Here’s a bit of weirdness. Tara McKelvey at the BBC reports on something labeled an “extremism summit” at the White House yesterday…without ever explaining what it was actually about. Well it was about “violent extremism”…but what is meant by that? She never says. You can tell what it’s about if you already know some things, but it’s utterly bizarre that the BBC is so exceedingly coy about it. I’m tempted to convene a summit on Extremist Evasiveness.
A summit at the White House to counter violent extremism has been criticised for being poorly organised and hasty. Will it be able to achieve anything, whether substantial or superficial?
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, spoke in halting English at the White House summit on Wednesday – though her message was forthright.
“When we are together, we are most strong,” she told police officers, FBI agents, European mayors and others gathered in a windowless auditorium for a conference on countering violent extremism, a three-day event held this week in Washington.
Oooh, violent extremism, what’s that, a naïve reader might wonder. Well a naïve reader will never find out by reading the article, no matter how closely or repeatedly. It’s just more of the same.
Extremists killed 17 people in attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine and at a Jewish supermarket in Paris in January.
Ms Hidalgo joined a unity march on the streets of Paris a few days later. She walked with UK Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel – and more than a million others.
There’s the tipoff. Oh that “violent extremism.” But then since it is in fact a particular kind of “violent extremism” with particular hates and particular goals and a particular ideology, what the HELL is the point of concealing all that? What is the point of giving it a generic and fundamentally empty label when an informative one exists? Imagine a White House summit on Nazism convened in 1938 (if only they had…) that was reported as being about “violent extremism” without mentioning Nazism. What would have been the use of that?
Obama wasn’t at the Paris march against “violent extremism” and the administration is worried about the criticisms of his failure to appear.
US officials seemed sensitive about the criticism. On the day of the march, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke about their plans to host a summit.
The forum, according to White House officials, was designed to help “prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalising, recruiting or inspiring individuals”.
Radicalizing into what? Recruiting to what? Inspiring to what? These violent extremists and their supporters don’t just go up to people and urge them to join the movement for “violent extremism” do they? Of course they fucking don’t.
Even those who are passionate about the goals of the summit – combating violent extremism – wonder about the optics – a term the Washington political class use to describe how an event is perceived.
One participant, a former State Department official, says there isn’t enough time to coordinate ministers for public appearances – one of the main goals for this kind of event.
Officials from France, Belgium, the UK, and other countries are attending. Mr Obama is expected to address them at the State Department on Thursday.
Whether hastily pulled together or carefully orchestrated, the summit to counter violent extremism is timely.
Timely! But mysterious. What oh what could all this violent extremism be in aid of? What’s its platform? What does it want? What vision of a better world is its goal? Won’t someone please tell us?
Speaking at the White House summit, a Belgian mayor, Hans Bonte, describes people from his city, Vilvoorde, who have joined extremist groups in Iraq and Syria.
“They are seen in awful video movies,” he says.
He believes dozens more people are now preparing to leave Belgium to join the extremist groups.
“We are facing a global problem,” Mr Bonte says. “But we have to act locally.”
Regardless of the politics – and the optics – of the summit, he and the others are facing the difficult task of trying to stop acts of violence. However flawed, the summit is better than nothing.
But is the reporting?
Not this reporting, that’s for sure. This reporting might as well be nothing. Godalmighty McKelvey even spells it out about the “extremist groups in Iraq and Syria” and the “awful videos” and people leaving Belgium to join “the extremist groups” but still doesn’t say the word. The word is never said throughout the article. Not once.
Islamist. The “violent extremist” groups are Islamist groups. “Violent extremist” is code for Islamist. But why does the BBC think it’s required to talk in code?
This is just plan bad reporting, reporting so bad that it borders on mendacious. The BBC ought to be better than this. It’s one of the chief sources of global news, and millions of people around the globe – most of them Muslims – are terrorized and victimized by Islamist groups. The BBC should be reporting honestly on the subject.
[Note: I’m pretty sure this is a BBC matter, not an individual reporter matter. I don’t think McKelvey decided for herself to report the story this way; I think it’s a house rule.]