Laura Ingraham exploits the murder of a young Muslim woman to argue American Muslims "should be with Trump"
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As President Trump's executive orders banning immigration from first seven, then six, majority-Muslim nations have moved through the U.S. court system, they've been met with a series of legal setbacks and direct action and have drawn extensive media coverage. What follows is a timeline of events surrounding the ban, with a focus on right-wing media hypocrisy, denial, and defense of the president's increasingly indefensible policy. This post will be updated.
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Breitbart’s xenophobic “Sweden YES” tag is a dog whistle to the “alt-right,” and the misleading articles marked with the label serve as the foundation for the outlet’s anti-immigrant campaign in both Europe and the United States.
In a March 17 interview with NBC News, Breitbart.com’ Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow attempted to distance his site from the “alt-right,” claiming that it’s “not a hate site.” But one of the website’s new favorite content tags -- “Sweden YES!” -- is an “alt-right” catchphrase that began as an effort to mock Sweden’s multiculturalism, gender equality, and positive stance on immigration.
According to Know Your Meme, “Sweden Yes” began on a German international messageboard, Krautchan/int/, in 2012. From there, it became a subreddit, which is currently “quarantined” due to its “shocking or highly offensive content.” The phrase is also popular on the anonymous online message board 4chan, where there is currently an archived Sweden Yes thread on the /pol/ page, with activity as recent as March 20. The meme is associated with Captain Sweden, a series of Swedish webcomics named for an anthropomorphized multicultural Sweden, often depicted engaging in interracial intercourse or featuring immigrants engaged in criminal behavior.
The Breitbart content organized under the “Sweden Yes” tag is written almost exclusively by Chris Tomlinson, a Breitbart London contributor who often retweets far-right French political leader Marine Le Pen and far-right, anti-Muslim Dutch political leader Geert Wilders, as well as Lauren Southern, an “alt-right” media figure who was recently allowed into a White House press briefing. Virginia Hale, a white nationalist Breitbart reporter with a history of using anti-Muslim rhetoric, has also written “Sweden Yes” content in recent weeks.
The first Breitbart content tagged “Sweden Yes” was published in November 2015. But that article was one of only five pieces of content given the tag before President Donald Trump’s February 18 speech in which he instructed the audience to “look at what’s happening last night in Sweden,” which he said “took in large numbers” of Muslim immigrants and refugees. Trump followed up his remarks about Sweden by mentioning three French and Belgian cities attacked by domestic terrorists over the past two years. Trump’s comment was a clear suggestion that Muslims and refugees are responsible for a so-called “crime wave” in Sweden. Multiple fact-checkers have debunked both Trump’s seeming implication of an attack the night before he spoke and his claim about migrant crime in Sweden. But the damage had already been done. Since his speech, Breitbart has labeled 32 pieces of content (of a total of 37) with the “Sweden Yes” tag.
The site’s “Sweden Yes” content often makes evidence-free claims, exaggerates unrelated past incidents of crime to report on recent events, or exploits incidents in other countries to stoke fear about immigrant crime in Sweden. For example, a March 8 Breitbart article fearmongered about the takeover of Malmö due to “mass migration, predominantly from Middle Eastern nations” to claim that the the city’s longtime residents are leaving the city, possibly due to an “explosion in crime” and “warring gangs.” But the words “warring gangs” are hyperlinked to another Breitbart article about these so-called gangs, which cites a Reuters article. Reuters makes no mention of whether the perpetrator of the gang shooting of a 16-year-old boy in Malmö was an immigrant.
Another Breitbart article, about a Swedish program to train asylum seekers from the Middle East to work in correctional facilities, acknowledges that “so far the program has not run into a glaring issue that plagues many prisons across Europe, the growth of radical Islam and radicalization of inmates,” before claiming that French and British prisons have becoming a “breeding ground for radical Islamic indoctrination.” But the training program is in Sweden, not France or Britain, and while it places recently arrived immigrants in jobs within prisons, these program participants are guards, not inmates. The article also claims, “In HMP Gartree, a maximum security prison in the UK, entire cell blocks are run under a variation of Islamic sharia law according to reports.” The words “Islamic sharia law” link to another Breitbart article, which cites a Sun article to claim “Muslim extremists … are running an entire [cell] block under sharia law.” However, the Sun quotes a prison spokesman in the U.K. saying, “There is no evidence to back-up any of these claims about HMP Gartree."
The exploitation of longstanding anti-Muslim tropes in the context of Swedish crime is merely the latest iteration of Breitbart’s anti-immigrant crusade in Europe. A false report Breitbart published in January alleging that a "mob" of Muslims attacked a German church spurred the German government to investigate what it deemed the “unprecedented proliferation” of fake news, a phenomenon which the Swedish prime minister recently mentioned as a concern his government is committed to investigating.
The Trump administration has drawn criticism for its seeming embrace of the anti-immigrant "alt-right" movement. The incoming Trump administration was criticized in December 2016 because "A senior member of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and a delegation of US Republican and European lawmakers canceled a briefing  with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely over a refusal to allow a Swedish far-right member of the group into the meeting[.]" Nevertheless, President Trump in January gave former Breitbart head Stephen Bannon a seat on the National Security Council's principals committee, which affords him access to meetings with senior-most national security officials. While Bannon is no longer formally associated with the outlet, according to a former Breitbart spokesperson, the site is still heavily influenced by Bannon’s editorial guidance.
Trump’s baseless February 18 claim about immigrants committing crimes in Sweden is just one more example of how his administration both validates outlets like Breitbart and mainstreams “alt-right” narratives under the guise of keeping Americans safe.
Image by sarah Wasko.
Independent Journal Review (IJR) chief content officer Benny Johnson and two other IJR employees were indefinitely suspended after writing and publishing a baseless conspiracy theory -- originally pushed by “alt-right” fringe media -- which suggested that former President Barack Obama’s visit to Hawaii played a role in a ruling by a federal judge based there that froze President Donald Trump’s revised Muslim ban.
On March 16, under Johnson’s direction, IJR published, then retracted, an article that attempted to “point out the timing and the opportunity” presented by Obama’s presence in Hawaii days before the judge’s ruling. The conspiracy theory was originally pushed by fringe and “alt-right” outlets such as Infowars and The Gateway Pundit, and it seemed to originate from a thread on the online anonymous message board Reddit. The outlandish theory even made its way to Donald Trump Jr., who retweeted a Twitter post that tied the judge to Obama.
According to reports from Politico and Business Insider, after IJR investigated the publication of the baseless story, the site suspended Johnson and editors Kyle Becker and Becca Lower. In a statement, IJR founder Alex Skatell wrote that “we got it wrong and ultimately deserve all the criticism.” Business Insider noted that Johnson, who has been accused of plagiarism multiple times and has previously pushed false claims, “had been warned earlier that the story about Obama was an unfounded conspiracy theory, but he assigned it to Becker anyway.”
This is the second recent occasion in which a right-wing media figure has been disciplined for spreading unsubstantiated allegations and conspiracy theories about Obama. IJR’s actions came a day after reports emerged that Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano was being taken off the air “indefinitely” for promoting the false claim that Obama used the British government to spy on Trump.
Media’s Unbalanced Coverage Of Terrorism Leaves Americans With “An Exaggerated Sense Of That Threat”
The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog published a report that found that news media give “drastically more coverage to attacks by Muslims, particularly foreign-born Muslims -- even though those are far less common” than terror attacks committed by non-Muslims. The finding debunks President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the media underreport terror attacks by Muslim perpetrators.
On February 6, Trump baselessly claimed that terror attacks are “not even reported, and in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn't even want to report it." The White House then released a list of “78 major terrorist attacks targeting the West that were executed or inspired by ISIS since September 2014.” The administration primarily listed attacks committed by Muslims, omitted any mention of right-wing terrorism, and included several attacks that were in fact reported extensively. Trump and White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway also both have referenced terror attacks allegedly committed by Muslims that actually never happened.
Trump’s false claim is just one facet of his ongoing campaign to demonize and fearmonger about Muslims; he has also on several occasions stated his intent to ban Muslims from the United States. But in fact, Muslims (and others mistaken for Muslims) in the United States are often the target of violence from white supremacists, and their voices are underrepresented in the news media, both generally and also in discussions of issues that directly and disproportionately impact them.
The authors of the report published in the Post on March 13 found that of the 89 terror attacks identified by the Global Terrorism Database between 2011 and 2015 in the U.S., 12.4 percent were committed by Muslims and 88 percent by non-Muslims, but that attacks by Muslims received 44 percent of news coverage about terror attacks. The disparity was even more extreme in cases where the attacker was a foreign-born Muslim. Even after they controlled for a “host of factors,” attacks by Muslims perpetrators received an average of 4 ½ times more coverage. “In other words,” the researchers wrote, “whether intentional or not, U.S. media outlets disproportionately emphasize the smaller number of terrorist attacks by Muslims — leading Americans to have an exaggerated sense of that threat.” From the March 13 report:
Of the 89 attacks, 24 did not receive any media coverage from the sources we examined. The small proportion of attacks that were by Muslims — remember, only 12 percent — received 44 percent of the news coverage. In only 5 percent of all the terrorist attacks, the perpetrator was both Muslim and foreign-born — but those four attacks got 32 percent of all the media coverage.
In real numbers, the average attack with a Muslim perpetrator is covered in 90.8 articles. Attacks with a Muslim, foreign-born perpetrator are covered in 192.8 articles on average. Compare this with other attacks, which received an average of 18.1 articles.
But even controlling for [a host of factors], attacks by a Muslim perpetrator get, on average, about 4½ times more coverage. In other words, whether intentional or not, U.S. media outlets disproportionately emphasize the smaller number of terrorist attacks by Muslims — leading Americans to have an exaggerated sense of that threat.
Our own research, and that of our colleagues, shows that people are more likely to consider an attack to be terrorism when the perpetrator is Muslim. That’s true, even though the chance of an American being killed by an foreign-born terrorist, measured over the past 40 years, is 1 in 3.6 million each year, as a recent Cato Institute report noted.
But since the news media focus so disproportionately on attacks by Muslims, particularly foreign-born Muslims, it’s no wonder that so many Americans think that these groups make our country less secure.
Cable news once again virtually ignored Muslim voices when hosting guests to discuss President Donald Trump’s revised Muslim ban that now blocks migrants from six majority-Muslim nations (instead of seven), a pattern which has been consistent in cable news reporting since the election of Trump.
On March 6, Trump signed a new executive order temporarily banning U.S. entry for immigrants and refugees from six majority-Muslim countries. The new order, which is set to take effect on March 16, was issued six weeks after Trump’s original January 27 order was blocked by a federal court. While the new order excludes Iraq, replaces the indefinite ban on refugees from Syria with a 120-day freeze, drops the explicit exception for religious minorities, and exempts permanent residents and visa holders, experts and advocates agree that the new order still amounts to religious discrimination and is thus still potentially unconstitutional. Legal experts and advocates like the ACLU’s Omar Jadwat note that “it’s just another run at a Muslim ban …. They can’t unring the bell,” and that Trump’s stated intent is still the same. The state of Hawaii on March 8 issued the first formal legal challenge to the new ban, and other states are considering filing suits as well.
Despite the controversy surrounding Trump’s executive order and its consequences for immigrants and refugees, in the day and a half following Trump’s signing of the order cable news programs barely hosted Muslim guests to discuss the ban. Out of 90 total guest appearances across the three networks that included significant discussion of the Muslim ban, only 5 guest appearances featured Muslims. CNN hosted 2 Muslim guests, MSNBC had 3 total appearances by two individual Muslim guests (Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MI) appeared on the network twice), and Fox News hosted 0 Muslim guests.
This isn’t the first time the cable networks failed to include Muslim voices in discussions about Trump’s Muslim ban, and this consistent failure by the networks is becoming increasingly indefensible. A February 9 Media Matters analysis found that, in the week after Trump signed the first iteration of his Muslim ban, prime-time cable news programs hosted 176 guests (some repeat) for significant discussions about the policy, but only 14 guest appearances were Muslim. In the 24 hours after the June 12, 2016, mass shooting in Orlando, FL, Muslims were villainized by some figures in the media after a Muslim man killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others after opening fire at an LGBTQ nightclub, yet cable news hosted only a few Muslim guests. In the month after the 2016 election, only 21 percent of the guests who appeared on evening cable news to discuss Islam were Muslim.
What types of guests did the networks include? Mostly journalists, analysts, politicians, and in the case of CNN’s New Day, Dan Stein, the head of a nativist, anti-immigrant, SPLC-designated hate group with ties to white supremacists.
With anti-Muslim hate crimes on the rise, and an administration attempting to implement government-sanctioned discrimination, the need to feature Muslim and refugee voices on TV is more urgent than ever before.
Media Matters used Snapstream and Nexis to search for all guests appearing on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC between 12 p.m. (the first full hour of programming after the order was signed) and 11 p.m. on March 6 and between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. on March 7 in segments where the revised Muslim ban was the stated topic or there was significant discussion of Trump’s revised Mulim ban, using the terms "refugee," "travel," "ban," "Muslim," "Islam," "vetting," and "executive order."
Snapstream was used to code segments from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fox and MSNBC. Nexis was used to code all segments from CNN, as well as Fox and MSNBC segments between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.
"Significant discussion" is defined by a back-and-forth exchange between two or more people. Network correspondents and reporters were not counted as guests, even when they appeared on panels. Pre-taped interviews where there was no significant dialogue between the reporter and guest were excluded from the analysis. Reruns of interviews from previous programming were excluded from the analysis. Guest appearances were coded for whether the guests self-identified as Muslim either in the segment or prominently elsewhere in the media. Guests were counted once per episode.
Sikh Man’s Shooting Highlights Consequences Of State-Sanctioned Discrimination Spurred By Right-Wing Media Myths
As President Donald Trump releases his new Muslim ban, officials are investigating the shooting of a Sikh man in Washington state as a hate crime. The incident underscores the danger of having a government that legitimizes racial and religious profiling, implicitly validates the hatred of extremist groups, and promotes right-wing media myths to criminalize immigrants and refugees.
Trump signed his revised Muslim ban on March 6, almost six weeks after he put out his original order, which proved indefensible and was blocked by a federal court. According to the Center for American Progress, the policy “not only has nothing to do with preventing terrorism, it also helps the Islamic State, or IS, and makes Americans less safe.” Additionally, leaked Department of Homeland Security memos undercut several administration rationales for the travel ban. Initiatives under Trump’s order, including the recently announced Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office, which will allegedly report on so-called "honor killings" by foreign nationals among other violent incidents, also serve no legitimate public safety purpose and appear to be an excuse to promote the persistent and dangerous right-wing media myths that immigrants and refugees are criminals.
Despite the Trump administration’s claims that the order does not discriminate on the basis of religion, experts and advocates agree that the intent behind it is the same, and its legitimization of discrimination against an entire group of people based on their country of origin will undoubtedly fuel hatred from the radical right just the same, too.
Hate groups generally are on the rise in America, a finding that the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual census of hate groups attributes in large part to Trump’s presidential candidacy and its validation of far-right extremists. The report found that the most dramatic growth was in hate groups that target Muslims (and those perceived to be Muslim, such as Sikhs), which have increased from 34 in 2015 to 101 in total last year.
According to The Washington Post, the victim, who has been identified as 39-year-old Sikh man, Deep Rai, was working in his driveway in a town outside Seattle on March 3 when he was accosted by an armed white man in a mask who said, “Go back to your own country,” before shooting the victim in the arm. The victim was not a believer of Islam, but of Sikhism, a Indian monotheistic religion of which there are about 25 million adherents worldwide. As the Sikh Coalition, America's largest Sikh civil rights group, explained to CNN, Sikhs are often targeted for hate crimes in part "’due to the Sikh articles of faith, including a turban and beard, which represent the Sikh religious commitment to justice, tolerance and equality.’" Since the 9/11 terror attacks there have been thousands of reports from the Sikh community about hate crimes, workplace discrimination, school bullying, and racial and religious profiling, but the FBI began including hate crimes against Sikhs in their annual report only in 2016, and many in the Sikh community believe the media is still underreporting hate crimes against Sikhs.
In his first speech to a joint session of Congress on February 28, Trump remarked, “Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.” While his apparent commitment to Jewish victims of religious hate is inconsistent and a departure from his previous refusal to denounce anti-Semitism, his failure to denounce xenophobia in his mention of the “Kansas shooting” is a conspicuous omission. Srinivas Kuchibhotla was an Indian immigrant in Kansas who was shot and killed by a white man who, similar to the perpetrator of the Washington shooting, shouted, “Get out of my country" before fatally shooting him and wounding another immigrant, Alok Madasani. The incident, which is being investigated as a hate crime, was largely ignored by broadcast and cable news.
It is crucial that these individual hate crimes not be lost in coverage of Trump's immigration policies, which are inspired by dangerous right-wing media myths and validate extremist views. In the aggregate, these shootings are simply another form of state-supported hate.
Illustration by Dayanita Ramesh.
This post has been updated with additional information about the victims.
“Alt-Right” Outlets Infowars and Breitbart Regularly Cite Its Content
The U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail is mounting a crusade against refugees and immigrants in Europe. The tabloid’s fearmongering, xenophobic claims of immigrant criminality -- which are often completely false and unsourced -- have positioned the outlet as a favorite among American conspiracy theorists and white nationalists.
The Daily Mail, which is the U.K.’s most popular online and print newspaper, is known for peddling junk science, led the latest right-wing assault on climate change science, and has been accused of racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Even the open-sourced encyclopedia Wikipedia has banned its editors from using articles from the Mail to source its pages, calling the publication “generally unreliable.”
The Daily Mail’s Katie Hopkins is one of the paper's writers pushing xenophobic misinformation. Hopkins, who is currently being sued for libel, has called migrants “cockroaches” and falsely accused Muslim travelers of being terrorists. In a recent report from Sweden, she claimed without evidence that the country’s news is filled with reports of rape and assault of young women, discussed an unsourced alleged rape of a 12-year-old by an unaccompanied minor immigrant, and told the impossible-to-substantiate story of a girl “terrified of going out alone” because she lives “near a busy shopping centre which draws migrants from no-go zones,” which do not exist in Sweden. Hopkins went on to discuss an “unexploded hand grenade [found] in a bin outside the police station of a no-go area of town, near a mosque.” But Swedish police would not confirm whether the object found was a bomb, and they described the location where it was found as a town square, not as near a mosque.
After the Mail published Hopkins’ piece, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars reprinted her report with the title “KATIE HOPKINS REPORTS FROM HELLACIOUS SWEDEN, ‘WHERE FEMALES FEAR TO TREAD.’” The anti-immigration hate website VDare.com also amplified her report. In the past week, Infowars has reprinted at least two Daily Mail articles -- the Hopkins piece, along with one about a Swedish policeman who allegedly blamed immigrants for the majority of the country’s rapes and shootings.
Breitbart.com’s London bureau, which regularly traffics in anti-immigrant sentiment, has similarly found a kindred spirit in the Mail’s xenophobic bent. On March 1, Breitbart London cited the Daily Mail in an article about a “Muslim convert” who allegedly “planned to buy a nine-year-old virgin slave girl after he joined [the] Islamic State.” According to The Guardian, the U.K. citizen the article mentions, Patrick Kabele, was in fact arrested in August 2016 for attempting to travel to Syria, but the Daily Mail 's claim that he wrote in his diary that he “wanted to buy a nine-year-old slave girl” can be found only on other tabloid news sites and the blog Jihad Watch, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “Muslim-bashing.” It has not been confirmed by mainstream outlets.
Duncan Gardham, who wrote the piece about Kabele, is another of the Daily Mail authors creating xenophobic content, along with contributor Julian Robinson. The paper's website also has a dedicated tag for news related to the “European Migrant And Refugee Crisis,” which boasts headlines like:
The Mail’s unsourced, misleading, and sometimes completely fabricated claims about supposed immigrant criminality in Sweden do not exist in a vacuum. After President Donald Trump on February 18 mentioned “what’s happening last night in Sweden” before listing cities hit by terrorist attacks, his media cronies defended him by perpetuating the myth of “no-go zones” in Sweden. While no-go zones in Europe are a discredited construct frequently used for anti-immigrant fearmongering, the Daily Mail “reports” on them regularly. Further, Trump’s claims that the United States’ current immigration system threatens jobs and lowers wages, drains government benefits, and makes communities less safe come straight from nativist groups and fringe right-wing media outlets like Breitbart and Infowars, the same outlets that regularly cite anti-immigrant content from the Daily Mail.
These false stories are damaging not only to immigrant communities, which are then unfairly viewed with suspicion, but also to actual victims of sexual assault who are seeking justice -- and to members of the general public on both sides of the Atlantic, who often remember only the first headlines they see, even if they’re not true.
Image by Sarah Wasko.
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Since President Donald Trump signed a controversial executive order banning visitors and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, conservative media figures have defended him as being “within his mandate” as president and claimed the constitutionality of the order is “crystal clear,” but the recent federal appeals court decision against his order proves otherwise. Here are some of the right-wing media myths -- and the corresponding facts -- on Trump’s Muslim ban:
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