Tag Archives: sensationalism

Just Once

Just once I’d like to read a news article in the western media that talks about Yemen without including the line “…is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden.”

I know Yemen is exotic and mysterious to most Americans, but come on. How ’bout shaking it up a bit with a “…where the kingdom of Sheba was believed to be located,” or “…famous for its unique architecture”? After all, they manage to describe England without including the line, “…where Osama bin Laden’s son Omar lives.”

Yemen has some beautiful spots. If they’d make a point of attracting tourism, they could make a fortune. And as one of the world’s poorest countries, they could sure use it. A serious obstacle to that, though, is the local tradition of kidnapping people for ransom.

But just look at it! So pretty.

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Organ Snatching; WSJ Thinks Arabs are Iranians

Here are a couple of stories to look into. The Arab News reports:

RAMALLAH: The chief Israeli pathologist and director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir, professor Yehuda Hiss, has admitted harvesting organs from the bodies of dead Palestinians without the consent of their families.

You can read more at the link. And the other story, found at BoRev.net, is about a Wall Street Journal article conflating Iranians with Venezuelans of Arab descent. To make it more scary.

From the penultimate paragraph of the WSJ article:

What do Fadi Kabboul, Aref Richany Jimenez, Radwan Sabbagh and Tarek Zaidan El Aissami Maddah have in common? The answer is that they are, respectively, executive director for planning of Venezuelan oil company PdVSA; the president of Venezuela’s military-industrial complex; the president of a major state-owned mining concern; and, finally, the minister of interior. Latin Americans of Middle Eastern descent have long played prominent roles in national politics and business. But these are all fingertip positions in what gives the Iranian-Venezuelan relationship its worrying grip.

From BoRev:

Wow, was your mind just blown? Iran is infiltrating the highest levels of the Venezuelan oil sector using…Christian immigrants from Lebanon! I don’t mean to add fuel to the fire or anything, but I think I saw a Sikh cab driver in Caracas once too.

The commenters at BoRev are pretty sure that all those guys are of Lebanese Christian descent, but I can’t verify it. After all, most people don’t have to declare their ethnic descent and religion to the world. A google search on their names mostly brings up dozens of blog posts about this WSJ article. Plus the dismaying realization that attempts to link Iran to Venezuela through Arab Christians has been going on for a while.

There are several sites out there linking Venezuelan Minister of the Interior Tarek El Aissami to Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in the sense that his great uncle was a Baathist, and I can’t figure out if that’s true or not, but I can pretty much guarantee that a tie to the Iraqi Baathist party is pretty much the opposite of a tie to Iran.

Plus, why did the WSJ writer, Bret “They All Look Alike to Me” Stephens, include Tarek El Aissami’s middle name and maternal last name? He doesn’t go by them, and his name is plenty scary-Arab-sounding without them.

See more mocking of Bret here. I only regret that there isn’t a lot more mocking.

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Cop Killer Thought He Was Jesus; Christian Law to Kill Gays

Maurice Clemmons Christian Terrorist Extremist

No sooner did a photo of alleged cop-killer Maurice Clemmons appear in the news than the screeching began. “He’s a Muslim” “He was radicalised in prison” “He’s another domestic terrorist!” Presumably this is because his visage is swarthy and he’s not smiling a genial smile, although the smile wouldn’t be necessary if he were paler in hue.

Once it became apparent that the late Maurice Clemmons was a Christian, nobody cared anymore. Most news article failed to mention it. Those that did buried it several paragraphs down the page. Because somehow when a American who practices Islam mows down soldiers, it’s terrorism, extremism, and an indictment of Islam, but when an American who practices Christianity mows down police officers, it is none of those things. And Mr Clemmons wasn’t just a cultural Christian, he thought he was Jesus.

“The whole time Clemmons kept saying things like trust him, the world is going to end soon, and that he was Jesus,” a Pierce County sheriff’s report said.

Clemmons was charged in Washington state earlier this year with assaulting a police officer and raping a child, and investigators in the sex case said he was motivated by visions that he was Jesus Christ and that the world was on the verge of the apocalypse.

Within a couple days after the Fort Hood shooting, we knew more about Major Nidal Hasan than we’ve ever known about any spree killer, ever. The media gave us its analysis of a PowerPoint presentation he gave to his colleagues, encouraged us to gasp at his email exchange with an American imam in Yemen (and I still haven’t heard a single peep from anyone complaining that we spied on an American citizen’s correspondence with an American citizen–which was judged by the FBI to be innocuous), and found a blog comment on the internet that sounded like he might have written it and attributed it to him. I imagine there are hundreds or thousands of people posting on the internet every day who say things that sound like something I would say. Please don’t attribute them to me. Thanks.

Christian evangelical minister ex-governor Mike Huckabee did not actually pardon Clemmons, so what I wrote the other day is not accurate. Huckabee recommended clemency, basically making him eligible for parole. Huckabee was prudent enough not mention the religious angle in any explanation for this clemency, so we can’t actually know that Huckabee gave Clemmons another chance because he felt he had truly repented and accepted Jesus into his heart.

Salon article on Huckabee’s dealings with Maurice Clemmons.

Huckabee has proudly declared on many occasions that he disdains the separation of church and state, insisting that his strict Baptist piety should serve as the bedrock of public policy. Nowhere in his record as governor was the influence of religious zeal felt more heavily than in the distribution of pardons and commutations, as his own explanations have indicated. During those years he granted more commutations and pardons than any governor during the previous four decades, many of them surely justified as a response to excessive penalties under the state’s draconian narcotics laws. But others were deeply controversial, especially because so many of his acts of mercy appeared to depend on interventions by fellow Baptist preachers and by inmate professions of renewed Christian faith.

No doubt word spread among the prison population that the affable governor was vulnerable to appeals from convicts who claimed to be born again. Clemmons too was among those who benefited from Huckabee’s tendency to believe such pious testimonials. “I come from a very good Christian family and I was raised much better than my actions speak,” he explained in his clemency application in 2000. “I’m still ashamed to this day for the shame my stupid involvement in these crimes brought upon my family’s name … I have never done anything good for God, but I’ve prayed for him to grant me in his compassion the grace to make a start. Now, I’m humbly appealing to you for a brand new start.”

New York Times article about Huckabee’s clemency issues.

Mr. Huckabee, who rode a brand of prairie populism to finish second in the Republican presidential primaries in 2008, granted more than 1,000 pardons or clemency requests as governor. As his reputation for granting clemency spread, more convicts applied. Aides said he read each file personally.

In most cases, he followed the recommendation of the parole board, but in several cases he overrode the objections of prosecutors, judges and victims’ families. And in several, he followed recommendations for clemency from Baptist preachers who had been longtime supporters.

Robert Herzfeld, then the prosecuting attorney of Saline County, wrote a letter to Governor Huckabee in January 2004, saying his policy on clemency was “fatally flawed” and suggesting that he should announce specific reasons for granting clemency. Mr. Huckabee’s chief aide on clemency wrote back: “The governor read your letter and laughed out loud. He wanted me to respond to you. I wish you success as you cut down on your caffeine consumption.”

After the Fort Hood shooting, public figures called for ousting Muslims from the US military. They shouted that Maj Hasan was allowed to remain in the Army due to “political correctness” and claimed that Muslims are a protected class in the United States. As if Maj Hasan wouldn’t have been able to shoot anybody if he’d been kicked out of the army, which by the way he had been trying to leave for years, to no avail. As if any Muslim can commit any kind of crime in the US without his religion making the headlines.

Meanwhile, some Christians in America are howling that they are the underclass, that everyone makes fun of them, that public entities sometimes acknowledge that there is some religious diversity in America. The “war on Christmas” is a good example.

Here’s a scientific study whose conclusions will come as no surprise to most:

For many religious people, the popular question “What would Jesus do?” is essentially the same as “What would I do?” That’s the message from an intriguing and controversial new study by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago. Through a combination of surveys, psychological manipulation and brain-scanning, he has found that when religious Americans try to infer the will of God, they mainly draw on their own personal beliefs.

Obviously, this is what Huckabee was drawing on when he was pardoning Christians and what Bush was drawing on when he decide to war on Muslims and when he looked into Putin’s eyes and “saw his soul.”

And along those lines, let’s talk about religion and its pernicious effects on the law. Take Uganda. It has no state religion, but the majority religion makes up 84% of the country and influences the legal and political system there. On top of that, a powerful and wealthy foreign country dominated by coreligionists has been exporting religious materials of the most extreme flavor to Uganda, and foreign fundamentalists attended a conference there earlier this year that led to an anti-homosexuality bill that if passed would impose the death penality for “aggravated homosexuality.”

Many speakers at that conference think that homosexuality is an illness that can be cured. One wrote a book that equates Nazism and homosexuality and one works at a foundation which ostensibly “cures” homosexuals.

“They told us all things are going wrong because the family is being neglected. Not having more children is one of the things that they said are going wrong. Homosexuality is a way of stopping us from having more children,” said Senyonjo.

Macauley, who fled Nigeria last year after receiving death threats for hosting a gay-friendly church, added that the harsh law comes in a context of perceived challenges to men’s role in society. Women’s increased agency, including deciding whether to have children and how many, is experienced as a threat by some men. A relationship between two men raises the fear that one of the men will behave “like a woman” in the household, which undermines any supposedly natural definition of men’s position in society.

One of these imported fundamentalists probably also met with a number of Ugandan parliamentarians.

A bill has since been drafted and was tabled on Oct 14 in Uganda’s parliament, legalising not only the persecution of lesbians and gays but also of straights that “support” them. The bill applies to Ugandans inside and outside the country. It nullifies Uganda’s ratification of any international treaties that support LGBTI human rights and explicitly rejects the notion that homosexuals have human rights.

Any parent who does not denounce their lesbian daughter or gay son to the authorities face fines of 2,650 dollars or three years’ imprisonment. Any teacher who does not report a lesbian or gay pupil faces the same punishment.

Senyonjo believes that the Ugandan law stems from the urge to protect patriarchal arrangements: “It is men who want the law. They have a very loud voice. The church is still very patriarchal. They want the man to be the head of the family. Even at weddings they say the man is the head and the woman has to be obedient.”

Shariah Christian law truly is harsh and blood-soaked. If only the close-minded fundamentalists who can’t get it enacted here in the US wouldn’t export it to the rest of the world. We excoriate Saudi Arabia for funding fundamentalist schools around the world, but turn a blind eye to Christian proselytizing of the most foul kind.

Alhamdulillah we have a wall of separation between church and state here in the US! Let’s hope politicians such as Huckabee, Palin and Bachmann are never able to tear it down.

——————-
For readers outside the US who may not know who Mike Huckabee is, he is a former candidate for president who in a Gallup poll published in early Nov 2009 was the Republican frontrunner for a presidential run in 2012.

71% of Republicans say they would seriously consider voting for Mike Huckabee.

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Filed under bigoted idiots, church and state, domestic terrorism

Little Quiz

Which of the following news stories involves Muslims or Arabs in any way?

Bus driver doesn’t let passengers off bus until they pray with him.

Teacher of young children refuses to be fingerprinted because she believes her holy book tells her fingerprinting is “the mark of the beast.”

Vigilantes capture, torture, and behead a criminal gangster. On video.

A tightly-knit, religious “family” distributes drugs, assassinates police officers, and passes out holy books and money to the poor. They claim

they don’t kill for money and they don’t kill innocent people. However, their delivery of that message was accompanied by five severed heads rolled onto a dance floor.

Father runs over his own daughter because she doesn’t behave the way he wants her to.

Here’s a hint: the one that you’ve probably heard or read in the news is probably the one about the Muslim/Arab.

——
And on an unrelated note, here’s a cute photo of some cats and some birds:

cat-names-birds-foods

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All the News That’s Fit to Cherry-Pick

The other day I updated my blogroll and added a link to an article written by Brian Whitaker in The Guardian in 2002, Selective MEMRI. It’s in my blogroll under ‘About MEMRI.’ I thought the article was very informative and would answer the typical questions about MEMRI’s accuracy and agenda.

Yesterday I found another old article, also in The Guardian, that consists of an email debate between the same Brian Whitaker and Yigal Carmon, MEMRI’s president in 2003. It’s pretty interesting.

These are just excerpts.

Yigal:

How does Memri select items for translation? We aim to reflect main trends of thought and when possible general public opinion. We feature the most topical issues on the Middle Eastern or international agenda.

When controversial matters are aired before such a large audience, Memri does not need to fight shy of translating their contents.

Are the examples chosen extreme? While some of the topics covered do seem extreme to the western reader, they are an accurate representation of what appears in the Arab and Farsi media.

Does Memri ignore the Israeli media? Memri was founded in l998 and for the first three years we translated items from the Israel media. However, almost half of Israel’s media is now available in English (the main daily Ha’aretz; Jerusalem Post; Globes; Jerusalem Report; as well as many broadcast and private media outlets), so we have cut down our output.

Brian:

Taking up your point about the Hebrew media, there’s an excellent service in Jerusalem called Israel News Today. It provides summaries of the Hebrew-language newspapers and radio bulletins, and translates articles, too.

If Memri did the same sort of thing in relation to the Arab media, I would have no quarrel. The Guardian and other papers might even pay for the service so that you wouldn’t have to rely on your anonymous benefactors for funding.

My problem with Memri is that it poses as a research institute when it’s basically a propaganda operation. As with all propaganda, that involves a certain amount of dishonesty and deception. The items you translate are chosen largely to suit your political agenda. They are unrepresentative and give an unfair picture of the Arab media as a whole.

This might not be so bad if you told us what your agenda is. But Memri’s website does not mention you or your work for Israeli intelligence. Nor does it mention Memri’s co-founder, Meyrav Wurmser, and her extreme brand of Zionism which maintains that Israeli leftists are a “threat” to their own country. Also, you’re not averse to a bit of cheating to make Arabs look more anti-semitic than they are.

In your Special Dispatch 151, for instance, you translated an interview given by the mufti of Jerusalem to al-Ahram al-Arabi, shortly after the start of the Palestinian uprising.

One question the interviewer asked was: “How do you deal with the Jews who are besieging al-Aqsa and are scattered around it?” Memri translated this as: “How do you feel about the Jews?” – which is a different question. That left you with a reply in Arabic which didn’t fit your newly-concocted question. So you cut out the first part of the mufti’s reply and combined what was left with part of his answer to another question.

Yigal:

I am disappointed to see that your reply continues to question points I have already addressed and that you descend into insulting accusations such as “cheating, deception, dishonest, unfair, concocted”. You offer no justifications for your quite serious attacks.

2) You are right: we do have an agenda. As an institute of research, we want Memri to present translations to people who wish to be informed on the ideas circulating in the Middle East. We aim to reflect reality. If knowledge of this reality should benefit one side or another, then so be it.

3) On checking Special Dispatch 151 (November 2000) we have to admit an error in translation. The question should indeed have read “How do you deal with the Jews?” rather than “How do you feel about the Jews?” As for the claim that we have “cobbled together” one answer from two questions to make “Arabs look more anti-semitic than they are”, the fact is that the following question referred to the same subject. As we have translated several hundred items since then, it is perhaps reassuring that you had to go back so far to find a mistake. I understand that the Guardian is occasionally subject to errors, so perhaps you will be understanding of this one.

Brian:

I have no wish to sound uncivil, but Memri has placed itself in a glasshouse by claiming to represent the views of the Arabic media to the English-speaking world. Given your political background, it’s legitimate to ask whether Memri is a trustworthy vehicle for such an undertaking. The evidence suggests it is not. You now concede an error of translation in the interview with the mufti, but ignore the more serious charge of dishonest editing. Indeed, you persist in misrepresenting the original Arabic question, in which the mufti was asked how he dealt with the Jews besieging the mosque.

Your translator turned this into a question asking how he felt about the Jews (ie in general). Your “corrected” version, once again, fails to recognise that in the Arabic text it was not a general question. It was about a specific group of Jews who were behaving in a hostile manner.

Having misrepresented the original question, you then had to misrepresent the mufti’s answer. There is no excuse for this sort of textual manipulation, and I can only surmise it was done for political reasons – to make his remarks look more anti-semitic than they actually were.

And so on. I recommend it.

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Vintage Yellow Journalism

I just found this post from 2007 over at the Undercover Black Man blog. It’s amazing. A whole bunch of newspaper headlines from around the turn of the last century, all dealing with giant negroes.
It’s a must read, simply mind-boggling. Attack of the Giant Negroes.

And I thought today’s media were being ridiculous about Arabs and Muslims.

Gather round, dear readers, and you will hear of a time when “giant negroes” roamed the earth. These giants committed shocking crimes. Newspapers from sea to shining sea documented their foul deeds.

Especially the New York Times.

The Times first acknowledged the existence of these fearsome creatures on August 5, 1897. The headline was “Insane Negro Giant in Newark.”

Over the next four decades, the New York Times provided all the news that was fit to print about “giant negroes.” Articles with headlines such as these:

“Giant Negro Attacks Police.” [Sept. 24, 1900]

“Negro Giant Guilty.” [July 28, 1905]

“Armed Negro Giant Goes Mad on Liner.” [May 15, 1916]

This is just a small sample. It’s really amazing.

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The Media Finally Describes White Guy as Terrorist, Kind Of

Two good-old American guys got themselves in the news just recently.

Daniel Murray, who told a Utah bank manager he was “on a mission to kill” President Obama, and John Zaubler, who threatened to kill both President Obama and supreme court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

Whoops, I spoke too soon. None of the articles I’ve read about Daniel Murray have mentioned terrorism in any way. As nobody could have predicted, they’re downplaying the whole thing, exactly as they didn’t when they were talking about the four doofuses in New Jersey.

Still, the feds rate Murray’s threat to Obama as “more aspirational than operational.”

The search for the 36-year-old suspect began after Murray made threats against Obama, authorities say.

“We are on a mission to kill the President of the United States,” Murray reportedly said.

The article also fails to include his religious affiliation in a sensationalistic headline, but does accidentally indicate that he might be Christian:

Murray also kept a collection of religious statues, including a “glowing cross,” Anastasia said.

John Zaubler, though, must have crossed the wrong people, because the news is actually using the word “terrorist” in conjunction with his name. Well, they had to, since he was arraigned on charges of making a terroristic threat. How did his lawyers let that slip past them? Surely they had the “But he’s a white guy” defense.

This article in the New York Daily News gives him the treatment we’re used to seeing:

A Manhattan weirdo was busted for calling 911 and making a bizarre threat to “blow up” Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

See? Just a harmless white guy. Everybody knows that white guys are never really dangerous.

Okay, I’ll give you that they both seem like prime losers who never stood a chance of accomplishing their stated aims. On the other hand, the FBI didn’t devote 100 agents and a year’s time to turning them into plausible terrorism suspects in order to make a big splash announcing their arrests, either.

—–
And while I’m riding hobbyhorses here, did you notice the D-Day commemorations going on in Europe? And we think we’re a culture that doesn’t honor martyrdom.

President Barack Obama has promised the United States would never forget the dead of D-Day in 1944, saying the Allied troops killed on Normandy’s beaches changed history.

Mr Obama eulogized more than 9,387 US soldiers killed during the Battle of Normandy, buried at a cemetery overlooking Omaha beach, where US forces stormed ashore under torrents of Nazi fire, 65 years ago to the day.

“Friends and veterans, we cannot forget – what we must not forget – is that D-Day was a time and a place where the bravery and selflessness of a few was able to change the course of an entire century,” he said.

As Mr Obama spoke, he looked over rows of white headstones in the shape of crosses in the distance, each marked by miniature US and French flags, honoring members of the so-called “Greatest Generation” who perished.

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