Tuesday, May 17, 2005

More Newsweek fallout

Interesting column as usual from Jack Shafer, Slate Editor at Large who writes on press issues. Shafer DESPISES anonymous source stories for the simple reasons of source unreliability and using the press for one person's axe-grinding that make anonymous sources almost inherently unreliable.

He does, however, make one point that is extremely fallacious: "Are the riots and the deaths the magazine's fault? I say no, whether Newsweek got the story right or wrong. If Al Jazeera published the most inflammatory story it could find—or make up—about the pope or the Virgin Mary, would we blame the satellite station if Rome rioted or the Romans?"

What's wrong with this? The fact that CATHOLICS WOULD NOT RIOT BUT MUSLIM RIOTS WERE PREDICTABLE. His false parallel is a signature fallacy of the Western media -- we don't think followers of Western religions would be insulted, therefore how can we be blamed if Muslims go off the tracks?

This ignores the reality that Catholics, other Christians, Jews, Hindus, Shinto, Confucianists, Taoists, Zoroastrians and animists simply don't react as Muslims do to "desecrations" of holy texts. Indeed, Christians and Jews suffer daily insults to their religions from the Western press without rioting and causing death and destruction, yet desecration of the Koran is punishable by death in some Muslim nations and extended prison sentences in others. Although these Muslim reactions do not seem either rational, civilized or humane, they are what they are and the press needs to account for reality until more Muslims follow the advice and thought processes of Muslim reformers who appeal to the minds of Muslims, not their basest instincts.

UPDATE and BUMP --> This comment from Cliff May is notable:

When the Taliban destroyed the ancient Bamiyan Buddha, did Buddhists riot and kill people?

When Jordanians desecrated Jewish holy places in east Jerusalem before attacking Israel and losing the 1967 war, did Jews go on a rampage?

Robert Maplethorpe’s “Piss Christ” engendered controversy – but not carnage.

The problem is not Muslims. The problem is not Islam. The problem is radical Islamism, an extremist totalitarian ideology that demands not tolerance, not respect but deference. And that deference will not be reciprocated. The radical Islamists are not fighting for equality. They are fighting for superiority.

If the MSM understood this context, their reporting would improve.

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