Feb. 6, 2024 ❧ Islamophobia in the media, Anti-fox hunting action, and Maryland workers vs. the tipped minimum wage
Plus the history of presidential doodles, nukes in the UK, East Palestine one year later, Sinn Féin takes power, and a vampiric parrot
You cannot eat the news, but you sure can read it!
STORIES THAT SHOULD BE BIGGER
RAMPANT ISLAMOPHOBIA IN THE U.S. MEDIA
Ever since the October 7th attacks on Israel and Israel’s genocidal bombing campaign against Gaza in retaliation, the U.S. news media has been spreading Islamophobic narratives and bias at a rate we haven’t seen since 9/11. This past week, the major newspapers and TV networks hit a new low, with three especially nasty cases.
For the first, we turn to the Wall Street Journal, which ran an op-ed on February 2 calling Dearborn, Michigan “America’s Jihad Capital.” Given the inflammatory title, you might think the author—one Steven Stalinsky—had uncovered evidence that some kind of political violence or “holy war,” as the word “jihad” is often interpreted in the West, was going on in Dearborn. But that’s not the case. Instead, Stalinsky spent 800 words clutching his pearls about the fact that—shockingly enough—some Muslims in Michigan don’t like Israel very much. The editorial is a masterpiece of dishonesty and Islamophobic fearmongering. It cherrypicks isolated expressions of anger—apparently one imam said that Israel’s actions have filled his congregation with “fire in our hearts that will burn that state”—and pretends they’re representative of the Muslim community as a whole, spinning them as evidence of “local enthusiasm for jihad.” It conflates simple political statements, such as “America is a terrorist state”—which is straightforwardly true, if we apply the dictionary definition of “terrorism” consistently—with “open support for Hamas.” The Wall Street Journal has been on a roll lately, using the headline “Chicago Votes for Hamas” when that city called for a ceasefire in Gaza last week, but Stalinsky’s rhetoric was irresponsible even by their standards. Since the article was published, the Detroit Free Press reports that “swarms of online hate” have been directed toward Dearborn’s Muslim community, leading Mayor Abdullah Hamoud to ramp up security around mosques and other places of worship. It’s a predictable consequence of publishing what amounts to a racist incitement, and any editor with even the slightest professional competence would have known better.
Meanwhile, a handful of whistleblowers at CNN have confirmed what was already fairly obvious: that the network has a systematic anti-Palestinian bias in its coverage. Summing up the testimonies of six anonymous staffers, The Guardian reports that CNN has “tight restrictions on quoting Hamas and reporting other Palestinian perspectives” at an institutional level, while “Israeli official statements are often quickly cleared and make it on air on the principle that they are to be trusted at face value, seemingly rubber-stamped for broadcast.” Journalistic neutrality, this is not. In particular, CNN journalists say they’ve been instructed to include the words “Hamas-controlled” any time they cite statistics from the Gaza Ministry of Health, implicitly casting doubt on the legitimacy of civilian death tolls from the region, even though the Ministry’s figures have held up to scrutiny from numerous outside observers, including Israel itself. (As if Israeli bombs were flattening bakeries and apartment blocks without killing anyone!) They also report that memos have been circulated around the newsroom, instructing them to always emphasize Hamas as the “cause of this current conflict,” ignoring the decades of Israeli occupation and violence in Palestine before October 7th. At the same time, prominent anchors like Anderson Cooper have allowed current and former Israeli officials, like ex-Mossad leader Rami Igra, to say blatantly inflammatory things like “the non-combatant population in the Gaza Strip is really a nonexistent term,” without pushback during interviews. At this point, unless dramatic changes are made, there’s little choice but to regard CNN’s Gaza coverage as ethically compromised and unreliable, and treat it accordingly.
Finally, we’ve saved the worst for last. In a column called “Understanding the Middle East Through the Animal Kingdom,” notorious New York Times writer and Iraq War booster Thomas Friedman has decided it’s a good idea to compare a variety of Muslim and Arab people to parasitic insects. The column is so breathtakingly racist, it seems like something out of a Victorian newspaper—but don’t take our word for it, read Friedman in his own words:
Iran is to geopolitics what a recently discovered species of parasitoid wasp is to nature. What does this parasitoid wasp do? According to Science Daily, the wasp “injects its eggs into live caterpillars, and the baby wasp larvae slowly eat the caterpillar from the inside out, bursting out once they have eaten their fill.”
Is there a better description of Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq today? They are the caterpillars. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the wasp. The Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas and Kataib Hezbollah are the eggs that hatch inside the host — Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq — and eat it from the inside out.
We have no counterstrategy that safely and efficiently kills the wasp without setting fire to the whole jungle.
What can you even say to something like this? It’s well-known that comparing your political enemies to rats and insects is a dehumanizing tactic, which often serves as a prelude to mass slaughter. The late Edward Said had Friedman dead to rights in 1989, when he described his writing as a “threadbare repertoire of often racist cliches.” Nothing’s changed. If anything, the New York Times has gotten worse, seemingly not bothering to edit the excretions of its tenured staff whatsoever. Just like in Dearborn, there are real-world consequences. Friedman’s argument that “setting fire to the whole jungle” is the only way to kill the Iranian “wasp” is an argument for unrestrained war in the Middle East, and unfortunately many political leaders still read the New York Times. This is why it’s so vital to build independent new media outlets, before the existing ones kill us all.