The New York Times is notorious for downplaying or ignoring links to radical Islam in the wake of terror attacks, and its response to the truck massacre in Nice, France mostly followed that pattern, with a news columnist shrugging off the idea the war on terror could ever be won and a front-page headline confidently stating the perpetrator was “A Surly Misfit With No Terror Links....” the morning that ISIS claimed responsibility.
After Mohamed Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian migrant, massacred dozens of innocents by plowing a truck through a festive crowd celebrating Bastille Day, Max Fisher brought a defeatist attitude toward the war on terror from his Saturday perch as the paper’s “Interpreter” news columnist, while blaming “right-wing” governments in Europe for Muslim discontent: “Terror’s New Form: A Threat That Can Be Managed, but Not Erased.”
Muslim or migrant populations have struggled to integrate into Western European countries, often left feeling excluded from national identities that stress secularism and are rooted in specifically European heritage.
Western governments have tried to address this by providing greater welfare programs to disadvantaged communities or, often, by more forcefully policing them.
But these, Mr. Neumann said, risk deepening the polarization between communities, which can be bridged only by building an “inclusive sense of national identity.” European societies have resisted this, instead giving rise to right-wing politics that emphasize ethnic and religious heritage.
Actually, the gross failure or even absence of effort to integrate Muslim communities has actually been a hallmark of left-wing European governments, apparently afraid of imposing their own values onto migrant communities for fear of being seen as intolerant of "Islamophobic."
As is so often the case, it’s really Bush’s fault:
Since Sept. 20, 2001, the day that President George W. Bush declared a “war on terror,” Western leaders have used the terminology of war both to explain the threat and to articulate their response.
“It is a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam,“ Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, said after a terrorist attack in the Paris area in January 2015.
A decade and a half of war has not delivered Western populations to safety, highlighting the gap between rhetoric and reality. But politicians have been constrained by this language, unable to acknowledge that, while war is a struggle that pulls a nation together and can eventually be won, the realities of terrorism can only be managed and the threats, at some point, merely endured.
Would the Times ever sadly declare that the “War on Drugs” or “War on Poverty” must be “merely endured,” as opposed to fought and won?
Andrew Higgins’ front-page Times story Saturday on the massacre was headlined: “A Surly Misfit With No Terror Links Turned a Truck Into a Tank.” That overconfident front-page headline was challenged later that morning, with ISIS claiming responsibility for the truck massacre (though the connection is presently oblique) according to the Washington Post, which also passed along signs that Bouhlel wasn’t just a “surly misfit” but had in fact been recently radicalized.
“It seems” that the attacker, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, 31, “radicalized his views very rapidly. These are the first elements that our investigation has come up with through interviews with his acquaintances,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Saturday, without offering further details. So far, five people have been detained for questioning in the case.
The Islamic-State-connected Amaq news agency, citing an “insider source,” said Bouhlel “was a soldier of the Islamic State.”
The Times’ lead editorial Saturday had sufficient smarts to hedge on the “no terror links” idea, before bashing right-wing parties and Newt Gingrich.
But whoever struck the blow, whatever its malevolent purpose or toll, the response cannot be to abandon the respect for human rights, equality, reason and tolerance that is the aspiration of all democratic cultures. Though it has become almost a cliché to argue that the goal of terrorists is to bring their victims down to their moral level, it is also a truth, and it must be reaffirmed after every attack.
Not surprisingly, the National Front, the right-wing party that thrives on aversion to Muslim immigrants, reacted disdainfully to these statements. “Spare us the indignation of the vultures of the main parties who let the wolves in to carry out this carnage,” declared Eric Domard, a senior adviser to the National Front leader Marine Le Pen.
Far more disgraceful and frightening was the reaction of Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the House and a possible cabinet secretary should Donald Trump become president. He proposed that every person “who is of a Muslim background” be tested for adherence to Shariah law, and those who supported it be deported. He also suggested that mosques in America be monitored.