Ignoring the war on Christians – media bias or merely news as usual?

christian-persecution

Zero Hedge reprints a blog post by Michael Snyder at The End of the American Dream titled “Why Does The Mainstream Media Purposely Ignore Mass Killings Of Christians Across The Globe?”

In the aftermath of the Christchurch mosques attack in which 50 Muslim worshipers were gunned down by a fascist terrorist, Snyder asks why similar acts of terror committed against Christians around the world never attract anywhere near the same degree of media coverage and public attention, if they actually attract any at all:

As a result of the lack of media coverage, the vast majority of Americans do not know that “4,136 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons” last year.

That number breaks down to an average of 11 per day.

In Nigeria, more than 120 Christians have been gunned down or killed with machetes over the past three weeks, but Breitbart was the only big media outlet to report on it…

“As Breitbart News alone reported among major news outlets, Fulani jihadists racked up a death toll of over 120 Christians over the past three weeks in central Nigeria, employing machetes and gunfire to slaughter men, women, and children, burning down over 140 houses, destroying property, and spreading terror.

“The New York Times did not place this story on the front page; in fact, they did not cover it at all. Apparently, when assessing “all the news that’s fit to print,” the massacre of African Christians did not measure up. The same can be said for the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Free Press, the LA Times, and every other major paper in the United States.

And of course Breitbart is not exactly “mainstream” media.”…

 

On the other side of the world, 20 innocent people were slaughtered when Muslim radicals bombed a Roman Catholic cathedral in January

“On January 27, Muslim extremists bombed a Roman Catholic cathedral on the Philippine island of Jolo, killing some 20 people and injuring dozens of others.”

Once again, this is yet another mass killing that was almost entirely ignored by the mainstream media.

Snyder further quotes recent instances of the persecution of Christians in places like Eritrea, China and North Korea. “Is the anti-Christian bias among the mainstream media so strong that they can’t even bring themselves to report the basic facts to us?” he asks. His conclusion: “Those that control the mainstream media consider Christians to be one of the main obstacles to ‘progress’ in this country [the United States], and so any story that would put Christians in a positive or sympathetic light simply does not fit any of the narratives that they are pushing.”

I don’t discount an anti-Christian animus by some in the media, but I think the answer is more complex, though it doesn’t necessarily put the news business is a much better light.

The reason for the silence that Snyder talks about largely has to do with the news reporting divide between the local and relevant (and by local I mean both in the literal sense of proximity as well as more broadly of the similar cultural milieu of Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand) and the non-local and thus less relevant.

The Christchurch terror attack was the biggest news story in the world for a few days running, but so generally have been other terrorist attacks that took place in “the West”, from London and Manchester, through an Orlando nightclub and a Pittsburgh synagogue, to Paris, Nice and Brussels. It is our cultural backyard, places we are most familiar with. If Christchurch is getting somewhat more coverage than the others, it’s arguably the novelty of the perpetrator for a change being white and the victims being Muslims (though it also resonates with the anti-right sentiment in the media, however much the Christchurch terrorist was not actually a member of the right).

So why no reporting of Christian massacred in Nigeria or the Philippines and others some such? To be blunt about it, because such outrages take place in countries that Donald Trump has once colourfully described as “shitholes”. Most people couldn’t point them out on the map, much less tell you anything about them or their present condition. The truth of the matter is that all but the most sophisticated media consumers simply don’t give a shit about what’s happening in Nigeria or Eritrea and who’s killing whom. Some places – most places – just aren’t newsworthy; they are too far away and known only to the truly intrepid tourists. There is a rough calculus at work in newsrooms, as illustrated by an apocryphal quote from an unknown American journalist: “One dead fireman in Brooklyn is worth five English bobbies, who are worth 50 Arabs, who are worth 500 Africans”. Adam Smith was onto it some two and a half centuries ago in his “Theory of Moral Sentiments”:

Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connection with that part of the world, would be affected upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine, first of all, express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people, he would make many melancholy reflections upon the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment. He would too, perhaps, if he was a man of speculation, enter into many reasonings concerning the effects which this disaster might produce upon the commerce of Europe, and the trade and business of the world in general. And when all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquillity, as if no such accident had happened. The most frivolous disaster which could befall himself would occasion a more real disturbance. If he was to lose his little finger to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren, and the destruction of that immense multitude seems plainly an object less interesting to him, than this paltry misfortune of his own.

Exaggerated, to be sure, and perhaps more difficult to sustain in the modern globalised world of interconnectedness and instantaneouity, but not incorrect, particularly since the very overload of information and news from everywhere drives people to try to isolate themselves from the constant noise.

There are two overlapping exceptions to the “shithole” rule, such as it is. The first one is that shitholes are not all equal, and some are just much better known to the general public than others, mostly because a history of (mostly military) involvement by the West. Thus, in the context of Christian persecution, media will from time to time report on crimes taking place in Syria and Iraq. Terrorist attack on the Copts in Egypt will likewise get reported reasonably widely in the West, in part because Egypt is quite familiar to most of us, even if only as the land of pharaohs and pyramids. Also, some atrocities are simply too great to ignore no matter how relatively unknown their stage. For example, the genocides in South Sudan and Darfur, committed against Christian and animist Africans by their Muslim neighbours and rulers in the past two decades, have reached such a monstrous death toll as to become international causes celebre.

The second exception is this: the Western media will report on something bloody that has taken place somewhere where not many people care about if the perpetrators happen to be 1) Americans, 2) Israelis, or 3) Europeans, or, alternatively, at least some of the victims are. This is both the case of “the local” being more newsworthy, even if it’s local by virtue of “our people” being involved rather than physical proximity, as well as a case of the general political bias of the Western media against the military, armed interventions, and generally the use of force as opposed to solving international problems by linking hands and singing “Kumbaya” at the United Nations.

This is essentially the more comprehensive answer to Snyder’s question about the relative paucity of the coverage of anti-Christian atrocities around the world (and it’s not just Snyder, of course; if you’re a social media consumer you are likely to have seen a number of different memes post-Christchurch contrasting that coverage with the silence about the deaths of thousands of Christians in far corners of the world). The rules of newsworthiness, which to a large extent reflect the levels of news consumers’ interest rather than any particular media bias, dictate that local terror will always get exceptional coverage. Terror elsewhere – in the “shitosphere” – will get reported if white people are killing brown people or brown people are killing white people. Brown people killing other brown people, whether Christians, Muslims, Buddhist, animists or Rastafarians, will very rarely make the popular news (as opposed to the unpopular news like “Economist”). And yes, this is all overlaid with and influenced by the biases of the sophisticated, cosmopolitan, progressive Western media. Whether or not they are consciously anti-Christian, there is probably a more general political sentiment at play that some groups at home and abroad (white, Christian, male, etc) have historically enjoyed dominance that translated into a multiplicity of sins (imperialism, militarism, genocide, patriarchy, exploitation and so on), hence today they don’t deserve as much pity and interest as all the other groups, which in the past have been at the receiving end and in many instances continue to be so today. Some on the right speak of “deserving” and “undeserving” poor; for many on the left there is a not dissimilar hierarchy of victimhood. Maybe not many in the media explicitly think that some people deserve what they get (historical karma), but a lot would think that others – “the Other” – certainly don’t.

Lastly, there is undoubtedly the secularist influence – an overwhelming majority of media professionals are not religious and deeply ignorant of religion. It’s a topic that generates neither empathy or interest. If anything, organised Western religion is seen as a conservative and backward social force associated with obscurantism, sexism and child sexual abuse. If you’re a journalist that doesn’t care much for Christianity at home, you won’t care much about what happens to its practitioners thousands of miles away. In that, Snyder is no doubt at least partly correct, though the line between ignorance and malice is often difficult to discern with any precision or confidence.

Christians are again being thrown to the lions, but this time no one is watching.

Comments

comments