Saturday, July 23, 2011

Oslo Update, In Defense of Will McCants

The perpetrator of yesterday's terror attack in Oslo and shooting attack on a children's summer camp in Utoya appears to be Anders Behring Breivik, a 34-year old Norwegian Christian Fundamentalist with strong anti-Muslim and anti-Marxist tendencies. His attacks have killed at least 95 innocent people, many of them children.

Yesterday's post on this blog was a full translation of a statement from a group called Ansar al-Jihad al-Alam, obtained from Will McCants and the Jihadica blog. Today, Mr. McCants has fended off serious criticism for posting the statement which turned out to be from an opportunist Muslim extremist with nothing to do with the attacks. Some have claimed that by posting the statement from the Shmukh forum, Mr. McCants misled the media into thinking that Muslim extremists were responsible for the attacks.

However, Mr. McCants was careful to note that the alleged claim was less than credible. The decision to translate it here at The Camels Nose (with an attached disclaimer about its credibility) was made to empower non-Arabic speakers to assess the content of the statement and provide transparency to what little information was available concerning the culprit of the attacks. In a crisis, preventing rumor from being represented as fact requires dissecting the rumor into its transparent and component parts. The greater the transparency and detail of information, the easier it is to assess it as credible or not. This idea is a basic axiom of policy analysis.

Mr. McCants was therefore correct to post the statement. He was honest about its credibility, mentioned when the group retracted the statement, and did due diligence to a crisis situation in which the truth was difficult to obtain. Those who choose to misrepresent the facts should not be confused with those who bring new evidence to light.

And those who have made this statement into a political issue should not draw attention away from the victims of this tragedy, and the support they will need in the weeks and months ahead.

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