Guardian series on “Racism in a digital age” indicative of the media group’s hierarchy of victims

The Guardian recently launched a series of essays at ‘Comment is Free’ titled Racism in a digital age“.  

The objective of the series is as follows:

“The aim of this series is to explore the changing nature of racism and racist politics, particularly as it relates to online behaviour. Racism continues to dominate the headlines, from the rise of the far right to the status of racial abuse on social media. Nevertheless, not only is the nature and impact of racism disputed, the very idea of racism is contested. This series of articles will investigate these disputes. What is recognised as racism and, in diverse and unequal societies, who gets to decide?”

Here are the essays published since the launch of the series on July 8th:

Here is a very brief textual and thematic analysis of the 10 essays, which encompass nearly 7,000 words:

  • Use of the words “Muslim”, “Islam”, “Islamophobia” etc.: (87).  Essays in the series which primarily focused primarily on anti-Muslim bigotry: (5) 
  • Use of the word “Black” or term “people of color” (19). Essays in the series which primarily focused on anti-black racism: (3) 
  • Use of the words “gay”, “homophobe”/”homophobia”, etc.: (16). Essays in the series which focused primarily on bigotry against gays: (1) 
  • Use of the words “Jew”, “antisemite”/”antisemitic”, etc.: (10).   Essays in the series which focused primarily on bigotry against Jews: (0)

Is the fact that a Guardian series about bigotry disproportionately focuses on anti-Muslim racism, and all but ignores anti-Jewish racism insignificant?

Hardly.

The greater context pertains to a dynamic at the Guardian we’re continually commenting on: The media group’s silence in the face of Muslim antisemitism, in the Palestinian territories and the wider Muslim and Arab world, and their corresponding moral sympathy towards Islamists with decidedly reactionary agendas.

Here are a few examples:

So why does the Guardian choose not to see Islamist antisemitism and how can it continue to frame adherents to such dangerous movements as victims and protagonists?

It almost seems as if Guardian editors fear that even accurate characterizations of racist or intolerant Muslims are manifestations of Islamophobia.

Indeed, Jonathan Freedland, in his contribution to CiF’s series on racism, which focused primarily on anti-Muslim bigotry, wrote the following:

“…we should call [blatant examples of Islamophobia] by its name: it is racism, of the crudest kind. [But] subtler [forms of Islamophobia]…can be confusing, because they often dress up in progressive, Guardian-friendly garb – slamming Islam as oppressive of gay and women’s rights, for example – but the thick layer of bigotry is visible all the same. Call it progressives’ prejudice.” [emphasis added]

While Freedland didn’t cite ‘slamming Muslims as antisemitic’ as an example of progressives’ anti-Muslim racism, a clue into his thinking on the subject can found in an expansive essay he wrote about the persistence of antisemitism in the world, in 2011, titled “Antisemitism: the hatred that refuses to go away“.

In an ambitious, serious meditation on “the world’s oldest hatred” Freedland failed to mention where such Judeophobic invectives enjoy the most fertile ideological ground and most hospitable political climate, where the most vile and ingrained anti-Semitism is not considered aberrant: The Arab and Muslim world.

As I’ve noted previously, polls of Muslim countries in the Middle East clearly demonstrate that animosity towards Jews (not merely Israel) often exceed a staggering 95% of the population – based on empirical data compiled by one of the more credible global polling organizations.

Historian Robert Wistrich, Director of the International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, has argued:

“The scale and extremism of the literature and commentary available in Arab or Muslim newspapers, journals, magazines, caricatures, on Islamist websites, on the Middle Eastern radio and TV news, in documentaries, films, and educational materials, is comparable only to that of Nazi Germany at its worst.”

Indeed, unlike in previous eras where decent people could reasonably have claimed ignorance about antisemitic attitudes, it is incomprehensible, in an era of the internet and mass communications (and with sites which consistently document such racism), how anyone can seriously argue that they are unaware of the extent to which this malignant animosity towards Jews dominates the public discourse in places like Cairo, Damascus, Amman, Islamabad, Riyadh, Tehran and Ramallah.

Jonathan Freedland and his colleagues at the Guardian seem to possess something of an ideological aversion to honestly confronting and exposing Muslim antisemitism.

As the epicenter of  of anti-Jewish racism in the world has certainly migrated since WWII from Christian Europe to the Muslim Middle East, the Guardian’s Left’s hierarchy of victims seems to prevent an honest assessment of this disturbing dynamic.

Of course, anti-Muslim racism is never justified.

But, neither is it ever acceptable to bury, ignore, or otherwise refuse to confront painful and politically inconvenient truths about Muslim culpability in perpetuating hatred and intolerance.

Such moral abdication in the face of racism is cowardly for sure, but, as history has clearly demonstrated, also supremely dangerous.

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