The “Don Imus” factors exposes flaws in American media principles
By Ray Hanania — When syndicated radio and MSNBC talk show host Don Imus expressed racist comments about African American members of the Rutgers Woman’s basketball team, he was immediately censored and forced to apologize. Imus, now more sensitive to racist rhetoric against Blacks, returns to WABC Radio soon, reportedly a “changed man.” But Don Imus’ past racist remarks were not an exception, but they often characterized similar racist comments about other minorities, including Arabs and Muslims that go unaddressed or challenged by the mainstream media and public leaders.Imus’ misconduct and racist comments did not become an issue until he crossed the line and attacked Blacks.And that is the problem with the mainstream American news media which reports on racism when it is against African Americans, but often turns a deaf ear and blind eye when the targets of racism are Arabs and Muslims.This week, syndicated radio talk show host Michael Savage of “The Savage Nation” once against used his podium to slander, defame and insult Arabs and Muslims with an angry rant filled with racism, bigotry and hatred.
It is not the first time, but Savage has frequently used racist and religious hatred to demean Arabs and Muslims without ever being held to account.
In a campaign launched by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) that has brought Savages behavior to the attention of the companies that advertise on his radio program, several advertisers have withdrawn their support.
Yet while businesses are showing sympathy to victims of Savage’s vicious racist attacks, many in the mainstream American news media are not.
Rather than giving criticism of Savage the same stature given to criticism of Imus, most of the protests have been ignored by the mainstream media. That has fueled even more from Savage.
Savage does not need to resort to racism and religious intolerance to reflect his political views which are critical of Arab American and Islamic community actions. There is a responsible manner in which Savage could address the issues he feels are of concern.
In an email to me, Savage wrote, “You are only hearing what that questionable front-group CAIR wants you to hear. Apparently you have never listened to my daily show which, thanks to G-D, has now been on the air for 14 years.I have had as guests Muslims who agree with me, i.e that there is much hatred and violence both in the unevolved Arab world and in the Koran itself. Yet, I have said the very same things about the “Old testament.” The proclamations about stonings, killing, etc. for homosexuality, adultery and so on.The difference, as I have pointed out, is that even the most religious of Jews does not call for the execution of adulterers or homosexuals, while too many in the Muslim backwaters still do (witness the Iranian leadership!). I have also spent many hours explaining the great contributions of the Arabs before the extremist sects took over. As a PhD scientist (University of California, Berkeley,1978, epidemiology) I know the history of science and the early Arab advances, as well as the pollination between the Semitic minds (i.e the Jews and the Arabs) after the self-sufficiency of the Koran gave way to the quest for knowledge and commerce. I send you this in the hope that you will, yourself, not give in to the bigotry and hatred being promoted by CAIR and see the larger picture, the whole man and his years of rational discourse. If you would publish this correspondence perhaps the hatred we both abhor would be extinguished.”
The mistake that Savage makes, and others like him, is that they don’t focus on challenging the misdeeds committed by some individuals in the Arab and Muslim community. Rather, they resort to demeaning the entire Arab and Muslim population.
Savage’s recent radio broadcast — linked on the web site of CAIR and the National Arab American Journalists Association (www.NAAJA-US.com), is extremely harsh.
Our respoinsibility should be to push people like Savage and even Imus to recognize where they have faulted, and to engage them in a discussion or debate on the issues. We need to force to stop pandering to the growing animosity in the United States against Arabs and Muslims, an animosity driven as much by ignorance and lack of education as it is by fear of terrorism from the Middle East.
One of the problems contributing to this double standard, “The Don Imus Factor” as I call it, is the failure of Arab and Muslim Americans to network and augment their voices by working together.
Arab and Muslim American organizations are notorious for failing to work together. And, while the mainstream American news media is certainly at fault for their failure to address race issues consistently, so too is the Arab and Muslim American news media which also often fails to support the efforts of other Arab and Muslim American groups.
The answer to racism in the news media is to stand up and apply one principle, and principle that demands that individuals who have media pulpits must abide by professional journalism conduct.
Maybe Imus has changed. But without the pressure of Arab and Muslim Americans working together, without the attention of the mainstream American media, and without the adherence to professional conduct by public leaders, high profile media types like Savage will continue to rant their anger.
Today the targets are Arabs and Muslims. Tomorrow, the targets could once again be Jews unless the principle of standing up to racism and bigotry is applied consistently by everyone.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and author. Copyright Arab Writers Group Syndicate, http://www.ArabWritersGroup.com.)