January 2nd, 2013 | Posted by: Walker Bristol
If you’ve finished reading Stephen’s fantastic article, and are looking for an outlet to let your deepest anti-Muslim/anti-Arab leanings run free, head on over to the beloved Twitter: at the time of this writing, a hashtag is trending as boatfuls of the ignorant and the self-congratulatory trade their favorite ways to presume that one of today’s most legitimate and competent news organizations is somehow tied to Islamic terrorism simply because, why, it has an Arabic name, and someone on some American news channel one time said it was.
Of all the prejudices you could hold, it seems like one of Twitter’s favorites (alongside gleeful sexism and classism) is Islamaphobia (although some hashtags have been hilariously reclaimed). Not to discount the vast other ways that bigotry rears it head on the forum, nor to suggest that Twitter is unique in highlighting these prejudices. Obviously, it is in many ways a microcosm of internet-using America. A largely anonymous microcosm, where even those who attach their real names to the medium feel secure in their distance from those they’re maligning and attacking to go wild with hate (I know every author on this site has received their share of unbased character assassinations). But, as Steve even raised in his recent article, it’s this very distance in society itself–people who don’t know any Muslims personally, people who construct an identity so self-congratulatory and privilege-centric that they are terrifying to anyone different–that breeds this intolerance. If you’re looking someone you disagree with in the eyes, you’re slower to hate them just because of it. You’re both people.
Al Jazeera operates out of Doha, with both Arabic and English arms, and provides utterly literal, honest reporting–unbiased, tremendously substantive, presenting important facts regardless of what party might love to jump on them–on issues in the Middle East (and elsewhere), often miles ahead of American outlets. They’ve received particular praise, even from the Secretary of State herself, for their coverage of the Arab Spring. They don’t waste hours talking about how something will affect upcoming elections. They don’t host daytime panel talk shows (cough The Cycle) where a handful of clueless pundits go back and forth on the sensationalist story of the day. They don’t fall into the typical myth of objective journalism, that putting someone with a liberal leaning and someone with a conservative leaning against each other will necessary inspire fruitful discussion that the public totally needs to hear. Of course, at times their coverage may be marginally irresponsible, or they’ll make mistakes, but to hone in on the mistakes that a news organization covering a beat that is violently controversial and relevant as evidence for their sympathy for extremists is beyond presumptuous, and discredits journalism that demands and relies on our support. I have immense respect for them, and the absurdity that they are in any way related to Al Qaeda or are ever sympathetic to mass murder, and the ridicule they’re received by those who assume their Arabic name or geography must mean they’re America’s antithesis, is, in short, offensive. But reclaiming hashtags, as I mentioned with #MuslimRage and #IslamIsBarbaric before, has worked before. So get on it, Twitterverse. Some already have.
Walker Bristol woke up this morning and realized, to his dismay, that he is the President of the Tufts Freethought Society and the Director of Communications for Foundation Beyond Belief. This is especially peculiar considering he grew up as a high school wrestler-pianist in North Carolina and intended to become Luke Skywalker for an undisclosed period of his life, eventually settling for a Star Wars tattoo. The Tufts Political Science and Religion departments suffer his enrollment. He writes about social activism and art in the Tufts Daily. His diet consists of hummus. He tweets nonsense on all these fronts @WalkerBristol.