No-one should treat Daniel Pipes as a reliable source of information, but his claims get endlessly recycled through the internet. Today he gets prominence on Arts and Letters Daily for this piece which claims that journalists have shied away from using the word “terrorist” in connection with the terrorist murders at Beslan. The Arts and Letters Daily intro reads:
Call them assailants, bombers, captors, commandos, fighters, guerrillas, gunmen, militants, radicals, rebels, or activists. But please, not terrorists…
Pipes himself writes:
The press, however, generally shies away from the word terrorist, preferring euphemisms. Take the assault that led to the deaths of some 400 people, many of them children, in Beslan, Russia, on September 3. Journalists have delved deep into their thesauruses, finding at least twenty euphemisms for terrorists.
He also refers to “this unwillingness to name terrorists”.
He then links to twenty news sources to exemplify his claims. These are the examples cherry-picked by Pipes to support his case. I’ve followed them all.
National Public Radio This is a five-line intro rather than an article. It dates from September 1st and refers to the breaking news of the attack when details aren’t clear. Verdict: too slight and ephemeral to support Pipes.
Economist “After a wave of terrorist attacks across Russia …. Though the terrorist attacks have continued ….Moscow and other Russian cities continue to suffer terrorist outrages….The terrorists apparently bribed their way through a series of checkpoints”
Associated Press As Pipes claims, the word terrorist is not used, but the moral outrage of the article is clear to anyone who can read.
Agence France Presse “Ce dénouement sanglant porte à plus de 420 le nombre de personnes tuées dans des actes terroristes en Russie en dix jours …. Selon les autorités, les terroristes, dont une dizaine originaires de pays arabes, ont utilisé des armes et des explosifs entreposés à l’avance dans l’école, ce qui suppose une préparation minutieuse de l’opération.”
The Times The words “terror”, “terrorist” or “terrorism” are used 25 times in this column by Simon Jenkins, and only one of this instances is in inverted commas.
UPI “The hostage death toll in Russia’s Beslan school crisis topped 100 Friday as police cornered three terrorists—with hostages—in a basement….the terrorists’ leader and two associates …. the terrorists’ leader in the basement ….aced with explosives by the terrorists ” etc.
The Australian “the number of terrorists killed and captured”.
New York Post “40 heavily armed Chechen terrorists….the terrorists began shooting at fleeing children.” etc.
As Pipes claims, the word “terrorist” is not used.
Los Angeles Times The words do occur, but mainly in the context to direct quotations.
New York Times Here Pipes’s complaint is confined to the use of the word “insurgents” in the headline. Which is just as well, since terrorists are clearly mentioned as such in the article, repeatedly.
The Observer “According to witnesses, this was not the only group of terrorists….Two years ago, when Chechen terrorists seized 800 theatre-goers in the Dubrovka theatre in Moscow ….inside the school the terrorists were also separating men from women ….the terrorists were also busy rigging up a series of bombs….The terrorists moved quickly to establish their control over the captives.
Chicago Tribune “terrorists who, in the course of just two weeks, have significantly raised the nation’s level of fear”. There may be slightly more evidence of reluctance to use the words in this case than in some of the others.
New York Times (again) “one of the most horrific terrorist acts in recent times, with the massacre of hundreds of children, parents and teachers” (and multiple other references).
BBC No mention of terror, terrorism or terrorists in the article linked to which is an assessment of the performance of the Russian security services rather than a general article on the massacre. Some support for Pipes here then. (Let me report, though, that I heard BBC commentators on Radio 5 this morning clearly referring to terrorists by that name).
Sydney Morning Herald Pipes limits himself to mentioning the headline. Odd that, as the article doesn’t use the words so offers him some support, though, again, it isn’t a general article about Beslan.
Christian Science Monitor “As Russians bury their dead, officials look at terrorist links to Chechen rebels…..sophisticated terror operation”.
Pakistan Times All mentions of the words are in the reported speech of others (which makes up much of the article).
Further comment seems superfluous.