Express Tribune Editorial Repeats Rumours, Ignores Facts

Sep 17th, 2012 | By | Category: Express Tribune

Express Tribune LogoIn its editorial on 17th September, The Express Tribune leaves out pertinent information while speculating about information that is easily confirmed or denied. Ultimately, these mistakes lead the editors to a conclusion that is divorced from reality.

The Express Tribune describes the anti-Islam Internet video (calling it a film seems to give it far too much credit) as “put on YouTube by individuals in the US, backed by anti-Islamic pastor Terry Jones, who is based in Florida”. When we first read this we were struck with such a bizarre construction. It seems like the editors bent themselves backwards in order to avoid writing that the video was created by an Egyptian convict and promoted heavily by hardliners on Egyptian TV.

The editors then go on to describe the violent protests that resulted from the widespread promotion of the film (by Egyptian TV) as a success for Terry Jones “whose desire to spark hate-filled behaviour amongst Muslims, has once again been successful”. Why did they say nothing about the desires of religious hardliners who actually promoted the film.

The strangest part of The Express Tribune editorial, however, comes in the second paragraph which speculates that there is different treatment for anti-Islamic material in the US than there is for anti-Jew or anti-African-American material.

Surely, some provision must exist within US laws to reprimand derogatory attacks on particular religious or ethnic groups, intended to incite anger. It is difficult to imagine that such false and offensive diatribes against African-Americans, Jews or other communities would be tolerated to any degree had it occurred in the US itself.

This is a claim that has been circulating widely. Rather than research the claim, unfortunately, The Express Tribune simply repeated it without question. A simply search of YouTube’s content easily finds thousands of videos that are anti-Jewish, anti-African-American, anti-Buddhism, anti-Hindu, anti-American…anti-everything, really. Additionally, a 2008 article in The New York Times about free speech laws in the US makes the point clearly:

Under the First Amendment, newspapers and magazines can say what they like about minorities and religions — even false, provocative or hateful things — without legal consequence.

What about hate speech against Jews and minorities?

“In much of the developed world, one uses racial epithets at one’s legal peril, one displays Nazi regalia and the other trappings of ethnic hatred at significant legal risk, and one urges discrimination against religious minorities under threat of fine or imprisonment,” Frederick Schauer, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, wrote in a recent essay called “The Exceptional First Amendment.”

“But in the United States,” Professor Schauer continued, “all such speech remains constitutionally protected.”

What if the speech is intended to hurt the sentiments of a group?

But merely saying hateful things about minorities, even with the intent to cause their members distress and to generate contempt and loathing, is protected by the First Amendment.

In 1969, for instance, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction of a leader of a Ku Klux Klan group under an Ohio statute that banned the advocacy of terrorism. The Klan leader, Clarence Brandenburg, had urged his followers at a rally to “send the Jews back to Israel,” to “bury” blacks, though he did not call them that, and to consider “revengeance” against politicians and judges who were unsympathetic to whites.

Instead of speculating that “surely, some provision must exist”, why didn’t the editors at The Express Tribune spend some small amount of time to research the question? It took us only a few minutes to find examples where hate speech against both Jews and African-Americans was protected.

After repeating these typical rumours and speculations, The Express Tribune concludes it’s editorial by blaming Washington for the anti-American outbursts.

It is hardly surprising that we see such outrage. Even worse is the fact that it appears to have been very deliberately provoked by placing the highly offensive film on a public website and then going out of the way to promote it. What Washington does not appear to realise is that such actions will not curtail the growing hatred for it, thereby making global issues harder to resolve.

This is an ironic conclusion since the people who went “out of the way to promote it” were not in Washington but were in Cairo, and may very well have had their own reasons for deliberately provoking outrage. Unfortunately, none of this was found worthy of mention by The Express Tribune.

If media groups do nothing but parrot the rumours and speculation peddled for cheap in the street, what is the point of pretending it is journalism? Such behaviour might be expected from certain quarters, but from The Express Tribune it is particularly disappointing.

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