The daunting reality facing people of conscience is the
seemingly impossible task of controlling propaganda in a free society, and how
the protected freedom of the perpetrators increases the vulnerability of their
In the past few years, while many good things happened to
Muslims in America, dark clouds continue to gather over them as a result of
relentless propaganda by certain special interest groups. All one has to do is
to randomly listen to talk show radio on the AM dial and hear the overtly
expressed hate that hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions in America
internalize every day and night. And this, needless to say, makes the backlash of
any terrorist attack in the US soil a nightmare scenario for all Muslims.
'But, these are words,' the proponents of status quo argue.
'It is not that they are throwing Molotov cocktail bombs into their homes' they
insist in order to minimize the power of words.
Perhaps the most powerful skill possessed by human beings
(though not all) is the ability to assemble letters and turn them into words,
then cultivate these words into dynamic ideas that shape perceptions, condition
attitudes, and change minds. And, like all other skills, this too can be used
positively or negatively.
Throughout history, words inspired actions that freed
generations from the iron fists of despotism. By the same token, words
demonized human beings by labeling their thoughts wicked and their lives
contemptible, thus justifying policies of repression and oppression against
"We constantly speak of human beings in ways which
implicitly deny their humanity -- in words, which reduce them to being mere
representatives of a class, mere symbolic representations of some principle.
Bourgeois, Bolshevik, Fascist, Communist . . . ," said Aldous Huxley in a
1936 speech delivered at the Albert Hall, London. "Not one of these words
describes the concrete reality of the men and women to whom it is applied . . .
Most people would hesitate to torture or kill a human being like themselves.
But when that human being is spoken of as though he were not a human being, but
as the representative of some wicked principle, we lose our scruples,"
And history tends to repeat itself so long as we don't use
lessons of our past experiences to avert recreating another dreadful chapter.
Yesterday it was the Jews; today, it is the Muslims enduring a brutal barrage
of demonizing disinformation that some compare to the pre-World War II
In this age of Reality TV where the real, the unreal, and
the surreal are deeply entangled, few have the ability to decipher the
disinformation or propaganda for what it truly is. Few would question: Is stereotyping
a major religion in its entirety ethical or even prudent? Is there any
historical or a current trend supporting the so-called 'Islamofascism'
propagated by certain vociferous political and religious provocateurs?
(And assuming their charges were correct) The question that
begs an answer is, why are the millions of Muslims in the U.S. not wreaking
'fascistic' havoc? More importantly, why do these provocateurs and their Grand
Wizards such as Robert Spencer, David Horowitz, Televangelist Pat Robertson,
Daniel Pipes, and Steve Emerson, and the cottage industry of fear, outfits such
as FrontPage Magazine, JihadWatch, and LittleGreen Footballs keep ranting and
raving hate speech that indiscriminately offends Muslims and only gives more
fuel to the radical elements?
Hate speech is described as words uttered, recorded,
written, pictured, or communicated in any other means (softly or loudly) that
are "intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence or prejudicial
action against a person or a group of people based on their race, gender, age,
ethnicity, nationality, religion . . ."
However, as a result of the heinous aggression of 9/11 and
the subsequent fear industry, a number of people became desensitized to the
dangers of the slithering Islamophobia and its mirrored image,
In his radio program on WLW-AM, owned by Clear Channel, host
Bill Cunningham had this message for his listeners: "The great war of this
generation's time is the war against Islamic fascists . . . They do not live for
life, they live for death. Only through death can they believe they can be with
those 72 virgins in heaven and have sex with children for eternity, which is
the goal of that religion." And, confident on how frightened into silence
Muslims in the US are, when he was asked whether or not he was concerned how
his remarks might've offended Muslims, he said he did not get any calls
protesting his remarks. So, "I moved on to the Bengals," Cunningham
And in the political spectrum, early this summer, while
being critical of how in their first two debates, the democratic presidential
candidates avoided connecting terrorism with Islam, the now frontrunner
,republican candidate Rudy Giuliani, had this to say: "During their two
debates they never mentioned the word Islamic terrorist, Islamic extremist,
Islamic fascist, terrorist, whatever combination of those words you want to
use, (the) words never came up . . . Maybe it's politically incorrect to say
that. I don't know. I can't imagine who you insult if you say Islamic
terrorist. You don't insult anyone who is Islamic who isn't a terrorist."
Now imagine if media routinely described the widely reported
sexual abuses committed by individual members of the Catholic clergy as a
'Catholic-pedophiliac culture' and blamed everything on Roman Catholicism or
the church doctrine. Or, imagine the Zionist brutal oppression of the
Palestinian people being routinely referred to as Zio-Nazism or being blamed on
Judaism and the teachings of the Torah!
Recently, however, realists such as General John Abizaid who
came to terms that in no way is the venomous rhetoric employed by the
propagandists in US' best interest started to speak out.
"Adding the word Islamic extremism, or qualifying it to
Sunni Islamic extremism . . . all make it very, very difficult because the
battle of words is meaningful, especially in the Middle East to people,"
said the former Commander of the U.S. Central Command.
It is crucial to "figure out how we don't turn this
into Samuel Huntington's Battle of Civilizations and we work toward an area
where we respect mainstream Islam. There's nothing Islamic about bin Laden's
philosophy, there's nothing Islamic about suicide bombing. I believe that these
are huge difficulties that we need to overcome, this notion of Christianity
versus Islam. It's not that, it doesn't need to be that," he added.
In its true essence, propaganda is different than other
forms of communication as it consciously employs half-truths, falsehoods and
misleading information to manipulate feelings and attitudes. Propaganda mainly
targets the emotion, because emotions stir the targeted subject into a frenzy
of impulsive actions.
Hitler clearly understood this. In his infamous Mein Kampf,
he wrote for propaganda to be more effective it "must be aimed at the
emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so-called intellect. We must
avoid excessive intellectual demands on our public. The receptivity of the
great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of
forgetting is enormous,"
And while it is often projected as 'factual' or
'historical', propaganda has little or no connection with truth or history.
"Historical truth may be discovered by a professor of history. We,
however, are serving historical necessity. It is not the task of art to be
objectively true. The sole aim of propaganda is success," wrote Hitler's
Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels.
Accordingly, both facts and history are treated as
ever-morphing blocs of information and accounts whose sole purpose is to be
conveniently exploited by those who control their access -- subjective media,
repressive regimes, think tanks, etc.
Today, these gatekeeping entities subjectively frame the
debate through relentless disinformation. They box all Muslims with a point of
view together -- they label some with the dreaded T-word, and frighten the
others into utter silence or into an uncomfortable position of having to prove
one's "moderate" inclinations all the time.
The propagandists confidently count on their ferocious
"noise machine" made of primarily a network of pseudo-media and loyal
bloggers with the capacity to repeat any lie long enough to turn it into the
Recently, a local interfaith body -- the Interfaith
Association of Central Ohio -- that this author is connected with, announced
its plan to host an educational forum called "Many Voices of Islam."
Its purpose was to provide Muslims a unique opportunity to define themselves
and openly share their various spiritual perspectives. The machine waged a
hysterical campaign . . . accusing the association of lack of patriotism,
supporting Hamas, and on exposing the country to greater danger.
Ironically, and perhaps while counting on the herd mentality
of the frightened masses, this same propaganda machine promotes David
Horowitz's spread-the-hate campaign called "the Islamo-Fascism Awareness
Week" coming to a university campus near you.
Horowitz and his affiliates' hateful mission was first
unveiled at George Washington University, when students promoting that event
plastered provocative fliers all over the university; the most despicable among
them being a poster bearing the image of a Muslim man with Islamic attire that
read "Hate Muslims? So Do We!"
Meanwhile (and however symbolic), a silver lining emerged
behind the dark clouds hanging over the Muslims in America. On Oct. 12, New
York's Empire State Building was lit up in green to honor the Muslim holiday
Eid-al-Fitr, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Arman is a freelance writer living in Ohio.