Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter and the Muslim Double-Standard

By David Stein

Newsweek’s national correspondent Jonathan Alter wants you to know something about Muslim extremists who spew hate-filled threats against Jews, Christians, Hindus, women, and gays: leave ‘em alone, they’re harmless. Writing in The Daily Beast, Alter assures us that Rep. Peter King’s Congressional hearing “circus” is totally unnecessary, because when it comes to radical Muslims who are bursting at the seams with hateful ideas, their bark is much worse than their bite.

To reinforce his point, Alter cites Charles Kurzman, sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, and author of The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists. Alter writes:

Of course it’s hard to admire Muslims who spew hate as good people. Kurzman explains the inflammatory rhetoric as the product of what is sometimes called “Radical Sheik,” in homage to the “Radical Chic” white supporters of the Black Panthers who gathered at Leonard Bernstein’s apartment in 1969 and were famously chronicled by Tom Wolfe. He argues that as offensive as it might be, the rhetoric should not be confused with real terrorism.

What a shame that Alter finds it so “hard” to admire Muslims who spew hate.

Alter concludes that when it comes to radical Muslims, “the connection between words and deeds turns out to be tenuous at best.”

After the Tucson shooting, Alter most definitely did not believe that the connection between words and deeds is “tenuous at best.” Appearing on the Today Show (January 10, 2011), he plainly stated that political speech did influence gunman Jared Loughner: “I do think it’s fair to connect Sarah Palin and others on the left and the right to the climate of violence.” And on the Brian Lehrer Show, he stated “People do need to be conscious, at a certain point, as President Clinton said last year on the 15th anniversary of Oklahoma City, you don’t know how these words are going to affect not just the serious, but the delirious. And the interaction of hate speech and mental illness can be a very potent combination.”

Spoken by a man who seems to believe that the connection between words and deeds is only “tenuous at best” when it comes to the words and deeds of Muslims.

In fact, in 2008, when The New Yorker ran a satirical cartoon on its cover portraying the Obamas as radical Muslim revolutionaries, Alter claimed that those “negative images” had the very real power to harm the Obama campaign. In a Newsweek essay titled “The Power of Images,” Alter wrote:

Publishing an illustration of Barack Obama dressed as a Muslim fist-bumping his wife Michelle (with a semi-automatic over her shoulder) may have been meant as a parody of the dopey Internet rumor-mongering that has dogged the campaign for close to two years. But it is indisputably harmful to the Obama campaign…. Negative images burn their way into the consciousness of voters in ways that cannot be erased by facts. With one visual move, the magazine undid months of pro-Obama coverage in its pages.

So what do we make of this apparent hypocrisy? When words or images emanate from non-Muslims, those words and images do influence actions and deeds. But when words or images come from Muslim radicals, they don’t influence actions or deeds.

Alter’s contradictory views can best be understood by examining a serious pathology that permeates the “mainstream” media.

The MSM is not revulsed by Muslim hate speech in the same way that it is revulsed by real or perceived hate speech from whites, Christians, or Jews. Due to a combination of factors (the MSM’s desire to coddle Muslims as a “victim” group that must be protected from “persecution,” and the general sense of moral and cultural relativism that pervades the left), the MSM will excuse hate speech, especially anti-Semitic hate speech, when it comes from Muslims (or other non-Jewish minority groups).

We saw this in Alter’s case when he readily came to the defense of disgraced journalist Helen Thomas after her rabidly anti-Jewish remarks ended her professional career. Discussing Thomas on the Joy Behar Show, Alter said:

But she’s Lebanese. She’s a Lebanese American. And you do have to understand, you know, some of the history of the region and the feelings in the region, and not necessarily judge somebody who thinks of Israel as an occupying power as by definition an anti-Semite because they think Israel is occupied.

Conversely, Alter displayed no such empathy or understanding when he attacked author and lecturer David Horowitz for advertisements Horowitz had placed in college newspapers arguing against reparations for slavery. Alter called Horowitz an extremist, implied that Horowitz was a racist, and likened the newspaper ads to material from the white supremacist organization founded by former KKK leader David Duke (naturally, Alter didn’t provide any actual evidence of racism in the ads).

Helen Thomas tells “the Jews” of Israel to “go home to Europe,” but she’s not an anti-Semite, because she’s Lebanese. David Horowitz runs ads arguing against reparations, and he’s as bad as a Klansman (for the record, a Gallup poll taken at the time of the Horowitz ad controversy found that 37% of African-American respondents were against reparations. They must have been Klansmen, too).

In an interview I conducted in 2002, I put the question directly to L.A. Times correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman (currently the East Africa bureau chief at The New York Times) – why does the MSM feel the need to not only excuse and justify hate speech from Islamic extremists, but to constantly give it a platform?

Gettleman’s reply: “I think there is some consensus that white supremacist hate groups ARE less interesting intellectually than religious (Muslim) extremists” (emphasis his).

And that pretty much sums it up in a nutshell. The MSM is repulsed by real or perceived white bigotry and hatred. But bigotry and hatred from Muslims is “intellectually interesting.” This lack of revulsion makes it easy for the MSM to downplay the negative effects of Muslim hate speech. Considering the fact that from Darfur to Delhi, from Pakistan to Paris, hate-fueled Muslim violence is not only on the rise, but racking up a formidable body count, this is a dangerous, dangerous double standard for the media to embrace.

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