Because on American news coverage for all terrorist attacks

Because these propagandistic tools have led
Muslims to become interchangeable members of a terrorist conspiracy, there is
also a tendency to leap to the conclusion that a Muslim was responsible for the
attack and these attacks will receive drastically more media coverage. For
example, the U.S media coverage of the recent massacre at a mosque in Quebec
City failed to mention that there were two men that police were holding as
suspects. Instead, Fox News reported there was a single suspect, with the name,
Mohamed Belkhadi, when it turned out that Mohamed was the one who called the
police when he heard the shots and the actual gunman was the other man, a white
French Canadian (Corbin 459). In addition, when the perpetrator of a terrorist
attack is Muslim or “looks Muslim”, it is expected that attack will receive
significantly more media coverage than if the perpetrator was not Muslim. In a
study on American news coverage for all terrorist attacks between 2011 and
2015, researchers found that news outlets gave significantly more coverage,
about 449 percent, to attacks by Muslims even though these attacks are far less
common than other forms of terrorist attacks (Considine 2). For example, the
media focused substantially more on the three people killed in the 2013 Boston
Marathon bombing than the seventy-five people killed that same day in car bomb
attacks in Iraq (Graziano
171). The
Boston attack was executed by a Muslim, who was ultimately labelled as a Muslim
terrorist, while the Iraqi bomber was Buddhist, and the phrase ‘Buddhist
terrorist’ doesn’t seem to make sense in today’s society (Graziano 172). The
media’s goal is to feed a public with a voracious appetite for scandal and
entertainment and as a result, people become, “imbued, by a mechanism of repeated association, with
problematic images or stereotypes” and their distorted-reality enhances their
fear towards Muslims (Stanley 156).

            By intentionally invoking these narratives in the name of
national security, Stanley qualifies the type of propaganda as undermining
propaganda. This form of propaganda is, “a contribution to public discourse
that is presented as an embodiment of certain ideals, yet is of a kind that
tends to erode those very ideals” (Stanley 53). This is referring to propaganda
that appears to be appealing to national security but is actually undermining
this ideal in the process. Politicians are appearing to promote the right to
live without fear but this is simply being used to justify actions that
diminish the freedom, fairness and equality of Muslims. The discriminative
discourse used in politics, the ‘travel ban’ on Muslim countries, the policies
increasing surveillance of the Muslim community, and the many insistences attributing
violence and extremism to all Muslims are undoubtedly correlated to the
increased number of hate crimes towards Muslims. Muslims are often assaulted in the United
States and frequent hate crimes towards Muslim
groups have occurred, including intimidation and vandalism of mosques and other
places of worship. These are spaces where people should feel safe, but instead
they are often the targets for non-Muslim extremists. The Council on
American-Islamic Relations recorded a 57% increase in anti-Muslim bias
incidents over 2015, which was accompanied by a 44% increase in anti-Muslim
hate crimes in the same period (Considine 9). The statistics on anti-Muslim
crime incidents is likely even higher than documented because many incidents go
un-reported due to the, “certain level of desensitization”. Some American
Muslims often feel like nothing can be done when they are harassed for their
faith (Considine 10). Therefore, the goal of
establishing high levels of racial profiling and surveillance of the Muslim
community is not consistent with our democratic values and ultimately places an
extra burden on innocent American Muslims during their day-to-day living.

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            The
devastating consequences of undermining propaganda show that a democracy raided by propaganda can be used to conceal
an undemocratic reality. Democratic ideals
require that a government affords liberty to all of its citizens, but having
liberty makes it possible to use propaganda to gain power that can ultimately
make a democracy unstable. Although
it is the hope in a democracy that politicians and pundits engage in reasoned
debate about the truth, this is not the reality of our political discourse and
instead, propaganda is used as
the, “manipulation of the rational will to close off debate” (Stanley 48).
Because
it is difficult to engage with and contest the idea that Muslims are dangerous
when it is typically introduced in implicit ways, debate tends to be closed
off. In addition, propaganda that influences
through emotional or non-rational appeals can play upon deeper prejudices that
rob, “us of the capacity for empathy towards them” (Stanley 127). Because
propaganda and its tactics lead people to associate Muslims as inhumane, this
ultimately undermines the ability of Muslims to employ their voice because they
are categorized as threatening and inferior. As a result, the perspectives of
Muslim Americans are excluded in public political debates about immigration
laws, refugee care and other issues that directly affect them. Laws and
policies regarding the lives of Muslims are enacted without taking into
consideration their perspectives and, therefore, are less legitimate and just. Ultimately,
American citizens cannot be rational actors who use the democratic system to
defend their interests and values if they are being manipulated into an
irrational public discussion.

            Throughout
his book, Stanley provides a theoretical explanation to why and how propaganda
arises in a liberal democratic society, but does not provide a strategy on
overcoming this propaganda and preventing its many consequences. Although it is
necessary to take steps to protect the right to live, which includes measures
to prevent terrorism, the current measures taken to counter terrorism are not
proportionate with our democratic values. Laws designed to protect people from
the threat of terrorism and the enforcement of these laws should be compatible
with all American’s rights and freedoms, including Muslim Americans. Therefore,
a way of overcoming propaganda is by including the citizens themselves who are
active and innovative agents of the common world. To be effective, propaganda
must be hidden from awareness, however, Briant argues that the, “rules which
govern propaganda (when, how, if and where it is used) should be debated”
(Briant 249). Because
propaganda relays messages mindlessly, the only way to defend against it is to
be more aware of the tactics being used. Because the American privileged elite will most
likely always have exclusive authority over knowledge and decision-making, at
the very least, the rules governing the use of propaganda should be transparent
and subject to enquiry. If public opinion corresponded to these decisions and the
intentions and goals of those employing propaganda were known, fresh
perspectives based on strong evidence could inform attempts to reform systems
in a democratic way and would ultimately encourage an informed electorate.

            Jason Stanley’s analysis of propaganda in his
book, How Propaganda Works, extends
beyond the examples he writes about and can inform us about the undermining
propaganda used against Muslims in our political and public discourse today. Because
media, television, and the internet encompass our culture, it is nearly impossible
to escape the barrage of propaganda that exists in our everyday lives. In the
United States, headlines of destruction, reports of terrorist activity and stories
of the government’s daily efforts to enact legislation are pervasive. However,
because the undermining propaganda in these outlets link traditional
stereotypes about Muslims to these current events, people’s prejudices only
become reinforced with each exposure and their flawed ideologies continue to
shape their stereotypes. The consequences of propaganda are far worse than most
people consuming and even producing it realize and it ultimately contributes to
a less welcoming, less inclusive and less diverse nation. Although the current goal
of propaganda is to target the audience and help the speaker, propaganda should
instead be used as an exchange of ideas between the speaker and the audience,
where the speaker is conversing with the audience instead of speaking to them,
in order to stop undermining, and start enhancing the freedom, security, and
equality for all Americans. 

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