Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Journalism and Jihad

Muslim-American advocacy groups with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), are on a mission to combat what they claim is the Western media’s habitually negative reporting on Islam. After all, it’s difficult to advance the Brotherhood’s agenda of “eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within” when the media keep reporting on a steady stream of terror plots, honor killings, and encroaching shariah on American soil. But if journalists take to heart the message of an online course from The Poynter News University, then their “skewed” perspective won’t be a problem anymore.

Covering Islam in America” is a free, self-directed course offered by the Poynter Institute,* which describes itself as “a school dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders.” It purports to give journalists a basic education in how “to humanize, analyze and put news about Islam and Muslim communities into context.” Check out the course and you will discover that what putting such news “in context” means is finding ways to deflect negative attention from jihad and shariah, and instead to give credence to Muslim “grievances” against the West, cast suspicion on politicians who speak out against shariah, and spotlight a rightwing network of “bigots” as the real threat.

The course asserts that “context is essential” and recommends, for example, that journalists report in ways that do not “amplify fears of jihad.” It notes that journalists “are far more likely to report on jihad-related incidents than other violence,” giving readers a “skewed impression of the prevalence of jihad” – as if the existence of other kinds of violence somehow renders violent jihad less egregious or less deserving of media attention (the phrase “jihad-related incidents” itself is an almost Orwellian, innocuous euphemism for the murder and mayhem of terrorism – even blander than Homeland Security’s new terminology, “man-made disasters”).

To correct what the course deems to be this misleading bias against Islam, journalists are told to get some perspective by comparing the mere 3,000 people killed on 9/11 by terrorists to the greater numbers of the overall murder rate and of other, leading causes of death like malaria, AIDS, and malnutrition. This illogical and offensive comparison, which suggests that violent jihad isn’t that serious, ignores the fact that we take those other causes of death – indeed, every cause of death, from plane crashes to breast cancer – very seriously and go to superhuman lengths to eradicate them. Should we not also undertake similar measures against Islamic terrorism? Should jihad become newsworthy only when the casualty threshold skyrockets? Moreover, terrorism has a broader significance and impact than simply a body count; while, say, murder is an undeniably heinous crime, terrorism is an act of war calculated to sap our political will and destroy our way of life. It’s fair to say that journalists are justified in giving “jihad-related incidents” their due.

Besides putting a more innocuous spin on jihad, the course reveals its leftist agenda by shifting into an attack on conservatives:

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, a
 group of right-wing activists who view themselves as 'anti-Jihadists' have aggressively tried to tie American Muslims to terrorism overseas and in the United States.

The course steers journalists to reports funded by the Left to uncover more about these “right-wing activists” and their agenda. The recommended reports are the Center for American Progress’ insubstantial “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” the bias and smears of which have already been noted and discredited numerous times at FrontPage Magazine, and Bob Smietana’s “Anti-Muslim Crusaders Make Millions Spreading Fear,” from The Tennessean in Nashville, another discredited smear-fest that accuses conservatives of a financial motive behind their “hate-mongering.” The Center for American Progress is funded by the leftist multi-billionaire George Soros.

Actually, the anti-jihadists in question – such usual suspects as Jihad Watch’s Robert Spencer, the Investigative Project on Terrorism’s Steven Emerson, and ACT! for America’s Brigitte Gabriel – have not “tried to tie American Muslims to terrorism”; they have merely exposed the American Muslims who have tied themselves to terrorism here and abroad. Somehow that “context” is never addressed in the Poynter Institute’s course.

In addition to suggesting that “bigoted” right-wing activists have over-inflated the threat of jihad, the course asks students to consider what “grievances” might “sources associated with 'Political Islam' hold against Western journalists.” This is a subtle use of the strategy that has worked so well for the Islamists and the Left as well: manipulating the West’s “colonialist” guilt and planting the blame for terrorism on the victims’ collective responsibility. The course also suggests that politicians’ stances toward Islamic issues stem more from base political motives than from their constituents’ legitimate concern about the creeping Islamization of America: “Politicians do not oppose or support proposed mosques and other Muslim-American projects without taking into account their own interests.”

Who’s behind “Covering Islam in America”? The Culture and Media Institute breaks down the incestuous Islamist support network connected to the course, organizations funded by or linked to the ubiquitous. The course is co-sponsored by the Social Science Research Council, partially funded through Soros’ Open Society Institute. The Poynter Institute, funded by The Knight Foundation, partnered with Soros' Open Society Foundations to start the Investigative News Network. The Knight Foundations President and CEO, Alberto Ibarguen, is also on the board of yet another key Soros-backed group, the progressive investigative reporting start-up ProPublica.

The “core journalistic values underpinning the course,” the Poynter News University claims, “are truth, accuracy, independence, fairness, minimizing harm and context.” Truth, accuracy, and “independence” and “fairness” – by which they presumably mean objectivity – are certainly essential journalistic values (and in short supply in these times when advocacy journalism is the vogue). But “minimizing harm” and “context”? “Covering Islam in America,” under the guise of fairness and protecting Muslim-American communities from right-wing bigotry, is a propaganda tool for manipulating the media to whitewash concepts like jihad and shariah, and to turn criticism of the clear and present danger of Islamic fundamentalism back on its critics.

* A companion website, Islam on Main Street: A Crash Course for Domestic American Reporters, is offered through Washington State University's Center for Distance Education.

(This article originally appeared here at FrontPage Mag, 10/1/11)