Reading “Islam in the Media 2017”, an investigation by Sydney-based Muslim production studio OnePath Network, is like looking through the greatest hits compilation of the world’s worst band. In this case, it’s the Murdoch press.
Who could forget the Daily Telegraph’s dogged campaign against Muslim activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied? Her seven-word Anzac Day tweet – “LEST.WE.FORGET. (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine …)” – provoked no less than five front pages and more than 100 articles in News Ltd papers.
Or what about the Tele’s front page headline, “SAME SEX JIHAD”? It was reporting unsubstantiated claims that top Muslim leaders were delivering homophobic sermons during last year’s marriage equality plebiscite – the Tele’s own 13-year homophobic campaign against marriage equality and LGBTI activists notwithstanding.
There’s nothing surprising about Murdoch press Islamophobia. But the scale of it is shocking. During 2017, OnePath investigated five Murdoch dailies (the Australian, Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, Courier Mail and Advertiser).
While Muslims make up only 2.6 percent of the Australian population, OnePath found that News Ltd papers featured 2,891 negative articles or opinion pieces about Muslims last year.
Thirty-one percent of opinion columns were about Islam – and overwhelmingly negative. The worst offender was Australian writer Jennifer Oriel, who dedicated 54 percent of her columns to Islam.
The report is scathing of the Murdoch press, pointing out: “[C]overage of Islam does not exist in a vacuum of facts and objectivity. The reality is, print news is a struggling industry, and a very effective method for selling newspapers is fear, sensation, and drama”.
Some editors will go to whatever sensational lengths they can to sell papers, even if it means manufacturing a story. That was the case with an article about Punchbowl Boys High School. Despite a total lack of evidence, the Tele claimed that boys in grade five were being “radicalised” and “indoctrinated”.
There’s more to it, however, than News Ltd wanting to sell papers.
The press, whether hard right Murdoch or the more liberal Fairfax, perpetuates Islamophobic stereotypes and engages in scapegoating partly because, for almost two decades, Western governments have engaged in constant war and occupation of the Middle East. The media have played a role in dehumanising Muslims so that government military and security measures appear legitimate.
But they also do it to divide working people, to make us think that the real problem in society isn’t inequality or government attacks, but immigrants or brown people.
In 2016, Fairfax columnist Paul Sheehan reported a Sydney woman’s claim that she was gang-raped by six Arabic-speaking men. He used the woman’s story to make a bolder claim: we’ll never know “the scale of sexual intimidation of women in Sydney” and that the cops refused to investigate this rape “epidemic” by Middle Eastern men.
But the woman’s story wasn’t true. There were no hospital or police records to back her claims. Then a video surfaced of a woman delivering the same story to an anti-Islam Reclaim Australia protest, only now the story was even more graphic and violent.
Whether it’s the crude conservative papers with screaming headlines about radical Islam in schools, or liberal papers evoking the age-old racist trope of concern for white women against the predatory brown or black man, the press spews Islamophobia to promote ideas – such as racism, imperialism, nationalism – that keep working class people divided and keep the ruling class ruling.
“On the day of my mother’s funeral, I went home and wrote reports”, Kate says. She’s a public high school teacher and, along with 20,000 others, many also from Catholic schools, she’s gone on strike for the fourth time in seven months to demand better pay and reduced workloads from the New South Wales government.
Nurses and midwives in New South Wales have rejected the state government’s insulting offer of a 3 percent pay rise in a combative, all-membership meeting at Sydney’s Town Hall.
Fifteen years ago, the John Howard federal Coalition government launched a military invasion and occupation of Aboriginal townships and lands in the Northern Territory. More than 600 military and police personnel, accompanied by a phalanx of government bureaucrats, entered 73 Aboriginal communities, placing them under the unilateral control of the Australian army.
Around the US, tens of thousands have hit the streets slamming the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established abortion as a right. In Manhattan, a large crowd of young, multiracial activists marched, chanting “Fuck the Supreme Court!”
In the late 1960s, cryptic notes began to appear on poles and noticeboards around Chicago, directing women who were pregnant and in trouble to “call Jane”. The number provided connected them to the Jane Collective (officially the Abortion Counselling Service of Women’s Liberation), an underground network of activists providing illegal abortions in the years before the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision. This collective is the subject of The Janes, a new HBO documentary directed by Emma Pildes and Tia Lessin.
Anthony Albanese started his victory speech on election night with a commitment that his government would implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full, beginning with a referendum to create an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in its first term.