“Terror” by Scare Quote

Ten invented or scare quotes. That’s what the NY Post employs in an effort to discredit the AP’s latest report on the CIA-on-the-Hudson, this time describing surveillance of Muslim college students extending across the Northeast:

“civil rights”


“workplace violence”

“workplace violence”

“civil rights”




“oppressed minority”

“suspect pool”

The concepts of civil rights, racism, oppressed minorities, and suspect pools are bracketed, presumably marking them as facetious or illegitimate concepts.

The Pentagon, currently seeking the death penalty for Nidal Hasan’s attack on Fort Hood, is accused of treating the attack as “workplace violence.”

The 9/11 hijackers, who did in fact enroll in flight schools to learn how to turn passenger jets into missiles, are accused of just posing as “students,” presumably in an effort to suggest that young adult Muslims studying at colleges ranging from Yale to Laguardia Community College who were surveilled by the NYPD must also be posing too.

And it’s not just by using quotation marks that the Post invents its own reality.

It suggests the NYPD has stopped “countless” terrorist attacks, when the number of total attacks in the last decade was fewer than 20, and the two most important–Faisal Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi–the NYPD missed.

Closely watching wannabe jihadis not only at home but across the country and around the world, the NYPD has foiled countless terror operations,

It supports the claim that the targets of surveillance here are wannabe jihadis by suggesting that Mike Bloomberg and Ray Kelly are simply not telling the public the evidence justifying their profiling of innocent Muslims.

The AP story also breathlessly notes that “the latest documents mention no wrongdoing by any students,” even though “Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg repeatedly have said that the police only follow legitimate leads about suspected criminal activity.”

Was the AP born yesterday?

There’s always a gap between what public officials say to the “gotcha” media and what they actually must do — especially when it comes to terrorism. If officials could candidly talk about the daily reports they get about possible lethal jihadist activity, the country would be in a state of permanent panic.

Never mind that the AP has published at least two documents showing reports sent directly to Kelly reviewing surveillance that admits no underlying leads. The Post is willing to assert, presumably having seen less raw data than the AP, that there must be more terrorism there, terrorism worthy of permanent panic if only we knew.

The Post goes further, portraying the 9/11 hijackers as praying murderers.

On 9/11, America was shot in the back by 19 devout, praying Muslims,

I guess they were praying from the bars and strip joints they were frequenting in the months before the attack, then, because that’s how they spent their time.

In the Post’s scare quote world, tactics that have created a string of aspirational terrorists (but missed the real terrorists backed by al Qaeda) confirms a fiction that all devout Muslims are wannabe terrorists.

Or should I say, “terrorists”?

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

19 replies
  1. bmaz says:

    I am sorry, I may have inculpated all of you in material support for the “jihad” that Apuzzo and Goldman are waging against the NYPD. Specifically, the “journalistic jihad against the NYPD and its counterterrorism tactics in the name of “civil rights.”

    I have indicated my full support for this jihad. And, well, since you are here reading this, you are all MATERIAL SUPPORTERS!

  2. allan says:

    How many actual plots by angry citizens will the NYPD “tactics” give rise to?
    My guess is that, for Kelly, this is a feature, not a bug.

  3. thatvisionthing says:

    “Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg repeatedly have said that the police only follow legitimate leads about suspected criminal activity.”

    You know, I have to admit, I don’t know if Wikileaks has been classified as a terrorist organization yet, or if artists and journalists are assumable terrorists or material supporters…

    From last November:

    NYPD ‘Loses’ the Occupy Wall Street Wikileaks Truck

    Stoeckly was pulled over on Broadway and Cedar Street near Zuccotti Park. The cops used the fact that his license plate was crooked, and that he turned on his windshield wipers without his lights as pretense to pull him over, Stoeckley told us in a phone interview. (New York law requires drivers to use headlights “whenever you are using your windshield wipers to clear rain, snow, sleet, etc.”)

    Police demanded to search the vehicle, and when Stoeckley refuse they arrested him for “Obstructing Governmental Administration.” Stoeckley’s lawyer, Wiley Stecklow, said he’s concerned Stoeckly was arrested “unlawfully,” simply for “refusing to consent to a search.”

    His arresting officer gave him a handwritten slip of paper with contact info for a place called Mike’s Towing, saying he could pick up his truck there. But when Stoeckley was released from jail Saturday, Mike’s Towing said they had never received the truck, which incidentally also contains all of Stoeckley’s possessions.

    “I think this is over the NYPD’s head,” said Stoeckley, ominously. It’s not the first time the truck has gotten him in trouble: He’s been hassled by NYPD a couple times in New York, and when he parked the truck outside the White House in March, he said, Secret Service searched it and questioned him about any ties to Wikileaks.

    I ran the quote long because when I hear NYPD I wonder federal.

  4. thatvisionthing says:

    “Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg repeatedly have said that the police only follow legitimate leads about suspected criminal activity.”

    Plus, have they noticed Wall Street?

  5. thatvisionthing says:

    On 9/11, America was shot in the back by 19 devout, praying Muslims,

    One of the stories in Michael Moore’s new book Here Comes Trouble is about his priest, who needed to confess to him that he had blessed the Enola Gay and the bomb we dropped on Hiroshima.

    And I remember Stormin Norman Schwarzkopf Gulf I (telling Barbara Walters?) that before he attacked Iraq he prayed, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

    And of course who can forget the New Testament tanks — a photo of one in Haditha in 2005 was put up on the official marines.mil website, “cleared for release.” I put tanks in plural because Mohammed bin Laith back on fdl said he saw “more than one. I remember seeing similar slogans on Tanks, and APVs and Army Trucks. Both in al-Sadriya and other places.”

  6. emptywheel says:

    @thatvisionthing: Wikileaks is being investigated for a potential espionage charge. That means it qualifies for PATRIOT as an investigation relating to spying.

    Effectively the same magic powers they get when they cry “terrorist.”

  7. bmaz says:

    @thatvisionthing: No, WL has not been designated a “terrorist organization”. Why bother, it barely exists anymore.

    As to the supposedly infamous “WikiLeaks Truck”, it was not lost, but was returned to the owner who tried to auction it off in an attempt to capitalize on the bogus story. No one bid on the stupid truck.

  8. thatvisionthing says:

    @bmaz: But I love Wikileaks! (Alas, no $)

    Can you FOIA a comparison of the $ expended by NYPD on arresting, impounding, and investigating this artist’s truck, vs. the $ they have expended on arresting, impounding and investigating, say, Wall Street? You know, ticking time bomb priorities?

  9. bmaz says:

    @thatvisionthing: Heh, I guess you could, but wouldn’t be worth it. They may charge for impound lot storage, but it doesn’t cost them squat. Whole price would effectively be the tow charge, which major cities usually have on a low and flat contract rate.

    The whole story just kind of cracks me up because the guy and his truck actually, as you likely know (you knew he was an artist) have nothing to do with WikiLeaks. It is kind of a stunt, but may have proved more of a hassle that it is really worth.

  10. thatvisionthing says:

    @bmaz: tick tick tick

    The fraud bomb has been going off every day for how long now? Ya think the NYPD and DOJ will ever actually get around to doing their actual job? This is beyond stupid. If I could drown them in the bathtub, I would. (Would I? Yes. No. Yes. No. This is so hard, no kill I…)

  11. thatvisionthing says:

    @bmaz: So they’re disgusting and I’m disgusted.

    Remember the Marine sergeant who yelled at the NYPD when they were trying to break up an Occupy thing? He said “There is no honor in this! There is no honor in this!”

    They’re probably disgusted with themselves.

  12. thatvisionthing says:

    @thatvisionthing: Edit / insert: “If you were a news organization, can you FOIA a comparison of the $ expended by NYPD on arresting, impounding, and investigating this artist’s truck, vs. the $ they have expended on arresting, impounding and investigating, say, Wall Street? You know, ticking time bomb priorities?”

  13. thatvisionthing says:


    See Elizabeth Warren in Capitalism: A Love Story DVD extra:

    Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren on
    How Wall Street Got Away With Murder

    Elizabeth Warren: That’s the most astonishing part of this whole wreck now is that the very people who drove the car over the cliff have been instrumental in shaping how the American taxpayer was supposed to save it and reconstruct it, and that’s really amazing. In the past, when you drove the car over the cliff, you lost your job. I was talking to someone who spent many years as a prosecutor and he said, “You know, when that much money disappears, it’s usually because somebody broke some laws somewhere.” But if we don’t look, and we don’t ask, and we don’t uncover it and make it all public, we’ll never find out.

    Michael Moore: Where is the criminal investigation that needs to happen here?

    Elizabeth Warren: I haven’t seen it. I jusr haven’t seen it at all. What the government didn’t do is it didn’t turn around and say, “You lost how much money, and you wiped out how many pensions, and you wiped out how many jobs? I want to know who did what, whether or not any laws were violated, where the gaps are in the system that would permit this to happen. I want to hold somebody responsible.” Responsibility is not just about blame. Responsibility is about making sure we fix this and it will not happen again. But it starts with the notion that that’s the right question to ask, rather than “What can I give you now to make it all better?”

    Kelly, Bloomberg — ? ?

    “Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg repeatedly have said that the police only follow legitimate leads about suspected criminal activity.”

  14. bmaz says:

    @thatvisionthing: I do not disagree with Liz Warren at all; I am just not sure Ray Kelly and NYPD are the substantive problem here (not that they are not total problems in a plethora of issues across the board in NYC and elsewhere because of their apparently global terror team). It is not that they could not have some jurisdiction in the Wall Street financial/mortgage mess, it is that they are certainly not primary on that and, really, to be involved ought to be working at the discretion of the NY AG in conjunction with the Manhattan DA’s Office. None of that has really been affirmatively put in play by the people that should have done so.

  15. thatvisionthing says:

    @bmaz: They can go scuttling like cockroaches for cracks in the law to eat away so that they can surveil and entrap and detain us and to lie and script what we are allowed to know and do. But they can’t find a way to go after the crooks and disease that are collapsing the world around us all? You do see what an utterly, stupendously incomprehensible TOTAL FAIL that is, yes? They’re not helpless bystanders. They’re not disconnected. They’re accomplices and accessories and material supporters and co-conspirators to mass destruction, by every definition I’ve learned these past few years. They ought to be ashamed. They ought to be in jail themselves, their dereliction is so monumental. Arresting an artist and impounding his truck ON WALL STREET because he’s got his windshield wipers on without his lights? It is beyond grasping.

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