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Consider the Source

As it is our duty to abide by this wisdom, it is our responsibility to support forms of media that adhere to this standard and abandon those that don’t. So let us consider the source of our news and entertainment. Let us be conscious of the messages being conveyed. Let us establish good and forbid evil in the best of ways in every aspect of our lives including the media.

Tenth grade debate class was the first time I ever reflected upon the significance of the source of news. Our teacher was having us prepare cases for an upcoming debate competition when he emphasized that we use credible sources to establish our arguments. Giving us a few examples of news magazines or newspapers that would carry weight with the judges, we went to work learning about and building our cases. On a politically charged topic I previously knew nothing about, I built the cases I was assigned.  Interestingly, my teacher did not emphasize a concern for right or wrong.  He cared only about the strongest, most convincing arguments.

It was in that class that the reality of media biases so succinctly became apparent.  All too often the depth of a report on an event is so limited by page size or time constraints that only a few key points are reported.  Intentionally or unintentionally, those points are usually flavored with a bias congruent with the news agency reporting them.  Therefore the question is... "Is this news agency in pursuit of the truth or do they have a manipulative agenda?"

Unfortunately, many agencies seem to have little regard for the truth, the rights of those they report about, or their readers.  With bright colors, crisp photos, or attention catching phrases, they draw in their trusting readers and watchers like moths to a light.  They are putting on a show, and if one does not reflect on what they report, one plays the gullible audience caught up in the frenzy of a money-driven production.

In my second year of university and shortly after I became a Muslim, I began to see an aspect in the news that I had been blind to before.  For the first time, I actually analyzed what I was hearing and reading. I had been blessed with being able to remove the blinders of my white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant up bringing and to start seeing the world in its entirety.  Having the natural state of my sight and thinking restored, it became starkly apparent that my previous naïve, whole-hearted acceptance of what the media was feeding its viewers was a tremendous mistake.  Mixed in with bits of facts were deep and sometimes sinister biases.  Often it was the facts that were left out that were the ultimate deception.  The "we didn't lie" argument may stand up in the US courts, but I have serious doubts that the prevalent intention was to "tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth".

For example, I was reading a major news magazine published in the US around that time when a particular article caught my attention because of its reference to Muslims.  As I read the article, the almost subliminal disdain and disregard for Muslims that it was conveying stunned me.  Being new to this awareness, I felt it was my duty to warn this major news magazine of the poisonous ideas they had inadvertently advocated in this article.  "Surely, they could not be aware of the potential harm this could do to Muslims," I thought as I wrote my letter calling on the writers and editors to be more careful to justly portray Muslims in the future.  Within a couple of weeks, I received a reply.  I was not an apology for a mistake, but a thank you for my letter and an assurance that they were and would continue doing everything they could to accurately report the news. 

 

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