HuffPo: Coverage of Istanbul terror attack shows that America doesn’t care about Muslim lives

As we all know, PuffHo is having a big campaign to not only make Islam seem like a Wonderful Religion of Peace, but (and more admirably) to show that not all Muslims are terrorists. But they repeatedly conflate criticism of the religion with criticism of its adherents, lumping both under the rubric of “Islamophobia”—a word that the PuffHo throws around as often as the words “and” and “the.” In fact, PuffHo rarely even discusses the problematic tenets of Islam; I guess those are either off limits or too difficult for its brain-dead readers.

In the article I discuss below, for instance, there are 24 pictures of people explaining why we should challenge Islamophobia. Not “Muslimophobia” but “Islamophobia.” This one clearly shows the conflation:

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Doesn’t that remind you of a certain NRA-ish slogan about guns and people? The implication, of course, is that religion is not a source of violence—that terrorists are simply violent people who aren’t motivated by anything religious, nor even by any ideology. It’s about the stupidest thing one can say about the whole issue. After all, humans not only created religion and some of its violent dictates, but religions—Islam in this case—can be interpreted by people as condoning, sanctioning, or even urging violence. I feel sorry for the brainwashed young man above.

But on to the PuffHo article, and I’ll try to be brief. The piece, by Dean Obeidallah, is called “Coverage of the Istanbul bombing proves once again that American media care little about Muslim lives.” The rag describes the author as “a former lawyer turned political comedian and commentator. He is the host of SiriusXM’s weekly program ‘The Dean Obeidallah show.’ He is also the Founder and Editor of the blog ‘The Dean’s Report.com.'” I’d add that he’s a big-time apologist.

At any rate, Obeidallah’s contention is that because the Istanbul airport bombings weren’t covered as extensively as those in Paris or at the Brussels airport, this shows that either the American media, Americans in general, or both, think that the lives of Muslims are worth less than the lives of non-Muslims. It’s all a manifestation of Islamophobia.

The contention:

Many, including myself, expected media outlets to cover this incident with at least the same intensity and breadth as they covered the Brussels terror attack in March that left 31 dead. Then we saw American news media spring into action, sending a cadre of anchors and reporters to Belgium providing “wall-to-wall coverage.”

NBC’s Matt Lauer and Lester Holt anchored live from Brussels. MSNBC’s hostChris Hayes and anchor Thomas Roberts went to report from the streets of Belgium.

When outlets like CNN consider a story especially important, they tend to bring out their top anchors. For Brussels, there was extensive coverage, some anchored by Anderson Cooper, showing the gravity of the situation. “Good Morning America” featured a special edition on the attacks as well. But Istanbul wasn’t afforded the same treatment. Yes, there was widespread coverage Tuesday night on cable news channels in the hours after the incident. But come Wednesday, there appeared to be little to no anchors there from major American media outlets on the streets of Turkey. We didn’t witness an outpouring of touching stories about those lost or detailed profiles about the heroism of the several Turkish police officers killed in the attack. And as the day wore on, Istanbul became just one of many big stories covered in the news.

 The conclusion:

The message sent by the American media, intentionally or not, is that when there’s an attack on a nation like Turkey that is 99 percent Muslim and the victims are primarily Muslim, it simply isn’t that important.

. . . And shockingly even when right-wing Americans plot to kill Muslim Americans on U.S soil, there’s little media coverage. You might be asking: What terror plots on Muslim Americans? Well that’s part of the problem.

There’s Glendon Scott Crawford, a Klan member, who was convicted last August in federal court for trying to “acquire a radiation weapon for mass destruction” to kill Muslim Americans in New York State. He was convicted and facing a sentence of 25 years to life in August 2015, but we didn’t see many national headlines for this story.

. . . Is the lack of media coverage because there’s an empathy gap for Muslims lives? Or is it that the media executives simply believe Americans don’t care and won’t watch stories about Muslims killed by terror attacks?

It’s not clear, but considering the news is a business, I’d suspect the second reason is more at play. After all, this week we didn’t see an outpouring of “Je suis Turkey” type postings and Facebook didn’t create a Turkey filter for your profile the way it created a France one after the Paris attack.

You get the idea. And perhaps there’s a soupçon of truth in Obeidallah’s argument. But he hasn’t considered alternative hypotheses that I think are more important. First, it’s likely that many American don’t even know that most Turks are Muslims! Yes, about 99% of them are, but never underestimate the ignorance of Americans when it comes to other countries.

Second, it’s not as if the media ignored what happened in Turkey. It was the lead story on the NBC News three days running, and the major headline in papers like the New York Times. And, as a counterexample, the 2014 kidnapping of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls, many of them Muslim, by Boko Haram, received huge media attention, prompting the “Bring Back our Girls” campaign. The fact that many of those girls were Christians didn’t bring that attention: few people even knew the religions of those girls. What mattered is that children were abducted.

Third, there’s a reason why news organizations might deploy fewer commentators to places like Turkey: they’re farther away and thus more expensive to reach and broadcast from.

But the main reason, of course, and one that I’ve discussed before, may well be this:  the the Istanbul bombings may have gotten less coverage than those in Paris or Brussels not because Americans devalue Muslim lives, but because Americans share more of their culture with Europe than with Turkey. How many Americans have visited either Brussels or Paris as opposed to Istanbul? How many Americans have lived in Europe compared to Turkey, or have friends or relatives in either Europe or Turkey? How many Americans know much about Turkish culture? This has nothing to do with dehumanizing adherents to a faith, but with feeling closer to a country that you know something about, and whose culture you’re more familiar with.

If there were similar bombings in, say, in Papua New Guinea, which is largely Christian but with a layer of (non-Muslim!) folk religions, those would probably get even less attention. Or if you’re ready to claim that that’s just because the inhabitants are largely black, substitute Vladivostok or Bucharest—white Christian cities.

As one of my friends emailed me when I pointed out this article, “Some people just have a sort of weird need to beat themselves up about things that have nothing to do with them. They are the modern-day equivalent of the old timey Catholic saints who wore hairshirts, whipped themselves and only allowed themselves small sips of warm water on hot days.” Yep, Obeidallah is certainly in that group. His article is nothing more than virtue-signaling: a way to puff out his chest and say that he’s better than the rest of us “Islamophobes.”

37 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. somer
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Idiots ultimately kill people by their naivety

  3. LS in NY
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Or, gosh, substitute nearly daily terrorist stabbings and murders in Israel for months at a time.

  4. mordacious1
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Once France has a terrorist bombing weekly, CNN won’t spend as much time reporting on those either.

  5. Posted July 3, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Another reason that on the spot reporting might be limited is that the Turkish government is engaged in a crack down on journalism, especially anything that might be seen as critical of the Turkish president or his regime. Although aimed primarily at Turkish journalists, the campaign has been extended to attempting to squelch Germans in Germany (albeit of a satirical commentator, not a reporter).

  6. Historian
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Yes, the reaction of people in one culture to atrocities in another depends on how similar the other culture seems relative to the one they belong to. People tend to view their own culture as superior to others and tragic events affecting it are worthy of particular concerns. On the other hand, events affecting members of other cultures are viewed as somehow less important or less worthy of their attention. This should not be in the least surprising and there are countless historical examples. This is why the sinking of the Titanic is emblazoned in the minds of the British and Americans, although the deaths in this tragedy were lower than in so many others.

    None of this should be surprising in the least. It was only natural that the American media would spend more time on Pars than Istanbul. Islamophobia had little to do with this. If, for example, a Bulgarian ocean liner with mostly Bulgarian passengers had sunk in 1912 under similar circumstances, the event would have been long forgotten in America or Britain and the rest of the world.

  7. rom
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Stupidity isn’t dangerous, people are?

    Basing one’s worldview on a false premise is not dangerous, people are?

    I think we need to look at all this nonsense from a more scientific point of view. Evolution has endowed us (and that includes us here) with a heard mentality. When that mentality is threatened, then this evokes a negative reaction; whether it be ignoring the threat or cutting off someone’s head.

    I don’t think ultimately a logical argument pointing out the impossibility of someone’s position will work. We need a more subtle tack.

    Don’t ask me what that is, I don’t know.

  8. E.A. Blair
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Another reason coverage is less intense in Turkey and Bangladesh is probably due to American news agencies not having the depth of infrastructure in those countries for gathering and reporting information. I have no idea what the actual statistics are, but I’ll bet that the AP has a much bigger bureau in Paris than in Dhaka or Istanbul.

  9. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    This article from HUFFPO is a good example of picking out things, items and stories that fit your view and this is the HUFF view even if they have to bend over backwards to get there. The Terrorist event in Turkey was not on the scale of Paris for one thing. For the size and scope of it, the media coverage was pretty good. Points were made that the Turkish response as the event happened was very good. Also, the fast cleanup and reopening of the airport the following day was extraordinary.

    Really good reporting on anything by the new media is stretched today because TV news particularly no longer has the money or the reporters it once had. They have all cut back a great deal. Today it is often entertainment/news. But I would also say something good when I see it and today, this morning on CNN, on Fareed Zacaria, GPS program he did a show called – Why Are They Afraid Of Us? This was about Islamist Terrorism in the world and it was pretty good. One of the better things on TV for sure on this subject. I’m sure they will be rerunning it several times as they often do, so give it a look. You may be as surprise as I was about how fair and well done it was.

  10. Posted July 3, 2016 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Challenge enosiophobia, because we’re all getting extremely tired of explaining this shit.

    • somer
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      +1

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    … a word that the PuffHo throws around as often as the words “and” and “the.”

    Nice Mary McCarthy-Lillian Hellman allusion!

  12. Posted July 3, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I would like to say “what a moronic slogan.” But, of course, slogans aren’t moronic, people are.

  13. Sastra
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    “Religions aren’t violent, people are.”

    Religion technically would fall under the general heading of ” philosophy,” in that it involves a metaphysics, and epistemology, an ethics, and rules and guidance on values and how one ought to live. So could we just confidently assert that NO life philosophy is violent? That none of them advocate violence? No. Religion doesn’t get an automatic pass here — unless someone is pointlessly drawing a distinction between the motivation and the motivated.

    What does rather count in religion’s favor I think is the same aspect which damns it: an almost infinite capacity for spiritual beliefs to shift their interpretation till they mean whatever the speaker wants to mean. If God is good and good means what I think it means for reasons outside of religion then lo and behold, anything which sounds violent or coercive turns out to be a metaphor.

    Those metaphors are also made literal just as easily.

  14. Posted July 3, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    That “NRA-ish slogan about guns and people” is one PuffHo would completely reject in the gun context.

  15. Posted July 3, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    “Doesn’t that remind you of a certain NRA-ish slogan about guns and people?”
    It certainly does as that was my immeediate reaction as well. It’s just as worng in this context as it is in the NRA context as well.

  16. Posted July 3, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    “Doesn’t that remind you of a certain NRA-ish slogan about guns and people?”
    It certainly does as that was my immeediate reaction as well. It’s just as worng in this context as it is in the NRA context as well.

  17. Posted July 3, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    “Doesn’t that remind you of a certain NRA-ish slogan about guns and people?”
    It certainly does as that was my immeediate reaction as well. It’s just as worng in this context as it is in the NRA context as well.

    • mordacious1
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure I understand you. Could you repeat that?

      • Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        Sorry, IDK what happened there. I only intended to post once.

      • Posted July 8, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        Sorry, IDK what happened there. I only intended to post once.

  18. davut
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I’m an atheist who lives in turkey and these kind of articles disgust me. They are not even wrong. Full of BS.

  19. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    An old gun control counter to the NRAs “Guns dont kill people. People kill people” was “Guns dont die. People do.” Perhaps a good slogan for critcs of Islam could be “We dont want Muslims to die. We want Islam to [or at least reform…Positive rebirth after dying might get a pass.]”

  20. Posted July 3, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if HuffPo thinks the headlines for the Baghdad slaughter are big enough today.

    One dynamic is simple muslim-on-muslim slaughter news surfeit. First Afghanistan, then Turkey, then Bangladesh (actually they slaughtered mostly non-muslims there), then Iraq, and then back to Afghanistan. It is only when the terrorists reach beyond muslim countries that it becomes a man bites dog news story.

  21. Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    🐾

  22. Posted July 3, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m always surprised at the number of religious apologists who strenuously argue that religion is so weak and superficial that it doesn’t affect anyone’s behavior.

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      Indeed!

  23. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    At any rate, Obeidallah’s contention is that because the Istanbul airport bombings weren’t covered as extensively as those in Paris or at the Brussels airport, this shows that either the American media, Americans in general, or both, think that the lives of Muslims are worth less than the lives of non-Muslims.

    TBH, it remind me more of – was it Chamberlain? Yes, it was Chamberlain : “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing.”

  24. Heather Hastie
    Posted July 3, 2016 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    I watched a lot of the CNN coverage of the Turkey bombing, and it was very extensive. They had two top reporters on the story, and there were some heart-wrenching stories. One was of a paediatric surgeon and his wife who had travelled to Turkey to collect their son – he had joined DAESH, then changed his mind and escaped. The surgeon was killed in the attack, and his wife went home with her son, but without her husband.

    And the attack in Dhaka followed it pretty quickly, which took over too.

    Dean Obeidallah often puts his own spin on stories I’ve noticed.

    On a personal note, my uncle was supposed to be arriving at Ataturk airport that day but my aunt persuaded him not to go because of the deteriorating situation there.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted July 4, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      “Dean Obeidallah often puts his own spin on stories I’ve noticed.”

      You have a gift for understatement.

  25. dallos
    Posted July 4, 2016 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    Religions are not peaceful,
    people are.

  26. jay
    Posted July 4, 2016 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    “Doesn’t that remind you of a certain NRA-ish slogan about guns and people?”

    Interesting point, because regardless of one’s views on guns, I don’t think the NRA has ever urged its members to kill opponents, or kill people who’ve left the organization.

  27. KD
    Posted July 4, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    What is the ideological point of “God” and “God’s Law” if not to legitimate violence against other people who are *purportedly* flouting it?

    Why do people think there are state religions, and often suppression of non-state sanctioned religions?

    The last thing any state wants is a group of people claiming killing authority on behalf of the Almighty, unless they represent (direct or indirect) state agents. Well-behaved Protestants are the cultural and historical exception (and they aren’t even that “exceptional” if you look at the history of Northern Ireland or the American South).

  28. Posted July 4, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    “Religions aren’t violent, people are.” is a deepity. Of course a system of world views of overlapping character and such in a certain population cannot literally punch someone in the nose or shoot them in the head with a rifle. But that’s banal; saying religions are to whatever degree violent is just elliptical. I think people know this …

    In any case, I think this is all a bit of a red herring. One’s world view should be such that it has an ethics that would make violence to humans (and perhaps to other animals or the biosphere) severely aversive. Some religions seem to not inculcate that at all well.

  29. Filippo
    Posted July 4, 2016 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    ” . . . never underestimate the ignorance of Americans when it comes to other countries . . . Americans share more of their culture with Europe than with Turkey . . . How many Americans know much about Turkish culture? This has nothing to do with dehumanizing adherents to a faith, but with feeling closer to a country that you know something about, and whose culture you’re more familiar with.”

    One is hard-pressed to find international news on the front page of, e.g., the Raleigh News and Observer. No doubt the paper has done market research, and is responding to its readers’ interests, eh? Regarding Americans’ ignorance – yea, verily, WILLFUL ignorance – ya gotta wanna trouble yourself to learn something about cultures beyond a day’s drive from home.


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