While Vladimir Lenin may have originally popularized the label “useful idiots” in reference to Western sympathizers with the Soviet Union, the term may be more relevant today when applied to those within the American media who unconsciously (and through their own ignorance) further government propaganda. But we shouldn’t deceive ourselves when we talk of these useful idiots by pointing exclusively to reactionary right-wing pundits. Increasingly, those who identify themselves within the “respectable,” “fair-minded” and political “middle” use the similar types of distortions, with minimal public accountability. A recent Op-Ed in the Chicago Sun Times by Mary Laney is a case in point, as the article symbolizes much of what is wrong with mainstream media punditry that masquerades as “moderate” political analysis.
Laney’s February column, “Quit Blaming America: We Didn’t Earn Islamofascists’ Hatred,” relies heavily on not-so-subtle racist stereotypes against Muslims, as well as a series of distortions and blatant lies against what she calls the “Extreme Left.” In this sense, the piece is not important so much for its uniqueness, but for how extraordinary representative it is of the generic, vitriolic rhetoric often disseminated by the punditry. Such rhetoric is useful in downplaying, ignoring, or attacking substantive challenges to
In the tradition of media personalities such as Michael Medved, Christopher Hitchens, and Michael Savage, Laney expounds upon the dangers of “Islamofascists” who hate American freedoms and engage in terrorism against the
As with other uninformed pundits, Laney would prefer to rely on racist anti-Muslim stereotypes rather than to engage in a constructive dialogue about major issues of day. She explains, erroneously, that “In the Quran, Islam’s holy book, the Prophet Muhammad tells his followers to offer non-Muslims three things: conversion, second-class citizenship, or war.” The attempt to frame extremism and terrorism as characteristics intrinsic within Islam itself, should be rejected out of hand, as anyone with even the most basic familiarity with the Quran knows that Islam is based upon the importance of one’s voluntary, rather than coerced acceptance of the faith. Furthermore, Islamism itself represents merely one strain, or interpretation within the religion. It no more represents what is “essential” to Islam than does any interpretation within Christianity or Judaism inherently represent a single “core” of what it means to be a Christian or Jew. Any attempt to conflate Islam as inherently terrorist makes about as much sense as efforts to portray pro-lifers who murder abortion doctors as representing what it “means” to be Christian.
Aside from the systematic misrepresentations of Islam, we should also note that any equation of Islamism with Fascism represents more of a racist scare tactic than an exercise in legitimate intellectual thought. The notion that Islamism and Nazism are somehow interrelated is, to put it simply, fraudulent. As American journalist Eric Margolis explains: “There is nothing in any part of the Muslim World that resembles the corporate fascist states of western historyâ€¦The Muslim world is replete with brutal dictatorships, feudal monarchies, and corrupt military-run states, but none of these regimes, however deplorable, fits the standard definition of fascism. Most, in fact, are
The notion that terrorist Islamist movements and corrupt governments throughout the Middle East have been wholeheartedly supported and nurtured by the
Laney’s misrepresentations also target the political left, which she and numerous other pundits lambaste for failing to support the troops and blaming all of society’s woes on the Bush administration. She would rather cite Saddam Hussein’s gassing of thousands of Kurds (
One might ask, what evidence Laney cites that “leftists” hate the troops or that they believe George Bush is personally responsible for all of
Laney would do well to learn from her own insight that “it’s difficult to have calm discussions” about
Anthony DiMaggio has taught Middle East Politics and American Government at