The New York Times Presents Islam More Negatively than Cancer and Cocaine

TeleSur | – –

Researchers say they were shocked to learn that Islam receives more negative coverage than cancer. 

The New York Times portrays Islam and Muslims more negatively than cancer, cocaine and alcohol, according to a report that studied the newspaper’s headlines. 

“Since 9/11, many media outlets began profiteering from the anti-Muslim climate. Though you could probably trace a similar trend back to the Iranian Revolution,” said Steven Zhou, head of Investigations and Civic Engagement and co-author of the study ‘Are Muslims Collectively Responsible? A Sentiment Analysis of the New York Times.’ 

“We talk a lot about media and Islamophobia, but nobody has done the math. So, we thought it is long overdue to have a quantitative investigation of an agenda-setting newspaper,” Zhou told the Middle East U.S. Policy watchdog Mondoweiss Friday.

The study, which was conducted by Toronto-based 416 Labs, looked at New York Times headlines from the period 1990-2014. Researchers found that Islam and Muslims were “consistently associated with negative terms,” at least 57 percent of the time, says the study. Only 8 percent of news headlines about Islam/Muslims was positive. 

The most frequent terms associated with Islam/Muslims include “Rebels” and “Militant.” None of the 25 most frequently occurring terms were positive.

Compared to all the other benchmarked terms (such as Republican, Democrat, Cancer, Cocaine, Christianity and Alcohol), Islam/Muslims had the highest incidents of negative terms throughout the 25-year period by a long shot. The following were cocaine and cancer, with 47 and 34 percent of their coverage associated with negative terminology.  

“When we went into it we didn’t think it would be surprising if Islam was one of the most negatively portrayed topics in the NYT,” says co-author Usaid Siddiqui. “What did really surprise us was that compared with something as inherently negative as cancer, Islam still tends to be more negative.” 

The report also points out that, during the time of the study, cancer caused more deaths worldwide than there were violent attacks by Jihadist groups.

OPINION: Virulent Anti-Muslim Racism in the US Cultural Sphere 

According to researchers, the findings are important since the media plays a powerful role in influencing public perceptions, and this kind of reporting is likely to negatively distort perceptions of Islam and Muslims for those who read the Times. 

The report suggests that “the average reader of NYT is likely to assign collective responsibility to Islam/Muslims for the violent actions of a few.” 

Via TeleSur

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Mashable News: “Former Physics Student Uses Education to Combat Islamophobia in the U.S. | Muslim & American Ep. 4”

5 Responses

  1. If you want to understand why people fear Islam, read this guy: . “I care not to debate which came first, Islamism or anti-Muslim bigotry; suffice to say that both feed into each other symbiotically”. ~ Maajid Nawaz

  2. I have long worried about the American media’s portrayal of Muslims and Arabs.

    Since the 1970’s it has been OK to use stereotypes for Arabs that if they portrayed Blacks, Hispanics or any other other groups in similar fashion they would have been shut down ASAP.

    But it was fine with Muslims.

    This hatred we are seeing today has been worked at for some time now.

  3. Another media organization that seems obsessed with portraying Muslims negatively is CBS. The “Islamic terrorist” (another stock phrase) is frequently shown as a target of the brilliant, dedicated NCIS team. But I have never seen on “60 Minutes” any portrayal of what life is like for Palestinians under Israeli occupation. Of course, the CBS president, Leslie Moonves, is a grand-nephew of David Ben-Gurion! Once I heard Scott Pelley utter the phrase “Iran’s nuclear weapons program.” If 60 Minutes had proof of the existence of such a program, you’d think they would show it to the world. It seems evident that CBS is just another American media mouthpiece of the Likkud party. CBS claims that its credibility is of paramount importance. Sure it is, when your goal is to influence public opinion in favor of Israel at every turn. “Credibility”–what a joke!

  4. I lived in Arabic-speaking Muslim countries of the Middle East for decades, and hence I could go on at some length about the biases of the US media. One of the things I find most amusing about our media persons is the fact that, almost without exception as far as I can tell, they grossly mispronounce the name of the Syrian president Bashaar al-Asad. The epithet al-Asad is to be pronounced with only two “short a’s”, and not to be pronounced as al-Asaad. Thus our media are to be seen as having no hesitation to pontificate about figures whose names they don’t even know how to pronounce!! Another big joke. Once I heard Scott Pelley intone emphatically “THE DICTATOR Bashaar al-Asaad (sic).” I presume that CBS doesn’t like Bashaar al-Asad because Syria helps Hizballah, which stands in the way of Israel occupying southern Lebanon and getting control of Lebanon’s water resources. I don’t recall anyone on CBS stressing that Husni Mubarak was a dictator, but then of course he was a “true friend of Israel.” To anyone with first-hand knowledge of the Middle East our media seem so biased as to appear virtually out of touch with reality. The anti-Iran campaign is a whole other long story.

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