You can barely walk down the street these days without tripping over a member of the media wanting to warn you about the dangers of Islamophobia in America. MSNBC’s Chuck Todd was positively agog about it yesterday, and numerous other media outlets have either run stories on the rise of Islamophobia or given voice to Muslim advocates who want to warn us all about Islamophobia, including Reuters, the Washington Post, HuffPo, and dozens of local newspapers across the country.
Of course, the media has behaved in a manner consistent with this fear of Islamophobia (Islamophobiaphobia). For instance, Syed Farook’s name was floating around Twitter for hours before any of the major media outlets were uttered. It beggars the imagination to think that randos on Twitter got the name before the media did; the obvious conclusion is that the media intentionally sat on it so that people would not jump to the (now obvious) conclusion, that this was not a random act of workplace violence but rather likely an act of Islamic terrorism committed on American soil.
At every step of the way, the media has been excruciatingly cautious in their reporting of the San Bernardino shootings. They have consistently and repeatedly insisted that we do not know the shooter’s motive, and they have reminded us roughly a billion times an hour that the FBI has not yet conclusively ruled that this is terrorism. When reporting on the fact that Farook had been in contact with known overseas terror suspects, they have cautiously pointed out that it had been months since his last contact, and that we don’t know how high level these contacts were. Their reporting on the fact that Farook and his wife attempted to erase the hard drives on their computers and smashed their cell phones at the scene has been virtually non-existent.
Even as it has become somewhat obvious that this story has a terrorism component to it, the media has bent over backwards to try to claim that this might have been a “hybrid” motive – by which they mean yes, Farook was an Islamic terrorist, but maybe he was also mad about something that happened at work. CNN’s terror expert Paul Cruickshank yesterday mused that this may have been a “hybrid motive” act of terrorism like Alton Nolan – who, he said, beheaded a coworker partly due to belief in Jihad and partly due to anger over something that had happened at work. Left unsaid, of course, was that the “something that had happened at work” was that Nolan had gotten into an argument with a coworker over the propriety of Muslims stoning women.
I’m not trying to say that the way the media treating this is wrong per se or irresponsible. Hell, I think there’s a lot to commend the media for in this approach. All I’m saying is, it presents an interesting contrast from the way they handled the shootings in Colorado Springs last week.
Keep in mind, we know less about Robert Dear than we do about Syed Farook at this point – quite a lot less, in fact. We don’t know what his motivation was, we have no named sources at all who have come forward to collaborate the allegation that he said anything about “baby parts” or even understood what he was saying. We don’t know at all if Planned Parenthood was even his target, and we are left wondering why, if he was an anti-abortion assassin, he spent five and a half hours inside the Planned Parenthood clinic and didn’t kill any abortion providers or Planned Parenthood employees inside. We are further confronted with the fact that even seeing a still photograph of the man is enough to conclude that he is likely stark raving insane and not acting through any sort of rational, well thought out motive at all.
And yet still, Dear’s actions are described as the “Planned Parenthood” shooting, and are blithely referred to as “domestic terrorism.”
Where is the concern for not getting out ahead of the story or for assigning motives when we can’t prove them? Where is this same solicitousness for being careful and cautious with facts (and especially with assumptions)? Where are the billion reminders that we haven’t conclusively determined that this was domestic terrorism or any kind of terrorism at all? Where are the mincing suggestions that maybe Dear had a “hybrid motive” – i.e., sure, maybe he hated abortion but maybe also he had a bad day at work, and therefore we ought to consider both of those things equally responsible?
Is the media not concerned about sparking a wave of pro-lifeophobia? I mean, “Islamophobia” has resulted in precisely zero deaths in recent history but we are assured that the subconscious scorn peaceful Muslims feel is a Terrible Thing that we should all avoid provoking – why isn’t the same consideration afforded to pro-lifers?
After all Islam isn’t a race, it’s a chosen belief system, exactly like being pro-life. If we can’t spark fear of people based upon their chosen belief system, especially based upon the idea that certain adherents of that chosen belief system commit violent acts in the name of their ideology, then it seems that pro-lifeophobia ought to be just as big of a concern for the media, if not more.
Of course, it might be argued that there are so many more opportunities for Islamophobia because it happens so very much more frequently that Islamic terrorists kill people in the name of Islam than it does that pro-lifers kill in the name of the pro-life cause, that the potential problem is that much greater. However, that’s not exactly an argument that Islamophobia should be avoided, that’s an explanation for why it exists.