I recently read a very well articulated write-up in the magazine Communalism Combat titled ‘The world of hatred’ written by Ahmed Noor. The article made a comparison between the reactions of the American media, particularly the New York Times and the Norwegian people to the attacks that happened at Oslo in Norway. The attack that was carried out by a Norwegian national took the lives of 90 youngsters and left several more injured.
The article went on to state that the reportage of the NYT was completely editorialized. The historical and a paper considered liberal made very biased claims and openly labeled the Muslims as the perpetrators of the heinous crime that left several innocent civilians dead.
Where as, at ground zero the situation was completely the opposite. While the international media went gaga over the whether the perpetrator was a Muslim or not the Norwegian media and people were most calm. The Prime Minister did not give out anti-Muslim agenda’s or made any sort of claim. In fact after the attack in his speech he promised to strengthen democracy instead of blaming and promising to bring the attacker to book.
Many critics of the NYT also stated that the paper used the word ‘terrorist’ only with the word ‘Muslim’. After the news spread that the attacker was not a Muslim terrorist the paper still continued to make comparisons. They then began drawing parallel’s between the magnitude of the attacks that the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda carry out to that of Andres Behring Breiviks’. In one way or another they compared him to that of Muslim terrorists in spite of his sheer hate for the Muslims.
While going through the article I realized that my thoughts on the issue were along the same lines as that of the writer.
What I observed through the course of the coverage and reportage was that-as soon as the incident occurred the media across the world went berserk with reports claiming / accusing Islamic groups for the attack. I very vividly remember watching BBC the night the attack took place. The channel was barely 10 minutes into coverage of the incident and the blame game had already begun, they blatantly made accusations and pointed fingers to Islamic terrorist’s outlets like the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda. Many people too had their bets on Islamic terrorists. But when the attacker was captured by the Norwegian police the media when into safe-mode.
The attacker was a Norwegian national who had very strong right wing and anti-Muslim ideologies and stood against multicultural democracy. As soon as the news emerged that the perpetrator of the crime-a terrorist was a Norwegian the term terrorist was dropped completely to be was replaced by ‘Christian extremist’, ‘deranged man’ and ‘madman’.
Many mainstream news channels under the guidance of an ‘expert’ very confidently stated that the attack was carried out by Islamic terrorists. It is a label that the media has almost ingrained in our heads that all bad things that happen around the world are because of Muslims. The US mainstream media after 9/11 have created a very strong image in the minds of people about Muslims, labeling all Muslims as terrorists. This is a negative and one of the most common labels that the media uses.
The same could be said about Indian mainstream media. The term Islamic and even Pakistani terrorist is also very commonly used in the Indian media. People consume every word that the media gives out, taking each and every detail at face value. So when the mainstream media assumes that attack was carried out by Islamic terrorist the people believe that.
Michael Parenti’s definition of labeling in the media is a very important one in this situation. He says that labeling in the media influences public opinion. In this scenario the media’s label of Islamic terrorism has influenced people all over the globe, to an extent that the Muslims are looked at with suspicion everywhere.
This whole incident and a misjudgment by the media is another conformation as to how the media ought to be viewed and read with some level of skepticism.