has been wondering how long it was going to take for "the talking heads on MSNBC to portray Muslims as the true victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre."
In a complete inversion of reality, this story is morphing into a parable about how difficult it is to be a Muslim in Europe.
… MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell is deeply
concerned about the terrorist attacks
that rocked Paris earlier this
month. Unfortunately, her misdirected concern seems to manifest itself
in a lot of fretting over how the attacks will benefit the political
“There are two other issues that need to be addressed,” said
Mitchell. “One is anti-Muslim sentiment throughout Europe,
anti-immigration sentiment, the rise of the right wing, and of course
… Mitchell’s comments echoed sentiments
expressed by Christopher Dickey, Newsweek’s bureau chief in Paris, who
appeared on MSNBC’s The Cycle. “This is an issue that’s going to be used
very effectively and cynically by the far-right politicians,” said
Dickey, “not only of France but especially in the rest of Europe, places
like Dresden, places like the Netherlands…” Translation: Europe’s
insufferable right-wingers aren’t actually concerned with the seemingly
endless acts of terrorism or even about their own culture being
displaced by one that’s stuck in the seventh century. They merely “use”
those issues, “very effectively and cynically.” It’s brown skin they
… Andrea Mitchell and Christopher Dickey spend an inordinate amount of
time worrying that the wrong people will reap electoral benefits from
media coverage of the Paris attacks. It’s difficult to imagine Mitchell,
Dickey, or any other reporter working for any other mainstream news
outfit fretting that saturation coverage of the 2011 Tucson shooting
would be used “effectively and cynically” by gun-grabbers on the far
Left, probably because they can’t even conceive of anything called “the
Incidentally, I once debated Christopher Dickey
(the son of novelist James Dickey) on international television.
The dirty little secret of journalism is that reporters are very
conscious of their substantial influence. They are not just hired eyes
and ears conveying all they see and hear. Journalists know that news
coverage can impact policy and world events. Consequently, they think of
their constant massaging of the news as just plain old responsibility.
Yet most journalists still pay lip service to the ideal of covering the
news without fear or favor, something that simply can’t be achieved
while constantly placing their collective thumb on the scale to ensure
that one side of the debate can never win.
That’s not “responsibility;” it’s rigging the game. The role of
journalists isn’t to wonder whom their stories will benefit. Their job
is to report the news and let the chips fall where they may.
Mitchell and Dickey aren’t the only reporters who ask themselves
“What will the Right do with this story?” A case in point can be found
in Andrew Norfolk, the Times of London reporter who broke the Rotherham
sex ring story in which a group of child rapists across Northern England
victimized approximately 1,400 young girls. Authorities were aware of
the sex ring for about eleven years of its sixteen year existence but
refused to make arrests because the perpetrators were almost entirely
Pakistani men and the victims were almost entirely white English girls.
Andrew Norfolk admitted feeling tempted to join the government in its
conspiracy of silence. “I didn’t want the story to be true because it
made me deeply uncomfortable,” said Norfolk. “The suggestion that men
from a minority ethnic background were committing sex crimes against
white children was always going to be the far right’s fantasy story come
true. Innocent white victims, evil dark-skinned abusers. Liberal angst
kicked instinctively into top gear.”
Thankfully he got over his liberal angst long enough to cover the
story but his admitted reluctance to do his job raises questions about
deeper problems in the journalistic community. How many other
Rotherham-type stories never see the light of day because some reporter
feels duty-bound not to give the Right any grist for their mill? We may
Norfolk’s remarks are troubling for another reason—his implication
that young girls being raped is the fulfillment of the far Right’s
… France has its own censors, ever eager to filter the news out of some
warped sense of responsibility. Jean-Claude Dassier, director general
of the news outfit LCI—France’s version of CNN—admitted in 2005 that his
network shielded viewers from seeing the true destruction wrought by
angry Muslim rioters who were then besieging France. “Politics in France
is heading to the right and I don’t want rightwing politicians back in
second, or even first place because we showed burning cars on
television,” he confided.
The only rational conclusion is that Dassier wants to keep the French
public uninformed because they’d likely vote for Front National,
France’s unapologetically nationalist party, if they knew what the heck
was happening to their country. Better not to cover the news lest people
figure out that the “bigots” have a point.
… I have no doubt that most
journalists think very hard about what they broadcast and that’s the
problem. They don’t give it to us straight. The constant impulse to
shape the news to fit an agenda strips their reporting of any value.
That omnipresent question “What would the Right do with this?” hangs
over their coverage, influencing editorial decisions to the point that
their end product can only be called propaganda.