Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Wild Muslim Rioters Lose Control!

Let's play a game.

The protests in Lebanon against the Danish embassy (provoked by the publication by right-wing provocateurs of some bizarrely offensive cartoons depicting Muhammed with a bomb on top of his head) have been getting a lot of media coverage lately. Can you match the news coverage with the media source?

First are 6 quotes, then the 6 sources, in a different order.

1) "The demonstration outside [the Danish Mission] turns violent as the crowd throws rocks, smashes windows and torches a kiosk. Other demonstrators vandalize several downtown buildings and snarl traffic."

2) "Their violent tactics put them on center stage as they rampaged through downtown, smashing store windows with hammers, spray-painting buildings and slashing tires. The self-proclaimed [Muslim fundamentalists] appeared to be mostly teenagers and twentysomethings who donned [traditional garb]."

3) "Protesters angry over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad clashed with Lebanese security forces today, setting a building housing the [Danish Mission] on fire and attacking a nearby church."

4) "With the clashes spread out over several hours and locations, there were numerous injuries, including several [protesters] and police with bloody head wounds, and a woman who lost consciousness amid a thick, acrid cloud of tear gas. At one point, protesters smashed their way through police lines and entered the outer buildings of the [embassy compound]. However, they were quickly driven out by police using truncheons - and according to one unconfirmed report - rubber bullets. ... 'The enemy have gathered near here,' explained one young police officer. 'There are hundreds of them, so we have blocked the roads.' The fighting transformed a whole stretch of the city. ... The shopping and dining [district] was similarly blocked off. Instead of traffic and shoppers, the streets echoed with ambulence sirens, the buzz of police helicopters, the rhythmic drumming beaten out by [Lebanese] farm women in traditional dress, and the occasional dull crack of a tear gas round."

5) "As tens of thousands marched through downtown [Beirut], a small group of self-described [fundamentalists] smashed windows and vandalized stores. Police responded with rubber bullets and pepper gas."

6. "A guerrilla army of [Muslim fundamentalists] took control of downtown [Beirut] today."

a. The Washington Post

b. CNN

c. The LA Times

d. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

e. The New York Times

f. The Observer

The answers are below, after the picture:

1. Coverage of the 1992 Rodney King protests in the LA Times

2. Coverage of the 1999 Seattle WTO protests in the The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

3. Coverage of the 2006 Lebanese protests in the New York Times

4. Coverage of the 2005 Hong Kong WTO protests in The Observer (UK)

5. Coverage of the 1999 Seattle WTO Protests on CNN

6. Coverage of the 1999 Seattle WTO Protests in the Washington Post

I changed a few words in [brackets] in each quote. What is my point?

My point is two-fold.

First, there are often radical elements at protests, and sometimes they reject nonviolence. These extremists are usually teens and young men, and they usually don't represent the majority of protesters.

Second, these radical fringes almost always get much more coverage in mainstream media than nonviolent protesters.

The news coverage of the Lebanese protests seems alarmist and to be playing into the hands of the Danish white supremacists who started the whole thing with the explicit goal of provoking a clash of civilizations. The mainstream media's bias, as almost always, is decidedly conservative.

News channels and newspapers have a deep institutional bias that reflects most journalists' politically centrist, upper middle class, parochial perspectives. Unfortunately, that means they are all too ready to believe that, once again, those radical protesters have lost control, with the rioters this time being wild, scary Muslims.

Score one for the right-wing provocateurs.

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  • At 11:30 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Very good point. But I'm not sure it's just a political/class-protective reaction. There's also a strong element of sensationalism for it's own sake, not to make a political point but just because burning stuff is more titillating than a bunch of boring marchers. Radical fringe types know this and exploit it, using large demonstrations and the attendant press to get publicity for their antics.

  • At 11:55 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Ah, true. Sensationalism and political bias form a disgusting feedback loop. "Newsworthiness" becomes a race to the bottom.

    I probably used too many examples, but I couldn't stop including them, and I didn't even start investigating coverage of the Paris "riots."

    I also didn't even tell any of my stories about well meaning but clueless journalist friends. Such as during the Seattle protests in 99 when I got a call from a senior producer at ABC News because I had sent my assistant producer friend an Indymedia link, and none of them had ever heard of the alternative press before. This senior producer at one of the most influential news agencies in the world was so excited to have finally discovered the underground (to which I was barely connected -- I had assumed they had interns scouring Indymedia like every hour). It's so sad how cocooned they are.

  • At 2:30 PM, Anonymous elana said…

    As someone who organized a peaceful, political street theater group during the RNC and found herself getting the shortend of an nypd infiltration that was so obvious I was embaressed for the officer, I am very glad LB is looking into this.

    I haven't been following the Lebanese protests coverage much but if you are interested in the larger question of protest tactics, how they are portrayed and how the police respond to them do check out this very interesting article in the guardian.

    I'm not talking about its analysis of the G8, I'm talking about its analyssis of protest tactics. SCroll down.

    I don't agree with everything in it but its very related to what you're discussing.

  • At 3:07 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Heh, yeah, those police infiltrators were totally absurd. I made fun of them in December (I am trying to post the link but it seems to be broken at the moment: http://leftbehinds.blogspot.com/2005/12/ny-times-police-infilitrate-activist.html ).

    I wonder which action you helped organize. I worked on this street theater called Married to the State, plus a kiss-in.

    Thanks so much for linking to the Monbiot op-ed. We have discussed his pieces before, but I had never read this particular piece, which I am going to be thinking about for awhile.

  • At 3:16 PM, Anonymous elana said…

    I ran greene dragon-- we dressed like george washington crossed with late-period elvis and did various American REvolutionary war themed actions like that Paul Revere's Ride re-enactment down Lexington Avenue (on horse-cycles, bikes with horseheads on them, instead of real horses).
    And we De-Throned King George in effigy. That sort of thing.

    I liked the Kiss Ins! Its possible we know eachother. Anyway I've put away my tri-corner hat and I'm at DMI now. I run their blog, and other communications endevours. Glad I discovered this blog via our comments section.
    You guys are realy insightful and fun AND acknowledge NYC politics. We need that.

  • At 3:23 PM, Anonymous elana said…

    btw Solomon Grundy- are you named after the Green Lantern super-villain?

  • At 12:19 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Solomon Grundy was born on a Monday,
    Christened on a stark and stormy Tuesday,
    Married on a gray and grisly Wednesday,
    Ill on a mild and mellow Thursday,
    Worse on a bright and breezy Friday,
    Died on a gay and glorious Saturday,
    Buried on a baking, blistering Sunday.
    That was the end of Solomon Grundy.

    Yeah, plus the ridiculous super-villain. ;)

    Thanks for the kind words. Greene Dragon seems very cool...

  • At 8:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We're supposed to take Islam seriously when they riot over a guldang cartoon? Burning social issues like this need Preparation H.

  • At 11:14 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Well, "Islam" isn't rioting any more than "Christianity" committed the Oklahoma City bombing. The rioters are extremist individuals who don't represent the majority of Muslims (most of whom seem to find the cartoons offensive, but would never do anything close to burning down a church).

    The fact that you're making that conceptual mistake is exactly what I'm talking about.

  • At 12:17 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Why not blame Islam? Why not blame Christianity? Let's be done with all religions, saith the great Richard Dawkins.

  • At 12:43 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Well, I know too many devout progressives devoting their lives to social justice to paint "Abrahamic religions" with one brush. Dawkins oversimplifies for the sake of rhetoric. But the essay is a good read.

    I would not consider anyone committing any of the crimes I mentioned above to be practicing their religion very faithfully. Maybe religion is invoked by these people, but that's just their misinterpretation of what their religion means. The Jesus who said it's easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than to get a rich man into heaven is not George W. Bush's Jesus. Bush is one of the least Christian Christians I can think of.

  • At 12:45 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    (btw, I realize that I am kind of begging the question, by saying that my definition of religious necessarily means someone with progressive values -- see how that works? very convenient)

  • At 3:54 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

  • At 10:05 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Hm, that's a good development, I suppose, but who I had in mind were people like Dorothy Day.


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