Political Correctness Kills
When political correctness first entered the lexicon more than thirty years ago, it struck me primarily as a series of slightly annoying, humorless social conventions. But as modern electoral politics, particularly Democratic party politics, has come to revolve around cobbling together coalitions of various identity/victimhood groups, political correctness has been transformed into something more pernicious, fundamentally corrupting our ability to think by declaring forbidden the very mention of certain words and concepts.
The eighty-page government report after the Fort Hood massacre constituted an alert of precisely how far matters had devolved. That report classified Dr. Nissan Hassan's shooting of thirteen while shouting "Alla-hu Akbar" as an instance of "workplace violence." Even though Hassan had been radicalized by a U.S.-born Muslim cleric subsequently killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, the report straight-facedly maintained that "religious fundamentalism alone is not a risk factor." It declined to specify what other risk factors there might be. In congressional testimony, Atty.-Gen. Eric Holder repeatedly refuse to acknowledge any connection between the Ft. Hood assassin, the Times Square bomber, and the x-mas bomber, who tried to bring down a plane carrying more than 200 people over Detroit, and whose own father had contacted British intelligence to warn of his son's Islamic radicalization.
One prays that Holder and the authors of the report do not really believe what they say and write, but one can no longer be sure. In President Obama's Oval Office speech on the evolving terror threat following the San Bernardino massacre, he mentioned Fort Hood, without any reference to "workplace violence" -- a small step for sanity.
The intellectually corrupting aspect of political correctness has been most prominently on display with respect to the Western response to political Islam, defined by the desire to impose Sharia law across the globe. But the recent proliferation of unintelligible demands by various campus minority groups and the near universal capitulation of university administrators in response is another aspect of political correctness run amok.
WITH RESPECT TO THE ISLAMIST THREAT, political correctness takes two parallel paths. The first is to deny any common thread running through acts of Islamic terror around the world, and frequently to obscure the religion of the perpetrators entirely. For instance, last April, the Minneapolis U.S. Attorney's office filed indictments for seeking to join ISIS against six local Somali men whose families were admitted to the United States in the early 1990s as refugees from a civil war in Somalia. To date 15 members of the community have either joined or sought to join ISIS. In news reports concerning such terrorist activities, the accused are routinely described only as "Minnesota men," though their photos will not likely remind anyone of the stereotypical Minnesotan of Nordic descent. Inevitably elided is their religion – Muslim.
Once U.S. officials, like President Obama's anti-terrorist czar John Brennan, referred to the terrorist threat as confined to "Al Qaeda and its affiliates." Of late, ISIS has been added to the mix. But in either case, they are treated as if they were discrete terrorist groups, with no common ideology, either with one another or with dozens of other jihadi groups. But that ignores that Al-Qaeda and ISIS are but the most dramatically "successful" of the various jihadi groups.
Tafsheen Malik, the female half of the husband and wife team that carried out the San Bernadino attacks, which killed 14, pledged allegiance to ISIS just moments before embarking on her deadly rampage. But she had been posting jihadist messages on-line since 2013, long before ISIS had even come into public view.
The second prong of the use of political correctness to minimize the threat of political Islam is the promotion of Islamophobia hysteria. CAIR, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorist funding case, and other self-appointed Islamic "defense groups" have long perfected the use of Islamophobia as an offensive weapon. We are by now conditioned to think of the greatest tragedy arising from acts of Islamic terrorism not as the loss of life of innocent victims but as the possibility that someone will think poorly of Muslims or of Islam – which "as everyone knows" is a religion of peace (albeit one that has been almost exclusively spread by the sword in every place and every epoch.) Former British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith once instructed the British media to describe terrorist acts perpetuated by Islamists as "anti-Islamic terror" for precisely that reason.
In his December 6 Oval Office speech, President Obama warned, "We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. " That statement, wrote Bret Stephens, reflected the president's penchant for suggesting "American's are always on the verge of returning to the wickedness whence we came."
Yet condemnations, much less physical attacks on Muslims in America, have been much more remarkable by virtue of their rarity. Syed Rizwan Farook's fervent Muslim belief barely raised an eyebrow among his co-workers until he opened fire on them. According to the FBI's hate crime statistics, Jews were the intended targets of about 60% of U.S. hate crimes in 2014, while hate crimes against Muslims constituted only 15% of the whole. Yet there are no examples of terror attacks by Jews against their fellow Americans.
THE FAILURE TO STOP the San Bernardino attacks before they occurred serves as an object lesson in how political correctness can turn lethal. After the attack, neighbors said they had noticed a great deal of suspicious activity, but had not reported it out of fear of being labelled bigots and accused of racial profiling.
Though Tashfeen Malik went through three background checks by American immigration officials prior to receiving a K-! fiancee visa to the United States, her long trail of social media postings in support of violent jihad went unnoticed. [The New York Times subsequently retracted its story about Malik's social media postings, and wrote that the jihadist comments were confined to private emails. So the most that can be said is the Department of DHS would likely not have picked up the comments even if they had been on social media for the reasons elucidated below – Ed.]
Employers check social media before making new hires and universities routinely scan applicants social media presence, but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not bother to check the social media trail of a would be immigrant from a Pakistan, a country rife with Islamic extremism. According to John Cohen, former under-secretary of DHS for intelligence and analysis, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson resisted review of visa applicants' social media activity for fear of "bad public relations." The Office of Civil Liberties in the DHS felt that looking into social media might constitute an "invasion of privacy." But why should a person seeking the privilege of immigrating to the United States be thought to have a privacy right to protect him or herself from the closest scrutiny?
The Dec. 12 New York Times story on the failure to vet Malik's social media presence, offered as an excuse the impossibility of checking the Internet presence of every visa applicant as an excuse. But that is precisely where political correctness comes in. A frank acknowledgment that visa seekers from Muslim lands are more likely to pose a security threat would have focused attention on them. The Times reporters also pointed to the difficulty of distinguishing between Islamist sentiments and those caused by political hostility to the United States. As an example of the latter, they offered a photo of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center and an anti-American comment posted on Facebook by Tafsheen Malik's sister Fehda. But even if one granted in arguendo that such a posting was "merely" anti-American, why should the United States feel any obligation to admit on a citizenship track those who profess such hatred for America?
As it turns out, the opposition to reviewing visa applicant's social media presence was not the only involvement of DHS's Office of Civil Liberties in the failure to prevent the San Bernardino massacre. Philip Haney, a long-time agent with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's National Targetting Center, told Fox News he had opened an investigation of a Sunni Islamist group called Tablighi Jamaat, which is affiliated with the fundamentalist Deobandi movement. Tablighe Jamaat has been implicated in a series of planned terrorist plots in the United States and the London 7/7 underground bombings in 2005.
Syed Farook's San Bernardino mosque is tied to the Deobandi movement, and Haney charged that had his investigation been allowed to proceed it is possible that Farook would have appeared on more government lists. But according to Haney, his investigation was curtailed after one year by the DHS Office for Civil Liberties, Haney's security clearance removed, and his files deleted because the federal government did not want to profile Islamic groups.
The reluctance to conduct surveillance of Islamic groups and mosques is another result of the Islamophobia cudgel. CAIR, ably abetted by the New York Times, waged a long and ultimately successful campaign to have Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly dismissed over his departments surveillance of Islamic groups and mosques. Yet according to the first secretary of DHS, Tom Ridge and former CIA director James Woolsey, the NYPD's intelligence gathering within the Muslim community enabled it to foil several creditable terror plots.
The Times charges against Kelly included his participation in the Clarion Project documentary The Third Jihad, which the Times described as "anti-Islam" and as "a dark film on U.S. Muslims." Yet Woolsey, Ridge, a host of former intelligence officials, and the doyen of Middle East experts Bernard Lewis also participated. And the film's narrator, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, is himself a devout Muslim, whose opening words are, "This is not a film about Islam. It is a film about the threat of radical Islam."
POLITICAL CORRECTNESS has unquestionably had a debilitating impact on U.S. government intelligence gathering. Under President Obama, for instance, all references Islam were scrubbed from government anti-terrorism training manuals. By refusing to study or even think about the jihadi impulse within Islam, the U.S. precludes itself from any understanding of the process of radicalization in the West and properly assessing the potential pool of recruits to groups like ISIS. The NYPD's 2007 report, "Radicalization in the West: the Homegrown Threat" is forbidden reading.
President Obama is dismissive of the motives of those opposed to opening the doors of the U.S. to Syrian refugees and accused them of providing propaganda material to ISIS. Yet FBI director James Comey has testified to our almost total lack of data on those immigrants, and Lebanese education minister Elias Boussol has warned that 2% of the Syrian refugees are ISIS plants.
But, at the end of the day, the terrorist threat may be the lesser consequence of the administration's insistence on closing its eyes to the existence of radical Islam. By refusing to study or understand the theology behind Iran's 1979 Revolution, the President and Secretary of State left themselves incapable of grasping the magnitude of the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of apocalyptic Iranian theocrats. That is an act of willful blindness the consequences of which we will be suffering for many decades to come.