihadist plan, nor any other reason to question the reality of the attack plot itself--described by many accounts as “massive.” It was not merely an “alleged attack plot.”
Nor did the rest of the liberal press seem to feel the need to question the reality of the plot, judging from only this sampling of headlines:
“German Police Arrest 3 in Terrorist Plot” -- The New York Times
“German shock at bomb plot arrests” -- BBC News
“German police hunt for terror plot 'back-up team'” -- Guardian Unlimited
“3 planned 'massive airport bombs'” -- CNN International
“Germany arrests three in 'massive' terror plot” -- CTV Canada
As of yesterday there were three suspects in custody, “two German converts to Islam and a Turkish citizen who prosecutors said shared a ‘profound hatred of U.S. citizens.’” German police have launched an international manhunt for as many as 10 more. (“10 More Sought in German Terror Plot”).
There was a very real cottage used to store explosives that was surveilled by as many as 300 law enforcement officials for months; and the jihadists had “obtained military-style detonators and enough chemicals to make bombs more powerful than those that killed 191 commuters in Madrid in 2004 and 52 in London in 2005.”
We understand that the high scrupulosity of professional newspaper editors--not to mention fear of libel lawsuits--require that media descriptions of persons accused of crimes but as yet not convicted of any charge be called “alleged” murderers, rapists, perjurers, etc. This signals that the accused may in fact be innocent and pure as the driven snow.
Like anything, the media is sometimes recklessly inconsistent about this rule about alleged wrongdoers or wrongdoing "alleged"--see for example, the thousands of references to the “Duke rape supects,” the "NSA domestic spying program,” and almost every word printed about the “outing of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame in retaliation for Joe Wilson’s exposure of Bush administration lies about Saddam’s attempts to buy yellowcake from Africa”--not a single word of which was ever true, nor ever was granted the benefit of a single “alleged” in the major media.
Obviously, the story about the German terror plot against US and Western interests is not just a crime story in which suspects (and even the crime itself) must be given the editorial kid-glove treatment (“alleged attack plot”). In fact, it's not a crime story at all, because it's a war story. The story is as big as the war on terror. Or, by the same token, and depending on your political point of view, it may be as small, or as questionable, as the ("so-called") "war on terror."
Am I being too persnickety about the Detroit News’s poor choice of words? More than likely, knowing me. But then again, the devil is in the details, and details add up.
By means of incessant use in mass media of sneer quotes, references to merely “alleged” terrorist links and plots, and endless jabs at “Bush’s war in Iraq” and the “so-called war on terror,” the left manages to feed at least some Americans' desperate fantasy that we are still in a September 10, Islamist-radical free world.
If you don’t think this incessant drip-drip-drip of skepticism has its effect, then consider this.
In late September 2001, the American public was crystal clear that Al Qaida and Islamic terrorists had struck us on 9/11, and would strike again if we didn’t strike back.
Since then, there have been literally thousands of reports daily and hourly from all over the globe of terror attacks, kidnappings, bombings, beheadings, radical threats, fatwas, exposures of plots in mosques, of terror cells, cries of Death to America!, threats of nuclear jihad, foundings of radical Islamic republics, murders of journalists, murders of missionaries, murders of women and children--all of which were matter-of-factly reported and news-crawled (sans the adjective “alleged”) beneath our very eyes. And in every instance these brutal attacks and murders manifestly were rising directly up out of the increasingly violent pathology that is the Islamic world. The average American today knows exponentially more about the extent and virulence of global jihadism than he ever did before 9/11, and that's even if he only halfway pays attention.
And yet now, in September 2007, tens of millions of Americans who once knew better on 9/11, now question not only the reality of the “so-called war on terror,” but even whether it was Islamic terrorists--and not conniving Americans--who knocked down the World Trade Center in the first place.
Such are the power and importance of words.