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'News Bias' and the Media Battle over the Meaning of 9/11

Nine years after 9/11, the battle over the meaning of what happened to our city, our country and our world on that fateful blue-crystal morning continues unabated,

Nine long years after 9/11, the battle over the meaning of what happened to our city, our country and our world on that fateful blue-crystal morning continues unabated, with the battleground still the swirling nexus of news and politics. As usual, all sides in this cultural clash are employing the very media they consistently accuse of ‘news bias’ to promote their competing visions. Like the “Global War on Terror” spawned by the attacks, the ongoing struggle to interpret 9/11 now appears to be a war without end.

As we approach the 9/11 “anniversary,” bigotry and smears against both Muslims and their “militant, anti-Semitic” faith have become distressingly common in prominent media outlets ranging from the New Republic to CNN and Fox News, and from the Washington Post to the Washington Times. Here’s just a taste of mainstream media’s anti-Muslim rhetoric from the past few weeks, as compiled by Media Matters:

Peretz questions whether Muslims “are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment.” In a September 4 New Republic column, editor-in-chief Martin Peretz wrote: “I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.”

Buchanan: “[A] Western nation that opens its doors to mass migration from the Islamic world is taking a grave risk with its unity and identity.” In an August 24 column, Pat Buchanan also stated: “Prejudice is prejudgment. And if prejudgment is rooted in the history and traditions of a people, and what life has taught us, it is a shield that protects.”

Graham: “True Islam” can’t be practiced in U.S. because “you cannot beat your wife, you cannot do honor killing.” On the August 19 broadcast of CNN’s John King USA, Franklin Graham repeated his frequent attacks on Islam, concluding: “We’re not under Sharia law. We’re under the Constitution of the United States. And so we’re protected.”

No rhetoric been hotter, however, than that used to describe Park51, the proposed Islamic center in downtown Manhattan. Newt Gingrich compared it (on the August 16 edition of Fox & Friends) to Nazis erecting a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington; faded rock star Ted Nugent said (in a Washington Times op-ed) it would “attract extremists and radicals — Muslim voodoo kooks who love death and destruction in the name of Allah — who will try to harm America;” conservative commentator Cal Thomas described it as a terrorist front in an August 3 column, and also noted in a July 21 post on a Washington Post blog, “A mosque near Ground Zero…isn’t about honoring the dead, but celebrating their deaths;” ex-presidential adviser Dick Morris called it ( in a column) “a terrorist recruitment, indoctrination and training center;” and Fox News contributor Sarah Palin described it (during the August 16 edition of Fox News’ On the Record )as a “stab in the heart” for Americans and a “slap” to 9-11 victims.

On the other hand, despite the near-certainty that Koran-burning stunts and anti-Shariah Law protests by the “informed opposition” featuring signs written in “dripping, blood-red ink” will dominate this weekend’s media lineup, charges of “news bias” by the bigots and new “Know Nothings” are already surfacing. Witness the web site, for example, which purports to document how an “ABC employee’s role at the rally was to provoke a confrontation with participants so ABC News cameras could record it and then use the footage. The ABC employee was literally making news.”

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