Thursday, January 7, 2016

Lying to make religion look good: The addiction of ThinkProgress and The New York Times

Lots of curious things happen every time Islamist terrorists decide to murder a bunch of innocent people. Academics and comedians rush to say we have bigger things to worry about. People are asked to wear the hijab in solidarity with "marginalized" muslims. Even more concerned people decide it's a good idea to start karate classes to do battle with the "backlash" of Islamophobic bogeymen.

It does get even sillier yet. As many "journalists" have charts and tables to update. The same ones they made after the last big attack to show that Islamist terrorism needs "context".

Even the big publications play this game.



Meanwhile, small activist publications like ThinkProgress double down with even more embellishment. Publishing "You Are More Than 7 Times As Likely To Be Killed By A Right-Wing Extremist Than By Muslim Terrorists", ThinkProgress says:

Though terrorism perpetrated by Muslims receives a disproportionate amount of attention from politicians and reporters, the reality is that right-wing extremists pose a much greater threat to people in the United States than terrorists connected to ISIS or similar organizations. As UNC Professor Charles Kurzman and Duke Professor David Schanzer explained last June in the New York Times, Islam-inspired terror attacks “accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.” Meanwhile, “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.”

Several things are interesting about this ThinkProgress piece:
  1. It isn't immediately clear where "seven times more likely" comes from
  2. NYTimes, the source cited by ThinkProgress, doesn't make the same claim
  3. The study cited by NYTimes does not make the claim - nor does it provide a list of the 337 supposed attacks and 254 fatalities that it used to create its chart.

The last point is interesting as NYTimes' own data puts the number for total "Non-Islamic Extremist" attacks since 9/11 at about 50. (This often cited source repeats a similar estimate)



Obviously 254 is not 50. We're already in the territory of wondering what version of reality everyone at the New York Times is operating within.

The consistent number cited in both datasets happens to be the number of deaths in the United States due to Islamist terrorism since 9/11 - the answer is about 50. It's not immediately clear why there is more agreement on this number, perhaps Islamist extremists are doing a much better job of planting the flag after committing the attack by having a myriad of fans shamelessly claiming a share of responsibility.

However even if we were to accept the true number of Non-Islamic / "Right-wing" Extremist fatalities after 9/11 is somewhere in the vicinity of 254, possibly the least offensive thing about this analysis is what calculation determines what defines a non-Islamic right-wing extremist.

For any reasonable, rational, compassionate human being should have the following questions:
  1. Why does September 11, 2001 and every attack before that time (USS Cole?) not matter?
  2. Why do deaths of Americans only count if they are in the United States?
If a journalist exercised something known as "due diligence" and looks at database of overseas deaths of Americans managed by the Department of State, a different story develops.

Excluding Iraq and Afghanistan which may confuse the categorization for obvious reasons, the full list of deaths due to "Terrorist Action" from 9/11 until March 2015: (misspellings are copied verbatim from the database)

Date       City
10/12/2002 Kuta - Bali - Indonesia
10/12/2002 Kuta - Bali - Indonesia
10/12/2002 Kuta - Bali - Indonesia
10/12/2002 Kuta - Bali - Indonesia
10/12/2002 Kuta - Bali - Indonesia
10/12/2002 Kuta - Bali - Indonesia
10/12/2002 Kuta - Bali - Indonesia
10/26/2002 Moscow - Russia
10/28/2002 Al-rawabi - Amman - Jordan
1/21/2003 Kuwait City - Kuwait
2/13/2003 Florencia - Caqueta - Colombia
3/4/2003 Davao City - Philippines
3/5/2003 Haifa - Israel
3/7/2003 Kiryat Arba - The West Bank
3/7/2003 Kiryat Arba - The West Bank
5/12/2003 Riyadh - Saudi Arabia
5/12/2003 Riyadh - Saudi Arabia
5/12/2003 Riyadh - Saudi Arabia
5/12/2003 Riyadh - Saudi Arabia
5/12/2003 Riyadh - Saudi Arabia
5/12/2003 Riyadh - Saudi Arabia
5/12/2003 Riyadh - Saudi Arabia
5/12/2003 Riyadh - Saudi Arabia
5/27/2003 Riyadh - Saudi Arabia
6/11/2003 Jerusalem
6/11/2003 Jerusalem
6/20/2003 Sha'ar Binyamin - The West Bank
8/19/2003 Jerusalem
8/19/2003 Jerusalem
8/19/2003 Jerusalem
8/19/2003 Jerusalem
8/19/2003 Jerusalem
9/9/2003 Jerusalem
9/9/2003 Jerusalem
10/15/2003 Gaza
10/15/2003 Gaza
10/15/2003 Gaza
11/18/2003 Jerusalem
5/1/2004 Yanbu - Saudi Arabia
5/1/2004 Yanbu - Saudi Arabia
5/29/2004 Alkhobar - Saudi Arabia
6/8/2004 Riyadh - Saudi Arabia
6/12/2004 Riyadh - Saudi Arabia
7/2/2004 Landstuhl - Germany
9/24/2004 Beer Sheva - Israel
10/7/2004 Taba - Egypt
4/8/2005 Cairo - Egypt
7/7/2005 London - England
7/23/2005 Sharm El Sheikh - South Sinai - Egypt
11/9/2005 Amman - Jordan
11/9/2005 Amman - Jordan
11/9/2005 Amman - Jordan
11/10/2005 Amman - Jordan
12/29/2005 Near Tulkarm - The West Bank
3/2/2006 Karachi - Pakistan
8/2/2006 Nothern Israel
9/15/2006 Hat Yai - Songkhla - Thailand
11/29/2006 Bg Unfalklinik - Germany
1/1/2008 Khartoum - Khartoum - Sudan
3/6/2008 Jerusalem - Jerusalem
9/17/2008 Sanaa - Yemen
9/20/2008 Islamabad - Pakistan
11/12/2008 Peshawar - Pakistan
11/26/2008 Mumbai - Maharashtra - India
11/26/2008 Mumbai - Maharashtra - India
11/26/2008 Mumbai - Maharashtra - India
11/26/2008 Mumbia - Maharashtra - India
11/26/2008 Mumbia - Maharashtra - India
11/28/2008 Mumbia - Maharashtra - India
12/3/2009 Mogadishu - Kenya
7/11/2010 Kampala - Kampala
9/23/2011 Jerusalem - Jerusalem
1/18/2013 In Amenas - Illizi - Algeria
1/20/2013 In Amenas - Illizi - Algeria
1/20/2013 In Amenas - Illizi - Algeria
8/26/2013 Tripoli - Lebanon
7/23/2014 Mogadisho - Mogadisho
8/19/2014 Syria
9/2/2014 Syria
10/22/2014 Jerusalem
11/17/2014 Mogadishu - Mogadishu
11/18/2014 Jerusalem
11/18/2014 Jerusalem
11/18/2014 Jerusalem
12/25/2014 Mogadishu
1/27/2015 Tripoli
3/27/2015 Mogadishu


The total is 87 deaths, which by now is an underestimate. Some are undeniably the deaths of those deliberately put in harm's way as part of their job in the military or government, however the worst attacks killed a large number of American civilians. The Bali bombings and Mumbai attacks, both extremely deadly, deliberately targeted locations frequented by tourists.

Therefore the count of American citizen deaths due to Islamist terrorism outside of a warzone since 9/11 is somewhere over 130, assuming the vast majority of the above list are deaths due to Islamism. The true number needs some more in-depth analysis as it may be that some of the "terrorist actions" overseas might be also be "Non-Islamic" and some of the cited examples may be state employees.

We're left comparing about 130 worldwide deaths due to Islamism to anywhere between 50 and 254 deaths due to "Non-Islamic" "right wing" terror domestically and an unknown number of foreign "right wing" fatalities. (e.g. Would the IRA count as "right wing terror" in a foreign country?)

Therefore, the two possibilities assuming time starts when the clock strikes midnight on September 11, 2001 in the American Samoa timezone:

Given the worst estimate of right wing terrorism, (~254 domestic fatalities + some number of foreign fatalities) one is at least twice as likely to be killed by right wing terrorists than Islamist terrorists. Given the diversity of groups lumped into one and then compared to Islamists (Abortion clinic shooters, racist lunatics, separatist rebels, militias, Christian terrorists, etc), the measure would be to ask why people would be upset if they found that the New York Yankees won one in every three World Series since 2001.

Otherwise, (accepting the measure of about 50 domestic non-Islamic extremist murders + zero foreign right-wing fatalities) one is over twice as likely to be killed by Islamist terrorists.

Of course, all of these estimates are complete nonsense if one is old enough to remember the origin stories of Ice Cube, Ice-T, Vanilla Ice and other ice-related American legends.

Luckily for Islam, what really matters to the New York Times and other "progressive" journals is the lived experience of a 14 year old in Tennessee that does not have a passport. This imaginary individual needs to be convinced that their real problems is down the street, and indeed they are. They may live their lives with entirely provincial concerns. The only way Islamist violence may impact them is a fluctuation in energy prices.

It is sometimes said that journalists no longer feel a sense of responsibility. What was known as "factual journalism" has been replaced by stupid opinions.

The truth is that journalists do feel a sense of responsibility - they feel an overwhelming responsibility to demonstrate to their folksy racist uncles that the problems of America's folksy racist uncles are not worldly enough to be impacted by the global disaster that is worldwide Islamism. Any sort of filtering of data that supports this hypothesis will be generated and published.

Whatever would the world do if America's brave media was not speaking these great truths?

All the numbers that's fit to print.

2 comments:

  1. I'm wondering how you compare the global disaster of Islam with US secular imperialism, in particular in the middle-east. Looking at US foreign policy since their support for the Shah of Iran and later Saddam Hussein in the Iran Iraq war, through to their withdrawal of support for Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal in 1988, onto to the Illegal war in Iraq in 2003 and the wiki- leaks revealed active engagement in fomenting sectarian violence in Syria from 2006 onwards to destabilise Bashar Al Assad?

    I ask as I think the global disaster of world wide Islam didn't take place in a void but also because when you look more closely at the consequences of these interventions and withdrawals etc there is a visible pattern of religious extremism rising in the wake of US/Soviet activity. Eg Taliban in Afghanistan the soviet invasion of Afghanistan being in part stimulated by Carter's offering Kabul AID, Iran becoming an Islamic theocracy after the revolution that rose against the US backed Shah, ISIS growing out of the aftermath of the illegal war in Iraq and being supported in Syria.

    When viewed in the rather more nuanced and fine grained and detailed light of Professor Scott Atran's work on violent extremism, globally, and his findings in Iraq where ISIS fighters there knew nothing of the Koran or Hadith or the Caliphs having only primary school level educations and being instructed in Islam by Al Qaeda and IsIs who told them that being muslim is what they are and the west wants to wipe them out (this to people who in the years after Iraq war were often kept in the houses or shelters for months on end by violence that the American invasion created) and their lived experience made Al Qaedas claims seem quite plausible...couple that with there being 25% positive attitude towards ISIS amongst French youth aged 18-24 (all youth not just Islamic) and that some of the terrorists that attacked Europe were athiest and Christian converts to Islamic state, I question that Islam/Islamism is the problem at all, and so do a lot of people who are working doing rigorous qualitative research like Professor Atran. Now I'm an athiest since birth and have no time for religion in my own life and I really liked what you did in your post, and agree also with your conclusions re the media (I actually think quantitative approaches are a waste of time) but could you clarify your position on Islam?

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    Replies
    1. Great question, one that deserves a post of its own.

      Some time ago I wrote this: http://uberfeminist.blogspot.com/2013/05/progressive-victim-blaming.html but it probably does not do the subject justice in light of recent events.

      US foreign policy has often been a disaster. But the interesting part is that it's been a global disaster - US has intervened in Latin America, East Asia, with completely different outcomes.

      Further, nobody has explained very well how messing with Iran has made a lot of Saudi, Egyptian and Pakistani Sunnis angry. Also, interventions overseas don't really explain why many of the attacks are carried out by westerners (Syed Farook was born in Chicago, for example)

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