OpinionMeister

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

True Sources of the Riots

Opinion Journal has a column by Claudia Rosett about the reasons behind the "Newsweek riots." Link.
We are hearing that Muslims, infuriated by a report of blasphemy, went on violent rampages that resulted in . . . dead Muslims and burned mosques. Meanwhile, not only is Newsweek apologizing and retracting, but the U.S. government is regretting the loss of life.

What's really going on here is two stories. One involves Newsweek and the ups and downs of U.S. journalism. The other involves a swath of the Islamic world in which anger, fueled by years of gross political misrule, is a chronic feature of life--seeking to acquire a target. What produced these particular riots was the intersection of Islamic-world furies and that brand of U.S. self-absorption in which no subject is more fascinating to the American media than any possible misdeeds of the U.S. itself.

For better or worse, the U.S. media occupy an extraordinary position in the world. Richer in resources than most, and freer than almost any, American reporters enjoy an astounding ability to pursue stories of many kinds, in many places. By and large they produce a brand of journalism that despite its flaws is more reliable than most. But it is also focused chiefly on the U.S.

The tragedy in all this is that while the entire world is by now acquainted with tales--true and false--about Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo Bay, the information pretty much ends there. When it comes to the Islamic world's most despotic states, almost no one outside their borders can reel off the names of the prisons they run, let alone tales of what happens within. [...]

But to whatever extent the press is engaged in the business of trying to report the truth, or contribute to the making of a better world, it would be a service not only to U.S. journalism, but to the wider world--including Muslims--to spend less effort dredging Guantanomo Bay, and more time wielding the huge resources at our disposal to report on the prisons of the Islamic world. It is in such places that the recent riots had their true origins.

Newsweek's negligence is inexcusable, but why does nearly everybody accept as normal that a story, even if true, of disrespect of a Koran would lead Muslims to rampage, burn, destroy and kill. I suspect that it is because it is only Muslims of that stripe that we meet in the news media. A lot of the blame rests with the moderate Muslims, who largely remain silent in the face of Islamic extremism. However, even when they do speak up or act, the MSM buries the story, if they run it at all. The only Muslim worthy of news coverage is the homicidal fanatic.

In the Muslim world, the only view of America that the government-controlled media shows its citizens is Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo Bay. These stories are grossly overplayed in the US media, but at least we get other coverage as well. The MSM coverage of the Muslim world is not much broader or representative than the Muslim press coverage on the US. Probably over 90% of the press coverage of Muslims in the US concerns their blowing up innocent civilians. Negligently anti-American coverage of Guantanamo may have sparked these riots, but the coverage of the riots as representative of the Muslim masses ignores the tremendous progress toward democracy that the Bush Doctrine has brought to the Muslim world.

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