Terror, By Any Other Name

It’s no secret that the media influences the American public to believe that our country is all-powerful, all-knowing and generally the center of the universe.

That’s one notion I’ve tried to dispel about a million times in this blog – that America is either unconditionally loved or furiously hated by people of other countries. For some reason, it seems to be a general consensus that we’re on one extreme end of the spectrum or the other when the truth is, most foreigners I met on my trip are completely indifferent towards America.

I may not have a massive sample size, but I did travel to four different continents and more than 20 countries and met people from many, many more than that. Most of them couldn’t care less about America, save for its monopoly on music and entertainment.

They tune into American sports or politics when it’s a major event, much like Americans might tune into the World Cup or the election of a new Pope. Otherwise – and I’m obviously generalizing, but I spoke to enough people on the topic to feel confident in writing this – we’re just not that big of a deal.

Of course, as one of the most militarily powerful, rich and populous first-world countries, America is important. But what seems to be forgotten is that with great importance comes great responsibility, especially for those in the government and the media.

I won’t even go down the government rabbit hole again – there are too many inept “leaders” in this country to be named. But one influential facet of American leadership that is always overlooked is the media. The media, as a whole, might be even more corrupt than the politicians it covers (I do consider myself a freelance member of the media, so don’t mistake this for blind hatred, by the way).

Take this week’s occupation of a federal building in Oregon by white “militants” as an example. The refusal of almost every major media outlet in the U.S. to label the heavily armed group “terrorists” is frustrating, to say the least.

I mean, come on:

Screenshot 2016-01-04 at 16.20.47

What they are doing in Oregon is the literal definition of “terrorism.” Nevermind that the jailed ranchers whose perceived mistreatment by the U.S. government sparked this takeover already receive a 93 percent discount on grazing fees from said government, or that the reason they are imprisoned is for blatantly disobeying the law in acts of pure selfishness, or that the leader of the group has a family history of legal delinquency, or that he has repeatedly threatened to spill blood if the group’s demands aren’t met.

A crime almost as shocking is taking place in the mainstream media: presenting this news in as biased a manner as humanly possible. Propaganda is a powerful tool, and the media has used it to declare many black people protesting for an end to a police violence epidemic in their neighborhoods – and essentially still fighting for racial equality – over the last couple years as “thugs” or “violent protesters.” In San Bernardino, the shooters were just shooters until their religion was revealed – they then became “Muslim terrorists.”

The group in Oregon has taken government property with heavy ammunition, made threats and demands, and is fighting for a cause that pales in comparison to the #BlackLivesMatter movement (yes, you can argue their cause is worth fighting for but yes, I feel no shame in saying it is squat compared to the other). They are “peaceful protestors,” or at worst, “armed militia.”

Give me a break. That just makes them sound like a team of paintballers or gamers at a Call of Duty convention. Nothing rattles public opinion like an act of terrorism, unless of course it’s only conveyed as a protest by every major media outlet in the country.

Now, the government can directly benefit from media bias as well. For example, a few years ago, my friend Amr was living and working in Egypt during the military coup that overthrew President Morsi and established a new constitution in the country. We’d discuss the protests almost daily, with my main source before each conversation being whatever the American media was telling me. Without fail, almost everything I told Amr was being reported in the U.S. about the coup in Egypt was met with surprise (“Really? That’s not true at all. It’s actually pretty much the opposite…”).

That level of inaccuracy is only explained by two things: the race to be first at any cost, which news reporting has prioritized, or a desire to turn public opinion against the Egyptian military, salvaging America’s important relationship with Morsi and Egypt (even though an overwhelming majority of Egyptian citizens supported the ousting of a deceptive, blatantly corrupt Morsi, as evidenced by 98.1% of voters supporting the new constitution).

It’s no wonder our supposedly great, free country can’t agree on anything from race, to religion, to general public safety. News networks spin anything not white, eggshell or cream-colored into a murderous frenzy and download that association into our brains every minute of every day.

It’s no wonder that it feels like we continue to take two steps back for every one step forward.

It’s no wonder people in other countries don’t care to take us seriously – we are absurd, ridiculous people who, 240 years into our country’s life, still kill over the way other people look, pray and love.

But hell, if it bleeds, it leads right? The media knows how to get its clicks, which increases revenue, which is an equation that trumps all…even truth, fairness and journalistic integrity.

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