When we are faced with horrifying acts of terrorism, it is important not to give in to knee-jerk reactions and to remain calm. It would be nice if in such difficult time, our news media could be helpful in that respect. Ha! Keep dreaming !
Driven by sensationalism, the press won’t do us the favor.
The past few weeks have given us enough evidence for that. After the Paris attack, the Italian newspaper „Libero“ ran the headline „Bastardi islamici“ („Islamic/Muslim bastards“). It is sad that whenever atrocities are carried out by radical Islamists, the religion is immediately involved in the coverage, while other faith-based extremism is most often treated separately from the mainstream religion it allegedly represents. (Disagree? Find me a „Christian bastards“ headline and prove me wrong).
Shortly afterwards, the notorious British tabloid „The Sun“ featured a report on its front page purporting to prove that 1 in 5 British Muslims had sympathy for young Brits fighting for ISIS in Syria. The poll did not actually back up that finding, the polling firm distanced itself from The Sun’s coverage, and the survey’s methodology was questioned. But the damage had been done. (And this happened in the midst of a massive increase in anti-Muslim incidents in Britain following the Paris attacks, see my last post).
When the news broke that the shooters who killed many in San Bernardino, California, were likely Muslims, the tabloid „New York Post“ hastily changed its headline about the massacre from „Murder Mission“ to „Muslim Killers“ – drawing criticism from across the web.
And just after the shooting (with the approval of the landlord), camera crews and reporters stormed the apartment of the alleged shooters „like a pack of vultures“, as the Huffington Post correctly observed. In the sensationalist frenzy, MSNBC broadcast names and photos of INNOCENT relatives of the shooters on LIVE television.
It seems that when it comes to reporting about terrorism, journalistic standards do not matter. But the sensationalism, bias, prejudice and sometimes outright falsehood that we saw in these cases have a terrible impact. They fuel panic, hysteria and hostility towards Muslims. We can, and must, expect better, and more considerate work from our media. Because so far, this has been a disgrace.
My coverage of the Sun and New York Post controversies for LiberalAmerica