For the last few days, US media have been fixated on the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo. Without question, murdering satirists and innocents over ideology is a horrible, despicable act. But would the story have so dominated the news media if the terrorists were not Muslim? The treatment of similar stories by news media suggests otherwise.
For example, 12 people were killed in the initial attack on Charlie Hebdo. That is only marginally more than the average number of innocent children in the United States killed by guns every day. Where are the sensational stories about that? Since 9/11, there have been at least 8 attacks in the US by right wing terrorists. Most of these garnered no media attention. And what about news of the terrorist bombing attempt of the NAACP office in Colorado Springs? Where are the stories about that? Have you seen any news stories about the FBI manhunt for the individual responsible?
Moreover, right wing media pundits continue to call for Muslim leaders to denounce Islamic terrorism and Muslim extremists. Did you know that leading Muslim organizations in the US and Europe immediately made statements publically condemning the Paris attacks? They did. But have you seen any headlines to that effect? Have you heard any broadcast news anchors read the statements? Have you seen any interviews with those Muslim leaders?
No, such stories do not further the conservative narrative of our corporate-owned media. They do not instill fear in our public. They do not pander to our still mostly white Christian population. They do not serve to help divide us by religion and race. They do not make it easier to dehumanize those who are different. They do not serve the agenda of those in Washington (I’m thinking of you, Lindsay Graham and John McCain) who want to send more of our troops into battle in Iraq, Syria and, ultimately, Iran.
The attack on Charlie Hebdo wasn’t merely the outgrowth of religious differences. It was the outgrowth of an extreme ideology created, in part, by extremist textbooks given to Pakistani schools with the intent of rallying young Muslims to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It was the outgrowth of extremist teachings and the funding for terrorist organizations from Saudi Arabia, our supposed ally. It was the outgrowth of the Bush administration’s unwarranted invasion of Iraq. It was the outgrowth of the Bush administration’s torture program.
All of this is not to excuse the Parisian terrorist attacks. But if we’re ever going to be successful in preventing such attacks, we must understand the events and attitudes that lead to them. We must understand that the devout followers of any ideology can commit terrorist acts. Peace begins with understanding. That is why the context is necessary. It’s long past time for our media to provide that context to their sensational news; to tell the whole story; to give us the truth…not just the facts.