As the recent coverage of the Oklahoma beheading makes clear, the mainstream media forces its agenda and worldview on the American people regardless of the facts. The media goes to extreme lengths to fabricate allegations of Islamaphobia or tea party-related terrorism. At the same time, it distorts or ignores stories that do not portray Islam in a flattering light.
This troubling tendency was apparent early in the Obama administration. On May 31, 2009, Dr. George Tiller — one of a handful of “doctors” in the U.S. to perform late-term abortions — was shot and killed by a pro-life activist named Scott Roeder in Wichita, Kansas. That same day in Arkansas, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad — a recent Muslim convert — shot two U.S. Army soldiers who recently completed basic training, killing one and seriously injuring another. According to Muhammad, he targeted the soldiers “because of what they had done to Muslims in the past.” Muhammad had recently travelled to Yemen and authorities stated that the attack was motivated by disagreements with U.S. military operations in the Middle East.
The media’s attempt to indoctrinate Americans with its agenda and worldview was apparent in its disparate treatment of these two events. With respect to the Tiller incident, pundits warned of rising right-wing violence fueled by Fox News. Keith Olbermann blamed Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, a frequent Tiller critic, “for inciting the murder of Dr. George Tiller.” Writing for Salon, Gabriel Winant argued O’Reilly was “irresponsible” for putting Tiller “in the public eye.” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow attempted to link the pro-life movement with terrorism. Maddow claimed “there’s an anti-abortion terrorist movement in the United States that operates relatively openly.”
Meanwhile, the media largely ignored terrorist violence committed by a Muslim convert against U.S. service-members in Arkansas. Maddow and Olbermann failed to mention the incident. On June 6, 2009, NBC’s Today mentioned the Arkansas incident in passing, but ignored that he “had just converted to Islam and was being investigated by the FBI for a trip to Yemen.” Unlike the Tiller coverage, there was no media discussion of a violent Islamist movement with a history of violence against the U.S. military and civilians.
The media quickly did damage control in an attempt to eliminate any inference that Islamism may have played any role in the shooting. Many in the mainstream media came up with a novel diagnosis for what motivated Hasan — he was simply a “victim” of “PTSD by proxy.” Joe Shapiro, a writer for NPR online in an article titled “Suspected Fort Hood Shooter Saw the Toll of PTSD,” suggested that“one factor [causing the shooting] may have been that the Army psychiatrist had treated scores of soldiers and Marines who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD.” On November 6, 2009, Newsweek also stated that Hasan, who never deployed overseas to a warzone, may be the victim of PTSD. PBS put out a report titled: “Fort Hood: A Closer Look at Soldiers and PTSD”, thus creating aninference that PTSD somehow played a role in Hasan’s premeditated act of terrorism. The day after the incident, Time’s Mark Thompson sympathized with poor Hasan, writing in Stresses at “Fort Hood Were Likely Intense for Hasan” that “PTSD affects even those — like Hasan — who haven’t gone off to war.”
Media outlets found another convenient motive that would fit its worldview — racist U.S. soldiers drove Hasan to kill. ABC News ran a story the day after the attack titled Nidal Malik Hasan, “Suspected Fort Hood Shooter, Was Called “Camel Jockey.” This allowed the media to ignore any relationship between the attack and Islam and blame it on “racist” U.S. military personnel.
Others in the media were content to simply play dumb with regard to Hasan’s motives. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews opined on November 6, 2009 that “we may never know if religion was a factor at Fort Hood.” Time’s Mark Thompson wrote “exactly what role Hasan’s faith played in the shooting, if any, is unknown.” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow concluded that Hasan was not a terrorist and that conservative politicians were just using the shooting to serve political purposes. Yes, that’s the same Rachel Maddow who claimed there is a pro-life terrorist movement in the United States that “operates relatively openly.” As Charles Krauthammer put it, the liberal media “worked overtime to avoid any implication that there was any connection between Hasan’s Islamist beliefs… and his actions.”
The media’s coverage of Islamist attempted and successful terrorist attacks during the Obama administration would only get more shameful. On May 1, 2010, Faisal Shahzad packed his 1993 Nissan Pathfinder with a homemade bomb and parked it on a crowded Times Square in New York City. Shahzad then fled on foot. Luckily, a street vendor spotted smoke from the SUV, alerted police, and police were able to defuse the bomb.
The media and politicians did not waste any time jumping to conclusions. On CBS, New York Mayor Bloomberg speculated that the bomb was placed in Times Square by “somebody with a political agenda who doesn’t like the health care bill or something.” Robert Dreyfuss, writing for The Nation, blamed the bombing attempt on the Tea Party. To the chagrin of MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer, eventually authorities realized the tea party was not behind the attack. Brewer worried some would use the attack as a “justification for really outdated bigotry.”
Once again, the media worked overtime to eliminate any inference of Islamist radicalism as the motivating factor behind the foiled bombing attempt. CBS’s Bob Orr claimed Shahzad’s “motives were unclear.” A headline from Newsweek asked: “Did the economy make him do it? The Washington Post, CNN, and AP “attached huge significance” to the problems Shahzad had paying his mortgage.
Luckily, Shahzad cleared the air at his sentencing, exclaiming, “Allahu Akbar.” Shahzad continued: “The sentence does not mean anything to me. Brace yourself, because the war has just begun.” At another point in the trial, Shahzad said, “We do not accept your democracy or your freedom, because we already have sharia law.”
On April 15, 2013, two pressure cooker bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon, killing 3 people and injuring 264. Before the scene was even cleared, many in the media had a suspect — the Tea Party. Chris Matthews and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer attached great significance to the fact that it was Patriots Day. Michael Moore alleged that the Tea Party was behind the bombing. CNN’s security analystPeter Bergen “suggested more than once that a right wing extremist group could be behind the attacks.”
The perpetrators were identified as Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnev — Islamists with Chechen roots. Unsurprisingly, the media ignored or downplayed the brothers’ Islamist views. Writing in The Atlantic, Megan Garber wrote an article titled “The Boston Bombers were Muslim. So?” The always-shrill Joan Walsh argued the Tsarnevs “resemble young American mass murderers more than al-Qaida members.” Chris Matthews asked “What difference does it make why they (the Tsarnevs) did it?”
With this backdrop in mind, this brings us to the recent beheading in Oklahoma by a recent Muslim convert. Last week, Alton Nolen beheaded a former coworker after losing his job. Nolen was fired for “trying to convert his co-workers to Islam.”
According to Jeffrey Meyer of Newsbusters, both NBC and MSNBC “ignored the role that his conversion to Islam may have played in the brutal murder.” Over at MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry argued the beheading was merely “workplace violence.” This despite the fact that Nolen’s “Facebook page had pictures of Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, gruesome beheadings by ISIS, pictures celebrating the destruction of the Twin Towers, and his promises that America would go up in flames.”
If you follow the media’s coverage of terrorist incidents the last five years, you begin to notice a common theme. Initially, the media predicts (a better word would be “hopes”) that the perpetrator is a conservative, tea party type. When that doesn’t pan out and it becomes obvious that Islamists are behind the attack, the media attempts to minimize or convolute the attacker’s motive. He is either crazy, a lone wolf, his motives were unclear, or it was simply “workplace violence.” Despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, the media goes to great pains to emphasize that the perpetrator’s Islamist beliefs are irrelevant to the story and played no role in the attack. What is clear is that the media has an agenda. The media narrative always will be that America is a racist, Islamaphobic nation and Islam is a religion of peace. The problem for the media is that reality and facts get in the way of their agenda.
Brian W. Lynch is Captain in Army reserves, veteran of Afghan War, and attorney. Views expressed in this article are his own.