Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion

Vincent Carroll reviewed a new book in the Wall Street Journal last month entitled Blind Spot.  What a fascinating book, and it made me think of just how blind we all are, in one respect or another.

The headline for Mr. Carroll’s review was “God Is A Problem, Sources Say”, and launches with a statement made in an article in the New York Times in November regarding the attacks on Mumbai.  The statement was excerpted in this way:  “It is not known if the Jewish center was strategically chosen or if it was an accidental hostage scene.”  The Times also speculated that it was an “unlikely target” ………for Islam extremists? 

Blind Spot discusses various conflicts throughout the world and the religious “blind spot” that seems to afflict most Western journalists.  Editor Paul Marshall, as quoted by Mr. Carroll, said journalists reluctant to accept the “fundamentalist motives” of jihadist motives concentrate on “terrorist statements that might fit into secular Western preconceptions about oppression, economics, freedom and progress.”

I read that statement, and I was reminded immediately of the Kosovo Liberation Army’s attempt to destroy non-Muslim communities in the northern provinces when I was there in 1998, just as Israel today is using the issue with Hamas as a reason to destroy Palestine, Hamas is killing Israelis, the U.S. – as a sovereign nation that used to be religiously tolerant – pushes to use the fundamentalist Christian God as a reason to inflitrate other conflicts, and so on.

Even in Africa, religion plays a part in conflict.  Take, for instance, the Lord’s Resistance Army who hacked and killed hundreds in a church and the surrounding area in DR Congo not more than a couple of weeks ago.  Not only was this not a top story in the U.S., the Lord’s Resistance Army – terrorists by all measures – was downgraded to the simple acronyn LRA, and reported benignly as yet another hostile terrorist group.  Take a look at all the predominant ruling parties in Africa and their adversaries.  You will see that every single one of them is divisive not just ethnically, but religiously within that ethnicism.

Journalists ignore the religion factor, but the religion factor is everpresent – in conflict, in economics, in progress, in oppression.  No one religious faction is more evil than another, either.  They are all contributing factors to conflict, and yet journalists either bury their heads in the sand or are utterly ignorant of the factor religion plays in everything…or they wouldn’t plant a story in a news source as reputable as the New York Times that stupidly thinks that a Jewish center in Mumbai was not a calculated target for Islamist extremists.

Bias is everywhere in Western media – predominantly U.S. media – and most importantly bias against an understanding of fact-based reporting.

Terry Mattingly, one of the contributors to Blind Spot, has this recommendation for quality reporting:  “Editors do not need to try to hire more reporters who are religious believers,” but reporters “who take religion seriously, reporters who know, or are willing to learn to hear the music.”

At a bookstore near you:  Blind Spot:  When Journalists Don’t Get Religion; Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, Roberta Green Ahmanson, ed.  Oxford, 220 pages, $19.95.

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6 Responses to “Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion”

  1. That’s a very good point. And it seems like one that would be kinda hard to miss, but there ya go. I don’t think journalists are really all that interested in reporting truth or even understanding it. It’s sad and shameful.

  2. […] Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion « Maggie Without … […]

  3. This whole topic is so very interesting. I love your take on it!

  4. Peace between Israel and Gaza please !!!

  5. Eros-ALegra Clarke Says:

    I have thought alot about this – the arrogance of the Western mind, how often it wants to believe that the rest of the world secretly wants to be converted to its political correctness, its non-committal faith in anything other than the God of Self…it often does not comprehend the depth to which whole other populations are committed to their religious beliefs.

    I don’t know if I am expressing this soundly, but I think you might get the gist of what I am saying.

  6. I think journalists dont really care to understand the people they report on. OF course the Jewish center was a target. Religion sadly is often the basis of these wars against each other. Sad , created for love , and peace religion creates more damn conflict and hatred in the world than any one who founded these religions would have thought. Interesting blog

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