Who Do the News Media Think You Are?

Who did they think they were fooling? I wondered... a little drunkenly now, I must confess. These high-born Lords of the News, spoon-feeding us their carefully selected diet of euphemisms. Rebels, militia, Palestinians, insurgents, French youths. Did they think we were sitting here, thinking, Hm, I guess those dark-skinned, angry-looking killers named Muhammed all over the world aren't radical Muslims after all. Now I will not be prejudiced against their religion. Didn't they understand that we were bouncing on the sofa, screaming all the louder for our frustration, Hey, News-clowns! Tell the truth for once in your useless lives! Say the word! Say some word. Islamo-fascists! Jihadis! Something. Ya dumb f***s. Ya dumb, useless, lying, elitist f***s.

-- From my novel Empire of LiesIf you haven't read it, click the link.

When I was at university, I took a course in journalism for which I was required to write a term paper. My paper — which, as I recall, was cleverly titled "Who is You?" — was on the use of the word "you" in local newscasts. I watched several newscasts for a week, then tried to determine what assumptions lay behind the anchors' use of the word in sentences such as, "You won't have to start for work quite so early anymore..." or "You could find some good news in your mailbox this month."

I thought of this term paper last week as I watched some of the occasionally insane coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing manhunt for two radical Islamic brothers. After nearly tying themselves in knots to avoid mentioning the terror suspects' religion, one reporter on CNN actually said — I quote from memory but the sentiment is exact-- "The suspects are being described as Muslim. That's just a detail that's being supplied, it has no more meaning than that." According to Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters, NBC simply didn't mention Islam at all on its April 19th Nightly News or Today programs. And the Boston Globe actually ran a headline that read, “Islam might have had secondary role in Boston attacks.” 

Now, I hold no brief against anyone's religion. The standard disclaimer that there are millions of peaceful, decent Islamic people should go without saying — but it's important enough to say anyway. Still, the fact is that Islam plays a primary role in violence, not just here, but around the world. In the words of the late Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington, "Islam's borders are bloody, and so are its innards." A few quotes from his book The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order, written before 9-11:

The overwhelming majority of fault line conflicts... have taken place along the boundary looping across Eurasia and Africa that separates Muslims from non-Muslims....  Intense antagonisms and violent conflicts are pervasive between local Muslim and non-Muslim peoples.... Wherever one looks along the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peaceably with their neighbors. The question naturally rises as to whether this pattern of late-twentieth-century conflict between Muslim and non-Muslim groups is equally true of relations between groups from other civilizations. In fact, it is not. Muslims make up about one-fifth of the world's population but in the 1990s they have been far more involved in intergroup violence than the people of any other civilization. The evidence is overwhelming.

Now this overwhelming evidence — which the book proceeds to supply — raises any number of questions: Is this violence inherent in Muslim beliefs? Is it part of a larger cultural phenomenon? Is it (like the unimaginable violence in Christendom during the 17th century) a prelude to reform? And how are we to deal with this violence without unduly penalizing the millions of non-violent Muslims? And so on.

But a news organization's attempt to hide the evidence raises really only one question: Who the hell do these knuckleheads think they're talking to? Who exactly do they think you are?

Do they think they're fooling you? Do they think you haven't noticed this cancer of violence spreading through the Islamic world? Or maybe they think you're so full of rage and bigotry that you can't handle the truth without — what? — turning on your decent, patriotic Islamic-American neighbor in a murderous Bad-Day-at-Black-Rock rage?

If that's what they think of you, why do they even bother trying to push mis-information into your thick, troglodytic skull? If that's what they think of you, why would they ever believe you could be smart enough to buy the wonderful products they try to sell you between bouts of lying?

And most importantly, if that's what they think of you, why would you ever watch them at all?