American media losing focus?

For our last correspondence for this class, I asked my pen pal Aladin to share his thoughts on this article, which discusses the U.S. strategy to combat the Taliban and their influence in the Afghan city of Kandahar. I was curious to see his opinion on counterterrorism in general and specifically what he thought about the U.S. attempt to both “strong-arm” the Taliban out with special forces units and to “buy off” the local residents with money for development projects. Unfortunately, Aladin did not get back to me in time for me to share his insights here. Apparently, we ASU students aren’t the only ones experiencing a major time crunch as finals and the end of the semester creep up on us. Once Aladin manages to get back to me, I plan on updating this post.

Until then, however, I thought it would be interesting to share with you something from one of Aladin and I’s previous conversations. I was asking Aladin to reflect on American media, asking him his general opinion of coverage, particularly regarding terrorism. I also asked him how he feels 9/11 might played a role in shaping what American media is today.

In his opinion, American news generally stayed the same after 9/11, “but there’s an increase of media products (documentaries, talk shows) about the theme of Terrorism, which was kind of absent before 9/11. Regarding the credibility of these kind of news or media, they tend to blur the facts  and create more misconceptions than insights.” In his opinion, they also tend to “try to send subjective messages to the American or let’s say to the Western nations, like one of those famous messages “Islam=Terrorism,” so the consumer of the American news will have this terror or fear from getting in contact in anyway with any ARAB or Muslim entity. For example, American news don’t show the “Imam” (priest, religious leader) talking about how suicide bombers are cruel and how Muslims hate them,  and [they don’t show] how Islam says that it’s taboo to suicide and that Islam is a religion of peace and respect, not a religion of war and “Jihad” as some say.”  Aladin then goes on to criticize the nature of the content that American media tend to focus on, saying, “Even talking about…  the economic crisis in 2009, American news don’t show the damaged homeless people and how much they suffer, they are talking about silly subjects like “Tiger Wood’s scandal.”

While I think that American media has made progress in toning down its negative portrayal of Islam, you certainly don’t need to go far in order to find examples of unfairness. Just the other day in class we were shown a Fox News broadcast in which the anchor reported, “a new terror threat could be coming from within US borders, but it has nothing to do Al Qaida, or even radical Muslims..” (my emphasis).  Furthermore, it seems that Aladin may have a point in criticizing our focus on events that seem to fall farther and farther down on the “newsworthy” scale simply because they generate a large audience, rather than focusing national discourse on things that may be much more significant.