At the top of his “Best of the Web” column today, James Taranto hypothesizes an interesting theory about media blowback:
Anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise, a new poll suggests, the Washington Post reports:
As the war in Iraq grinds into its fourth year, a growing proportion of Americans are expressing unfavorable views of Islam, and a majority now say that Muslims are disproportionately prone to violence, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The poll found that nearly half of Americans–46 percent–have a negative view of Islam, seven percentage points higher than in the tense months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when Muslims were often targeted for violence.
“Muslims were often targeted for violence” is a drastic overstatement; “occasionally” would have been more accurate. But how could it be that Americans are more hostile to Islam today than they were in the immediate aftermath of an Islamist massacre in New York?
Our sense is that the media’s antiwar bias is feeding the public’s anti-Muslim bias. By relentlessly focusing on the bad news in Iraq and playing down the good, journalists perpetuate an image of the Muslim world as a hostile, uncivilized place.
Heh. Of course, you could make the same case for how the media distorted the world’s view of Los Angeles in the early 1990s by egging on rioters, and the movie industry perpetuated similar stereotypes at the Oscars this past Sunday.
Update: Related thoughts from Jim Geraghty.