Friday, March 25, 2016

March Madness? Media Equates Violent Extremism with Islam

Andrea Sears, Public News Service

An AFSC study ranks the sources most often quoted in news coverage that links violence and extremism to a particular religion. (Daniel R. Blume/Flickr)
An AFSC study ranks the sources most often quoted in news coverage that links violence and extremism to a particular religion. (Daniel R. Blume/Flickr)
PHILADELPHIA – While sports fans are focused on the "Elite Eight" of college basketball, new research reveals a more somber ranking – of eight media sources that link violent extremism to a single religion.

The study by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) found the number-one source of quotes linking Islam to violence isn't experts, but other journalists or media outlets.

Beth Hallowell, AFSC communications research director, calls that a dangerous equation.

"Part of the reason this was so disturbing to us was that we saw articles that even covered Islam when religion was not at stake," said Hallowell.

The study found that Islam is mentioned in media coverage of violent extremism more than 90 percent of the time. According to Hallowell, there is a similar bias in media coverage of the responses to conflict.

"There was a five-to-one ratio in coverage of violent responses to conflict, versus nonviolent responses," she explained. "So, there was a real imbalance in how conflict responses were covered."

Hallowell said the media's increasing emphasis on violence has made it more difficult for those promoting nonviolent conflict resolution to get their message across.

She pointed out that some public figures have been quick to exploit violent, media-driven stereotypes, further feeding a vicious cycle.

"Our national discourse is at an all-time low when it comes to violence, race, religion and so forth," she stressed. "And so, we really want to encourage journalists and advocates to work together to change that narrative."

The AFSC is calling on the media to explore the history and root causes of violent extremism, rather than simply perpetuating violent stereotypes.

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