How do you spin the famine in Somalia to promote peace toward Muslim Americans? A survey of news titles released August 2nd by three major news sources yielded surprising results.
The way to spin the story for war is a no-brainer: emphasize the plight of the Somali people at the hands of the Al Qaeda-aligned al-Shabab, which is stopping its own people from escaping the famine. That way, the public directs hate against the terrorist minority and not the suffering majority. What's more, it makes the public want to save the Somali people from the terrorists. As Washington redirects its war machine to Al Qaeda threats in Somalia and Yemen, it's a perfect way to prepare the American public for a possible all-out assault. Articles from The New York Times, Washington Post, and BBC News followed this pattern pretty much across the board.
But how do you spin the famine to promote peace and prevent backlash against Muslim Americans? That's where a certain Gallup poll comes in, entitled "Muslims say they're loyal Americans, poll finds." Of the three newspapers just cited, only The New York Times seems to have picked up the poll. It found that Muslim Americans self reported equally loyal to their country and their religion. The interesting part was that other religious groups reported more loyalty to country than to religion, so it would have been possible to spin the article as "Muslims less patriotic than Protestants, Catholics, and Jews." But they didn't.
This is a case of spin helping, rather than hindering, peace. At a moment when the Shabab threatens to taint perceptions of Somali Americans, and by extension, all Muslims in America, irrational violence could break out just as it did after 9/11. This news title reminds the public to think before acting. Indeed, we must think carefully and critically about our news sources and their spin, whether for war or peace.
Because it could mean life or death for your neighbor, or even yourself.
photo credit: Oxfam East Africa