Thursday, May 19, 2005

Excusing Newsweek?

There have been a number of columns recently that essentially blame the Muslim extremists for the post-Newsweek-Gitmo-false-report story riots and exonerate the magazine itself. This is a fair point considering that no one from Newsweek flew his happy a-- to Pakistan and started killing fellow rioters. Those arguing in this vein include David Brooks today, Jeff Jacoby (see prior post below), Tom Friedman, and Andy McCarthy. Instapundit notes the "crazy Muslim" defense and says this war is not Vietnam but a war "in which, I should note, the enemy counts on journalists to be sloppy, biased, and willing to excuse or ignore Islamist extremism in the service of domestic politics."

But McCarthy, Brooks, and Friedman (not Jacoby in this case) all walk around a key point: if you put a full gasoline can and a box of matches in the hands of a known arsonist, do you lack responsibility when he makes a deadly fire?

Furthermore, they are wrong to merely pass this off as the work of "extremists" or "Islamists". First, these labels allow the press to shrug off these riots as just an anomalous occurrence that should be expected from fervent believers. This allows them to write the happy fiction that "mainstream Muslims" are actually not going to participate in these behaviors and do not hold those beliefs. This is somewhat false: numerous devout, yet not "Islamist" or "extremist" Muslims participated in the riots and were infuriated by the "facts" alleged in the false report. Second, the "only extremists do this" thought process allows the media to continue to portray its favorite false parallel -- the religious Right in America (and orthodox Jews in Israel) is the functional equivalent of the Islamist nutocracy. This is the purist garbage: Christians did not riot over government funding for the Piss Christ "art" or similar defilements of the Bible and other religious icons, Jews did not riot against Muslims who defiled Joseph's Tomb.

The "Crazy Muslim" argument fails to convince, as Jonah Goldberg noted, because ". . . if we’re talking about insults to Islam, I’d have a lot more respect for the “Muslim street” if there were just a few more riots against jihadists for equating beheadings, terrorist attacks, hosannas for the Holocaust, and random slaughter on the streets of Amsterdam with a faithful reading of the Koran." In other words, there's too much sympathy for the "extremist" view among "non-extremists" on the Muslim street. Without acknowledging and realizing that reality, the media will just continue to paint its happy picture of peaceful Islam until the real world swats it in the head.

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