Debunking The Argument For Columbia Journalism School’s Terrorist Propagandist Memorial

 The revered Columbia Journalism School issues this year’s Pulitzer Prizeson its New York campus this week, with an unaddressed problem next door in its own hallowed “Pulitzer Hall.” Prominently displayed inside the lobby, Columbia Journalism School has allowed a memorial shrine to fallen Gazan “journalists” who were anything but that.

As I reported in The Daily Mail five days before the school’s 108th award ceremony, at least 15 of the journalists worked for U.S. Treasury Department-designated terrorist entity, “Al Aqsa TV,” Hamas’ primary propaganda arm. President Barack Obama designated Al Aqsa TV in 2010 after it pressed children to become suicide bombers and learn to use the AK-47, loudly praised terrorist bombings in Israel, and routinely urged civilian slaughters. The U.S. State Department declared the station’s owner, Hamas, a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997, as have dozens of Western nations.

That’s not even the worst of it.

In 2016, Obama’s State Department designated the station’s director, Hamas interior minister Fathi Ahmad Mohammad Hammad, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Hammad served as a senior military commander who supervised military tunnel construction under Gaza, where Hamas is hiding 130 Israeli hostages its terrorists seized during the October 7 attack; and “coordinated terrorist cells,” U.S. government documents state.

Six more on the journalism school’s walls worked for the Hamas-owned Al Aqsa Voice Radio, a sibling of the TV station whose broadcasters have called on Gazans to act as human shields for Hamas offices and routinely encourage civilian murder.

Eleven more are accused by Israel of working for propaganda outlets controlled by three other groups the United States has legally declared outlawed terrorist organizations, including the ultra-violent rocket-launching Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

As it prepared to hand out Pulitzer Prizes, the journalism school ignored my emailed questions. But journalism groups, including the main one who drafted the tribute list upon which the school memorial is predicated — the Committee to Protect Journalists — trotted out an old, largely unchallenged argument for promulgating its list: they’re still journalists if they self-identified as journalists and weren’t pulling triggers. 

That line of justification occupies extreme fringes of mainstream academia counterterrorism, military, and law enforcement thinking worldwide, notably in the United States. The U.S. homeland security establishment regards the pen and camera of terrorist propagandists as deadly as fingers on triggers — and would kill or prosecute half of those on Columbia Journalism School’s wall if given a chance. 

Indeed, the U.S. Homeland Security and presidents on both sides of the aisle regard propagandists for designated terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda as dangerous enough to assassinate abroad with Hellfire missiles. Inside the United States, the establishment prosecutes and imprisons propagandists like those on Columbia Journalism School’s walls whenever possible. American journalism institutions are so far out of step with the rest of the civilized world that an argument can be made that their political stunts aid and abet the murder of real people. 

The line of argument journalism groups use to defend their tribute lists

The binary “if-not-combatant-then-hero” argument is hardly new. It last flew in 2013, overcoming Jewish and pro-Israel groups that bitterly complained when the now-defunct Newseum in Washington D.C. included two Al-Aqsa TV cameramen on a highly prominent KIA memorial list projected on a 74-foot First Amendment tablet facing Pennsylvania Avenue. They’d been killed in an outbreak of violence between Hamas and Israel.

Dozens of journalism groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), vigorously argued that the two cameramen weren’t carrying weapons or conducting surveillance when Israel bombed their vehicle, which they’d marked as TV press. The Newseum initially pulled the names but then bought into the narrative that these two cameramen weren’t carrying weapons and therefore belonged back in the tribute.

Now the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is pushing the same narrative for its new 2024 tribute list upon which the journalism school’s Pulitzer Hall memorial is based.

“CPJ does not support journalists engaged in breaking the law,” the group told me in an email containing a recycled earlier statement about its tribute list. “In the cases we have documented, multiple sources have found no evidence to date that these journalists were engaged in militant activity.”

On that basis alone, the argument follows, they were legitimate journalists who died in noble public service. More than 100 news organizations have joined the committee in signing a letter in February attesting to worthiness of its tribute on the sole grounds that none were throwing bombs. 

It’s time to debunk the intellectual defense these journalism groups rely on to recast terrorist propagandists as noble journalists who died in public service. 

Propaganda Kills

Because they hold that propaganda kills just as surely as bullets and bombs, the United States and its Western allies have mounted relentless counter-propaganda campaigns against terrorist radio, television, and online media outlets just like those run by Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad out of Gaza. The key feature of this campaign are assassination hunts overseas for ISIS and al-Qaeda propagandists in the long-settled academic science, rooted in consistent academic studies, that nonviolent propaganda for terrorist groups tightly correlates with attack frequency and human casualties worldwide.

“The continued presence of terrorist content on the web is a grave risk to citizens and to society at large,” the European Commission concluded in one typical policy paper proposing the find and remove such content. “Terrorists misuse the internet to spread their messages to intimidate, radicalize, recruit and facilitate carrying out terrorist attacks.”

One of the more prominent hunts ended with an August 30, 2016 precision airstrike by U.S.-led coalition forces that killed ISIS propaganda leader and spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, whose grisly propaganda empire in slick monthly magazines Dabiq, Rumiya and radio and TV stations was credited with drawing thousands of recruits to Syria and inspiring murderous attacks around the globe.

Foreign Policy magazine, among many other creditable sources, quoted active-duty government professionals and diplomats who credited his media work and messaging with inspiring followers to kill. U.S.-led coalition forces finally killed Adnani on August 30, 2016 in a precision airstrike near Al Bab, Syria.

That was hardly the first or last U.S. killing of a terrorist propagandist overseas, including American ones. In September 2011, President Obama controversially ordered a Hellfire missile strike that killed U.S. born al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, saying his body of work killed people and “posed an imminent threat of violence or death to other Americans” even if he himself did not shoot the guns or detonate the bombs.

Al-Awlaki’s lectures and other propaganda were seen as the chief inspiration for the bloody 2015 terror attack that killed 15 people in San Bernardino, California; Hassan Nidal’s deadly 2010 attack at Fort Hood, Texas; the Faisal Shahzad attack on Times Square; the Boston bombing and dozens of others around the world that killed hundreds of innocents.

In April 2015, the CIA fired Hellfire missiles in Pakistan that killed U.S.-born Adam Gadahn, known as “Azzam the American” another notorious propagandist for al Qaeda whose work was considered so dangerous the U.S. government put out a $1 million reward for his arrest on treason charges in California.

In March 2017, another U.S. airstrike killed ISIS propaganda chief Ibrahim al Ansari in Iraq for inciting vehicle, knife and arson attacks against American citizens.

In the Israel-Gaza theater, the U.S. and Europe have left assassination operations to Israel, which is plenty enough capable of taking out these propagandists and often does so just like the Americans and European allies.

Hard Time For Terrorist Propaganda

In December 2019, a U.S. federal judge sentenced Texas-born Dallas resident Said Azzam Mohamad Rahim to a hefty 30-year prison sentence for terrorism. But Rahim didn’t earn that punishment for killing anyone himself.

He’s in prison for spreading a “warped ideology on social media” and for “promoting violence against innocent people, including Americans,” a Department of Justice press release stated. For years from his home in North Texas, Rahim moderated a “State of the Islamic Caliphate” social media channel on Zello dedicated to recruiting ISIS fighters and where he touted acts of terror.

“Kill and do not consult anyone,” he said in on 2016 message. “Kill, by any means. Smash his head on the wall. Spit in his face. Burn, I mean anything, anything. Poison anything!”

Even if America’s institutions of journalism refuse to see it, Rahim’s prosecution and 30-year sentence are but one of many emblematic examples of how the entire United States security establishment views the provision of propaganda on behalf of a designated terror organization.

So profoundly fearful of non-violent activities was Congress and the White House after 9/11 that it expanded and enhanced “material support for terrorism” statutes that carry harsh sentences that include life in prison. One of the key provisions of these laws targets anyone who knows full well that they “work “under that terrorist organization’s direction or control” and that it has been designated as a terror organization.

These criminal “material support” statutes have been used to send U.S.-based jihadists to prison hundreds of times for more than two decades, often for spreading propaganda on behalf of designated terrorist groups or doing anything at all to support their murderous missions.

The U.S. justice system has brooked no mercy for Hamas operatives inside the United States who merely raised money for Hamas. The DOJ in 2002 broke up and prosecuted the largest Hamas fundraising operation in U.S. history, the Holy Land Foundation, dishing out prison sentences ranging to 65 years for the so-called “Holy Land five” who were prosecuted in Dallas.

What does this history mean in today’s context? It means that heralded U.S. journalism institutions like Columbia Journalism School – most especially those inside the United States – should never get away unchallenged with fringe justifications for lionizing propagandists for designated terrorist groups in KIA lists and memorials.

That’s because their involvement in enabling tribute memorials qualify, on their own as twisted propaganda that helps those terrorist organizations keep killing people when the rest of the civilized world believes that is morally wrong and legally prosecutable.

Debunking The Argument For Columbia Journalism School’s Terrorist Propagandist Memorial Debunking The Argument For Columbia Journalism School’s Terrorist Propagandist Memorial Reviewed by Your Destination on May 06, 2024 Rating: 5

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