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Editorial: Protest footage lacks the whole story

Published 10:38am Wednesday, September 19, 2012

When watching TV footage of people in the Muslim world protesting America because of either U.S. foreign policies or the controversial film “Innocence of Muslims,” let’s remember this: The vast majority of Muslims are not protesting. Overwhelming numbers of people are at home or at work going about their daily lives. Many Muslims think the anti-American protests just make Muslims look bad on the world stage.

Our national news media, especially the cable TV news media, accentuates controversy and fails to show other sides. To them, “both sides of the story” are: a flag-burning protester in a Middle Eastern country and a U.S. leader responding to the protests. That leads Americans to think all Middle Easterners are angry at us and pouring into the streets to show it. The media outlets fail to interview Middle Eastern residents who dislike the protests.

We say TV media particularly because it isn’t that difficult online to find sources that traditionally are print or radio media that provide more in-depth perspectives on the controversies. They show the other perspectives on the issue. In fact, that’s where we got the impetus for this editorial.

Another thing to consider is that many Middle Easterners also suffer from mixed messages from their own TV media, just like Americans. Their media portrays our Western governments as helpless to halt forms of expression such the movie in question or the controversial Danish cartoons. There is little or no explanation of free-speech rights typical in Western nations. To many people in the Muslim world, they wonder how a government could not control such expression. All the governments they have ever been ruled by always do.

We aren’t blaming the media. That’s an easy cop-out, and the protests no doubt would happen with or without quality news media. But we are provoking people to think beyond the footage and photos they see. Don’t view the world through the skewed lens of a cable news outlet.

More importantly, we hope the divisive issues surrounding the film are resolved peacefully and swiftly.