In his book, Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat, Michael Widlanski points out how political correctness is hindering the American battle against Islamic terror.
At the beginning of his book, Widlanski points out that immediately following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, The New York Times said that the violence was something that “came out of the blue.” Conversely, Widlanski argues that Arab-Islamic hate toward the United States went largely unexamined due to years of poor reporting. He argues that through academia and the press, there has somehow been a “sabotaging” of the Western mind.
American government agencies, academics, and journalists have helped the enemy, according to Widlanski. He believes that elite journalists and academics have a “role in shaping how we think about the terror threat.” He says that in turn, we need to change how we think of the threat. “We need to know how they think, what motivates them.” This involves investigating things ourselves. This is what he thinks can lead the best fight against terrorism.
“In fact, when the first World Trade Center attack took place in 1993, The New York Times called them ‘Jerseymen,’” Widlanski told Accuracy in Media editor Roger Aronoff on Aronoff’s Take AIM radio show. “ The ‘Jersey Boys’ came across and attacked the World Trade Center!”
“The whole Muslim angle was not covered.”
“Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication. His doctorate dealt with Palestinian broadcast media,” Aronoff noted in introducing Widlanski to his Blog Talk Radio audience. “He is a former reporter, correspondent, and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, the Cox newspaper Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post.”
“ He has also served as a Special Advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in 1991 and ’92, and as a Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public Security editing secret PLO archives captured in Jerusalem.”
Simply stated, Widlanski argues in his book that imagination is how we should fight terrorism. Why? “What kills terrorists is imagination – our imagination,” he says. Widlanski shows a thorough understanding of what terrorism aims to do – “Terror literally means fear, seizing someone’s mind,” he says. Because of this, he argues that the West must “confront terror on the battlefield of the mind.”
The first way Widlanski points out that the American mind has been infiltrated with the dangers of political correctness is through the university. He says that following 9/11, some academics were preoccupied with America’s guilt. He cites a source that says people began to point fingers, not at the terrorists, but at the country itself.
One of the most interesting claims Widlanski makes is that “knowledge equals power, and ignorance equals terror.” He says that we can’t be afraid to learn. If we have knowledge of something, he thinks we will dominate it. If we are ignorant of the terrorists, we cannot dominate them.
In addition to this, he argues that it is more than likely not a good idea for American universities to host guests and speakers who go against American thought. He cited the 2007 incident when Columbia University allowed Mahmoud Ahmandinejad to speak on their campus. “It was a bold decision, perhaps a foolish one: welcoming a leader who has repeatedly justified (and perhaps planned) attacks on Americans…” His thoughts challenge us to think how we can combat terrorism if we harbor it in a place that is a segue for intellectual thought.
Another interesting aspect of this book is how Widlanski is not afraid to point out the “ugly reality” that exists when journalists in the media cover authoritarians and terrorists.
He says, “Journalists who lie to themselves will lie to the public and end up helping terrorists to win the battle of the mind that is key to defeating terror.” Honesty, Widlanski thinks, this the only way to confront this issues that lie before the country. “Reporters have to be honest with themselves, because the public relies on them. The public needs to know the truth about the Arab-Islamic terrorists without the blinders of political correctness… Many media outlets have failed this test: making murderers and veiling victims – before 9/11 and even afterward.” He says that journalism can’t be so quick to mask the home front of terror.
Widlanski says journalists must channel their energy into traits that are currently “lacking” in the U.S. intelligence agencies: imagination (considering all possibilities), courage, education, and work.
To Widlanski, the battle of the mind can only be won by challenging the ways the establishment of media, academia, and the government think and operate. The only way to win the battle of the mind is to know that we can win, but we have to develop the people in intelligence, media, and academia that can get us there.
Jocelyn Grecko is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia. Jocelyn has spent the past four years in the nation’s capital as a Media Studies undergraduate student at The Catholic University of America. She will graduate in May 2012.
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