The Spectacle Blog

Fallows’ Brain Lies Fallow

By on 7.24.11 | 9:41PM

Aaron Goldstein is doing an able job defending himself from allegations that he is an "Islamophobe"(whatever that is), and I hereby endorse his self-defense. He has nothing to apologize for.

Likewise, our former AmSpec blogging colleague Jennifer Rubin has come under attack, this time from somebody who for no good reason is tremendously respected by the establishment media, the ever-tiresome James Fallows. Fallows says the Washington Post "owes the world an apology" for a post in which Rubin assumed that the Norway shooter was a jihadist and used that as a launch to make a broader point -- an entirely solid point, no matter who did the shooting -- that in a world this dangerous, we should maintain a strong national defense.

Michelle Malkin already has ably defended Rubin, but I feel like adding my own two cents.

First, as somebody who took very strong issue with the Left's false and entirely warrantless blaming of the right for the Tucson shooting, I must repeat that it is always a bad thing for a journalist to make an assumption of guilt for any person or group in a situation like this before all the facts are in. But there is a huge difference between the unhinged rants on the Left after poor Gabrielle Giffords was shot and the measured, thoughtful tones of Jen Rubin -- who, after all, didn't use any loaded words, much less demagogic rantings, but merely used currently available knowledge to make a broader point. Indeed, unlike the Left's attacks on Sarah Palin after Tucson, the point of Rubin's post was NOT to cast blame and raise anger at all, but rather to make the larger argument about defense spending.

More important. Rubin wasn't merely speculating. There was every reason to believe that jihadists were the murderers in Norway, for the simple reason that at least two jihadists publicly said that the attacks were jihadist and that more were on the way:

Al Qaeda-linked terrorists quickly commented on today's attack. Abu Suleiman al Nasser, who is described by the SITE Intelligence Group as a "prominent jihadist," linked today's attack to Norway's deployment of forces in Afghanistan, and said the "mujahideen" were likely behind it. Nasser also said today's attack was related to the December 2010 suicide attack in Stockholm, Sweden, that killed one person. "Norway was targeted today to be a lesson and an example to the other countries of Europe," Nasser said in a statement released on the al Qaeda-linked Shumukh al Islam forum, according to a translation provided by SITE. "Since the Stockholm invasion we had threatened more operations and we demanded that the countries of Europe withdraw their armies from the land of Afghanistan and stop their war on Islam and Muslims. We repeat our warning anew to the countries of Europe, and we say to them: carry out the demands of the mujahideen, because what you are seeing is merely the beginning, and what is coming is more." Another jihadist, who is known as Amir Grozny, said today's attack was in retaliation for Norway's deployment of troops to Afghanistan."You have moments to get your soldiers out of the tomb of Khorasan, else you will see blood flow in the streets," Amir Grozny said in a post at the Shumukh al Islam forum, according to SITE. Today's attack takes place just nine days after Norwegian prosecutors filed charges against Mullah Krekar, a radical Islamist cleric who founded the al Qaeda-linked, Iraq based Ansar al Islam. Krakar threatened to carry out attacks against government officials if he was deported from Norway. Also, on July 8, prosecutors sought to charge three men linked to al Qaeda for plotting terror attacks in Scandinavia. Mikael Davud, a Uighur, and Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak, an Iraqi Kurd, both confessed to plotting attacks; the third suspect, David Jakobsen, an Uzbek, was released last year.

Yet Fallows blasts Rubin for reporting on this apparent jihadist link in the course of a broader point. This is the same James Fallows, though, who actually excused and in some way added to the attacks on conservatives and Sarah Palin after Tucson:

That's the further political ramification here. We don't know why the Tucson killer did what he did. If he is like Sirhan, we'll never "understand." But we know that it has been a time of extreme, implicitly violent political rhetoric and imagery, including SarahPac's famous bulls-eye map of 20 Congressional targets to be removed -- including Rep. Giffords. It is legitimate to discuss whether there is a connection between that tone and actual outbursts of violence, whatever the motivations of this killer turn out to be. At a minimum, it will be harder for anyone to talk -- on rallies, on cable TV, in ads -- about "eliminating" opponents, or to bring rifles to political meetings, or to say "don't retreat, reload."

A full week later, he still wasn't backing down:

Well, in a sense, that's what we do all the time. That is the purpose of storytellers, it's the purpose of journalists, to say, OK, we see those four dots, let's see if there's a pattern there. And the thing I wrote for "The Atlantic" site an hour or two after the killing, I said -- I made the point, number one, these assassination attempts are often so murky, we never really know. But number two, it's legitimate in our current climate to ask whether there is some kind of question. I think that asking will go on for some time. And I do agree with what David Frum was saying earlier, that a particular kind of political rhetoric which suggests paranoia, conspiracy, that individuals are being victimized, that that can provoke people. We don't know if it had any bearing in this case --

So let me get this straight. Even a week after Tucson, after it was absolutely clear that Palin and the right had nothing whatsoever to do with the Giffords shooting, Fallows was still saying that the very "purpose" of journalists is to connect dots and "see if there's a pattern there," and that "it is legitimate in our current climate to ask" if the rhetoric on the right had something to do with the shooting. But now that Rubin, VERY shortly after the Norway tragedy, doesn't just connect nearly invisible dots but actually cites stories quoting jidahists themselves as claiming jihadist "credit" for the terrorism, Fallows says it suddenly is not only a horrible sin for Rubin to take the jihadists' words themselves for real -- these aren't mere dots, they are what's known as solid circumstantial evidence -- but that is is a mistake bad enough that her employer should apologize to the world.

I have a better idea. I think the Atlantic should force Fallows himself to apologize to the world for his blatant hypocrisy.

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