An analysis of mainstream media treatment of the recent arrests of 17 Ontario residents on terrorism-related charges is a study in contrasts – contrasts, that is, with media treatment of incidents involving pro-life and “anti-abortion” figures over the years.
The media took great pains to point out that the individuals rounded up after their plot to commit terrorist-type acts was uncovered were unrepresentative of the Muslim community at large. Instead, it was suggested, they were part of just a small extremist faction within Islam. The socially liberal Globe and Mail, for example, noted that the Canadian representative of “a powerful Iraqi cleric” issued a fatwa – a legal opinion or ruling – asking all Muslims to act in the best interests of the countries in which they live. The cleric, it was reported, gave a message of that politically correct virtue “tolerance,” in asking Muslims not to commit any acts that would put anyone in danger.
The Globe also provided extensive coverage of claims by lawyers for some of the accused terror suspects that their clients were experiencing “cruel and unusual punishment,” amounting to torture, while in custody. As well, there were duly-reported complaints from the lawyers that “furor” over the charges will make it impossible for the accused to receive a fair trial.
The Globe, using apparently Muslim reporters Omar El Akad and Kamal Al-Solaylee, made a point of visiting the Friday prayer service at the Salaheddin Islamic Centre in Scarborough, to report on the climate in the Muslim community in the wake of the arrests. The mood was described as alternately “angry or fearful, cautious or defiant.”
The reporters emphasized that at the Islamic Centre of Canada in Mississauga, an imam implored his flock to deal with real or perceived grievances in peaceful, law-abiding ways.
Over at the even more socially liberal Toronto Star, Andrew Mitrovica, contributing editor at The Walrus magazine, was given space to pontificate about the need for journalists to “remember that their first responsibility is to vigorously question the official version of events, not simply repeat it as gospel … the essential truth about a story is a complex and sometimes messy endeavour that demands a relentless challenge of the official story … it is not the role of journalists to act as a megaphone for the authorities.”
The Star’s editorial page editor emeritus, Haroon Siddiqui, meanwhile, claimed there were “no easy answers” emanating from the arrests of the alleged terrorists. Some segments, he charged, have engaged in “fear-mongering or (are) offering facile, racist explanations” that the accused are Muslims.
“But what are we to make of that, any more than most white-collar criminals happen to be Jewish or Christian? Or that many members of the Mafia have been Catholic? Laying collective guilt on all Muslims is as unhelpful as blaming multi-culturalism for what has transpired … Blaming all Muslims or Islam or multi-culturalism is just a McCarthyesque witchhunt against a rather powerless minority community in Canada.”
One sees the picture. The majority of the other mainstream media also joined in the mantra that it is unfair to paint all Muslims with the terrorist brush; they also gave spokespersons for that point of view ample space and time to expand on the argument.
Yet, commentators outside the socially liberal media universe countered that the excuses and justifications made on behalf of the Muslim community similarly smacked of facile, stereotypical explanations. Claire Hoy pointed out that “we must stop pretending that the radical Islamic teachings by a few zealous Muslim leaders has nothing to do with the problem … And spare us all the drivel … that if these young men are guilty of planning a terrorist attack, then we, as a society, have failed them.”
The acerbic Mark Steyn noted that for media outlets like the Toronto Star and the CBC, “a stone through a mosque window is a bigger threat to the social fabric than a bombing thrice the size of the Oklahoma City explosion.”
The entire situation is in stark contrast with media treatments of incidents in the past, when individuals who may or may not have had pro-life or “anti-abortion” sympathies engaged in violent conduct. Of course, in some of those cases, no one was ever arrested or charged, but that didn’t stop the media from concluding pro-lifers were responsible, anyway.
Perhaps the best example of this is the explosion of Henry Morgentaler’s Harbord Street, Toronto abortuary in 1992. To this day, no one has even been arrested or charged in connection with the explosion. In fact, a number of theses have surfaced that certain disgruntled individuals not connected with the pro-life movement may have been responsible or even that the act was some sort of “inside job.”
(The real culprit, according to abortuary staff and police sources, appears to be a man whose child was aborted at Morgentaler’s. Several years later, near the anniversary of the death of his child, he was arrested for murdering his parents.)
Media refused to investigate such avenues, however, settling for the very thing that Mitrovica attacked in his Toronto Star column: the official version of events. There were also no columns by figures such as Haroon Siddiqui cautioning that you couldn’t paint all pro-lifers with a violent brush.
Things got worse when lone, disturbed figures such as James Kopp made headlines with their attacks on abortionists. Again, media had a field day with the notion that terroristic anti-abortion groups were running amok and plotting murderous campaigns against those connected to the abortion industry. Spectres were raised that shadowy groups such as the “army of God” were poised to commit further assaults. The Hamilton Spectator newspaper went to so far as to publish a booklength series of articles on the life and exploits of Kopp, keeping the issue alive long after his attacks faded from memory.
Of course, all this propaganda was being put forth at the same time as violence perpetrated by the pro-abortion side of the issue was being censored. (See the website abortionviolence.com for a litany of incidents, many of which failed to see the light of day in major media). It was also taking place while crimes and misdemeanours committed by abortion personnel were being ignored or glossed over. (See the book Lime 5 and the Life Dynamics website at ldi.org for a lengthy catalogue detailing the many transgressions of various kinds within the abortion industry.)
The lesson to be gleaned from all this is simply a variation on the old saying, don’t believe everything you read. In fact, go a step further and don’t believe anything you read – or see or hear in the mainstream media, for that matter. “All news is fake,” as Marshall McLuhan so aptly put it.