UPDATE at 3:17 p.m.: Well, well, well:
Still, it’s a poor reflection on the administration that it took even this long to do the logical thing rather than engage in pointless gamesmanship.
Here’s how badly the Obama administration has botched the response to ISIS: The Group Formerly Known As the JV Team is now reckoned to be so powerfully inspirational, it has become The Group So Evil We Dare Not Speak Its Name.
More than a week after reporting that the Orlando shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS and its leader in a call to 911 during his murderous assault on a gay nightclub, the FBI today released a transcript of the call with those names redacted from the text. Here it is, in pertinent part:
And here’s the official explanation:
“‘Part of the redacting is meant to not give credence to individuals who have done terrorist acts in the past,’ FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ron Hopper said at a news conference. ‘We’re not going to propagate their rhetoric, their violent rhetoric, and we see no value in putting those individuals’ names back out there. We’re trying to prevent future acts from happening again and for cowards like this one, people like that influence them.'”
Now, I have not named this particular shooter at all, in large part because it is becoming ever clearer how much fame (or infamy) plays a role in motivating many mass killers — all the more so in the age of not only ubiquitous news media but social media as well. And it is understandable that law enforcement would not want to release audio of the killer making these statements, as that could easily be appropriated by ISIS.
However … it is ludicrous at this point to pretend we can un-ring the bell sounded by those initial reports. By now, it is known far and wide that the killer declared his allegiance to ISIS and its leader; the FBI doesn’t deny this, it simply has been told not to talk about it now (see Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s interview on Meet the Press yesterday). This is crazy in more ways than one.
For starters, we are not talking about some new or random group here. In all but name, this country is at war with ISIS. It may be a low-intensity war that has done nothing to decrease the self-declared caliphate’s ability to inspire terrorism around the world, but it is nonetheless an engagement with which everyone is familiar. Blotting out ISIS’s name from the 911 transcript makes about as much sense as if FDR had gone before Congress to say, “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of … a nation I shall not name, lest Tokyo Rose — er, I mean, a certain ‘Rose’ in a large foreign capital — mention it.”
Second, this ham-fisted effort at this point is itself a potential source of ISIS propaganda. One can just imagine its spokesmen saying, “The Americans are so scared of us they won’t even speak our name, because they know it will only make us more powerful!” Redacting the transcript is exactly the kind of detached, “cerebral” plan that comes from an administration whose actions have been consistently governed by its notion of how it would like the world to be and act, rather than how it is and does.
Third, we have been inundated for the past week with warnings that omitting the fact the shooting took place at a gay club, and that many victims were LGBT persons and/or Latino, amounts to “whitewashing” the crime. I am unaware of any arguments that identifying the nightclub as a gay nightclub could encourage copycat crimes at other gay nightclubs. So if it’s important to know something central to the identities of the victims — and I wouldn’t argue otherwise — why would we pretend it’s also important to ignore something central to the identity of their killer?
If you’re looking for logic to this decision, you should look at propaganda value — but that of the left, not ISIS. From the beginning, left-wing politicians and pundits have been determined to take an act of terrorism committed by a self-professed adherent of ISIS, and make it about guns, Christian “bigotry,” anything but ISIS and the danger of radical Islamic terrorism. This is of a piece with that chosen narrative. Just like four years ago, the Obama administration finds itself in an election year in which its foreign policy is under scrutiny, and just like four years ago it is going to great lengths to spin an illusion that everything is proceeding well.