Accuracy in Media

On Friday, June 11, the New York Times buried a story in its “World Briefing” section about actress Brigitte Bardot being convicted in France of inciting racial hatred “for portraying Muslims in a negative light” in her best-selling book, “A Cry in the Silence.” She was ordered to pay a fine. A few days later, when liberal Republicans joined with Senate Democrats to pass a so-called “hate crimes” bill, I came to understand why the story wasn’t front-page news here. Giving too much attention to the outrageous French court decision might have alerted people in the U.S. to the dangerous implications of the “hate crimes” bill that was coming up for that vote.

Senator Ted Kennedy and other supporters of the bill say it has nothing to do with thought or speech. But it’s their speech that deserves scrutiny. They called their measure, an amendment to a defense bill, the “Local Law Enforcement Act.” But it directs federal agencies to get involved in crimes investigated mostly by local and state police.

Talking about “hate crimes” against Muslims in the U.S., Kennedy declared, “These hate crimes included murders, beatings, arson, attacks on mosques, shootings, and other assaults.” Since these are already crimes that can be prosecuted under the law, what is the added significance of branding them “hate crimes?” The answer can be found in Kennedy’s statement that these “are crimes against entire communities, against the whole nation, and against the fundamental ideals on which America was founded.” That’s his way of saying that, if you belong to certain protected groups, you are entitled to special protection. Muslims and homosexuals have been the most vocal in demanding passage of such legislation. 

The open secret is that a “hate crime” is usually detected by a background investigation of the accused person. The authorities could analyze an accused person’s diaries, journals, books, magazines or favorite television programs. This opens the door to judgments that certain news organizations could be deemed “hateful” if they are said to have played a role in provoking a particular crime.

It is noteworthy that the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is vocal in targeting its perceived enemies in the media. It has featured “action alerts” targeting Paul Harvey, Dr. Laura, radio host Jay Severin, Rich Lowry of National Review, and Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. A recent CAIR survey showed that 45 percent of Muslim respondents said Fox News was the media outlet that exhibited “the most biased coverage of Islam and Muslims.” In response to “increased attacks on Islam by conservative talk show hosts,” CAIR has now launched a “Hate Hurts America” campaign.

Andrew Whitehead, a retired Navy enlisted man, was recently sued by CAIR for publishing anti-CAIR articles on his website. CAIR claims the articles constitute “libelous defamation” of the organization. Whitehead asserts that CAIR is linked to terrorist groups.

In France, in the name of curtailing “hate,” Bardot was sued by the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between People (MRAP) under a 1972 law banning discrimination. Bardot had decried the Islamization of France. MRAP also tried to ban Oriana Fallaci’s book, “The Force of Reason,” because she, too, is critical of Islam’s advances in Europe. In January a French priest was found guilty of “provoking discrimination, hatred or violence” for comments critical of Islam that he made in a letter to parishioners.

The campaign against “hate crimes” has put the U.S. on the road already traveled by the French.

In fact, the liberal media have already shown movement in this direction. The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) had issued “guidelines” urging reporters to “Avoid using word combinations such as ‘Islamic terrorist’ or ‘Muslim extremist’ that are misleading because they link whole religions to criminal activity.” But how is it misleading to identify the religious affiliation of someone who commits mass murder because of his religious beliefs?

It appears that the liberal media, which practice a form of cultural Marxism that protects the interests of certain special-interest and minority groups, believe they will never be targeted for prosecution under the “hate crimes” approach. And they may well be right. Based on the record and statements of groups such as CAIR, conservatives are the ones who will be singled out for inciting or provoking “hate.”

If our media were performing as an adversary press and were truly committed to the First Amendment, Kennedy’s demagoguery would never have received more than a handful of far-left and liberal votes. Instead, his amendment got an astounding 65 votes. Now it’s up to the House of Representatives?or President Bush?to stop it.




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