BY: TYLER FYFE
Philip Zimbardo once wrote: “sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can sometimes kill you.” Professor Zimbardo is the psychologist known for the Stanford Prison Experiment where he proved that otherwise reasonable people could be influenced to act irrationally— and even violently. Today, this experiment holds more relevance than ever. Twenty-four hour rolling news networks have typecast an entire population as “an enemy” and an entire religion as a weapon. Ultra-conservative websites, and prime-time “expert opinion” have fostered what Zimbardo calls “a hostile imagination.”
This media witch hunt might sound familiar. In the early 1950s Senator Joseph McCarthy instigated what came to be known as the Second Red Scare. Along with the mainstream media, McCarthy led a campaign spreading mass panic about communist and homosexual infiltration of America. His accusations disregarded evidence and relied almost exclusively on vilifying media portrayals. Hundreds of people were wrongly imprisoned and at least 10,000 people lost their jobs. Similarly, in the 1930s Joseph Goebbels used the media to constantly remind Germans of foreign threats and create an environment tolerant to segregation and of violence against Jews. Films, such as The Triumph of Will, which portrays Hitler as a hero, played a key role in promoting anti-semitism. American Sniper and Zero Dark Thirty have had similar effects on the promotion of American Islamophobia. According to Nathan Lean, author of The Islamophobia Industry: How The Right Manufactures Fear of Muslim, anti-Islam attitudes are now even higher than in the months following 9/11.
Always remember, what journalists leave out, is just as important as what they choose to include.
#afterseptember11 i grew up without a mom because someone with a gun decided that she needed to answer for it with her life
— approximate sunlight (@razakumari) September 11, 2015
Between 2011 and 2013, a Syrian photographer smuggled 55,000 images of 11,000 victims who had been arrested without trial, and then tortured and starved to death in the dungeons of the Assad regime. The photos are extremely graphic, which is why it is so important that you do not turn your head. Half of all Syrian civilians have been forced from their homes. The conflict has left over 220,000 civilians dead.
Following the Paris Attacks, more than half of state governors have said that they will not take Syrian refugees because of the inherent threat of ISIS. Associating all Muslims with the ideas of ISIS is like associating all Christians with the ideas of Timothy McVeigh or the Ku Klux Klan. Even ISIS makes a distinction between Muslims. Under the takfiri doctrine, 200 million Shiite muslims are to be ethnically cleansed. It has already started.
Western media outlets have hijacked Muslim identity. Religious terms have been weaponized. Cultural clothing has been politicized. Make no mistake, the result of an “us vs. them” mentality is always a caricature. And if we are to learn from our past— dehumanization is the quickest route to tragedy.
Here are some tweets of Muslims who have taken to social media to reclaim their identity. More than 50,000 Muslims have shared stories about being expected to claim responsibility for the acts of strangers.
#afterseptember11 my parents genuinely asked my brother if he wanted to change his name bc it's Osama. He was 9
— tushay (@nypity) September 11, 2015
— rhi (@clxrityy) September 10, 2015
#afterseptember11 almost never being able to make friends as a kid because their parents wouldn't want them hanging out w/ "my people"
— gacaliso (@blxckfxntasy) September 10, 2015
#afterseptember11 over two dozen U.S. schools for Muslim students were forced to shut down because they received too many bomb/death threats
— Feminism Vibes (@feminismvibes) September 11, 2015
Image source: terranovamd.com