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Wired.com: US Media Helped anti-Muslim Bodies Gain Influence, Distort Islam

A very interesting article on an important study by Christopher Bail of the University of North Carolina.

One important finding that jumped out at us was the incestuous relationship between various anti-Muslim organizations,

“In the US all not-for-profit or non-governmental organisations are required to file documentation that describes the names of people who are on their board. My research team collected these names and created a social network map that describes overlapping board membership among the organisations. This social network analysis enabled us to determine precisely which groups are connected to each other, and how these relationships evolved over time.”

US media helped anti-Muslim bodies gain influence, distort Islam

by Liat Clark (Wired.co.uk)

A study published by a sociologist has revealed that fear-mongering non-governmental anti-Muslim organisations have been heavily influencing US media since 9/11, their messages seeping into news articles and television reporting and drawing their ethos from the fringes, straight into the mainstream.

What’s perhaps most troubling about the results is how these minor groups, which would ordinarily receive little or no air time, have gained an element of respect that has led to them receiving more funding and coupling with influential bodies. Their influence is such that they have even been able to paint mainstream Muslim organisations as radical, says the study.

“The vast majority of organisations competing to shape public discourse about Islam after the September 11 attacks delivered pro-Muslim messages, yet my study shows that journalists were so captivated by a small group of fringe organisations that they came to be perceived as mainstream,” the paper’s author, University of North Carolina assistant professor of sociology Christopher Bail, told Wired.co.uk.

“Anti-Muslim fringe organisations dominated the mass media via displays of fear and anger. Institutional amplification of this emotional energy, I argue, created a gravitational pull or ‘fringe effect’ that realigned inter-organisational networks and altered the contours of mainstream discourse itself.”

Bail and his team used plagiarism detection software to compare 1,084 press releases produced by 120 different organisations with more than 50,000 television transcripts and newspaper articles produced between 2001 and 2008. The software picked up damning similarities between the releases and stories from news outlets including the New York TimesUSA Today, the Washington Times, CBS News, CNN and Fox News Channel.

“We learned the American media almost completely ignored public condemnations of terrorist events by prominent Muslim organisations in the United States,” Bail told Wired.co.uk. “Inattention to these condemnations, combined with the emotional warnings of anti-fringe organisations, has created a very distorted representation of the community of advocacy organisations, think tanks, and religious groups competing to shape the representation of Islam in the American public sphere.”

Read the rest…

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