Skewed coverage of Islam spotlighted in Post story

It was great to see The Denver Post dedicate solid space Saturday in its increasingly flimsy print edition to a conference at the University of Colorado addressing, in part, media coverage of Muslims, including stories about the recent international protests against the U.S. and an anti-Islamic film.

I remember seeing video of those protests and thinking that they looked awfully small but hearing much more emphasis on the anger than the size.

The Post’s Electa Daper quoted Megan Reif, a political science professor at CU Denver, pointing to evidenced that this was, in fact, the case:

In most places, other than in Pakistan, violent protests were carried out by “a minuscule percentage of the population,” Reif said, mostly by chronically unemployed, desperate young men. Yet coverage of these few have affected the presidential political campaign and more.

“We’re actually negotiating our diplomatic relations now through the media,” Reif said. And presidential candidate Mitt Romney, responding immediately to media reports, criticized Obama administration foreign policy.

“It alienates (Muslims) when the media fails to differentiate between the few on the street and the average Muslim,” Reif said.

Obviously this is a structural problem with the news media. At any given moment a tiny band of aggressive or creative people can hijack the attention of the world through a media event, leaving misperception in their wake.

But still, it’s worth spotlighting intelligent voices on the topic, like The Post did.

I doubt the facts from the conference will trickle down to the anti-Islamic bigots on talk radio, where attacks on Islam were ferocious after the Sept. 11 killing of the U.S. Ambassador in Libya.

Such attacks are a staple of the conservative radio airwaves, even when there’s no media event to propel them.

But the bigotry was elevated after the attacks.

Here’s a sample from KZNT’s “Black, White and Right,” which airs in Colorado Springs on the weekends.

One of the hosts, Robert Blaha was a Republican congressional candidate this year, losing in a close race to Rep. Doug Lamborn.

The other host is Derrick Wilburn, of the Rocky Mountain Black Tea Party.

DERRICK WILBURN: [speaking about the attack of Muslim terrorists on a school in Russia, years back] […] in 2007, 2008, something like that, and killed a bunch of kids in Russia. So, and they’ll do the same thing to Hindu, they’ll do the same thing to anybody who does not name Allah as the proph—uh, Mohammed as the prophet and Allah as God. Now it’s worse for us because of our principles of freedom. But no one is immune.

ROBERT BLAHA: Well, I wouldn’t agree with that. I think we are the focus –

WILLBURN: You wouldn’t agree that they took a school in Russia?

BLAHA: No! Oh, no! I would agree they took a school in Russia—

WILBURN: Well, is that the West?

BLAHA: The focus! The focus is the Western way of life. There’s no question about that.

WILBURN: Well, which is it, now? Is it that you don’t agree? Or is it that the focus is the West?

BLAHA: The focus is the West

WILBURN: So, you DO agree!

BLAHA: Well, I agree that this is the West, but you’re trying to bring in Russia and other places.

WILBURN: Well, make up your mind! Do you agree or do you not agree?

BLAHA: The bottom line here is, we are under attack. The way of life which is established in this country is what is under attack

WILBURN: Thank you for agreeing that I am right. Uh, because—

BLAHA: That was agreement. Okay.

WILBURN: Muslims – they do this with other muslims! I mean, Muslims, they go after Muslims all the time!

BLAHA: Exactly. They will kill anybody.

It appears that the Islamic hate on talk radio wasn’t addressed at the University of Colorado panel, but it’s a natural outgrowth of the problem that was discussed.

The simplistic and sensationalized coverage of Muslims generally, especially in the Middle East, spawns what you hear on talk radio.

This, in turn, trickles up to political candidates, like Blaha himself and others, where you have to hope it will be spotlighted by journalists.

But how often do you hear local journalists asking local candidates, even in congressional races, about their views of Islam?

People like Blaha generally get a pass when they’re talk-radio hosts and when they’re candidates. That’s a problem.

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