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Media Bites: Call A Terrorist Anything But "White"

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Some folks tried to blow up the BC parliament the other day -- did you hear? It was a truly hideous plot, involving Boston-style pressure cookers packed with explosives and rusty nails. The plan, apparently, was to detonate the things during the legislature's Canada Day festivities and take down potentially hundreds of patriotic revelers in one giant blast of nihilistic evil.

Thankfully, due to five months of proactive policework by the RCMP and CSIS, the scheme was squashed before any partying began, and the bombs that were seized at the building, according to the RCMP, "at no time represented a threat to public safety."

Assuming the charges pan out, this will have been the highest-profile terrorist attempt on a Canadian political target since that pretentiously elaborate plot to (among other things) assassinate Prime Minister Harper back in 2006. As Premier Clark quipped, it was a attempt to strike "the very heart of the institution of democracy in our province," and "the very symbol of our values as British Columbians and Canadians."

So needless to say, there's been a lot of curiosity about the sadists who wanted to do it.

On Tuesday morning, the RCMP held a press conference announcing the arrest of their two suspects, John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, whom the spokesguy identified only as "Canadian-born citizens" who'd been "self-radicalized" and "inspired by al-Qaeda ideology."

Now, when someone commits to making war against your society and its institutions, it seems reasonable to expect those possessing info on the bad guys will share it with the public. And considering ours is a country at least nominally still involved in the Great Big War on Terror, (2001- ) I'd argue this public has a particularly pressing right to know whether any folks trying to kill us are part of the same Mideast-jihad network murdering infidels in New York, London, Bali, Madrid and elsewhere.

As information on the two would-be bombers began to slowly trickle out Tuesday morning, however, Canadians didn't receive any insights of this sort.

We received anything but, in fact.

At their triumphant presser, the RCMP made no mention of their two suspects' race, religion, or cultural background, for instance. There were no photos or sketches provided, and the duo's indeterminate last names revealed little (besides, as Richard Reid proved, names aren't everything). The descriptor "Canadian-born," likewise, at one time might have provoked some assumptions, but in the multicultural 2010s, you can't take it granted that a natural-born Canuck will look more like Justin Trudeau than Omar Khadr.

So when you say they were "inspired by al-Qaeda ideology," asked a reporter, you mean they were Islamic fundamentalists, right?

"When I refer to radicalized, or self-radicalized, with respect to al-Qaeda ideology it is radicalized to violence," came the spokesman's convoluted reply. "Taking violent acts with a specific ideology in place."

"In this case here, the ideology had to do with a criminal act, wanting to pursue criminal acts on behalf of an organization that they obviously believed in. And the ideology behind that organization, as you know it, is the al-Qaeda ideology."

That was a "yes," I think. But the word "Islam" or even "religion" was never uttered, so it was hardly indisputable.

As the story unfolded, the press, at least initially, seemed content to play along with keeping the would-be killers' identities needlessly opaque. Coverage of Nuttall and Korody's first court appearance continued to make no mention of the duo's ethnicity, but did provide the enormously useful observation that Nuttall was "tall and thin, with unprofessional-looking tattoos, an untrimmed goatee and long hair" while Korody had "unkempt hair" and was somewhat "twitchy." Because that's the sort of news you can use.

Now, at least, enough biographical information has leaked to fill most of the gaps.

John Nuttall and Amanda Korody are a poor Caucasian couple from Surrey who converted to radical Islam for whatever reason. They were apparently annoyingly preachy about their new faith, and had Middle Eastern knick-knacks in their filthy basement suite, but sources differ as to whether they actually attended mosque.

Experts also debate whether the couple's outward support for the "al-Qaeda ideology" was actually a real thing, or whether Islamic jihad has merely become, in the words of one analyst, the new "power ideology" that white-trash criminals pretend to support for sheer shock value, the same way they used to support the Aryan Brotherhood or Alistair Crowley. Considering Mr. Nuttall is a former Satanist death rocker, it may not be such an implausible thesis.

Still, it's hard to avoid the impression that early reporting on this bizarre story was needlessly contorted by cop and reporter alike for prissy reasons of political correctness. Since we're not supposed to talk about race or religion these days, the hugely significant fact that the plan to bomb the BC legislature was neither Middle Eastern nor authentically Islamic in origin went unknown much longer than necessary, with obtuse phrases like "al-Qaeda ideology" and "Canadian-born" instead offering confusing teasers of seemingly contradictory information. Even now, you'll probably only hear the adjective "white" in a media report if some dopey friend of the family says it during an interview.

We often hear that terrorists come in all shapes and colors, and that no one community -- particularly the Middle Eastern one -- generates more than others.

BC's now produced a compelling case study in that regard -- if only we weren't so squeamish about admitting it.

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