Fox News’ war on Muslims

Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity have stoked Islamophobia — and encouraged right-wing ignorance

By Nathan Lean

Excerpted from “The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims”

As is the case with any industry, advertising is paramount to the success of a product. One need not look further than the Super Bowl to understand the advertising industry’s sheer obsession with reaching a massive number of people; each year, the highest bidders are offered short slots to disseminate catchy clips of their goods, be they Coca-Cola, Nike shoes, or other high-rolling, multi-million-dollar enterprises.

The Islamophobia industry also goes to great lengths to sell its message to the public. The difference, though, is that in many cases the very networks that spread their product are themselves participants in the ruse to whip up public fear of Muslims. This is not a relationship of buyer and seller, where various characters that peddle panic purchase slots on major television networks to plug their merchandise. Rather, it is a relationship of mutual benefit, where ideologies and political proclivities converge to advance the same agenda.

Fox News, the American television station that brands itself as “fair and balanced,” is the epitome of this relationship. It has been, for the better part of the last decade, at the heart of the public scaremongering about Islam, and has become the home for a slew of right-wing activists who regularly inhabit its airwaves to distort the truth to push stereotypes about Muslims. Little surprise then, it was, that a Brookings Institute poll on American values conducted in September 2011 found that approximately two-thirds of Republicans, Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement, and Americans who most trusted Fox agreed that the values of Islam are at odds with the values of the United States. Additionally, nearly six in 10 Republicans who say they trust Fox also say that they believe that American Muslims are trying to establish Islamic law in America. In contrast, the attitudes of Republicans who view other news networks fall in line with the
general population.

In December 2009, Fox News host Laura Ingraham interviewed Daisy Khan, the wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf who was leading the initial push for the Park51 Islamic community center. At that time, there was little controversy over plans for the proposed building to be located near the Ground Zero site — so little that Ingraham even admitted that she liked what Khan and her husband were doing. “I can’t find many people who really have a problem with it,” she admitted on air. “I know your group takes a moderate approach to Americanizing people, assimilating people, which I applaud. I think that’s fantastic.

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