NY Times Described Deadly Drive-By Shooting as “Bold”

SEPT. 13 UPDATE:

Even before this article was posted, an expanded and rewritten version of the New York Times story replaced the earlier version in which an attack was described as "bold." The account below remains noteworthy since it reveals the type of language some at the Times reach for — and have previously reached for — when reporting on Palestinian violence.

All kinds of things — ambitious, vibrant, exciting things — are characterized as “bold” in the pages of the New York Times.

So far this month, the adjective has been used to describe the flavors of a Spanish red; a rendition “Oklahoma”; a residential zoning plan that could address Minnesota’s affordable-housing crisis; the confident style of French president Emmanuel Macron; political maneuvers by Theresa May; an Indian investor’s purchase of so many airplanes; the arrest of an international criminal suspect; a choreographer’s collaboration; the signing of an All-Star lefty; people brave enough to criticize the Houthis; disco beats on a pop album; how women should behave, according to wall art at a non-profit; the way Paul Manafort deceives with a smile; an unusual architectural design; an actress’s stage presence; the type of progressive political decisions Jay Inslee thinks we need; excitingly provocative imagery at the opera; engineering projects; a music recording; geometry; and colors.

And today, that same word, “bold,” is used to describe a Palestinian drive-by shooting that took the lives of Israelis at a bus stop. “Palestinians sought in two deadly attacks were gunned down by Israeli security forces after intense manhunts,” reports David Halbfinger, “but hours later a bold midmorning drive-by shooting on Thursday killed at least two Israelis and raised fears that the West Bank was heating up into a new phase of violence.”

Earlier this year, the same reporter described arson attacks that charred thousands of acres of Israeli agriculture and parkland as “ingenious.” 

It is a peculiar lexicon. On rare occasion, the newspaper has referred to “bold” murderous attacks in other conflicts. But should it? Is there no term that evokes more precisely than the one generally used to describe edgy art and political gambits? And back to this specific conflict: would the newspaper ever use the term “bold” to describe an Israeli extremist gunning down Palestinians? Would it describe the destruction of Palestinian olive trees as “ingenious”?

It seems more likely that this is part of the newspaper’s pattern of hesitancy when referring to Palestinian violence. This year, for example, it described 11 well-armed Palestinian combatants as “protesters” killed by Israel. Another report suggested Palestinian suicide bombings were possibly “justified,” but problematic because they set back the peace process.

The newspaper might defend its use of the word “bold” to describe a shooter who opened fire on unsuspecting Israelis (before “jumping back into the car” and “fleeing”) as a way of underscoring that the killings took place in broad daylight. But the wordsmiths at the New York Times should be able to find a word that doesn’t suggest the perpetrator deserves a medal of valor.