How Fear is Undermining American Values

By Henry Hoffman

The news nowadays is rife with stories meant to instill fear into the hearts of the viewer, to make him or her feel helpless with the sole intent of drawing them in to get better TV Ratings. This, of course, is to be expected; ever since it became clear that sensationalist stories draw a large audience, said stories have, in some respect, become the preferred method of reporting televised news. This should not be alarm-worthy under the assumption that viewers are competent enough to understand this goal of news networks, but sadly, this is seldom the case as a result of ignorance or naivety. These tactics tend to, in reality, be more beneficial than harmful, as the sensational nature of the programs incentivizes the viewers to view with the prospect of being entertained. However, there are always exceptions.

In the past few months in particular, the media has again begun to employ this fear tactic, this time in a far less innocuous way than should be deemed acceptable, specifically concerning the topic of Islam. Its decade-old tagline about Islam’s alleged threats to our country, our freedom, and our own lives, is once again rearing its ugly head. Of course such a baseless idea could never consume the minds of the majority, people say, not with free will and whatnot. But alas. Since the tragedy of September 11th and the subsequent fear that ensued, Americans have always kept a wary eye on Muslims, for fear can warp the mind perhaps more than any other emotion. Take the Salem Witch Trials in the late 17th century as an example, when a superstitious Massachusetts society began accusing, convicting, and eventually executing dozens of residents who ultimately were found to be completely innocent (and incapable of witchcraft). It is quite probable that residents of Salem suspected the innocence of the accused, but as a result of the fear and paranoia that emerged, nobody spoke up, nobody defended their neighbors, and instead the accusations kept coming without a single shred of proof or tenable justification for suspicion
This Salem example is very fitting when compared to the modern issue of prejudice towards Muslims, for here is quite clearly a case of history repeating itself. Exacerbated by almost ceaseless coverage of the terroristic progress of the radical group ISIS (or ISIL), a sense of paranoia easily likened to the Salem hysteria in beginning to envelop the American populace.

Yes ISIS is scary; their public beheadings and rapid progress in the Middle East should frighten the bravest of souls, and the news is fully justified in reporting to viewers the progress of such a group. This does not in any way bother me; ISIS deserves to be vilified, for they are the definition of vile. However, the news often takes this a step further and additionally vilifies the religion of the group as well: Islam. To me, nothing could be less justified.

ISIS is evil and an Islamic group, the news makes the connection that ISIS is evil because it is an Islamic group. The real source of ISIS’ inherently vile nature is in its radicalism. This radicalism is religious radicalism, and it clearly is not a good thing, but neither is any other form of radicalism, and to blame the religion for radicalism is as logical as to blame the growing of mustaches for creating dictators like Hitler and Stalin; there is not a correlation. Naïve viewers are, however, spoon-fed fallacies like these and are consequently brainwashed into having a prejudging mindset. The sad thing is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Islam, but watching the news obscures this fact. With such prejudice abound, almost parasitic in how its eats into one’s conscience, injustice surely follows. I have witnessed countless times the murmurs the judgmental looks towards the lady wearing a burka in the subway, or the man donning a turban in an airport. These are murmurs and looks of intolerance and unwarranted discomfort. Is America not the land that was initially colonized for the sake of escaping religious persecution? How hypocritical can we, America, the country that theoretically should be the most tolerant in the world, be?

We can’t afford, from a moral perspective, to characterize groups by their extremes. These radical Islamic factions that we hear so much about are merely outliers, almost negligible percentage-wise when compared to the rest of the world that associates with the religion. Judging by the extremes in all cases would make every American Protestant a Klan member and everyone of German heritage a Nazi. These examples sound ridiculous, but that’s because we are knowledgeable in these comparisons. I can guarantee that anyone knowledgeable in the tenets of Islam will think the association of terroristic, jihadist violence with all Muslims of the world to be equally preposterous.

So, my fellow Americans, I leave you with this request: try to learn some basic facts about Islam from a credible, unbiased source before you make judgments about the practitioners of the faith. ISIS is saliently horrendous, but that should not say a thing about the other 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. If you educate yourself, then hopefully next time you watch the news you will be able to call BS when necessary and come up with your own ideas and opinions of the world around you. For therein are the true characteristics of a good American.

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