If three skinheads with swastikas on their jackets were to beat up a Jewish person on the street while hurling anti-semitic slurs, very few would try to explain away the obvious fact that it is a hate crime based on their twisted ideology. Any attempt at spinning it to be, say an outrage over the recent hikes in beer prices that has nothing to do with nazism, would be treated as the absurd gobbeldigook it is. And anyone suggesting it was somehow the victim’s fault would be lucky to only get a Stooge-smack over the head.
But when armed gunmen shoot cartoonists at French magazine Charlie Hebdo known for publishing “objectionable” pictures while yelling “Allahu Akbar!”, Swedish media is falling over itself to conjure up the most bizarre spins doing the exact things that would be so patently absurd in the fictional skinhead-scenario above. And it’s doing everyone except the extremists on both ends a grave disservice.
“The attack has nothing to do with Islam” is the text displayed in Swedish state television SVT. Yes, it’s a quote, but to put it up there and let some cuckoo speak largely unopposed on prime time TV is a deliberate attempt at blurring a clear situation.
“These are not innocent victims,” says a reporter at Swedish state radio SR. Many editorials and news stories tried to straddle two stances; condemning the attack on freedom of speech, while simultaneously hinting more or less openly that the victims brought it on themselves for “disrespecting islam”.
Another tack is to make big headlines about concerns over “growing islamophobia” in the wake of the massacre, painting a sob-story of relentless persecution where civil profiles and celebrities get to wring their hands in sympathy while muslim leaders wrap themselves in victimhood. A little anonymous “bomb threat” against a mosque makes a perfect add-on story to lend credibility to the presented picture.
Yes, I don’t doubt for a second that there’s a rise in hostility against the muslim community. Just like the gaming community is viewed more suspiciously after some school shooting where the perpetrator turned out to play violent video games for hours every day. But trying to shift it to the forefront and make it the main story rather than what actually happened is an obvious manipulation attempt that most people see right through.
Media spin like this may convince a certain percentage of slack-jawed yokels. But many more don’t appreciate when their intelligence is so obviously insulted. An assault where the killers yell “Allahu akbar” has nothing to do with Islam? “They had it coming” and kinda, sorta deserved death for drawing cartoons?
It’s preposterous. And it’s stuff like this that INCREASES distrust in society. An obvious lie about one thing, ruins the credibility for the next thing.
Yes, of course the attackers were muslims. Fanatical ones. If you can admit that, you can also move on and recognize that there’s a vast difference between them and the muslim neighbors next door who mind their own business trying to make a decent living like everyone else. Just like there’s a vast difference between the Christian family one door over and the KKK-mobs burning crosses and harassing non-whites.
When media push blatant lies and try to impose guilt for some kind of general “islamophobia”, and all you get is people pushing back. And that only benefits the true extreme right-wingers who then harness the natural pushback for their own purposes. Meanwhile, the feeble-minded who buy the propaganda view the pushback as validation that the propaganda is true and rally to “fight the good fight”. Result: increased polarization and discord.
Who gains from this situation? Hint: It’s probably not you and me.