Tuesday 6 December 2016

How do you tell if an attacker is a 'terrorist' or a 'shooter'?...you wait to see what religion they are

Robert Fisk

Published 26/07/2016 | 02:30

Syrian men carry injured children amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following reported air strikes on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Al-Mashhad in the northern city of Aleppo. Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly justified the attacks by describing the rebels as 'terrorists' Picture: AFP/Getty
Syrian men carry injured children amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following reported air strikes on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Al-Mashhad in the northern city of Aleppo. Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly justified the attacks by describing the rebels as 'terrorists' Picture: AFP/Getty

The frightful and bloody hours of Friday night and Saturday morning in Munich and Kabul - despite the 3,000 miles that separate the two cities - provided a highly instructive lesson in the semantics of horror and hypocrisy. I despair of that generic old hate-word, "terror". It long ago became the punctuation mark and signature tune of every facile politician, policeman, journalist and think-tank crank in the world.

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Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. Or terrorist, terrorist, terrorist, terrorist, terrorist.

But from time to time, we trip up on this killer cliché, just as we did at the weekend. Here's how it went. When first we heard that three armed men had gone on a "shooting spree" in Munich, the German cops and the lads and lassies of the BBC, CNN and Fox News fingered the "terror" lever. The Munich constabulary, we were informed, feared this was a "terrorist act". The local police, the BBC told us, were engaged in an "anti-terror manhunt".

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