Saturday, April 05, 2014

Selective News Coverage of Islamic Terrorism

According to Reporters Without Borders, the U.S. has dropped to 46th place in press freedom.  The lowered ranking was based on the conviction of the WikiLeaks informant, the effort to punish NSA leaker Edward Snowden, and the Justice Department's monitoring of reporters.
Unmentioned by the report, however, is an equally serious cause for concern.  Most press censorship in the U.S. is self-imposed.  The masters of the media are quite willing to suppress certain news stories without any government encouragement.  This can be accomplished in several ways:  by not reporting a story, by providing only minimal coverage, or by shaping the story to fit a pre-existing narrative.  There may be "eight million stories in the naked city," as the old television series informed us, but the news producers are the ones who decide which stories you will hear and what slant they will be given.

Take the matter of Islamic terrorism.  The media is by and large committed to the narrative that Islam is a religion of peace.  Hence, they tend to underreport incidents of Islamic terrorism or else they shape the story to fit the narrative that violence has nothing to do with Islam.  For example, did you know that the group of knife-wielding assailants who slashed to death 29 people and injured 140 at a crowded Chinese train station on March 1, 2014 were Muslim jihadists?  The fact that the killers were Muslims is carried in some reports, usually at the end of the story, but the main impression given by most of the reporting is that they were "separatists" who were making a "political" statement about "repression" of ethnic minorities.  The words "jihad" or "jihadists" are notable by their absence from most reports.
Did you know that Michael Adebolajo, and Michael Adebowale, the murderers of British soldier Lee Rigby have Muslim names?  After their conversion to Islam they took the names Mujaahid Abu Hamza and Ismail bin Abdullah, respectively.  In this case and in others, however, the mainstream media refrained from using the Muslim names.  After the killing, Abu Hamza forced a passerby to video record his message to the public.  While several TV stations carried the message, most of them cut out the part where he referred to passages from the Qur`an as justification for his act.  Also unreported was the fact that Abu Hamza handed a blood-stained note full of Qur`an quotations to a bystander.  Almost all news reports, however, did manage to give a lot of space to Prime Minister David Cameron's assurance that the killing had nothing to do with Islam.
Cameron said more or less the same thing in reaction to the terror attack at a Nairobi Mall that left over sixty dead.  "They don't represent Islam or Muslims in Britain or anywhere else in the world," he said.  The media, however, couldn't very well pretend that the massacre had nothing to do with Islam since the terrorist spared Muslims who were able to recite from the Qur`an.  Nevertheless, some details were not widely reported, including the fact that the terrorists themselves took time off for prayer in the midst of their deadly assault.
Luckily, such a thing could never happen here.  Or could it?

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