Last week, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said on ABC’s The View that “Muslims killed us on 9/11,” prompting The View co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar to walk off the set in disgust. “If anybody felt that I meant all Muslims, then I apologize,” he said later in the program.
But now, O’Reilly, with handy assistance from his colleagues at Fox News, is defending his original claim. “There’s no question there is a Muslim problem in the world,” he said last night on his show. “The Muslim threat to the world is not isolated. It’s huge!” he said, adding, “It involves nations and millions of people.” O’Reilly asked Fox News’ “liberal” Juan Williams if he’s wrong. Surprisingly, Williams joined with the other Fox Newsers in circling the wagons around O’Reilly, citing “political correctness” and seemingly because Muslims scare him:
WILLIAMS: Well, actually, I hate to say this to you because I don’t want to get your ego going. But I think you’re right. I think, look, political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality.
I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.
Williams justified his defense, saying that the would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad “said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts.” But this kind of thinking is exactly what digs the hole that is America’s fight against terrorism deeper by letting the enemy define the terms of the struggle, as the Wonk Room’s Matt Duss has recognized:
[B]y simply granting the religious legitimacy of Al Qaeda’s call to terrorist violence…cede[s] the ideological battlefield to [Osama] bin Laden. Worse than that, by positing a “wider civilizational” war with Islamic extremism…affirms bin Laden’s propaganda about the nature and extent of this war, letting bin Laden define us and our aims in a way that helps bin Laden, rather than the other way around.
Indeed, a RAND study back in 2008 warned of the danger of playing into terrorists’ claims of being “at war” with the West, saying it “encourages others [extremists] abroad” and “elevates them to the status of holy warriors. Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors.” The RAND analysis also suggested that the “at war” approach “alienates the local population by its heavy-handed nature, and provides a window of opportunity for terrorist-group recruitment.”