(Originally posted on author’s site FirstOne Through}
The word “extremist” appears like a loaded word. That partially stems from the fact that it conveys two different meanings. The first is that it describes a person who has an extreme position. The second is that it portrays a person at the edges of society.
A person who holds a position at the far fringe of society is pretty straightforward. If someone believes that the moon is purple and 99.9% of the rest of society does not, that person could be called an extremist. The label could be viewed as appropriate simply because the opinion is not popularly held.
The pervasiveness of a position, as opposed to its popularity, is a more subjective criterion. Someone believing that the moon is purple is one thing. However, painting their entire house purple, dying their hair purple and changing their name to Professor Purple Plum, would be viewed as “eccentric” and “obsessive” at a minimum, and possibly even “extreme”.
The “extremist” label sticks best when the person’s actions impact other people. For example, an individual may believe that life starts at conception, but if that is simply a personally held viewpoint, most people would not describe that person as an extremist. However, if a person used that position to justify destroying abortion clinics and harming the people inside, the violent actions would lead people to use the “extremist” label.
Violent extremists are typically painted in two camps: “right-wing” extremists use power to protect religion and capitalism; “left-wing” extremists use violence to flatten social hierarchies, and are often viewed as anti-religion and anti-capitalism.
Religion: Popularity and Power Popularity is a matter of simple statistics. As an example, if one looks at the distribution of world religions, one can see a few widely held beliefs and some unpopular belief systems:
- Christians: 31.5%
- Muslims: 23.2%
- Unaffiliated: 16.3%
- Hindus 15.0%
- Buddhists 7.1%
- Folk Religionists 5.9%
- Jews 0.2%
By the measure of popularity, all Jews could be viewed as “extremists” because they have a belief system that is not held by 99% of the world. However, as Jews do not enforce their belief system on others, the “extremist” label would largely be considered inappropriate. Conversely, Islam is a very popular religion, but the various Muslim groups that seek to enforce sharia law and forced conversion of people are often called “extremists”, especially if people that refuse to succumb to their religious edicts are killed. Violent actions define extremists.
Arab “Residents” and Israeli “Settlers” Using such distinction between popularity and power, review how mainstream media uses the extreme label in regard to Israel.
On October 23, 2014, the New York Times reported on the story of an Arab that rammed his car into a crowd of Jews killing two people including an infant. Ignoring the generally terrible Times coverage overall, the nature of inverted reality and anti-Israel bias was typified in a particular paragraph in the story, where the non-aggressive party was labeled an extremist:
“Mr. Shaloudy was a resident of Silwan, a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood in territory that Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war and later annexed, a step that has not been recognized internationally. An influx of right-wing Jewish settlers who have acquired property in the area in recent years have made the neighborhood a flash point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Mr. Shaloudy, the Arab man who killed two people, is described as a “resident of Silwan, a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood”. He sounded like a peaceful neighbor living among his people. He is tied to the majority and thereby by implication, not an extremist if one were to use the popularity measure.