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“And I won’t make a joke about you. It’s not that I don’t think Muslims are funny. I think you guys are hilarious. It’s just that I don’t want to get blown up” – Russell Peters.
When I was stuck home on a Saturday night, this YouTube video made me crack up, along with the seven thousand people that were Peter’s audience in the video. But after the 3:56 second video was over, I paused. If the joke had been about African Americans, would have I laughed? Heck no. Eventually my burst of laughter had seized because I felt that the word “hypocrite” had suddenly smacked me in the face. Then something worse happened, I dismissed my guilty feelings. Now reflecting back on that night, I realized that the media isn’t just in the form of 6 A.M- 6 P.M television news, and its definition of being “mass communication” truly does come in many forms. Dismissing the comment was disturbing because it had come to the point where the media had ridiculed Muslims so much that it became second nature to me. It was clear I had had an epiphany.
The power and the influence of the media in American society have increased greatly over the years. The media has aired ads for everything from jeggings to “snuggies for dogs.” So if 2 A. M infomercials and constant swiping of you VISA card weren’t convincing enough that they are powerful, they have now been influencing the public to create tension with Muslim Americans. But don’t take my word for it, believe the 68% of Muslims who voted that media portrays Muslims and Islam unfairly (Hostage).
American journalism tends to cover global trends and issues such as terrorism, nuclear weapons and catastrophic disasters (Moeller). So in the station of U.S reporting on global events, it is typically because the event is related to the United States. But you shouldn’t feel all warm inside because you think your daily news is personalized just for you, because that doesn’t mean your news is not going to be biased. Most people that know about the world around them get the information second-hand from the media and press (Nacos and Torres-Reyna). This perilous power that the media possess, allows selection of which critical voices and viewpoints to represent in their reports. This makes stereotyping against Muslims literally a walk in the park for the corrupted yet heavily influential media.
But like reporter Nancy Gibbs, journalists and media masterminds didn’t expect how they would craft a report about something they would never expect from one of their own.
“America may no longer be safe from imported terrorism, but we weren't supposed to grow it here at home.” –Nancy Gibbs.
In 1995, the Oklahoma bombings brought chills to Americans all over the United States. Still known to be one of the deadliest attacks on American soil, it fueled accusations cornering Muslims (Nacos and Torres-Reyna). After the media identified that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking for men with “men with beards and dark hair,” (Nacos and Torres-Reyna) it quickly victimized Muslims to physical and verbal abuse by everyone. This meant racial groups of all kinds felt tension towards Muslim Americans because the media truly does affect how religiously diverse people view each other (Nacos and Torres-Reyna).
You almost want to step back and ask if American is truly the land of opportunity victimizing innocent people becomes second nature. No matter how you arrive at the answer, the media’s explanatory framing that cues the reader, listener and viewer to their perspective to think a certain way (Weisman) is something to consider when approaching the answer. The irony in all of the attack was that Gibbs’s mindset was just like many other Americans. An American bombing on American soil? It was unheard of, and surely enough the culprit had been an American themselves. It was insignificant who it was because the media had assumed, attacked and caused assault towards Muslim Americans.
Malwand Gulban, a Muslim and high school student, believes that coverage of Muslim Americans after the Oklahoma bombings insured the media’s insensitivity to Muslim Americans.
““I think that they have no problem jumping into the Muslim community because the fact that they can legitimately say look at the war in Iraq, look at this look at this; it’s the Muslims orchestrating these events. But they what don’t do, like they don’t talk about it, how a murder or kidnapping or rape happens because they don’t jump into it for a certain ethnicity or area in the country. It’s because were part of the group that’s the easiest to jump on and pick on,” said Gulban.
Hijacked aircrafts, unexplainable hate by a few and the will to shatter a nation was all it took to construct 9/11. That was it, yet we still wonder how the simplicity of such a diabolic plan entailed so many complicated outcomes, people still can’t seem to wrap their heads around in the 21st century. Once the tragedy had sunk into our country’s core, it rapidly brought back all the scanty and negative stereotypes that Muslims were linked to in the public eye that originated with the Oklahoma bombings. It was evident that history had repeated itself in the United States, in a form other than terrorism.
Gulban believes that the tragedy 9/11 made people just focus on who caused it and quickly forming opinions against Muslims and created a clear division.
“9/11 was supposed to unite us as a country, yet somehow was able to bring further divisions within us. Just because we are Muslim in this country, we make up a population, yet here we go our country has been struck by a tragedy, we’re being isolated as an enemy or something,” said Gulban.
Despite the images of fanatics and suicide bombers the media tries to instill in your head, a majority of Muslims are just like us (Weisman). They are a peaceful people, and it is just a few extremists who are driven by hate and destruction that are out to get us. Whether they are wearing a hijab or not, you shouldn’t assume they are prodigies of Bin Laden’s life work. How would you feel if going out in public meant people staring at with loath because they thought you were the root of terror? Not too hot, I’m guessing.
Even those who think they can avoid the pop culture none sense, aren’t safe. That is because pop culture and mainstream news operate in a vacuum-like matter in order to portray Muslims (Weston). It might something surprising to think that at least the news stories you come across aren’t totally fair, but it’s the unfortunate truth in our society.
Journalism teacher, Robert Soule is surprised that even though in well-respected mainstream newspapers, the moral obligation of being fair is evident, but the problem of being prejudice still occurs.
“One of the things you learn in Journalism School is news stories are supposed to be balanced and fair, and they shouldn’t have the opinion of reporters. Most people follow that in the mainstream news; I think when you get opinion in is in the reporter’s choice of who they are going to quote. And if we don’t talk to a wide variety of people, stories can end up being slanted one way or another,” said Soule.
So next time you’re looking up videos on YouTube or surfing the web, don’t be the loser that resorts to the media’s framing and manipulating to get a few laughs. Remember that no matter how second-nature the media makes something feels, it doesn’t make it right.