As you read this article, keep in mind whats been going on the past few days since i posted this..some right-wing radio stations are hosting polls asking if we should start registering practicing Muslims during time of war.. Keep this in mind as you read this and ask yourself is this really a mindless distraction or some real cause for alarm.. here’s the link to the story
Sept 1 2010
The power of language and words should never be underestimated. They can inspire or inflame. They can move mountains or paralyze us. If broadcasted they can be maligning with serious physical and political consequences for those who are on the receiving end of a tirade and can’t speak back. It can embolden those who agree with the tirade and encourage them to act on anger and fear. Words from those who have access to far-reaching platforms can set a responsible or irresponsible tone. We’re seeing this play out with the big debate around the proposed Community Center/ Mosque near Ground Zero, the site of the 9-11 attacks in New York.
Yesterday I heard about a Mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee being burned to the ground. Last week in nearby Madera, California we heard about a Mosque being vandalized. Graffiti was left warning Muslims not to continue their plan to build a Mosque at Ground Zero. Instead of seeing our esteemed 4th estate (the media) go in and do investigative reports as to who was behind the attacks, we heard lots of justifications in the form of media pundits wanting to find out who might be behind the funding for project at Ground Zero. We didn’t hear about the trauma and angst worshippers of those vandalized places of worship may have felt. There hasn’t been too much conversation about suspicious activities leading up the vandalism. There weren’t a whole lot of questions about whether or not it was a paramilitary ‘Minute Man’ type group or some knucklehead kids behind the vandalism?
Personally, I wanna know if any of these groups opposed to a Mosque /Community Center being built near Ground Zero or any of these colorful, bombastic individuals spewing so much hate are being funded? Is it fair to ask if the Koch brothers who were recently exposed in an expose Covert Operations by New Yorker magazine as billionaire funders for the Tea Party, are funding Anti-Mosque/Anti-Muslim protests? Could you imagine how deep reporters would go in, if there was even a hint that some synagogue was vandalized by an angry group of Muslims?
One of the attacks reported last week centers on a nutcase who ran up in a Mosque in Astoria, Queens and yelled out anti-Muslim slurs and then urinated on the prayer rug. The first thing that came to mind was what took place last Tuesday morning on the TV news show Good Day New York. Here anchor Greg Kelly who is a Lieutenant Colonel the Marine corps reserve and the son of NYPD police commissioner Ray Kelly, rudely and pompously cut off his guest Elaine Brower and berated and dismissed her claims that she had experienced anti-Muslim sentiment at a rally that was held at Ground Zero over that weekend.You can peep the segment here: http://www.myfoxny.com/dpp/good_day .
Kelly told the women her story sounded like hogwash. He then accused her of being in the same vein those who accused the Tea Party of racism but couldn’t produce a video proving their point. Kelly went on to say he lived near the area of the protests and he had not seen any evidence the people would act so hatefully. His remarks were broadcast all around the country and because he’s a news anchor, many took his word at face value, especially knowing who his father was.. The thought is he above all would know best.
What was ironic was while Kelly was denying there was any anti-Muslim hysteria a video was making its way around the blogosphere showing a young Black man, accused of being a Muslim on the verge of being attacked by a frenzied mob at that weekend protest. People in crowd could be heard yelling ‘Mohammed is a Pig‘ while folks held up anti-muslim signs. You can peep the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwaNRWMN-F4
That morning I contacted Good Day NY and sent their news department a link to the video. Of course there was no retraction or acknowledgement. Now that we’ve had these other attacks, I’ve watched to see if Kelly would apologize or have the woman back on to state what she actually experienced that Sunday. But of course that’s not happening in 2010. I know we here at Hard Knock Radio are in the process of tracking down Elaine Brower at her organization NYC Coalition to Stop Islamaphobia in America to invite her on our show where she can finish her sentences and fully explain what she experienced.
Sadly people like Kelly are not alone in denying there’s been little anti-Muslim sentiment. If anything, many actually feel justified in the anger they have expressed. The other day I got a tweet from someone stating that they Italy denies religious status to Islam & so should the USA. Some one else hit me up stating that while this country has religious freedom the people behind the Mosque should show some class and move elsewhere. There was no sign or concern about the attacks. If anything folks felt that they deserved to be attacked for not moving. Such comments are indicative of both the sense of entitlement many feel as well their belief in nasty stereotypes and incidents hawked by media pundits that have nothing to do with Islam’s core beliefs. Many have gone all out by showing extreme intolerance and by equating Islam to terrorism. This has had dire consequences.
The most serious and heavily publicized of these recent attacks on Muslims took place last week in New York when a cab driver named, Ahmed Sharif was viciously attacked by some lunatic Islamaphobic passenger named Michael Enright. According to the reports, Enright asked if Sharif if he was a Muslim before stabbing him in the throat with a pocket knife. Sharif came inches to losing his life.
What was troubling to note was in the days after the attack many reporters described Enright as a 21-year-old ‘drunken’ film student. It seemed as if horrible behavior was being explained away by him being ’boozed up’. My question was ‘Why not call him a ‘Domestic Terrorist’? That’s what he is.. So many people have been quick to call anyone who is Muslim a terrorist and Un-American, why not refer to Enright as someone who is treasonous? Why not describe him as someone who tramples on the Constitution? Lot’s of news outlets spent countless hours asking people if they would feel safe with a Mosque being built near Ground Zero, why won’t those same news outlets spend time asking cabbies who are or look like they are Middle Eastern or Muslim, if they feel safe picking up white passengers who may be holding extreme Islamaphobic views?
If we really wanna get deep, why not start unearthing questions and find out if Enright’s recently filming assignment of Marines on the front lines in Afghanistan led to him having so much hatred? Was that a key reason allowing him to dehumanizing Sharif?
It’s being reported that Enright ‘the film maker’ (notice how he’s constantly being humanized) has been transferred to a psych ward on Riker’s Island. This is in spite of the fact that the note books he was carrying was filled with ‘biased sentiments’. They are also running stories about his bizarre drunken behavior in the past.
Again, the question that should be answered; Was it the war that Enright experienced in Afghanistan and should we be concerned that there are others like him as more and more combat troops return home? Or was Enright spawned on by hearing all this unchecked vitriol on broadcast media where Muslims are routinely castigated? Was Enright’s actions the result of him hearing supposedly respectable politicians and pundits like Newt Gingrich who recently equated Muslims to Nazis or Sarah Palin who recently advocated profiling Muslims? Should Gingrich or Palin shoulder any responsibility for this attack? After all both have pointed in the past out how words used ‘irresponsibly’ have power.
Sarah Palin is always railing about the harmful effects of ‘biased media’, unfair coverage and how unchallenged punditry has caused distress to her and her family. Newt Gingrich over the years has made no bones about fearing certain types of speech along with his political colleagues who have made moves to squash it.
We can look back over the years and see how Gingrich’s political cronies blamed rappers like Ice Cube and Ice T for instigating the riots that took place in 1992 in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict? Ice Cube caught heat for songs like Black Korea and Ice T came under fire for Cop Killer.
All the controversy resulted in special Senate hearings being held while then Vice President Dan Quayle went in on both rappers? A few years later in 1995, controversy erupted when 2Pac was sued by the estate of a Texas state trooper for the song Soulja’s Story where it was contended that the lyrics led to the trooper being killed by a crazed assailant. It was just a two years ago Gingrich himself appeared on the Neil Cavuto show and blamed rap music for this disrespect Americans were showing one another. He stated…
We have tolerated the growth, whether it’s on MTV or it’s in a variety of other sources. We have tolerated a language. We have tolerated a kind of rap music. All of these things have been a coarsening, degrading process of saying to people, it is OK to ignore authority. It’s OK to be brutal. It’s OK to do really bad things. If we follow Gingrich’s line of thinking and conclude a steady diet of negative ‘music’ can have harmful effects can we make the case that steady diet of negative news punditry is also harmful? If so, then we have to look at what’s taking place around this debate about what should be built around Ground Zero with a larger lens.
We do know our country has taken great pains to limit and actually take out the broadcast mediums in places like Afghanistan and replace them with Voice of America. Our military has long complained about news outlets like Al Jazzera suggesting that their reporting on the War in Iraq was fanning the flames of our enemies. We made moves to censor the newspaper, remove their credentials we were accused of bombing them. We eventually hired a high-caliber PR firm called the Rendon Group to counter and limit their influence in the region. Obviously our brightest military minds understand the power of words. They understand what sort of harm can take place when media outlets start whipping people into a frenzy. We saw this play out with Huto Power Radio in Rwanda which led to the horrific genocide. We saw this play out in Nazi Germany under Hitler where Germans were whipped into a frenzy and eventually started attacking Jews.
It was just two years ago we saw the public get whipped into a frenzy around the issue of late-term abortions. Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly was at the helm as he spent months crusading against abortion doctor George Tiller In one of his infamous tirades O’Reilly stated;
“If we as a society allow an undefined mental health exception in late-term abortions, then babies can be killed for almost any reason… This is the kind of stuff that happened in Mao’s China and Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union… If we allow this, America will no longer be a noble nation… If we allow Dr. George Tiller and his acolytes to continue, we can no longer pass judgment on any behavior by anybody.”
Unfortunately some crazed individual named Scott Roeder believed the hype, took O’Reilly’s words to heart, went to a church in Wichita, Kansas and in cold blood, shot Dr George Tiller who was serving as an usher.
Many said O’Reilly had the blood of Tiller on his hands. He said he felt like he did nothing wrong while his supporters pointed to free speech and first amendment rights. O’Reilly fans felt it was an ‘illogical’ conclusion to see him as contributing to Tiller’s death because of his on air remarks which they saw as pointed but harmless. However, this is the same Bill O’Reilly who like Gingrich had taken a number of entertainers to task including rappers Ludicrous and Jay-Z and most recently actress Jennifer Aniston for ‘being irresponsible’ with their words.
In the recent case with Aniston, O’Reilly went to town on her, accusing her negatively influencing 12 and 13 year olds after she said women don’t need men to have a child. This came out during an interview in which Aniston was promoting her new movie ‘The Switch’ which is about artificial insemination.
One could make the case that if we’re supposed to be concerned about Aniston negatively influencing 12-13 year old girls about single motherhood, should we be concerned about how O’Reilly might be negatively influenceing 12- 13 year old boys when we look at how he handles his guests by screaming and shouting or how he handled the Loofa sponge scandal a few years back? What sort of negative influence does a man who preaches we should have high moral standing have when he was sued by his producer Andrea Macktris for sexual harrassment?
The bottom line is that words especially those that are broadcasted have influence. We can cite dozens of examples of individuals who have acted out violently after being whipped into a frenzy by fiery media pundits who get to speak unopposed on the airways They range from anti-government zealot Richard Poplawski who murdered 3 Pittsburgh, PA police officers in April of 2009 to Joseph Andrew Stack who flew his plane into an Austin, Texas, IRS building killing former Vietnam Vet and IRS manager Vernon Hunter this past February to Byron Christopher Williams a California man who last month while armed to the hilt and wearing body armor, shot it out with police on the 580 Freeway in Oakland. Williams was on his way to San Francisco to kill ACLU and Tide Foundation workers who he felt were ruining this country based upon the fear mongering of news pundits.
In many of these instances its been pointed out that these attackers were ginned up from listening to inciteful right-wing anti-government media pundits. Why do these announcers get a pass and are allowed to incite violence while others are reigned in, penalized and shut down for far less egregious remarks
Why is that TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey can go on TV and express criticism about eating meat and get sued by the cattle industry who accused her of causing prices to fall but those Muslims who now find themselves under attack are literally being told to keep quiet and move?
Why is that rap star Kanye West speak out about the harmful impact of Blood diamonds and have the Diamond Industry upset with him and eventually step to him, but those who are marginalized and demaonzied by right-wing talk are told to grow a pair and only see this as entertainment?
Back in the days, how could we have NWA do a song like Fuck Tha Police and not only do they get a letter from the FBI condemning the song, but have police departments all over the country refuse to let the group perform the song at venues they patrolled. The one time they attempted to perform the song, in Detroit, 20 plain clothes officers rushed the stage and attacked the group. One might ask where’s that same heavy hand of the law to reign in those attacking Muslims on the air today?
Is it wrong to be concerned when powerful media outlets seem to be working overtime demonizing various groups of people? Today its Muslims and the issue of terrorism. Yesterday it was Brown folks and the fervor over immigration and ‘anchor babies’. The day before it was Black folks and the war on drugs. The constant fearmongering has led to politicians taking note on certain issues and crafting legislation around what was being tossed up as something to fear.
From 3 Strikes to SB 1070, fear mongering in the media was an essential component in getting these laws on the books. With the current debate around Muslims in America who knows what crazy law will be thought up and pushed for passage. We already gave up lots of privacy and Civil Liberties after 9-11 under the guise ‘we need to keep the country safe’. Will we find ourselves returning to the days of internment camps where we locked up thousand of Japanese-American citizens during World War II while allowing our German-American citizens to be free even after some formed a Nazi Party here in the US?
All of us should be concerned when we have sitting Governors like NY’s David Patterson and US Senators like Harry Reid telling a group of American citizens it would be a good idea and smart thing to move their community center/ Mosque because people’s feelings are raw.
One must move because people are feeling hurt? It wasn’t the builders of the ground Zero/Mosque/ Community center who flew those planes into the building. This setting a bad precedent? Where do we stop and draw the line?
Should we ban gas stations especially if we know the gas is coming from Muslim countries? Did any of the anti-Mosque protestors stop driving or using gas? Hell have they even picketed gas stations expressing their angst? Just how hurt are they?
If we allow the anti-Muslim crowd to get its way can we extend this to other victims? Can survivors of Hurricane Katrina demand that no new housing that further displaces them be built in the 9th Ward because they’re still in shock and traumatized? Can we go on the air waves and bash on developers and make them feel unsafe for rebuilding?
Can we ban the building of Catholic churches because children have been molested by clergy members? Should we take to the airwaves and shout down anyone who is Catholic? Can we start demonizing our Catholic neighbors? Perhaps we can tell the schools in our area to relocate because folks have been hurt by a few individuals who claim that faith.
Don’t get me wrong censorship is not being advocated. However what does one do when fairness and common sense are absent from those who have large and loud media platforms? What do we do as a society when media which is increasingly becoming consolidated even on the web is being used as a vicious weapon and propoganda tool against folks who are marginalized and dont have a voice? How this Mosque thing plays out will set things in motion for years to come. I’m not sure what all the answers should be but I hope all of us put our heads together and start with the premise we are all human and have right to be here.