Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) Covering Anti-Muslim Extremist Groups Issues Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists: Anti-Muslim extremist groups count on the media to cover their efforts and messaging as fact-based and backed by the majority of Americans. Too often, television networks, newspapers and other media organizations turn to these groups’ spokespeople as credible sources on national security, immigration and religious liberty, and valid counterpoints to real issue experts. Typically missing from the coverage of and interviews with these extremists is critical contextual information about their defamatory and false rhetoric and their hate group associations. News consumers need to know that these groups and their leaders are far outside the mainstream, and that their factual assertions are very often completely baseless. As the Columbia Journalism Review pointed out in “Countering Misinformation: Tips for Journalists,” political misinformation “may pollute democratic discourse, make it more difficult for citizens to cast informed votes, and limit their ability to participate meaningfully in public debate.” The magazine added, “Use credible sources; don’t give credence to the fringe,” and pointed out that the more false claims are repeated, the more difficult it is to undo their pernicious effects. In the case of anti-Muslim extremists, false claims about a whole range of issues have the effect of fueling hatred of Muslims and, ultimately, criminal hate violence against them.
Hosts, reporters and editorial boards should consider the following steps in order to avoid giving these groups and their spokespeople a façade of legitimacy.
1. Research the background of extremist spokespeople and consider other sources. Before you book a spokesperson from an anti-Muslim extremist group or quote them in a story, research their background — detailed in this in-depth guide to 15 of the most visible anti-Muslim activists— and consider the consequences of giving them a platform. Relying on their spokespeople, even if they are countered by another guest or a quote from someone who disagrees, can introduce a troubling false equivalency in reporting. When there is no question about the facts in such matters — the claim that Shariah law can be imposed on American criminal courts, for example, is completely false; that is not possible under the Constitution — the he said/she said style of simply presenting opposing viewpoints is actively harmful. It is also worth noting that most of those profiled in this guide are self-described experts only, and have no formal or real-world expertise in the subjects they purport to know. Consider alternative sources who are credible experts and leaders from a variety of backgrounds, including Muslim researchers, advocates and community leaders. They can provide essential context for who extremist speakers are and verified facts to illuminate the real-world effects of anti-Muslim hate fueled by these speakers’ rhetoric and so-called “research.” They also can provide a good reflection of the diversity and authenticity of American Muslim experiences.
2. If you do use anti-Muslim spokespeople, point out their extremism.
If you do choose to rely on an extremist group’s spokesperson in your reporting, make sure that readers or viewers know who they are, beyond their self-identified areas of expertise. Referring to a guest only as a “conservative blogger” or a “think tank director,” for example, suggests to audiences that the person’s views are legitimate and effectively hides their extremist positions. This guide offers extensive evidence of the extremist views of various spokespeople that can be cited as a way to counter this. You may also want to include the fact that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated many of their organizations as hate groups. (In this guide, those organizations that are recognized as hate groups are marked with asterisks; three that will be listed as hate groups for the first time in 2017 are marked with a cross. The SPLC defines a hate group as an organization that has “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”) The SPLC also has an extensive collection of “Extremist Files” on its website, splcenter.org, that provide detailed profiles of hateful activists and organizations. You may also consider highlighting the link between anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-Muslim hate crime violence. In 2010, for example, anti-Muslim hate crimes shot up by 50 percent, according to the FBI. It seems clear that the reason for that surge was the controversies generated by anti-Muslim propagandists about a proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan (which they called the “Ground Zero Mosque”) and about an alleged Muslim conspiracy to impose Shariah religious law on American courts. More recently, the anti-Muslim rhetoric in Donald Trump’s 2015-2016 campaign for the presidency has almost certainly inspired anti-Muslim hate violence.
3. Prepare to challenge hateful rhetoric and misinformation.
The anti-Muslim extremists and groups profiled in this guide have long histories of hateful, harmful rhetoric targeting American Muslims, immigrants and other communities. Before interviewing their spokespeople, prepare yourself to challenge and fact-check their claims — both new and recycled. If, during the interview, they tone down their rhetoric in an attempt to reach a more mainstream audience, viewers and readers would benefit by knowing what they have said and done in the past. Some additional resources you may want to consult are the Center for American Progress’ “Fear Inc., 2.0” report, which tracks the money trail of the “Islamophobia Network”; the SPLC’s “Extremist Files” profiles of extremists; and surveys of and about the Muslim community, conducted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University, respectively.
4. Don’t rely on opposing guests to challenge extremists.
If an extremist spokesperson is booked for a show or quoted in a story, don’t rely solely on another guest or counterpoint source to refute their claims. Viewers and readers count on you to also provide appropriate context for who they are and the cold, hard facts that illuminate the problems in their rhetoric and research.
SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER (SPLC) MEDIA GUIDE:
A shocking number of anti-Muslim, self-described “experts” are seen regularly in the media, where they spread falsehoods that too often go uncontested. Their rhetoric has toxic consequences, from promoting xenophobia, to poisoning democratic debate, to inspiring hate violence. “We hope journalists will use this guide to learn more about these extremists and the damage they cause to society and either deny them a public platform altogether or be better prepared to publicly challenge their hateful rhetoric and misinformation,” Beirich said. “The public really should know who these extremists are and the damaging impact they have with a platform to spread hate and bigotry.” The guide is not an all-encompassing list of extremists, but highlights those in the center of a large and evolving network of anti-Muslim activists, including the following:
1). Frank Gaffney Jr., a former Reagan administration defense official, who founded the Center for Security Policy (CSP) in 1988. In recent years the CSP has gone from a hawkish think tank on foreign affairs to a promoter of baseless conspiracy theories and groundless accusations. One example is a CSP poll, cited by Donald Trump, which claimed that 25 percent of Muslims agreed that violence against Americans in service of jihad was justifiable.
2). Ryan Mauro, a “national security analyst” with the Clarion Project, an organization that makes and distributes millions of anti-Muslim films that portray, among other things, the threat of Islamism as akin to Nazism. The New York Times editorial board called one film, “The Third Jihad,” a “hate-filled film about Muslims.”
3). Brigitte Gabriel, founder of Act for America, is a radical Islamophobe who has said that “any practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah … who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day – this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States.” In her book Because they Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America, Gabriel wrote that “the Arab Muslim world, because of its religion and culture, is a natural threat to civilized people of the world.”
Other anti-Muslim extremists profiled are Ann Corcoran, Steven Emerson, Pamela Geller, John Guandolo, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, David Horowitz, Robert Muise, Maajid Nawaz, Daniel Pipes, Walid Shoebat, Robert Spencer and David Yerushalmi.
Bill Warner Private Investigator Sarasota SEX, CRIME CHEATERS & TERRORISM at www.wbipi.com