Sunday, April 21, 2013

Terrorism and Xenophobia in the Media - Patyn Gillam

Following the recent Boston Marathon bombings (my deepest condolences to all those affected), uproars of finger-pointing ensued. Finally, when they found those who were behind the attacks, they were Islam extremist brothers from Kyrgyzstan, further fueling the stereotype that all Muslims in America are terrorists. Nobody ever generalizes religion as the cause of terrorism when it’s a Caucasian man responsible for the bombings (McVeigh, etc.) even though often times, it is a form of white-supremacist Neo-Nazi Christianity that drives those men to commit such crimes: click here for examples. They use these attacks as a way to support the idea of a “Clash of Civilizations” as coined by Huntington and Lewis, which means that “the West” and “the Rest” have irreconcilable differences that lead us to war. I read this quote about the situation,

“I really don't give a damn about the religion or ethnicity of the bombers. This horrible tragedy was carried out by people. Not their religion, and not their ethnicity. Terrorists like this are in the extreme minority. They don't represent the people of their country or origin, nor do they represent the people with similar religious beliefs. We can NOT let this become another excuse for the American people to bring out their pitchforks and torches, and turn into xenophobes. We're Americans, and we need to be better than that.” – Being Liberal (Facebook)

and I thought, “my God, rational people!” But then that last line sort of caught me. The line is subtle, covertly asserting that Americans are superior in some way to the rest of the world. It suggests a sort of “Benevolent Supremacy” ideology about the United States as the moral leaders and exemplary models of freedom and democracy. I could be reading into this remark a bit too much, but there’s something to be said about the relationship between being patriotic and being condescending. I agree that everyone should hold themselves to that standard, American or not, because it’s not fair to judge someone for the things that other people who are demographically similar to them have done. I certainly wouldn’t want to be called a dumb gold-digging whore just because the media produces a monolithic image that young Caucasian blonde women (e.g., Paris Hilton, Anna Nicole Smith, Jenny McCarthy) are just that. However, we can take steps to reduce these beliefs, as I said earlier, by critically examining why we hold them. Another idea for those whose minds are more vulnerable to media reports, as expressed by this funny comic I came across, is to stop exposing yourself to them. Either that or balance your news sources with more counter-hegemonic ones to get a broader picture on which to base your beliefs. Be open to new ideas, but always challenge them. I’ll end with relevant favorite quote of mine, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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