Another day, another bald faced lie from the President of the United States. This time Donald J. Trump had the gall to tell a room full of military commanders that the U.S. media has been purposefully ignoring terrorist attacks in the United States. It drew raised and furrowed eyebrows from sea to shining sea, and a sharp rebuke from the fact checking journalists at Politifact.
Terrorism is not underreported in the West, Politifact found. It is actually vastly over-reported when counted against incidents of terrorism in other parts of the world, according to a report from the normally conservative CATO institute and other research outlets.
— ThinkProgress (@thinkprogress) February 7, 2017
The thing is, terrorist attacks happen somewhere in the world almost every day. Cities in foreign nations like Iraq are under sometimes constant siege by terror groups. There, bloody bombings and civilian attacks are a common occurrence, a perpetually terrifying thread that traces the fabric of daily life. Those attacks are reported, sometimes, usually once, in a paragraph somewhere in the deep inside pages of U.S. and European newspapers.
By contrast, terror attacks in western nations, including European countries and, of course, the United States, are very rare. When they do happen, they are covered exhaustively. Analysts fill television screens in the wee hours of the morning with fearful speculation about the stakes of global security and all-but-certain peril. Even when they do happen, western terror attacks are much more likely to be perpetrated by native-born citizens than foreigners, according to The Atlantic. 9/11 and recent attacks in Brussels and Paris are notable exceptions.
Under previous presidents, the commander-in-chief is normally tasked with calming the anxious hearts of citizens awash in sensational coverage. Mr. Trump, of course, isn’t a typical president, or should I say, so-called president.
Take CNN for instance. Typically gushing in its coverage of anything that is burning or dead, the network has undertaken somewhat of a role reversal in recent weeks. Last week, the network published this sober headline:
“How many fatal terror attacks have refugees carried out in the US? None”
That article goes on to point out the absurdity of Mr. Trump’s claim that banning refugees — the scarred and tattered women and children seeking refuge from car bombs in terror-ravaged cities like Aleppo or Baghdad — would somehow relieve a non-existent terror threat.
It may come as no surprise to many that President Trump has again been called on an embarrassing and overzealous attempt to press a lie on the citizenry that trusted him with their highest office, but this particular lie is unusually vile in its reflection on the president’s physical fitness to hold office. Say there were to be a terror attack on U.S. soil tomorrow, or next week, or in any coming week. Perhaps there’s a bombing in a city, or a shooting in a school. Maybe, as events unfolded nearly 16 years ago, the attacks come in multiple states, from unforseeable places. The nation is frozen in a petrified state of fear.
In those times, as hearts tense and jaws clench, people look to the nation’s highest office, now Mr. Trump’s White House, for a benevolent calming hand, for the voice that says, “we will overcome this fear and persist.” It appears, however, that Mr. Trump is more than willing to dispatch calm, so long as it contributes to his personal motivations. He has shown that he is willing to use terror, real or imagined, to advance a political campaign.
The funny thing about terrorism is that it requires no physical manifestation to effect its desired outcome. Terror alone, whether real or perceived, is the primary tool of any terrorist. As George Orwell wrote, in 1984: “The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?”