Accuracy in Media

Lesbian entertainer Rosie O’Donnell generated headlines when she declared that “radical Christianity” was “just as threatening as radical Islam?” That’s completely absurd, of course, as demonstrated by the violent Islamic reaction to the Pope’s simple historical observation about violent Jihad. But it’s not a unique view.

Don’t forget the April 17 column by James Reston, Jr. on the “American Inquisition,” in which he alleged that President Bush’s Christian faith required that dissenters to the war on terrorism be treated as heretics. Reston, a journalist and author, is the son of the famous former New York Times editor James Reston.

America is “seized with collective paranoia,” he wrote in USA Today, and Bush is using the terrorism problem as a “powerful deterrent to dissent and a useful tool for consolidating political power.” He said this “American inquisition” uses “secret police” instead of the “Holy Brotherhood” but the result is still the same.

If this is the case, it’s a strange kind of inquisition, in which Reston writes such articles for the most widely circulated paper in the country. Why isn’t this heretic in prison?

Suggesting that America today resembles a theocratic state, he explained, “How different is this really from the spying that went on in the Spanish Inquisition? Suspect words or acts do not change that much with time. In Inquisitional Spain, neighbors were supposed to report a suspicious neighbor to the Holy Office. Now, symbolic words or actions are detected electronically.”

More recently, during an interview on National Public Radio, Reston asserted that U.S. officials have misrepresented the concept of the Islamic caliphate as a threatening stance by Arabs.

Such views are treated as wisdom by the major media.  During an appearance on Face the Nation, November 27, 2005, Reston declared that “on September the 16th, we had-just five days after September 11th, Bush proclaimed his crusades.” He implied that Bush intended this to be a Christian crusade.

In fact, Bush’s statement was, “This crusade, this war on terrorism is gonna take awhile. And the American people must be patient. I’m gonna be patient.” Clearly, he meant “crusade” in the sense of a military campaign against terrorism. He did not advocate, as Ann Coulter did, that America go into these countries and forcibly convert the people into Christians. There was no religious connotation to the statement at all.

In fact, Bush has been criticized for not insisting on enough Western-style rights in Afghanistan and Iraq, where U.S. experts have played a role in their adoption of new constitutions. Both countries, despite U.S. influence, still recognize Islamic law as supreme.

Rather than Bush making Muslims angry with his rhetoric, writers like James Reston, Jr. have done so by exaggerating and distorting what Bush said. Bush has repeatedly insisted, despite evidence to the contrary, that Islam is a religion of peace.

Reviewing one of Reston’s books, Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade, historian Michael Pedrotty declared,  “Reston apparently desired to avoid a Western bias in his account, and in this he has certainly succeeded. If anything, he seems to prefer his Muslim subjects, and his treatment of the Christians as a whole is generally pejorative in tone. The Christians are the aggressors in his drama, they are less civilized, less religious, more greedy, and more savage.”

Reston is a writer whose Fragile Innocence, about coping with a terrible medical condition that afflicted his disabled child, was widely praised. His theme was that his child had a right to a decent quality of life.

It’s just tragic that, in the great struggle between Islam and the West, he fails to see that all of our lives are at risk.

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