I found that organizations with negative messages about Muslims captivated the mass media after the Sept. 11 attacks, even though the vast majority of civil society organizations depict Muslims as peaceful, contributing members of American society ... As a result, public condemnations of terrorism by Muslims have received little media attention, but organizations spreading negative messages continue to stoke public fears that Muslims are secretly plotting to overthrow the U.S. government ... They are now so much a part of the mainstream that they have been able to recast genuinely mainstream Muslim organizations as radicals.
Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon reported on the study, noting that journalists do work to "find voices that accurately [represent] Islam," but that "simply by being outspoken," "self-described terrorism experts" end up being cited in the media as authorities on Islam and Islamic law. At the same time, by covering stories about and told by anti-Islam activists and pundits -- which tend to be captivating (Creeping shari'a!, Terry Jones burning Qur'ans!, Pamela Geller and her Ground Zero Mega Mosque!) -- the media brings these organizations and speakers to the world's attention, thereby generating a greater following (and greater donation revenue). Seitz-Wald asks, "[i]f the media hadn't paid attention to them, would they have mattered?" The takeaway: reinforcement from the media makes these stories stick. [Read More...]