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Wednesday, October 17, 2007


What is a "massacre"?

Several years ago I wrote:
Massacre: "The act or an instance of killing a large number of humans indiscriminately and cruelly." ...perhaps the most famous "massacre" on American territory, the Boston Massacre, involved the killing of five men by British soldiers. The equally famous St. Valentine's Day Massacre involved the killing of seven men. What makes all three of these events a "massacre" is their one-sided nature; the fact that the people killed were not fighting back, but were simply gunned down in cold blood.
Of course there's another part of the definition - it's a "massacre" when the "bad guys" do it, but not when the "good guys" do it.

Case in point, today's news from Darfur:

Darfur slaughter blamed on troops

African Union and U.N. officials are looking into reports of a new massacre in Darfur, in which witnesses described government troops and their allied militias killing more than 30 civilians.
Certainly a "massacre" if the reports are true. But the massacre which occurred in Baghdad on Sept. 16, in which Blackwater mercenaries brutally gunned down 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians? Here's one of the initial reports from The New York Times:
Blackwater USA, an American contractor that provides security to some of the top American officials in Iraq, has been banned from working in the country by the Iraqi government after a shooting that left eight Iraqis dead and involved an American diplomatic convoy.
Not only wasn't it a massacre, but the shooting apparently just "happened." A few days later it was clear the shooting was done by Blackwater and was unprovoked, but words like "slaughter" or "massacre" still weren't deemed relevant. The Washington Post likewise saw fit to use only the word "killing" (not even "murder") to describe the event. A month later, "massacre" has finally started to appear in the corporate media to describe the event, but only because some Iraqis have filed a lawsuit in which the words "massacre" and "senseless slaughter" were used, and the news reports quote the words from the suit, but still don't use the words themselves to describe the deed.

If it happens in Darfur, though, and "Arabs" did the deed, "slaughter" and "massacre" are the words of the day. No third-party attribution required; it's The New York Times and the rest of the corporate media providing the description.

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