Sunday, March 23, 2008

Media Still Confused About Who the Enemy Is

Jeffrey Imm at Counterterrorism Blog has written about how the refusal of America's free press, like the Washington Post and the New York Times, have failed to define the jihadist enemy in a clear, consistent way, with the result that much of the the public is still confused, six years after 9/11, with whom we're fighting. ("Jihad, Islamism, and the American Free Press").

Without a precise definition of the enemy by American political leadership, major segments of the American free press have made their own foreign policy decisions as to who is and is not an enemy, made their own decisions on what terms like "Islamism" and "Jihad" mean (if they use such terms at all), and provided mostly "isolated incident"-style reporting on such subjects, with the exception of the largely anti-war colored reporting on Iraq.

The result, he writes, is that

instead of much of the American free press being used to largely address and confront enemy anti-freedom ideologies and their adherents, such media has been manipulated by editorial managers, publishers, and Islamist groups to focus their investigative reporting on the American government's reaction to Islamist terrorism. As much of American government actions are based on a reaction without a defined enemy, there has been plenty of source material for press critiques and for press managers to gain political points against an unpopular administration.

But as made clear last week in speeches by leaders of the Washington Post and the Associated Press, the larger issue of "Islamism" itself, its role as the root of "Islamist terrorism" (as defined in the 9/11 Commission Report), and coherent news reporting on the continuing global links between political Islamism and such Islamist terrorism is not even an objective of much of the American free press. The reactive political sniping agenda by much of the American press' reporting not only misses the larger issue, but also fails to understand that anti-freedom ideologies like Islamism are a threat to a free press itself.

Imm explains how basic and definable terms such as "Islamism" and "jihad," terms even Al Jazeerah uses, are unacceptable terms to the media now:

On March 3, Philip Bennett, the Washington Post's managing editor, gave a speech at the University of California Irvine (UCI) on Journalism and Islam, where it was reported that he believes the media is responsible for confusion about Islam, which is due to the lack of Muslims in American newsrooms (in his opinion). The Daily Pilot, a local newspaper, also reported that Washington Post's Philip Bennett stated that the term "Islamist" is something that the Washington Post editors still have not decided whether to add it to their style book. In Mr. Bennett's speech, he didn't even consider to qualify the need to have greater numbers of anti-Islamist Muslims represented in American newsrooms, because he and his Washington Post editors have not even decided whether to recognize political Islamism as a term they can use, let alone an anti-freedom ideology to be confronted.

Apparently, the Washington Post editors have not yet read the 2004-released 9/11 Commission Report where "Islamist Terrorism" is defined as a component of "Islamism". In 2008, nearly four years later, the Washington Post is still considering whether the very term "Islamist" is acceptable. Even Al Jazeera uses the term "Islamism", but over six years after the 9/11 attacks, the Washington Post is still thinking about it. Rather than being embarrassed by such mental paralysis in news reporting, the Washington Post's managing editor is proud of this failure and discusses this failure in speeches to universities. Moreover, when real investigative groups such as The Investigative Project challenge Islamist individuals and groups, the Washington Post's response is exemplified by its reporting on Esam Omeish, reporting the accusations of known Stalinists accusing IPT reports on Omeish as those of "right-wing anti-Muslim bigots".

Such deliberate unwillingness among American media to address the ideology of Islamism and its links to Islamist terrorism or Jihad is not limited to the Washington Post. As early as October 2001, the Society of Professional Journalists provided guidelines to the American free press that jihad was to be defined as "to exert oneself for the good of Islam and to better oneself".

This desire by "mainstream media" managers to "filter" and "shape" the news by deliberate ignorance of ideologies, language, and connections between events continues to be an ongoing threat to our free press - one that has largely necessitated the explosion of Internet blogs to simply provide a vehicle to report the news.

Read the rest of this well-researched and excellent analysis here.

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