How Do You Spell Media Bias? M-U-S-L-I-M

Disclosure: I have contempt for news reports that hype acts of terrorism. Even more so when little more than criminal acts by Muslims are bemoaned as existential threats to Western society. Just so you know I’m not in a position to offer a balanced view of Ronald Bailey’s post.

Do Muslims Commit Most U.S. Terrorist Attacks?: Nope. Not even close. by Ronald Bailey.

From the post:

“It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. In many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it,” asserted President Donald Trump a month ago. He was referring to a purported media reticence to report on terror attacks in Europe. “They have their reasons, and you understand that,” he added. The implication, I think, is that the politically correct press is concealing terrorists’ backgrounds.

To bolster the president’s claims, the White House then released a list of 78 terror attacks from around the globe that Trump’s minions think were underreported. All of the attackers on the list were Muslim—and all of the attacks had been reported by multiple news outlets.

Some researchers at Georgia State University have an alternate idea: Perhaps the media are overreporting some of the attacks. Political scientist Erin Kearns and her colleagues raise that possibility in a preliminary working paper called “Why Do Some Terrorist Attacks Receive More Media Attention Than Others?

For those five years, the researchers found, Muslims carried out only 11 out of the 89 attacks, yet those attacks received 44 percent of the media coverage. (Meanwhile, 18 attacks actually targeted Muslims in America. The Boston marathon bombing generated 474 news reports, amounting to 20 percent of the media terrorism coverage during the period analyzed. Overall, the authors report, “The average attack with a Muslim perpetrator is covered in 90.8 articles. Attacks with a Muslim, foreign-born perpetrator are covered in 192.8 articles on average. Compare this with other attacks, which received an average of 18.1 articles.”

While the authors rightly question the equality of terrorist reporting, which falsely creates a link between Muslims and terrorism in the United States, I question the appropriateness of a media focus on terrorism at all.

Aside from the obvious lure that fear sells and fear of Muslims sells very well in the United States, the human cost from domestic terrorist attacks, not just those by Muslims, hardly justifies crime blotter coverage.

Consider that in 2014, there were 33,559 deaths due to gun violence and 32 from terrorism.

But as I said, fear sells and fear of Muslims sells very well.

Terrorism or more properly the fear of terrorism has been exploited to distort government priorities and to reduce the rights of all citizens. Media participation/exploitation of that fear is a matter of record.

The question now is whether the media will knowingly continue its documented bigotry or choose another course?

The paper:

Kearns, Erin M. and Betus, Allison and Lemieux, Anthony, Why Do Some Terrorist Attacks Receive More Media Attention Than Others? (March 5, 2017). Available at SSRN:

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